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.
Arguably, the picture on the left does not suggest aprons or paganism. The Great Seal belongs with American powers to involve the executive. Charles Thomson was a Presbyterian. He — same as many people, me included — would not have a Sibyl for an elder, authority, or factor of strength. The rituals involved narcotics and burnt offerings.
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”.
ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo
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 Enlightenment, and 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, above)
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 are those who are not 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. I just looked up the phrase 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 …
Resources differ in presenting the Latin language. We may compare The Rudiments of Latin and English Grammar by Alexander Adam, of about 1786. On page 141, he presents seclor as a consequent of sequor.
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. The Roman civitas was inseparable from the city of Rome. 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 people, without legal rationale. We have to be very selective, seeking worthwhile aspects of the Antiquity. Compare the PIE.
The word ordo had a dignified sense: though translated scarce by Lewis and Short, we may compare 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.
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 (compare the 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. :)
Feel welcome to the voluntary extra practice on American civics with my grammar course.