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, concludes Charles Thomson about his accepted design of the Great Seal.
The Great Seal is associated with American executive powers. Arguably, the picture on the left does not suggest aprons or paganism. Charles Thomson himself was a Presbyterian. He — same as many people, me included — would not have a Sibyl for an elder. The rituals involved narcotics and burnt offerings.
ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo
… which I would associate with establishment and thus forming order, as more appreciated in ancient times.
Wikipedia quotes Virgil’s Eclogue and says,
The phrase is sometimes mistranslated as “New World Order” by people who believe in a conspiracy behind the design; however, it does directly translate to “New Order of the Ages”.
A New Order of the Ages can cause doubt. Hardly anybody believes in a time without a place on this planet. You couldn’t have Romanticism before the Enlightenment and the Renaissance only after. Charles Thomson was a sound expert at Latin and Greek. His spelling did acknowledge the digraph “æ”. We can see it in the report.
… the new American Æra
(Charles Thomson’s report)
The word seclorum in his design does not have the digraph.
I abandon the Eclogues. The Latin form seclum was earlier than saeclum and seculum. Old Latin e happened to assume ae in the Classic period, and later became e, often in words of shifted semantic reference. For example, nowadays we could say that secular people cannot be members of monastic orders.
I compare Cicero and the Philippics:
Accuse the senate; accuse the equestrian body, which at that time was united with the senate; accuse every order or society, and all the citizens; (…) at all events you would never have continued in this order, or rather in this city; (…) when I have been pronounced by this order to be the savior of my country; (…) when you, one single young man, forbade the whole order to pass decrees concerning the safety of the republic (…)
Then, I think why we people say ‘good morning’. It could not be for that Whig journal to come with the Oxford Companion, in my case. I have never read it, just looked it up over the Internet. ;)
I mean, when we speak, we do not take our words from books. Latin might have been a dead language, but Charles Thomson was alive when he used it. He formed the motto. The report gives a rendition of the meaning. It does not translate the motto.
… the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Æra …
I compare the contemporary seclude. We can translate secludere as to stand apart, and seclusus as separate. Latin ordo could mean a group, arrangement, or class. But then, why wouldn’t Mr. Thomson have used the word populus, if he meant people?
We derive the noun form people from the Latin populus. The paths for etymology and meaning happen to converge; they also diverge, sometimes. Populus did not connote nationality in ancient times. It often referred to laying waste or degrading: perpopulor, to devastate, pillage; populabilis, destructible.
Ancient Romans did not have much sentiment for nationality. Their militaristic culture favored status. Latin had words aerarius and aerarium for Roman residents who had to pay tax but were not allowed to vote or hold offices. The temple of Saturn had a special part to keep public offerings separate from those of the elites. Caesars could give death verdicts among any elites, denying citizen rights. We have to be very selective, seeking worthwhile aspects of the Antiquity. Compare the PIE.
Ordo had a dignified sense, as we may compare in Cicero. It did not have to denote a linear arrangement, but it also could: Roman military, bringing territories down, happened to face local people in battle formations, ready to oppose.
Nowadays, the noun people means a group of human beings, or a nationality. As a group, it takes a plural verb: The people here all speak English. As a nationality or ethnicity, the noun may take on the plural itself: The peoples of Europe have formed a Union. Status can no longer decide on civil rights.
Seclorum looks a participal form (coming from an older participle), hence A New People Come (a new people to have become). The word Aera in Charles Thomson’s note refers to time in the modern sense of an era.
The US Library of Congress has received extensive materials about Charles Thomson. I hope they become accessible soon, as this is another project of mine. :)