(Coming Fall 2002)
(Coming Fall 2001)
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 character.
Welcome to The E Pluribus Unum Project, an online
archive 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.
The resources in this collection relate to four questions central to an
understanding of what it means to be an American.
- 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 common?
- Have Americans ever questioned whether it is possible to make "many"
into "one? Have Americans ever questioned the willingness of other
Americans to strive towards that ideal?
- 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
distinctive characteristics intended to promote inquiry.
Resources are 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
Topical clusters provide both compilations of new materials for the
study of canonical topics and resources designed to illuminate new areas
Topical clusters examine both the content of our national debates and
the rhetorical practices and appeals used to persuade the many to become
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
In addition to the topical clusters, an extensive listing of links to
online versions of printed works and speeches published in America in
the 1850s is provided here in order to promote in-depth research. Similar
listings for the 1770s and 1920s will be available in the future.