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Red Sea Crossing as an American Seal

Daniel Dreisbach posted an image on twitter of a Seal of the United States proposed by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

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In the Jefferson Manuscripts in the Library of Congress are two notes of suggestion on the Great Seal. One in the writing of Franklin, and the other in that of Jefferson.

Franklin’s note reads: “Moses [in the Dress of High Priest] standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharoah who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, [expressing] to express that he acts by [the] Command of the Deity. “Motto, Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

The note of Jefferson reads: “Pharoah sitting in an open chariot, a crown on his head and a sword in his hand passing thro’ the divided waters of the Red sea in pursuit of the Israelites: rays from a pillar of fire in the cloud, expressive of the divine presence, [reach] and command, reaching to Moses who stands on the shore and, extending his hand over the sea, causes it to over whelm Pharoah. “Motto. Rebellion to tyrants is obedce to god.” Words in brackets were stricken out by the pen. Jefferson merely noted a version of the Franklin suggestion. In the Writings of Jefferson (Ford), I, 420 is what purports to be a scheme of arms made in 1774, but the date assigned to it is doubtful.

In a letter from John Adams to his wife, written August 14, 1776, he said: “Doctor F. proposes a device for a seal. Moses lifting up his wand, and dividing the red sea, and Pharoah in his chariot over whelmed with the waters. This motto. ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.’ “Mr. Jefferson proposed, The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night–and on the other side, Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs, from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.

I don’t necessarily agree with the motto, without further nuance (see the paragraph here). However, the suggested seal (or one part of the suggested seal – which was intended to be more than just this) demonstrates the common understanding that the American Revolution stood on biblical grounds.

Published in Brandon Adams