James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Thomson, 1 December 1801

From Charles Thomson

Decr. 1. 1801

Dear Sir,

Enclosed I send you an explanation of the Device for an armorial Atchievement and Reverse of a Great Seal for the United States in Congress assembled.

It was drawn up when I made report & contains the Sentiments which I had in my mind when I was considering the subject, and which I wished to express covertly by the device. It has never been published nor have I ever given a copy of it. If you think it worth preserving you may lodge it in your office, if not; destroy it. Accept the assurance of my esteem & regard. Your old Friend

Chas Thomson1


Device for an Armorial Atchievement and Reverse of a great Seal for the United states in Congress Assembled


On a field   Chevrons composed of seven pieces on one side & six on the other, joined together at the top in such wise that each of the six bears against or is supported by & supports two of the opposite side the pieces of the chevrons on each side alternate red & white. The shield born on the breast of An American Eagle on the Wing & rising, proper. In the dexter talon of the Eagle an Olive branch & in the sinister a bundle of Arrows. Over the head of the Eagle a Constellation of Stars surrounded with bright rays and at a little distance clouds.

In the bill of the Eagle a scroll with these words

E pluribus Unum.


A pyramid unfinished

In the Zenith an Eye in a triangle surrounded with a glory, proper.

Over the Eye these Words

Annuit cœptis

On the base of the pyramid the numerical letters


And underneath these words

Novus Ordo seclorum.

N B the Head & tail of the American bald Eag[l]e are white. The body & Wings of a lead or dove colour.

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