Sunday, October 4, 2015

E pluribus unum - Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

E Pluribus Unum included in the Great Seal of the United States, being one of the nation's mottos at the time of the seal's creation.
E pluribus unum (/ˈ ˈplʊərɨbəs ˈnəm/Latin: [ˈeː ˈpluːrɪbʊs ˈuːnʊ̃])—Latinfor "Out of many, one"[1][2] (alternatively translated as "One out of many"[3] or "One from many")[4]—is a phrase on the Seal of the United States, along with Annuit cœptis (Latin for "He/she/it approves (has approved) of the undertakings") and Novus ordo seclorum (Latin for "New Order of the Ages"), and adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782.[2] Never codified by law, E Pluribus Unum was considered a de facto motto of the United States[5] until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act(H. J. Resolution 396), adopting "In God we trust" as the official motto.[6]


The motto was suggested in 1776 by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to the committee responsible for developing the seal. At the time of the American Revolution, the exact phrase appeared prominently on the title page of every issue of a popular periodical, The Gentleman's Magazine,[7][8][9] which collected articles from many sources intoone "magazine". This in turn can be traced back to the London-based Huguenot Peter Anthony Motteux, who used the adage for his The Gentleman's Journal, or the Monthly Miscellany (1692-1694). The phrase is similar to a Latin translation of a variation of Heraclitus's 10th fragment, "The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one." A variant of the phrase was used in Moretum, a poem attributed to Virgil but with the actual author unknown, describing (on the surface at least) the making of moretum, a kind of herb and cheese spread related to modern pesto. In the poem text, color est e pluribus unus describes the blending of colors into one. St Augustine used the non-truncated variant of the phrase, ex pluribus unum, in his Confessions (e is an abbreviation for the common Latin preposition ex).
While Annuit cœptis and Novus ordo seclorum appear on the reverse side of the great seal, E pluribus unumappears on the obverse side of the seal (Designed by Charles Thomson), the image of which is used as the national emblem of the United States, and appears on official documents such as passports. It also appears on theseal of the President and in the seals of the Vice President of the United States, of the United States Congress, of the United States House of Representatives, of the United States Senate and on the seal of the United States Supreme Court.


The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerges a single nation. However, in recent years its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation—illustrating the concept of the melting pot.[10]

Usage on coins[edit]

Half Dollar (reverse), 1807
The first coins with E pluribus unum were dated 1786 and struck under the authorization of the State of New Jersey by Thomas Goadsby and Albion Cox in Rahway, New Jersey.[11] The motto had no New Jersey linkage but was likely an available die that had been created by Walter Mould the previous year for a failed federal coinage proposal.[12] Walter Mould was also authorized by New Jersey to strike state coppers with this motto and did so beginning in early 1787 in Morristown, New Jersey. Lt. Col. Seth Read ofUxbridge, Massachusetts was said to have been instrumental in having E Pluribus Unum placed on US coins[13] Seth Read and his brother Joseph Read had been authorized by the Massachusetts General Court to mint coppers in 1786. In March 1786, Seth Read petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, both the House and the Senate, for a franchise to mint coins, both copper and silver, and "it was concurred".[14][15] E pluribus unum, written in capital letters, is included on most U.S. currency, with some exceptions to the letter spacing (such as the reverse of the dime). It is also embossed on the edge of the dollar coin. (See United States coinage and paper bills in circulation).
According to the U.S. Treasury, the motto E pluribus unum was first used on U.S. coinage in 1795, when the reverse of the half-eagle ($5 gold) coin presented the main features of the Great Seal of the United StatesE pluribus unum is inscribed on the Great Seal's scroll. The motto was added to certain silver coins in 1798, and soon appeared on all of the coins made out of precious metals (gold and silver). In 1834, it was dropped from most of the gold coins to mark the change in the standard fineness of the coins. In 1837, it was dropped from the silver coins, marking the era of the Revised Mint Code. An Act of February 12, 1873 made the inscription a requirement of law upon the coins of the United States. E pluribus unum appears on all coins currently being manufactured, including the Presidential dollars that started being produced in 2007, where it is inscribed on the edge along with "In God We Trust" and the year and mint mark. After the Revolution, Rahway, New Jersey became the home of the first national mint to create a coin bearing the inscription E pluribus unum.
In a quality control error in early 2007 the Philadelphia Mint issued some one-dollar coins without E pluribus unum on the rim; these coins have already become collectibles.
The 2009, 2010 and the new 2011 penny features a new design on the back, which displays the phrase "E Pluribus unum" in larger letters than in previous years. It is also seen on the 2011 quarter dollar coin.[1]

