When the conflict between the province and England began in 1775, General Thomas Gage (the royal governor) had custody of the province seal. As his authority was no longer recognized by the province it became necessary to establish a new public seal. The General Court passed an order on July 28, 1775, appointing a committee to consider "what is necessary to be done relative to a Colony Seal." The design adopted was that of an English-American man holding the Magna Carta. The seal was engraved by Paul Revere, whose original signed bill for the work is located in the Massachusetts Archives.

A motto in Latin was also chosen - "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" - which remains the motto of the Commonwealth today. Freely translated this means: "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." It was written about 1659 and is attributed to the famous English patriot, Algernon Sydney.

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