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Massachusetts State Motto

"Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem"

State Motto and Banner

(By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty)

Adopted on June 4, 1885.

Language: Latin

Focus: Liberty and Freedom

See Massachusetts State Seal

Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem has not been specifically adopted as the motto of Massachusetts but has been accepted as an element of the arms and seal of the Commonwealth adopted on June 4, 1885.

Massachusetts' State motto, Ense Petit Placidam Sub Libertate Quietem, can be translated as With the sword she seeks peace under liberty. This is attributed to Algernon Sydney (1622-1683), an English political writer, from the complete phrase, ...Manus haec inimica tyrannis Ense petit placidam sub liberate quietam.

Massachusetts State Motto
"Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem"

These a states with mottos that focus on liberty.

  1. Delaware: "Liberty and Independence"
  2. Iowa: "Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain"
  3. Massachusetts: "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem"
    (By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only under Liberty)
  4. New Jersey: "Liberty and Prosperity"
  5. North Dakota: "Liberty and Union Now and Forever; One and Inseparable"
  6. Pennsylvania: "Virtue, Liberty, and Independence"

Motto appeared a seal that was adopted in response to a July 25, 1775 order from the Massachusetts General Court. The order appointed a committee to consider "what is necessary to be done relative to a Colony Seal." The colony no longer recognized the authority of the Royal Govern or General Thomas Gage and he had possession of the Seal of the Province. A new seal was adopted, depicting a man holding the Magna Carta. The seal, engraved by Paul Revere, also included the motto, (Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.)

In 1780, after its first meeting under the new Massachusetts Constitution, the General Court again appointed a committee "to consider & determine upon a Seal for this Commonwealth." The seal adopted at this time was a version of the 1692 seal granted with the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

On June 4, 1885, a new seal was described by law that defines the current seal. After a 100-year absence, the motto was again included as an element of a seal. This time, it was included on the Seal of the Commonwealth. Its description is included in the section defining the arms of the Commonwealth.

...shall consist of a shield, whereof the field or surface is blue, and thereon an Indian dressed in his shirt and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and in the upper corner above his right arm, a silver star with five points. The crest shall be a wreath of blue and gold, whereon is a right arm, bent at the elbow, and clothed and ruffled, the hand grasping a broadsword, all of gold. The motto shall be "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem."


Massachusetts Law

The law designating the official Massachusetts state motto is found in the Massachusetts General Laws, Part 1, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 1.

This statute describes the Massachusetts coat of arms. The motto is specified within this description.


Chapter 2: Section 1 Coat of arms of commonwealth Section 1. The coat of arms of the commonwealth shall consist of a blue shield with an Indian thereon, dressed in a shirt, leggings, and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and, in the upper right-hand corner of the field a silver star of five points. The crest shall be, on a wreath of gold and blue, a right arm, bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, and grasping a broad-sword, all of gold. The motto ""Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem'' shall appear in gold on a blue ribbon.

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