Alabama State Motto
What is a motto?
Merriam-Webster Online defines motto in this way:
State mottoes may be said to reflect the character and beliefs of the citizens of the state, or more accurately, the citizens of the state when they were adopted. State mottoes can help us gain insight into the history of a state.
Adoption of the Alabama State Motto
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.
About the Alabama State Motto
The selection of the motto is attributed to Marie Bankhead Owen, a Director of the Alabama Department of Archives & History. She had selected these words in 1923 when working with B. J. Tieman on a design for an Alabama coat-of-arms. In an article in the Birmingham News-Age Herald, dated April 23, 1939, she stated that she was looking for "a phrase that would interpret the spirit of our peoples in a terse and energetic sentence." She found her inspiration in a 1781 poem by Sir William Jones, An Ode in Imitation of Alcaeus. In the poem the question is posed, "What constitutes a state?" Among the responses to this question are the words
"Men, who their duties know,
Here We Rest was never accepted as an appropriate motto for their state by many Alabamans. It was looked upon as an imposition of "outsiders" during Reconstruction. It seemed like a negative statement about the state coming after the Civil War. Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere provides a positive, strong response in support of state's rights.
An interesting bit of trivia about this motto is that it originated in English and was translated into Latin. The motto was translated into Latin by Professor W. B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama.
The Code of Alabama 1975
The following information is excerpted from the Code of Alabama 1975, Title 1, Chapter 2, Sections 1-2-1 and 1-2-2. The Alabama Coat of Arms is described in heraldic terms as well as lay terms.
(Acts 1939, No. 140, p. 176; Code 1940, T. 55, §1.)
(Acts 1939, No. 140, p. 176; Code 1940, T. 55, §2.)
State Motto List: List of all of the state mottoes.
An Ode in Imitation of Alcaeus: Sir William Jones's (1746-1794) poem of 1781, An Ode in Imitation of Alcaeus.
State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State of Alabama Web Site, (http://www.state.al.us), November 12, 2004
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