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Georgia State Motto (Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation)

The Georgia General Assembly has never adopted an official motto as such. However, in 1799, when the legislature adopted a new state seal, it provided for an arch containing the word “Constitution” supported by three pillars. The legislation specified that the three pillars represented the three branches of government. Appearing on a banner that encircling the three pillars were the words “Wisdom,” “Justice,” and “Moderation”–with each word associated with one pillar. This later led one historian to conclude that “Wisdom” was to apply to the legislative branch in making the laws, “Justice” to the judicial branch in their decisions, and “Moderation” to the executive branch to administer laws in moderation. [Lawton B. Evans, A History of Georgia for Use in Schools (New York: American Book Co., 1898, 1908), p. 152]

Actually, the qualities of wisdom, justice, and moderation with reference to government were first mentioned in chapter 4 of Plato’s Republic. In that work, Plato analyzed four cardinal “virtues” associated with government: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. It is possible that the soldier with drawn sword standing between two of the pillars was meant as a symbolic representation of Plato’s fourth virtue - courage. In any event, the 1799 law creating the state seal specifically provides that the man with drawn sword represents “the aid of the military in defense of the Constitution.”

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Georgia State Seal
Source: Ed Jackson