E Pluribus Unum

views updated May 11 2018


"E PLURIBUS UNUM" (Out of many, one), motto featured on the Great Seal of the United States. After declaring independence, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to devise a seal. In consultation with Swiss-born artist Pierre Eugène du Simitière, they selected E Pluribus Unum, motto of the popular London-based anthology, Gentleman's Magazine, to emblematize the diversity of the American people. Scholars have not located the exact phrase in classical literature, but Virgil's Moretum contains a similar expression. Subsequent committees kept this motto, but substituted an eagle for the proposed heraldic shield. Adopted by Congress on 20 June 1782, the Great Seal appears on numerous currencies, seals, and flags.


McDonald, Forrest. E Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American Republic, 1776–1790. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. A history of the critical period taking E Pluribus Unum as its theme.

Patterson, Richard S., and Richardson Dougall. The Eagle and the Shield: A History of the Great Seal of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, Department of State, under the Auspices of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, 1976. The most thorough history of the Great Seal, its origins, components, and official uses.

Benjamin H.Irvin

See alsoSeal of the United States .

Pluribus Unum, E

views updated May 18 2018

Pluribus Unum, E Latin phrase, ‘out of many, one’, selected as the motto for the American national seal in 1776 by a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.