Seal of the Commonwealth

By unknown artist, 1847

Painted and gilt wood

Commissioned under Res. February 24, 1847.

In the gallery, over the President's rostrum, is a large carving of the 19th century version of the coat of arms of the Commonwealth adopted in 1780. The heraldry can be traced back as far as 1639 when Massachusetts settlers adopted a seal that depicted a Native American with an unstrung bow and a down-pointed arrow. The background is painted blue, while the figure, shield and sword arm are gilded. The sword is a copy of one belonging to Miles Standish.

The design, originally engraved by Paul Revere, was further refined in 1898. Variations appeared until the official seal of the Commonwealth was standardized in 1908; this now includes the motto Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty).

Recent investigative analysis reveals that despite several layers of restoration and reinforcement, the coat-of-arms appears essentially as it did when it was fabricated at a cost of $375.25 for the original House Chamber over 160 years ago.

historical object of Seal of the Commonwealth