Civic Literacy Curriculum
This curriculum guide is intended to cover question 124.
Q124: The Nation’s first motto was “E Pluribus Unum.” What does that mean?
A. Out of one, many
B. Out of many, one
C. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few
D. None of these
America’s first motto was “E pluribus unum,” a Latin phrase meaning “out of many, one.” This phrase was proposed for the seal of the new nation in July 1776 by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson—three of the members of the committee also tasked to write the Declaration of Independence. It was meant to indicate the linking of separate states in a joint government, but later came to stand for the idea that diverse Americans—of different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds—nonetheless had a common identity as American citizens and participants in its political society.
“E Pluribus Unum” was the historic motto of America, and still appears on our country’s official seal and much of our money.
In God We Trust, which appeared in the text of the Star-Spangled Banner and has been on American money since the 1860s, was made the official motto of the United States in 1956. But the first motto was “E Pluribus Unum.” What does that phrase mean?
“E Pluribus Unum” literally translates to, “out of many, one,” in Latin. But what does it actually mean? What does it mean for many people to become one? In what ways are they one? In what ways, if any, are they still many? Use current and past events to support your answer.