Diego Berri: Why is the all seeing eye on the dollar bill?
A long standing bit of fodder for conspiracy theorists of the American persuasion includes various imagery found on the United States’ one dollar bill, with the most infamous of graphics on said nefarious item being the so-called “All-Seeing Eye”, more properly titled the “Eye of Providence”. To add some wood to the fire, it turns out that the Eye of Providence is used by none other than everybody’s second favorite source of conspiracy theories- the Freemasons. So what is up with such a blatant use of this secret society’s symbol on the dollar bill?
Well, it turns out, while many point to the Freemasons and Illuminati as the source for this particular symbol, there is another organization behind it- one that has for centuries worked tirelessly to bend governments the world over to their will. We are, of course, talking about Christianity.
While many a conspiracy theorist today will say the Eye of Providence represents Satan, in truth, it has represented God watching over humanity for at least a half a millennia or so. Beyond God’s eye, the commonly added triangle around the eye represents the trinity (Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). As for the sun rays also commonly shown around the eye, this is meant to represent God’s divinity. You can see a prime historic example of this in Jacopo Pontormo’s 1525 painting Supper of Emmaus, as well as on many historic church buildings’ stained glass windows and the like.
So how did this Christian symbol end up on the dollar bill?
When the Continental Congress kicked King George III to the curb, they needed an official seal for the new nation. Towards this end, they tasked Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams with creating one. These three titans of American history, in turn, enlisted the aid of an artist named Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to help out.
As for Franklin, he pushed for a seal that, in his own words, depicted “Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity.”
The motto he wanted on the seal was “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God”, a motto Jefferson would eventually use on his own personal seal.
Speaking of Jefferson, he also wanted to go with Biblical imagery, in his case wanting a depiction of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, with a cloud and a pillar of fire guiding them- an interesting choice for a man who once wrote his own version of the Bible that got rid of all the supernatural elements, among other parts he didn’t hold with.
Moving on to Adams, he wanted the The Choice of Hercules painting used for the seal. In it, Hercules is flanked by two women representing Virtue and Vice- two paths he could choose. One of the paths was for his own pleasure and a life of ease. On the other side was a life of hardship, but glory.
Finally, du Simitiere suggested a shield with the initials of the thirteen states on it. Flanking the shield was a female representation of Liberty holding an anchor and a spear. On the other side, stood a man holding a rifle and a tomahawk. Above it all is the Eye of Providence in a triangle, with sun rays shining down, indicating God being on the side of the new nation.
Du Simitiere also went with E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One”, for the motto. This slogan was borrowed from The Gentleman’s Magazine, which used it to represent many articles collected from various outlets and put into one magazine.
When these ideas were presented to congress on August 20, 1776, they weren’t big fans of any of them, though made some suggestions of modification to du Simitiere’s to potentially go forward with that one. However, rather than send it back for reworking after the suggestions were made, they just tabled the matter.
About four years later, in March of 1780, Congress once again figured it was time to get someone to work on an official seal, and this time tasked a slightly less prestigious group with the job- James Lovell, John Morin Scott, and William Churchill Houston. Like their predecessors, this group brought in outside help in one Francis Hopkinson, perhaps better remembered today for designing the first official United States flag.
Hopkinson went ahead and adopted the shield concept, but modified it to just show thirteen stripes. Most notable to the progression of the seal, he also included an olive branch, an arrow held by an Indian man, thirteen stars, and included a slogan of “Bello vel pace paratus”, meaning “Prepared in war or in peace.” Finally, he included the date of 1776 in Roman numerals.
Beyond this version, he also came up with a second one, but both were eventually rejected and the matter once again tabled.
While you might think the third time would be a charm… not so much. About two years later, in May of 1782, Congress tasked John Rutledge, Elias Boudinot (who would be replaced by one Arthur Lee), and Arthur Middleton, with creating the seal. Yet again, the trio brought on board someone else to do the actual work- in this case a lawyer by the name of William Barton.
Most pertinent to the progression here, his design included, among other things, an eagle, and on the reverse a pyramid with the Eye of Providence above it, though without the triangle that had been present in the first committee’s version.
Although, funny enough, he originally thought to put a palm tree on the top of the pyramid, as he’d observed that, when cut down, palm trees generally grow again from the same roots just as strong as ever… After he wisely switched to the more broadly appealing Eye of Providence, he went with the slogan Deo Favente, “With God Favoring”.
Congress, as ever, observed the results of the committee’s work and responded with a big old “meh”.
