Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 16.djvu/425

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419
Seal of the Southern Historical Society.

bill, which practically supported the Confederacy during the last two years of the war.

"As member of the finance committee, he advocated the sealing and calling in of the outstanding Confederate currency, on the ground that the purchasing power of the new currency to be issued in exchange would be greater than the total amount of the outstanding currency in its then depreciated condition. He made a report from the judiciary committee adverse to martial law.

"Upon being questioned as to the seal which he had designed, Mr. Semmes said it was a device representing an equestrian portrait of Washington (after the statue which surmounts his monument in the capitol square at Richmond), surrounded with a wreath, composed of the principal agricultural products of the Confederacy, and having around its margin the words:

'Confederate States of America, 22nd February, 1862,' with the motto, 'Deo vindice.'

"In the latter part of April, 1864, quite an interesting debate was had on the adoption of the motto. The House resolutions fixing the motto as 'Deo Duce Vincemus' being considered, Mr. Semmes moved to substitute 'Deo vindice majores aemulamur.' The motto had been suggested by Professor Alexander Dimitry. Mr. Semmes thought 'Deo vindice' sufficient and preferred it. He was finally triumphant."

In this connection it is appropriate and interesting to reproduce the speech made by Mr. Semmes on that occasion. It was as follows:

"MR. PRESIDENT—I am instructed by the committee to move to strike out the words "duce vincemus" in the motto and insert in lieu thereof the words "Vindice majores aemulamur," "Under the guidance and protection of God we endeavor to equal and even excel our ancestors." Before discussing the proposed change in the motto, I will submit to the Senate a few remarks as to the device on the seal.

"The committe has been greatly exercised on this subject, and it has been extremely difficult to come to any satisfactory conclusion. This is a difficulty, however, incident to the subject, and all that we have to do is to avoid what Visconti calls 'an absurdity in bronze.'

"The equestrian statue of Washington has been selected in deference to the current popular sentiment. The equestrian figure impressed on our seal will be regarded by those skilled in glyptics as to a certain extent indicative of our origin. It is a most remarkable fact that an equestrian figure constituted the seal of Great Britain from the time of Edward the Confessor down to the reign of George