On This Day Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States

Great Seal of the United States

On this day, June 20th in 1782, Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.

The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with 13 vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue. The eagle’s beak clutches a banner inscribed, E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.” Above the eagle’s head, golden rays burst forth, encircling 13 stars.

Charles Thomas outlined the symbolic connotations of the seal’s elements when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the 13 states united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief), “which unites the whole and represents Congress.” The motto E Pluribus Unum serves as a textual representation of the same relationship. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag: alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor, topped by the blue of “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” The eagle’s talons hold symbols of Congress power to make peace (the olive branch) and war (arrows). The constellation of stars indicates that “a new State [is] taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.”

The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar Masonic motif of a pyramid, which Thomas proposed as a symbol of “Strength and Duration.” The pyramid, like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having 13 steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Thomas believed had acted “in favour of the American cause.” Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase Annuit Coeptis or “Providence has Favored Our Undertakings” appears above the providential eye; Novus Ordo Seclorum or “A New Order of the Ages” appears beneath the pyramid.

 

Most Read Stories

Project Thor
Defense

Did the U.S. Just launch “Project Thor” as the secret ZUMA Payload that SpaceX just put into Orbit?

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon […]

Police State
Defense

With a Stroke of a Pen, PA Governor Wolf Limits Firearm Rights by Proclaiming State of Emergency

Today, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf issued a proclamation declaring Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency, seemingly triggering the firearm prohibitions found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6107 during declared emergencies. Specifically, Section 6107 provides: (a) General […]

Goodbye Brass
Defense

Goodbye, Brass?

by Art Merrill – Monday, February 13, 2017 Let’s skip the appetizer and get right to the meat and potatoes of a manufacturer’s claims for a new cartridge case technology to replace the 150-year reign of […]