Apparently not content to wait around for too long this time, almost directly after, on June 13, 1782, they gave Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson the task of creating the seal. Rather than giving the job to someone else, he did it himself.
Borrowing something from all the previous designs, what he eventually came up with was as follows: Besides the shield with stripes representing the states, he depicted a bald eagle holding an olive branch in one talon, representing peace. In the other talon the eagle is holding 13 arrows, one each for the original 13 states, with the arrows representing the United States’ readiness to fight to protect its interests. However, the eagle’s head is turned towards the olive branch, symbolic of the nation preferring peaceful relations.
Further representing the 13 original states are 13 stars over the eagle’s head. The final motto chosen was the aforementioned very fitting E Pluribus Unum.
On the reverse side of the seal is Barton’s unfinished pyramid, with said pyramid representing, as Thomson himself notes, “strength and duration”. The 13 layers represent the 13 states which comprise the nation. The eye of providence at the top, as mentioned, represents God watching over the nation.
The text Annuit cœptis is also included, roughly meaning “He (God) has favored our undertaking”. On the bottom is the text, Novus ordo seclorum, meaning roughly “A new order of the ages”, inspired from a line in Virgil’s Eclogue IV.
Also included at the base of the pyramid are the Roman Numerals for the year of the establishment of that new order- 1776.
And so it was that on June 20, 1782, Congress approved Thomson’s design based on the description alone, as at this point Thomson hadn’t actually drawn it up yet, simply giving descriptive notes and the thought process behind each element.
Of course, for those who don’t want to trust the guy who designed it, an alternate hypothesis as to the origin and symbols used here is succinctly outlined in an article titled “Satan on the United States Dollar”. To quote said article,
First of all I will interpret the Latin words on the seal. ‘Annuit Coeptis’ means ‘Announcing The Birth Of’ and ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’ means ‘New World Order’. So therefore it says ‘Announcing the birth of the New World Order’. The date in roman numerals is 1776, the year the modern Illuminati was formed and also the year of American independence. The Latin ‘E Pluribus Unum’ means ‘One out of many’ (that is, order out of chaos) which is the foundation of the New World Order’s plan to unify the world’s governments, religions and money systems into one so the world can be controlled. WHY THE ANTICHRIST MUST COME SOON!!!
The capstone has not come down on the Pyramid. This means that the plan is not complete. Only when the New World Order is established upon all nations and the world leader is enthroned the plan will be complete….
On that note, for those who think the Illuminati or Freemasons are behind the symbols, while the Illuminati were technically created in May of 1776, this organization was not founded in America, but rather Bavaria. Further, funny enough given the way they are depicted in Hollywood and books today, they were founded not as a mystic shadowy organization, but on principals in opposition to superstitions, obscurantism (essentially withholding or obscuring knowledge from the general public), and abuses of state power, particularly the abuses of religious groups who were so heavily influencing said governments towards their own ends at the time. Thus, the original Illuminati would have been greatly opposed to the Illuminati generally depicted in fiction today.
The Illuminati, however, didn’t ever really gain much traction, nor did it last long as the Duke of Bavaria, Charles Theadore, with the support of the Catholic Church, saw to it that such societies as the Illuminati and the Freemasons were outlawed and persecuted in the region.
Thus, given its location and relatively small size and influence, it would be quite a stretch to think they somehow influenced the Eye of Providence and pyramid being put on the United States’ seal when it was.
Further, as noted, contrary to what is often put forth, this “new order” and the date of 1776 couldn’t be more explicit that it represents the new United States government, literally placed at the base of the pyramid built of the 13 states with God watching over and approving of them.
As to the Freemasons, the only member of that organization who had anything to do with the creation of the seal was Ben Franklin. But his proposal was for the aforementioned Moses imagery, not a pyramid with the Eye of Providence. His slogan was also quite different than the whole “new order” one that would eventually be chosen.
It’s also noteworthy that at the time the United States’ seal was created, it wasn’t a symbol of the Freemasons. They didn’t adopt the Eye of Providence until 1797. On top of that, the Freemason version uses a cloud above the eye instead of a triangle around it. This was another relatively common version in Christianity going back at least to the 17th century. It’s not really clear why the Freemasons chose this version once they did adopt the symbol.
On top of all of this, the original creation of this iconography for the U.S. seal only came about after not one, not two, but three rejected designs over the span of several years, made by three separate committees, with nobody in Congress liking what they came up with. Thus, if a shadowy group running the world’s governments was really behind it, they showed some pretty poor organizational skills in their attempt to try to reveal themselves on the United States’ seal for… reasons we guess.
