Welcome to The E Pluribus Unum Project,
designed for the use of students, teachers, and other researchers
who wish to examine the attempt to make "one from many"
in three critical decades of American life: the 1770s, the 1850s,
and the 1920s.
"E Pluribus Unum"
was the motto proposed for the first Great Seal of the United
States by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson
in 1776. A latin phrase meaning "One from many," the
phrase offered a strong statement of the American determination
to form a single nation from a collection of states. Over the
years, "E Pluribus Unum" has also served as a
reminder of America's bold attempt to make one unified nation
of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs. The challenge
of seeking unity while respecting diversity has played a critical
role in shaping our history, our literature, and our national
The resources in this collection relate to four
questions central to an understanding of what it means to be an
- How have Americans understood what it means to be "many"?
Are Americans distinct from one another because of differences
of nationality, class, gender, race, religion, occupation,
the region in which they live, or other factors? Are some
of these differences more significant at particular times
than others, and why?
- How have Americans defined unity, and how have they attempted
to achieve it? Does "unity" mean everyone must agree,
or that everyone must act in the same way? Are there any characteristics
or beliefs that all who claim to be Americans must have in
- How do Americans negotiate with one another when they must
overcome their differences? Are there distinctively American
ways of debating, and distinctively American arguments used
in debates? Do any of these methods and appeals reflect the
periods in which they were used; do they reflect a distinctively
American way of dealing with differences?
The E Pluribus Unum collection has several
distinctive characteristics intended to promote inquiry.
Each of the three major sections of this web site
focuses on a specific decade in which Americans found it necessary
to consider the meanings and implications of the commitment
to make one from many.
In addition to being arranged by period, resources
on this site are also arranged in topical clusters. Each set
of materials typically includes: an introductory essay; questions
for discussion, writing, and research; and sets of resources
(including e-texts, digitized artifacts, and links) to facilitate
online research. Sample student exhibits are also displayed.
Topical clusters provide both compilations of
new materials for the study of canonical topics and resources
designed to illuminate new areas for investigation.
Topical clusters examine both the content of our
national debates and the rhetorical practices and appeals used
to persuade the many to become one.
Topical clusters are designed to reveal the complexity
of the American experiment, so resources are often provided
to illuminate several "sides" of the same issue. Similarly,
rather than simply celebrating the American ideal of making
"one from many," materials here also include critiques
that suggest the "American dream" is just a