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Montani Semper Liberi


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The Latin term, ‘‘Montani Semper Liberi,’’ which translates in English as ‘‘Mountaineers are always free,’’ is the West Virginia state motto. The first West Virginia legislature adopted the motto on September 26, 1863. The joint committee on the state seal incorporated the motto on the front or obverse side of the new state seal, below the image of rock, miner, and farmer. This committee employed Joseph H. Diss Debar, of Doddridge County, to make drawings in compliance with their instructions for a state seal. According to a 1906 report by State Archivist Virgil A. Lewis, the motto was suggested by Diss Debar. The Latin phrase had been long used by Swiss mountaineers to express their independence of spirit. It is believed that Diss Debar also influenced the state officials to place another Latin phrase, ‘‘Libertas E Fidelitate,’’ meaning ‘‘freedom and loyalty,’’ on the reverse of the state seal.

Written by Rachelle Bott Beckner

Sources

  1. State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1970.

  2. Hale, J. P. The Historical Magazine Quarterly, Jan. 1901.

  3. Wheeling Intelligencer, 9/28/1863.