Great Seal of the United States:
The United States Federal Government uses the Great Seal of the United States to authenticate documents.
The History And Meaning Behind The American Seal
The American Seal is a pivoting point in the foundation of America,
produced in 1782 from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution. The
design for the first seal of the President of the United States of America was
authorized on June 20 of 1782. The designers were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, John Adams under the postulation of the Continental Congress.
The front side of the American Seal, which is the coat of arms of the
United States, is utilized by the government in numerous ways. It is indicated
in some way on postage stamps, flags, coins, publications, stationery,
passports, military uniforms, public buildings, public monuments, and other
particulars the USA government owns, uses or has issued. The Seal can be
applied and made official only by someone from the Department of State, under
the permission of its custodian, the Secretary of State.
At first the American Seal was meant to denote the beliefs and
principles of the Founding Fathers and the young and rising nation. The red and
white stripes of the shield implicate the States unified under and supporting
the blue, implicating the Chief of Congress. White denotes innocence and
purity, red symbolizes resilience and bravery, and blue represents justice,
vigilance and persistence.
The shield is carried only by the American eagle to describe the belief that US citizens should depend on their own virtue. The number 13, representing the 13 initial colonies, is shown in the bundle of arrows, the shield’s stripes, and the stars in the constellation. The arrows and the olive branch show the might of peace and war. A new nation taking position among settled, sovereign States is signified by the constellation of stars. The motto E Pluribus Unum describes the uniting of the 13 States.
The other side of the seal carries the distinct Masonic theme of a
pyramid, which Thomas presented as an indication of duration and strength. The
pyramid, like the new nation, is not complete and often described as having 13
steps for the initial States. The single eye seen over the motif is described
as providence, which Thomas Jefferson believed was to act in favor of the
American cause. Under the pyramid, the number 1776 is shown in Roman Numerals
to remind of the time of independence. The term Annuit Coeptis, otherwise
denoted as “Providence has Favored Our Undertakings,” is shown over the
providential eye. Novus Ordo Seclorum, or “A New Order of the Ages,” can be
seen below the pyramid.
Creating The Seal
It was 6 years before the Founding Fathers officially chose a Great
Seal for the United States of America. They were looking for a symbol that was
distinct and that symbolized the new nation. In 1776, the Continental Congress
ordained a committee, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson, to think of and produce a seal for the new nation. The committee’s
proposed design then was very complex and Congress did not approve all of them,
aside from the motto E Pluribus Unum, or “Out of Many, One.”
In 1780, Continental Congress ordained another committee, which
included John Morin Scott and William Churchill Houston of Virginia and James
Lovell of Massachusetts. Their design was also not approved by Congress, except
for some portions of it, which included the 13 stars, olive branch, and shield.
A third committee was ordained in 1782. This committee incorporated the bald
eagle. With a bit of refinement, the final proposal was presented to the Second
Continental Congress and it was accepted on June 20 of 1782.
A couple of years following the final proposal was accepted by the
Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sent a letter to his daughter Sarah
regarding the decision to add the bald eagle on the Great Seal. The letter
described Benjamin’s dismay over the decision to use the bald eagle to
symbolize the nation. He described the eagle as a “bird of bad moral character”
that “does not get his living honestly.” He continues to elaborate on the fact
that the bird tends to steal the catch of other birds such as the fishing-hawk
and compares it to the little kingbird, which is much smaller in size but
attacks the eagle with ferociousness to drive him out of the territory. The
Founding Father actually wanted a wild turkey rather than the eagle, but this
symbol was never accepted as part of the final design.
A number of conspiracy theories indicate that the Great Seal presents a
sinister influence by Freemasonry in the founding of the nation. These theories
often state that the Eye of Providence is a typical Masonic motif, and that the
Seal was actually made by Freemasons. However, these statements are not
While the Eye of Providence is at present a well-known Masonic emblem, it
wasn’t that way in the 70′s and 80′s. These were the times when the American
Seal was being designed and accepted by Congress. As described by David
Barrette, a Masonic researcher, the Eye appears to have been utilized
irregularly by the Masons during those times, and was not viewed as a
widespread Masonic motif until 1797, many years following the Great Seal of the
United States had already been created.
Meanwhile, the Eye of Providence was a quite typical Christian symbol
throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and was widely employed as such in
both Europe and America during the 18th century. Moreover, the Seal was not
made by the Freemasons. Although Benjamin Franklin was a Mason, he was the only
one of the committee proven to be so, and his concepts were not really taken
into account. Of the 4 men whose concepts were widely accepted, neither Pierre
Du Simitiere, Charles Thomson nor William Barton were Masons, and, though
Francis Hopkinson has been believed to have had links with the Freemasons, this
notion remains unproven.
versions of the American Seal from the Department of State have not been
altered from the 1885 proposals for the most part. The existing design of the
reverse was created by Teagle & Little of Norfolk, Virginia, in 1972. It is
almost the same as the past versions, which in turn was adopted from Lossing’s