The Contribution of the Religion of the Colonial Period to the Ideals and Life of the United States

Kenneth Scott Latourette
1958 The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History  
The Great Seal of the United States, designed in the early days of the Republic, has on it symbolism whose significance is often overlooked. On one side is an eagle which grasps with one talon a branch and with the other a sheaf of arrows. Above its head are "E Pluribus Unum" and thirteen stars for the original states bound together in one nation. The other side has on it an unfinished pyramid. The foundation bears the number MDCCLXXVI. Above the pyramid is the eye of God flanked by the words
more » ... nked by the words "Annuit Coeptis," namely, "He smiles on the undertakings." Underneath is the phrase "Novus Ordo Seculorum," meaning "New Order of the Ages." Here succinctly is the vision which inspired the founding fathers of the new nation. The thirteen colonies had become one, prepared to face together the exigencies of the future, whether for preservation in self-defense or for cooperation in the arts of peace. Here was an attempt at building something novel in the history of mankind—a new and ordered structure. That structure, as yet incomplete, was based upon the Declaration of Independence, with its best-remembered phrases: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Here is "the American dream." As "four score and seven years" later Abraham Lincoln even more briefly described it, the new nation was "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" and its success or failure was a test whether "government of the people, by the people, for the people" could "long endure." To that dream faith in God, in His creative activity, and in His sovereignty was basic.
doi:10.2307/978906 fatcat:xed32xkb3vfztepy3ofifoyqna