Charles Thomson Great Seal report page2
“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”, says Charles Thomson in his report on the design of the Great Seal to have become the accepted pattern.
Man in U.S. Marine Corps Uniform Saluting American Flag — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Wikipedia relates the Great Seal motto, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, to Virgil’s Eclogues and ancient pagan ritualists, Sibyls.
Arguably, the picture on the left is not to suggest aprons or paganism; the Great Seal is associated with American executive powers. Charles Thomson, the author of the Great Seal design, was a staunch Presbyterian. He — same as many people, not only Presbyterian and me included — would not have a Sibyl for an elder. Let us mind that those pagan rituals relied on narcotics and burnt offerings.
Importantly, Charles Thomson was also a sound expert at Latin and Greek. His spelling did acknowledge the digraph “æ”, as may be seen in the preserved original image on the right. And the word ‘seclorum’ in his Seal design does not have the digraph.
… the new American Æra (Charles Thomson’s report)
Novus Ordo Seclorum (the Great Seal)
ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo (Virgil’s Eclogue quoted for the source)
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”, says Wikipedia.
Novus ordo seclorum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hardly anybody will believe in a time without a place on this planet, therefore the translation ‘a new order of (the) ages’ can cause doubt. Does the Seal say it, however? Telling the time by the people would have been an endeavor too haphazard even to the human as irrational as an ancient Roman. :)
I do not believe the Seal would have a misspelling. I abandon the Eclogue hypothesis and find the Latin form seclum for earlier than saeclum and seculum. These forms were also used in ancient Rome and not only in the Middle Ages, as Wikipedia claims. The lexical item ordo seclorum could refer to people, a kind, and a generation. Let us compare Cicero and the Second Philippic:
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 (…)
There is an aspect of language use we should take into account interpreting Latin. When we speak, we may not refer our words to written resources ― do we say “morning” early in the day because there would be a Whig journal to come with the Oxford Companion? ;)
Latin experts have been our human contemporaries. The persons could not have just memorized dead text. They have developed the capability to use Latin generatively. I believe Charles Thomson formed the motto himself. This would explain why his report does not provide any bibliographical reference and it gives a rendition of the meaning and not its direct translation ― Attat (!) :)
… the words under it signify the beginning of the new American Æra (Charles Thomson).
The word people may help see how word meanings change. The noun people is derived from the Latin populus. It did not connote nationality in ancient times and often referred to laying waste or degrading: perpopulor, to devastate, pillage; populabilis: destructible. Ancient Romans did not have much of a sense of nationality. Their militaristic culture recognized mostly status. Latin had words aerarius and aerarium for residents who had to pay tax but were not allowed to vote or hold offices, and the part of the temple of Saturn for the public treasure as different from that of the elites. The word Aera in Charles Thomson’s note refers to time in the modern sense of an era.
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. Only as a nationality or ethnicity, the noun may take on the plural itself: The peoples of Europe have formed a Union. Status does no longer decide on civil rights.
I think Charles Thomson knew about these aspects of language change. Forming the motto, he used the Latin ordo to avoid the negative ancient connotations. Ordo had a dignified sense, as we may compare in Cicero. Naturally, it did not necessarily denote a linear array. The modern word order comes from Latin ordo, an arrangement, group, or class.
The contemporary word to seclude can give us some light on the seclorum in the Seal. Latin secludere meant to separate, become distinctive with a regard. Seclorum is a participal form, hence a new people come (a new people to have become).
I propose voluntary extra practice on comprehension and language in my grammar book, too.
“Hailing the Nation: the American Great Seal” is another project of mine intended to discard at least some of the bias and prejudice about the Democracy.
Pär Lagerkvist wrote a few interesting books on the history of human conflict and ancient influences.
The Sibyl may tell — this depends on the focus — about the primitive treatment pagan temples gave women as well as the nonsense of the pagan practice and belief.
The Dwarf describes a persistent propensity for contradiction and strife.
Ideas of governments over tongues are aged. They have been about curbing language. I came across a book stern in criticizing the human liberty to speak; the resource is ascribed to Richard Allestree, an author within the recognized scope of religious thought.
The text of the Government of the Tongue
Let us “begin with the very beginning”: there are things that change about the humanity over time; there are respects with which humanity remains invariable.
We humans are mortal and realize this. No one may assert that he or she knows what happens after his or her death. Faith is not knowledge, and no knowledge is all-encompassing. Therefore, people have been believers and non-believers, never to become intellectually strict opposites.
The non-believer does not necessarily claim there is no God: he or she may just decline concluding on the universe entire. The believer may reject holistic postulates, too: religion is not about picturing the cosmos. The non-believer may live and work without a yearning for God’s existence as well as non-existence. The believer will live and work without God being his or her very focus a proportion of the time.
The resolve on belief or non-belief remains equally with the individual. A non-believer might refuse deliberation on existence of a being not believed. A believer can leave comprehension of existence with the deity understood to have originated gnosis altogether.
Here are a few Greek words on existence, as for the matters that happen to change from time to time ;)
Therefore, let us try thinking about freedom of speech in some detachment from the actuality of belief and disbelief. The distance may keep The Government for the resource with one reservation: the book does not figure in the bibliographical notes for Richard Allestree, same as The Whole Duty of Man, ascribed to 27 people so far.
Government of the Tongue second impression
The Government recommends memorization.
But sure tis a pitiful pretence to ingenuity that can be thus kept up, there being little need of any other faculty but memory to be able to cap Texts.
The book ascribes the tongue an independent volition.
The Tongue is so slippery, that it easily deceives a drowsy or heedless guard.
The writing has speech for separate from mind.
… so the childish parts of us, our passions, our fancies, all our mere animal faculties, can thrust our tongues into such disorder, as our reason cannot easily rectify.
It condemns linguistic fluency.
Language command is attributed supra-individual qualities.
David uttered a bloody vow against Nabal, spake words smoother than oil to Uriah …
The due management therefore of this unruly member, may be rightly be esteemed one of the greatest mysteries of Wisdom and Virtue.
The effort associated with controlling speech makes the author(s) invoke King Solomon.
42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here (Matthew 12).
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12)
And here, the irresistible philological temptation is to compare Wycliffe.
28 And of clothing what ben ye bisye? Biholde ye the lilies of the feeld, how thei wexen. Thei trauelen not, nether spynnen;29 and Y seie to you, Salomon in al his glorie was not keuered as oon of these. (Matheu 6)
42 The queene of the south shal rise in doom with this generacioun, and schal condempne it; for she cam fro the eendis of the erthe to here the wisdom of Salomon, and lo! here a gretter than Salomon. (Matheu 12)
The history of the First Amendment emphasizes the separation of the Church from the State: In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Court drew on Founding Father Thomas Jefferson‘s correspondence to call for “a wall of separation between church and State”, though the precise boundary of this separation remains in dispute, says Wikipedia.
It was yet the fluent quality in the tongue to encourage reference to Wycliffe in preparing the new version of King James Bible: :)
Simply put, in countless passages of the “Early Version”, both the poetry of the language and fidelity to the original Greek text are superior to that found in the “Later Version”, says the Bible Gateway.
Looking to Wycliffe is another of my projects, strictly philological, intended to show English as a live tongue. :)
Looking to Wycliffe sample with preface
Freedom of speech is a most important human freedom. There is much room for it in my grammar: the course invites student independent practice, some exercises being open-ended or left without any prescribed answer at all. :)
Travelers in Grammar Appendix 3 contains faithful typescripts of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights: Dunlap, Carter and Wheeler prints, respectively. I think the material vital for comprehension of the American language and thought; students may benefit considerably from copies at hand.