Great Seal of the United States

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Great Seal of the United States-Obverse

The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States government. The Great Seal was first used in 1782.


One proposed version of the Great Seal bears the distinctive phrase: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God". Several people were involved in the making of the Seal. Of them, the most notable was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin described his idea for the seal this way:

Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharoah who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity.
Motto, Rebellion to Tyrants Is Obedience to God.[1]


The design was approved by Congress on June 20, 1782 and was written as follows:

(Obverse). The Escutcheon is composed of the chief & pale, the two most honorable ordinaries. The Pieces, paly, represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress. The Motto alludes to this union. The pales in the arms are kept closely united by the chief and the Chief depends upon that union & the strength resulting from it for its support, to denote the Confederacy of the United States of America & the preservation of their union through Congress.

The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon 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.


Reverse. The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration: The Eye over it & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The date underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Æra, which commences from that date. [2]


  1. Proposal for the Great Seal of the United States, August 14, 1776; Library of Congress
  2. Great Seal Explanation