Other usages[edit]

E pluribus unum in the main entrance to Estádio da Luz

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. Jump up to:a b "e pluribus unum". Retrieved2012-03-29.
  2. Jump up to:a b "E Pluribus Unum - Origin and Meaning of the Motto Carried by the American Eagle". 2011-11-28. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  3. Jump up^ "E Pluribus Unum"Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins. Retrieved 2012-12-23.
  4. Jump up^ "E Pluribus Unum". Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  5. Jump up^ H. John Lyke (September 6, 2012). What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?: How Today's Leaders Have Lost Their Way. iUniverse. p. 34.
  6. Jump up^ "Congressional Record" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-08.
  7. Jump up^ "The Gentleman's Magazine"Encyclopædia Britannica.
  8. Jump up^ The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle. 1783.
  9. Jump up^ "The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle". 1747.
  10. Jump up^ "E Pluribus Unum?". TIME magazine. June 7, 1976. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  11. Jump up^ Q. David Bowers. Whitman Encyclopedia of Colonial and Early American Coins. (Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2009) p. 129
  12. Jump up^ Walter Breen. Complete Encyclopedia of US and Colonial Coins. (New York: FCI Press; Doubleday, 1998) p. 78
  13. Jump up^ "Resource center faqs/coins accessed 2011-06-27". Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  14. Jump up^ "Massachusetts Coppers 1787-1788: Introduction". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved2007-10-09.
  15. Jump up^ March, 1786 Petition to mint Massachusetts Coppers, source Google books. Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  16. Jump up^ "The Wokingham Borough Coat of Arms". Wokingham Borough. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  17. Jump up^ "I am an American". Ad Council/GSD&M. Retrieved 2013-01-03.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This document’s alive. And you can watch it evolve - Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

image from

After 200-plus years, the U.S. Constitution still defines and limits the powers of American government and guarantees the rights of the American people. How can it, or any nation’s constitution, remain effective in a world that changes every day? How can words drafted by men who traveled to the Constitutional Convention in horse-drawn carriages and (some of whom) owned slaves remain relevant today?
For many, the answer is that a constitution is a “living document.” The words don’t change, unless specifically amended, but the way judges, lawmakers and citizens interpret them does. And now the National Constitution Center lets you watch as the Constitution evolves, changes over time and adapts to new circumstances.
Check out the Interactive Constitution. It pairs the document text with easily understood (promise!) explanations from leading scholars. Sometimes the scholars disagree. That happens with living documents.
Today more than 160 countries have written constitutions. (Others have unwritten ones, where customs, usage and legal precedent serve the same functions.) Google has a great English and Arabic language tool that lets you compare constitutions on key issues like women’s rightsfree speechreligion and election laws.
At the U.S. Constitution’s bicentennial in 1987, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall warned against letting the occasion become “little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives.”
Does your constitution reflect the role you think government should play in your life? What are you most proud of, and what would you want to see changed?

New Book: America Was Built On Slavery And It Was Much Worse Than You Might Imagine: Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"

Slaves as money. A breeding industry. Founding fathers of white supremacy.
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet October 2, 2015

