Alabama State Motto

"Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere"

Alabama Coat of Arms

(We Dare Defend Our Rights)
(We Dare Maintain Our Rights)

Adopted on March 14, 1939

Originator: Marie Bankhead Owen, 1923

Language: Latin

Focus: Rights

See Alabama Coat of Arms

"Audemus jura nostra defendere" has been translated as: "We Dare Maintain Our Rights" or "We Dare Defend Our Rights." This Latin phrase is on Alabama state coat of arms completed in 1923. It was adopted in 1939 as Alabama state motto.

According to a Birmingham News-Age Herald article by Marie Bankhead Owen (the director of the state Archives) dated April 23, 1939, she came upon the idea while searching for "a phrase that would interpret the spirit of our peoples in a terse and energetic sentence." A part of a poem entitled "What Constitutes a State?" by the 18th-century author Sir William Jones found in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations includes the stanza "Men who their duties know. But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain." The motto was translated into Latin by Professor W. B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama.

Alabama State Motto
"Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere"

There are three states with mottos that focus on rights:

  1. Alabama: "Audemus jura nostra defendere" (We Dare Maintain Our Rights)
  2. Nebraska: "Equality Before the Law"
  3. Wyoming: "Equal Rights"

Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere is Alabama's second motto. Alabama's first motto, Here We Rest, was approved by a Republican legislature after the Civil War, during the period referred to as "Reconstruction." It was approved with the adoption of a new state seal, replacing the one that had been used for 50 years. The replaced state seal, a carry-over of the Alabama Territorial Seal, depicted Alabama and its major rivers. The new seal displayed a bald eagle perched on the shield of the United States Seal. In the eagle's beak was a banner that read "Here We Rest".

Over 70 years later, in 1939, the original seal was restored as the Great Seal of Alabama. At the same time, the state legislature adopted an Alabama Coat-of-Arms along with a new state motto: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere, translated as "We Dare Maintain Our Rights." Act No. 140, to adopt an official Coat-of-Arms for the State of Alabama was approved on March 14, 1939.


Alabama Coat-Of-Arms

Adopted on March 14, 1939.

The bill to legalize a state coat-of-arms was introduced in the Alabama Legislature of 1939 by James Simpson, Jefferson County, and was passed without a dissenting vote by both houses. The coat-of-arms consists of a shield on which appears the emblems of the five governments that have held sovereignty over Alabama. The flags of Spain, France, Great Britian, the Confederacy are bound by the flag and shield of the United States. This shield is supported on either side by bald eagles, symbolic of courage. The crest is a model of the ship, the Baldine, that Iberville and Bienville sailed from France to settle a colony near present day Mobile (1699). The motto beneath the shield is "Audemus jura nostra defendere," (We Dare Defend Our Rights.) Beneath the motto is the state name.

The original design of the Alabama coat-of-arms was made in 1923 by B.J. Tieman, New York, an authority on heraldry, at the request of Marie Bankhead Owen, Director of the Department of Archives and History. A few years later Naomi Rabb Winston, Washington, DC, painted the completed design in oil. Mrs. Owen selected the motto which was put into Latin by Professor W.B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama. It was through the influence of Juliet Perry Dixon, wife of Governor Dixon, that official action was taken by the legislature.

The act to adopt an official Coat-of-Arms for the State of Alabama was approved March 14, 1939, Act No. 140.'

Alabama Law

The law designating the official Alabama state motto is found in the Code of Alabama 1975, Title 1, Chapter 2, Sections 1-2-1 and 1-2-2.

This statute describes the Alabama State Coat of Arms. The motto is specified within this description.

SECTION 1-2-1.

Official coat of arms - General description. Alabama shall have an official coat of arms which shall be as follows: a shield upon which is carried the flags of four of the five nations which have at various times held sovereignty over a part or the whole of what is now the State of Alabama: Spain, France, Great Britain and the Confederacy. The union binding these flags shall be the shield of the United States. The shield upon which the flags and shield of the United States are placed shall be supported on either side by an eagle. The crest of the coat of arms shall be a ship representing the "Badine" which brought the French colonists who established the first permanent white settlements in the state. Beneath the shield there shall be a scroll containing the sentence in Latin: "Audemus jura nostra defendere," the English interpretation of which is "We Dare Maintain Our Rights." The word "Alabama" shall appear beneath the state motto.

(Acts 1939, No. 140, p. 176; Code 1940, T. 55, §1.)

SECTION 1-2-2.

Official coat of arms - Description in heraldic terms. The coat of arms of Alabama as described in heraldic terms shall be as follows: arms: quarterly, the first azure three fleur de lis or (for France); second quarterly first and fourth gules a tower tripple towered or, second and third argent a lion rampant gules (for Spain); third azure a saltire argent and gules over all a cross of the last fimbriated of the second (for Great Britain); fourth gules of a saltire azure, fimbriated argent 13 mullets of the last (for the Confederacy); at center in escutcheon chief azure paly argent and gules 13 (for United States) arms supported by two American eagles displayed. Crest: A full rigged ship proper.

(Acts 1939, No. 140, p. 176; Code 1940, T. 55, §2.)

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