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Out of Many, One

E pluribus unum and the Great Seal.

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Have you ever wondered where we get the words and phrases on our money? “In God We Trust” can be seen on today’s notes and coins, but it wasn’t always so. Our Founding Fathers worked hard to come up with a motto that would unite the new country. On July 4, 1776, the motto e pluribus unum was created.

The phrase was written in the Latin language. In English, pluribus means “plural”  or “more than one,” while unum means “unit.”  This motto describes an action: Many uniting into one. More common ways of saying this are “From Many, One,” or “Out of Many, One.” At the time, there were 13 states, so the goal behind the motto was uniting all states to act together as one nation. The motto e pluribus unum was accepted by Congress in 1782.

The Great Seal

As well as a motto, the government also came up with a shield to represent the nation. Charles Thomson created the final Great Seal which shows the American bald eagle holding a scroll in its beak. This scroll displays the motto e puribus unum.

The shield on Thomson’s seal has 13 vertical stripes to represent the original 13 states, which we still see today. It has seven white (argent) stripes and six red (gules) stripes to stand for the states, and a blue (azure) top section, to represent the chief (federal government).

In the past, shields had two figures standing on either side, working together to support the shield in the middle. Thomson did not want two figures on this newest shield design. He said, “The Escutcheon [shield] is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters, to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.”

In 1956, Congress approved the newest motto, “In God We Trust.”

Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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