Engraving, circa 1700, featuring white colonists and black slaves.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Hill Books
This August, when Hillary Clinton met with Black Lives Matter protesters, they told her that ongoing violence and prejudice against blacks was part of a long historic continuum where, for example, today’s prison system descended from the old Southern plantations. Slavery, Clinton replied, was the “original sin... that America has not recovered from.”
But how much do modern Americans really know about slavery in colonial America? In the genocide of Native Americans? In the War of Independence or the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights? Or afterward for decades until the Civil War? Chances are, not very much. Not that slaves, for example, were money in the antebellum South—currency and credit—which led to the enforced, systematic break-up of black families in generation after generation. There was no national currency, and little silver or gold, but there was paper tied to slaves bought on credit whose offspring were seen as a dividend that grew over time.
That’s just one of the riveting and revolting details from a new book, The American Slave Coast: A History of The Slave Breeding Industry, by Ned and Constance Sublette. They trace other telling details that are not found in traditional American history books, where slavery is usually described as an amoral but cheap labor system. For example, have you read about the rivalry between Virginia and South Carolina, which had competing slave economies?
Virginia was the epicenter of a slave breeding industry, in which enslaved women were expected to be constantly pregnant, were sold off if they didn't produce children, and sometimes were force-mated to achieve that end. The offspring were sold to newer settlers and those migrating west. Charleston, South Carolina, in contrast, was colonial America’s slave importing and exporting port. In the late seventeenth century, Carolina exported captured native Americans as slaves to Caribbean plantation islands, gradually replacing them with imported laborers. As the South was emptied of native Americans and American plantations grew, South Carolina became the major slave importer in the colonies and in the early republic. Virginia eventually won out when Congress, at President Thomas Jefferson's urging, banned slave importation as of January 1, 1808—protectionism, say the Sublettes, for Virginia's slave-breeding industry, and sold to the public as protection against the alleged terrorism of "French negroes" from Haiti. After that, a new interstate slave trade grew, propelled by territories and new states that wanted slavery, and by the breeders who wanted new markets. Thus, the slave-breeding economy spread south and west, driving the expansion of the U.S. into new territories.
Slavery, as the Sublettes describe it, wasn’t a sidebar to early American history and a new nation’s growth. It was front and center—protected by law and prejudice, custom and greed. The enslaved were unloaded, sold, and taken (women’s necks tied with rope, men’s necks put in chains) via major roads, steamboats, and passing through cities and villages to their destination. Newspapers, owned by Benjamin Franklin, sold advertising for buying and selling slaves. All of this unfolded in full sight, with prosperous settlers assuming that slaves were a necessity for daily living and accumulating wealth. For generations, the property value of slaves was the largest asset in America.
The authors, Ned and Constance Sublette, are not traditional scholars, but gifted cultural historians. Ned Sublette, who was born in Lubbock, Texas, and lived in Natchitoches, Louisiana as a boy, was trained as a musician and created the record company Qbadisc  in the 1990s—featuring top Cuban artists long before Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club. His book Cuba and Its Music is considered by many to be the most authoritative on the island’s unique mix of African and European traditions and musical heritage. He realized that the conditions of different forms of slavery—French, Spanish, American—accounted for key differences between Afro-Latin and African-American culture. His second book, The World That Made New Orleans, deconstructs how successive waves of slave importation, under Spanish, French and then American rule, created that city’s music. But throughout his research, working with his wife, Constance, the Sublettes realized that the history of slavery—especially its most vicious form that took hold in North America—was largely untold, unknown, and explained much about the violence, racism and exploitation that is at the core of U.S. history. The American Slave Coast is the result of 15 years of inquiry.
It’s an epic volume—668 pages before footnotes and citations—and a lot to digest. But if Americans are ever to come to terms with the anti-black violence that endures today, it is necessary to understand the roots of an economy and culture that has needed and feared Africans. For example, take Jefferson and America’s founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Most Americans know that slaves had no rights. Or they know that the slave-owning Jefferson cynically wrote, “All men are created equal” in the Declaration, and owned slaves and had several slave children. But they probably don’t realize how the Constitution and Bill of Rights enshrined into law an economic system where the major form of property was slaves, and created a government to protect the wealth of that system’s upper class.
Today’s right-wing fetish about the Constitution’s perfection ignores input by prominent Virginians and Carolinians, including many signers of the Declaration of Independence, to protect slave property. As their book points out, the gun-toting militias sanctioned by the Second Amendment were a guarantee that slave owners could hunt and kill escaped slaves and Native Americans. The Sublettes stunningly trace how fear (of slave revolts) and self-interest (protecting slave-tied wealth) played a major role in framing America’s founding documents. But they go further and demonstrate why Jefferson is the the founding theorist of white supremacy in America.
It’s not just that Jefferson owned slaves, including his own children who were 7/8ths white. Nor was it his letters with the leading men of his day—like George Washington—explaining how owning slaves was better than other investments. Nor was it his ugly and racist description of blacks in Notes From The State of Virginia, where in the 1780s he wrote, “Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions… are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection.” Mostly, it was Jefferson’s lifelong belief that slaves could not be freed but had to be deported en masse, because sizeable numbers of ex-slaves would take up arms and annihilate slave-owning whites. These prejudices, fears and draconian remedies reverberate today—such as Donald Trump’s bid to deport 11 million migrants. 
The American Slave Coast starts with the horrible truth that America—unlike the French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean—was a slave-breeding society from colonial times through emancipation. There was no path to freedom for slaves, because, say the Sublettes, "no escape from the asset column could be permitted." Black families were intentionally broken up as part of creating an economic system for a new nation. As Ned Sublette said, “Writing this book revolutionized our understanding of our history.” Constance Sublette adds, “No matter how bad you thought slavery was, it was worse than that.”       

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).