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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The Meanings of Georgia's Eighteenth-Century Great Seals
Author(s): Marsh, Benjamin John
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Keywords: Seals
Issue Date: Aug-2012
Date Deposited: 17-Apr-2013
Citation: Marsh BJ (2012) The Meanings of Georgia's Eighteenth-Century Great Seals. Georgia Historical Quarterly, 96 (2), pp. 195-232.
Abstract: First paragraph: Georgia experienced rapid political transformation over the course of the eighteenth century, changing in the space of a few decades from a British proprietary colony to a Crown colony, and then to an independent republic that federated into a new union. The creation of a new great seal for Georgia accompanied each step, because as the ultimate symbol of sovereignty, the seal was a vital tool that conferred legitimacy upon ruling authorities and lent authenticity to their actions. Max Cleland, as Georgia Secretary of State in 1986, described the seal as having "wide value as a symbol," noting that its power "has been impressed on our entire history." Georgia's eighteenth-century seals have indeed had a distinguished legacy. At its founding in 1839, the Georgia Historical Society modeled its seal and logo on the colonial Trustees' seal of 1733, and since 1998 this image has adorned a growing number of historical marker sites across the state. Georgia's current state seal remains true to the design of the last seal that was created in the eighteenth century (1799), with only minor alteration. Its three-pillared republican arch also features on the Georgia flag, having proved resilient in the face of almost all of the flag's past incarnations. These seals were more than just a part of the paraphernalia of eighteenth-century governance, for they were also instruments of cultural hegemony. The act of creating the colonial seals (in 1732, 1733, 1754 and 1767) lay at the heart of the European projection of dominion over the New World. In turn, the act of creating a great seal for the independent state (in 1777 and definitively in 1799) was a chance to explain revolution and to express post-colonial identity. The seals gave material credence to invocations of power, and provided unique opportunities literally to stamp symbolic ideals onto real life. They contained grandiose cultural messages, all the more concentrated because they were compressed into a circular space of just four inches or so in diameter.
Rights: The publisher has granted permission for use of this work in this Repository. Courtesy of the Georgia Historical Quarterly.

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