E PLURIBUS UNUM
Origin and Meaning of the Motto
E pluribus unum is the motto suggested by the committee Congress appointed on July 4, 1776 to design "a seal for the United States of America." The below sketch of their design accompanied a detailed description of their idea for the new nation's official emblem.
A motto's purpose is to express the theme of a seal's imagery especially that of the shield.
The center section of this shield has six symbols for "the Countries from which these States have been peopled": the rose (England), thistle (Scotland), harp (Ireland), fleur-de-lis (France), lion (Holland), and an imperial eagle (Germany).
Linked together around the shield are 13 smaller shields, each with the initials for one of the "thirteen independent States of America."
On August 20, 1776, this first committee submitted their Great Seal design to Congress (including Benjamin Franklin's idea for the reverse side).
Although their design was not approved (and two more committees would be appointed), their motto E Pluribus Unum was selected by Charles Thomson in 1782 when he created the final Great Seal whose centerpiece is the American bald Eagle:
"in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this Motto. "E pluribus unum"."
In the 1770s, symbols of unity were common on the money. See emblems on Continental Currency that inspired and reflected E pluribus unum.
Watch the two sides of the Great Seal unite.
Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Copyright ©2016 by John D. MacArthur.