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Massachusetts State Motto

Motto and Nickname

The Massachusetts State Motto
The Massachusetts State motto was adopted on June 4, 1885 is expressed in Latin as "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" which means:

"By the sword we seek peace, but peace
only under liberty"

The Meaning of the Massachusetts State Motto
The meaning of this famous motto reflects the feelings of the patriots of Massachusetts leading up to and during the fierce conflict of the War of Independence (17751783).

"By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"


The History of the Massachusetts State Motto
The history of the Motto appeared on the Great Seal of that was adopted in response to an  order from the Massachusetts General Court on July 25, 1775. The order appointed a special committee to consider "what is necessary to be done relative to a Colony Seal."

The Massachusetts colony had reached the point where the citizens no longer recognized the authority of General Thomas Gage, the military governor of Massachusetts but he had possession of the Seal of the colony. A new seal was adopted, engraved by Paul Revere, depicted a man holding the Magna Carta and the motto "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem."

The colonists expected to have the same rights granted in England by the Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights. When the colonists were denied these rights tensions grew in the colonies and led to the American Revolutionary War. The motto is still displayed on the flag of Massachusetts.


The Massachusetts State Nickname
The Massachusetts Motto is complimented by a less formal, popular Massachusetts nickname which, combined with the motto, are highly descriptive of the people, the geography and the history of the state. The names used as nicknames are:

Massachusetts State Nickname List
Official Nickname: Bay State
Colony State and Old Colony
The Pilgrim State
The Spirit of America

George Washington


The Origin and Meaning of the Massachusetts Nicknames
The American citizens who live in, or who come from Massachusetts are referred to as Bay Staters after one of the nicknames. The history, origin and meaning of each of the state's nicknames are as follows:

The Bay State
The official nickname alludes to the early colonists who settled in the area of Cape Cod Bay. In October 1620 the journey on the Mayflower ship lasted eight weeks before the colonists made their first landfall, on the tip of Cape Cod Bay.

The Colony and Pilgrim State and Old Colony
These nicknames all refer to the establishment and settlement of Colonial Massachusetts in New England, one of the original 13 English colonies of North America. In 1620 the Mayflower ship transported 102 English Puritans and Separatists led by the Pilgrim Fathers, from a site near the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England, to Massachusetts. The Puritans were members of a Reform movement in the Anglican church that aimed at purifying the church of corruption.

The Spirit of America
The Spirit of America" Vehicle registration plates of Massachusetts were introduced in 1987.


The Constitution of Massachusetts
The constitution of Massachusetts establishes the basic rights of its citizens and echoes the words and sentiments of the motto. The preamble (opening) of the constitution is as follows:

"The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness..."

Preamble of the Constitution of Massachusetts


Massachusetts State Motto for Kids

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Massachusetts State Motto
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Meaning, History and Origin of the motto for kids
Meaning, origin and history of the nickname
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Official Nickname "Bay State"
Meaning of the Massachusetts State Motto and nickname for schools, kids and children

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Massachusetts State Motto and Nickname for Kids

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