Above: Top- The original sketch by Charles Thomson/ Middle- Seal's Reverse Side/ Bottom- Front of the Great Seal
On July 4th, 1776 the decision to adopt a national seal was made. The original purpose of a national seal was simply to mark our supremacy. It, however, became a reflection of our beliefs and ideals. Three committees, fourteen men, and six years later, our seal was born. The final design was mainly inspired by the sketch done by Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson. It was adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782.
How do we interpret the many symbols on this Great Seal?
The bald eagle is a symbol of independence and liberty.
The thirteen arrows in the eagle's left talon represent the vigilance of our military.
The olive branch in the right talon signifies peace.
The shield and arrows and the olive branch together represent our idea of preserving our freedom, through the strength of our military--- or peace, through strength.
The number thirteen, seen throughout, denotes the unity of the original thirteen states.
The seal's reverse side depicts a incomplete pyramid, consisting of thirteen levels. According to the artist, Charles Thomson, the "pyramid signifies Strength and Duration... The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the words under it (novus ordo seclorum) signify the beginning of the new American Era, which commences from that date."
The pyramid's incompletion shows that America was incomplete; more states would be added to our nation and liberty for more people would be created.
The "new American Era" describes a new age where freedom was honored over oppression, self-determination over dependency on the govenment, and virtue over power.
Above the pyramid is a great eye, with the Latin phrase "annuit coeptis", which translates to "God approves." It signified God's divine providence, which lead to the founding of this great nation.
The Great Seal, seen on passports, military insignia, the one-dollar bill, and other official government documents, is a reminder of the essence of this great nation, founded in favor of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.