National Arms, part 10

USA Seal
Once the concept of sovereignty expressed in Coats of Arms had become accepted in other parts of the world it was only natural that as countries, which had been colonies, attained independence they should continue the tradition. Of course, not all Arms adopted followed traditional patterns but the intention was clear. On July 4th 1776 the British Colonies in the southern part of North America formally declared their independence. After long and fruitless discussion, the Continental Congress, on June 20th 1782 approved the design for what was to be the Great Seal of the United States of America. This was the work of many hands, but the design on the reverse of the Seal was largely due to the input of William Barton of Philadelphia. If he had been guided only by European precedents he would undoubtedly have suggested a complex array of thirteen separate Coats of Arms marshaled on a single shield, one representing each colony. Even though the formal heraldic description is deficient in expertise  the symbolism of the design is without a doubt a stroke of genius.

The basic problem in designing a Seal for the newly independent United States was to typify a union in one nation of thirteen constituents while preserving the individuality of each one. The solution entailed a shield consisting of thirteen vertical red and white stripes united by a single blue band above them. This shield was then placed upon the breast of the American eagle, which held on one claw an olive branch (the symbol of peace) and in the other thirteen arrows, one for each State. In the beak was a ribbon inscribed with E pluribus unum (Out of many, one). Above the head was set thirteen silver stars forming a constellation on a blue background surrounded by a sun breaking through the clouds. The design is simple but very inspiring in its symbolism.

France National ArmsIn the world today monarchies are in a minority and most countries have chosen the paths of democracies of one type or another. The year 1789 is of great historical importance as it was in that year the French monarchy was overthrown and the existing order was swept away. The use of heraldic insignia was proscribed and the fleur-de-lys  were replaced by the tricolor. To this day the tricolor remains the only official emblem of the French Republic. The Third Republic did however approve the limited use of the Arms containing the fleur-de-lis


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