Teach Our History
American History
shadow shadow

American Mottos

The Motto of the United States

Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873) was the United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln. He served as the Governor of Ohio, a U.S. Senator and was appointed by President Lincoln as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was a strong opponent of slavery, defending so many escaped slaves when he first started practicing law that he was given the nickname "Attorney-General of Fugitive Slaves".

On November 20, 1861, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Portland Chase wrote to the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia:

Dear Sir,
No nation can be strong except in the strength of God or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

Yours truly,
S.P. Chase

On December 9, 1863, Secretary of the Treasury S.P. Chase wrote again to the Director of the Mint, James Pollock:

"I approve your mottos, only suggesting that, on that with the Washington obverse, the motto should begin with the word 'Our', so as to read:
'Our God and our Country'. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: 'In God We Trust' ".

On March 3, 1865, the Congress of the United States of America approved the Treasury Secretary Salmon Portland Chase’s instruction to the U.S. mint to prepare a "device" to inscribe U.S. coins with the motto:
"In God We Trust"

In a Memorial Address for President Lincoln, April 24, 1865, Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives stated:

"Nor should I forget to mention here that the last act of Congress ever signed by him was one requiring that the motto, in which he sincerely believed, "In God We Trust", should hereafter be inscribed upon all our national coin."

On October 30, 1949, in a radio address, President Harry S. Truman stated:

"When the United States was established, its coins bore witness to the American faith in a benevolent deity. The motto then was 'In God We Trust'. That is still our motto and we, as a people, still place our firm trust in God."

July 20, 1956, in the 84th Congress, 2nd session, adopted House Joint Resolution 396, introduced by Rep. Charles E. Bennett (FL), providing that the national motto of the United States of America officially be "In God We Trust":

84th Congress, 2nd Session, H.J. 396;
April 18 (legislative day, April 9,) 1956
Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Joint Resolution
To establish a national motto of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be "In God We Trust".

Passed the House of Representatives April 16, 1956.
Attest: Ralph R. Roberts, Clerk.

On March 19, 1981, in a Proclamation of a National Day of Prayer, President Ronald Reagan stated:

"Our Nation’s motto, 'In God We Trust', was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage."

Back to the Top

Motto of the Revolutionary War

No king but King Jesus.

Back to the Top

American Schools and Universities

Of note is the fact that 106 of the first 108 schools in America were founded on the Christian faith.

Harvard College
The mottos of Harvard were:
For the Glory of Christ
For Christ and the Church.

The word Veritas, on the college seal, means "Divine truth".

Princeton University
Princeton University’s motto was:
Under God’s Power She Flourishes.

Princeton's seal consisted of a seated woman and written above her head the Hebrew Tetragrammaton name of God, YHVH. The Latin motto inscribed across the top is Psalm 36:10, "In Thy light we see light." The Hebrew phrase Uri El, which is written on a ribbon, alludes to Psalm 27:1 "God is my light." Under the woman’s feet is inscribed the scripture, I PET.II.1-2, admonishing students to desire of the pure milk of God’s Word.

Brown University
The motto of Brown University stated:
In Deo Speramus (In God We Trust).

Rutgers University
In 1776, inspired by the motto of the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, which was "Son of Righteousness, Shine upon Us", Rutgers University chose for its official motto:

Son of Righteousness, Shine upon the West Also.

Back to the Top

State Mottos and Seals

The State Seal pictured a farmer and a fisherman, reflecting the occupations of the early settlers; a shield with the coat of arms of the Calverts and the Crosslands (Alicia Crossland was the mother of the first Baron of Baltimore, George Calvert); and beneath the shield is the
Latin motto:
Scuto Bonae Voluntatis Tuae Coronasti Nos
(Thou hast crowned us with the shield of Thy good will)
(Psalms 5:12)

Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island was founded in 1636 by a Christian minister, Roger Williams, and others seeking religious freedom.  On the seal, over the picture of an anchor, is inscribed the motto: HOPE
The seal was inspired by the Bible verse, Hebrews 6:19 -  "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast."  Williams also founded the capitol city, Providence which he named in honor of "God's merciful Providence".

Qui Transtulit Sustinet  (He Who Transplanted Still Sustains)

In God We Trust.

Nil Sine Numine (Nothing without God)

South Dakota
Under God The People Rule

Originally adopted by the territory in 1863, stated:
Ditat Deus ("God Enriches")

Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono (The Life of the Land is perpetuated in Righteousness)

With God, All Things are Possible.

Deo gratiam habeamus (Let us be grateful to God)

Back to the Top

horizontal bar