So that’s where the seal came from and the actual meaning behind it. How did it get on the dollar bill? This wouldn’t happen until about a century and a half after the creation of the seal, though funny enough did have to do with a couple of Freemasons.
To begin with, the U.S. didn’t really bother with paper money for a long while into its history, with the exception of Continental Congress trying to raise some funds by issuing Continental currency in 1775. However, there was an inherent flaw in the way this paper money system was enacted, according to Ben Franklin. Instead of backing the money with land assets, as Franklin had suggested, they were backed by rarely collected taxes by the states themselves, as the Continental congress couldn’t itself collect taxes (the whole governing body collecting taxes from its populace being a bit of a sore spot for the then rebel group). This, combined with the fact that the notes were easily counterfeited saw them become mostly worthless, and, thus, the young nation abandoned an official paper money currency, though this didn’t stop many banks in the U.S. issuing their own paper money to fill the gap in the market beyond coins.
It wouldn’t be until 1861 that the U.S. government itself would put into general circulation its own paper money in the form of “Demand notes”, nicknamed “Greenbacks”.
This finally brings us to the creation of the $1 bill. First issued in 1862, unlike the dollar bill of modern times, this did not sport the Eye of Providence, nor even George Washington. Rather, it showed a guy by the name of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time who apparently saw his chance for history to remember him and took it!
What followed from here were several iterations of the dollar bill, starting with a rather prominent change in 1869 now showing George Washington, with the switch partially spurred by the fact that Congress decided to pass a bill that prohibited living people from appearing on various items, including currency notes. Later, in 1886, Martha Washington would also grace the face of the one dollar bill for a bit.
Fast-Forwarding about a half century, a slew of changes to the dollar bill over the course of a decade or so ultimately saw the Eye of Providence added in 1935.
The idea behind this particular change, one of the last to the dollar bill, came from then Secretary of Agriculture (and future Vice President) Henry Wallace.
The inspiration here for Wallace came from reading a copy of a 1909 work by Gaillard Hunt, which gave a detailed account of the genesis of the United States seal. Most pertinent to the topic at hand is that it included image copies of not just the front of the seal, which many people were familiar with, but the reverse with the pyramid. At the time, this was largely unknown and unused. In fact, Wallace, while he was a Freemason so familiar with the Eye of Providence from that as well as its prominence in Christianity, himself had never seen the reverse of the United States seal before.
Not just liking the imagery, Wallace also noted that the “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (“New Order of the Ages”) motto of the American government, could be tied into Roosevelt’s own “New Deal”- hence “New Deal for the Ages”.
Thus, Wallace suggested Roosevelt have the reverse side of the U.S. seal put on a coin. Roosevelt loved the idea, but decided to put it on the dollar bill instead.
However, before going through with it, he first ran the idea by his cabinet, among other potential objections wondering if any religious group would be offended by putting a Christian symbol on the dollar, or conversely if any Christian group might see it as him trying to put a version of a Freemason symbol there.
In the end, after going around the room to ask various religious members of the cabinet their opinions, including devout Irish Catholic and Postmaster General James Farley, it was decided that it was likely various Christian groups would react positively to use of their symbol, and the whole Freemason connection wouldn’t be an issue, particularly as it was really just using the reverse of the official U.S. seal, not something Roosevelt had come up with. Thus, the idea was pushed forward.
Since the addition of the U.S. seal imagery in 1935, the dollar bill has changed little, other than “In God We Trust” added in 1957 to further double down on the religious theme, among other very minor modifications. As counterfeiters rarely target the $1 bill, unlike the other bills that have frequently had security updates to their design in recent decades, the dollar bill hasn’t really changed much since this 1935 edition, and seemingly won’t anytime in the near future until (apparently) the New World Over is finally completely established and the top of the pyramid will need reworked…
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- Speaking of Continental Currency, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 1776 third of a dollar. The note depicts a sundial with the sun shining on it. Also included are the English words “Mind Your Business” as well as the Latin word “Fugio” (meaning “I flee”). This was designed by Ben Franklin who loved to embed subtle satire or humor into just about everything he was involved in, which has been speculated to be why he was not given the task of being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, instead just an advisor to the much less talented and less distinguished writer, Jefferson. In this case, Franklin was going for a picture and word puzzle on the paper bill, which essentially sums up as “I (time and money) flies, so mind your business”. This design later gave rise to the Fugio cent, also designed by Ben Franklin, minted in 1787 with more or less the same thing depicted.
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