Longacre on God Our Trust

The following is an undated letter by James Longacre in the Library Company of Philadelphia (box 2, folder 37) on the genesis of the God Our Trust motto.

"In determining the appropriateness of a motto expressive of National reliance upon Divine support – to be placed upon the coinage the first and greatest difficulty is the necessary contraction – the idea should be unmistakably expressed: and at the same time the letters should be distinctly and easily legible. To invite these prerequisites within the limits presented on the face of a coin in combination with the required arrangement of the legal devices as established by law, demands more ingenuity than may first be apparent. Our present devices it is true, may be altered in form; but not in character without infringing the provisions of the law on that subject but the expediency of changing our present forms, is not generally appreciated by the public; and would not be approved, unless the improvement should be made very obvious – a permanency in the forms as well as the character of the devices is strongly alleged to be of the first importance.

From these considerations, I have deemed it most desirable in attempting to introduce the suggestion of the Secretary of the Treasury, to contrive as little interference, with the present and legal devices as possible.

The most appropriate place for such a motto, is found in connection with the national inscription,which on all our large coins is on the reverse: the device of which is an eagle with the heraldic accompaniments appropriate to the arms of the union as adopted by law: dispensing ar present with the mtto (E Pluribus Unum) and the crest, except on the Double Eagle: The place of the crest offers the best position for the insertion of such a motto as is now required as on all of the other coins which are large enough to admit of such an addition – this place is now vacant – and a motto if sufficiently brief may be introduced with the least disturbance of the device as now arranged – and I have made a drawing of the reverse of the Double Eagle in outline to indicate such a modification of the crest as will present the motto however (which was the first suggestion) “Our Trust is in God” - I found on attempting to apply it to the Eagle and Half Dollar reverses – contained too many letters to insert in the place of the crest without crowding them too much for good taste: and therefore selected for greater brevity the words “God Our Trust”; which carries the same idea – in the form of expression according with heraldic usage ~ and probably as readily understood as the more explicit form of the other.

A) This motto can be placed on the four larger denominations, ie the Silver Dollar, the Double Eagle, the Eagle and the Half Dollar.

B) The smaller coins, the gold coins under the half eagle and the silver coins under the quarter dollar will not admit of an additional inscription – without making the letters too diminutive to be easily read.

From the considerations before mentioned, I have confined my attention to the inscription of the motto, without changing the artistic portions of the present devices. It may not be amiss to be remark however that the smallest change of the permanent devices or legends on the face of the coin, required the making of new hubs for the dies on which it is to be placed.

A) I have struck this on reverse dies of the Eagle and Half Dollar, and impressions, in copper of the Eagle, and in silver of the Half Dollar are presented with these remarks which will serve to show the effect as proposed: This motto in the same letter can be placed on the four larger denominations.

B) and by slightly reducing the size of the letter, perhaps on the Half Eagle and Quarter Dollars. The smaller coins will not admit of an additional inscription, withought making the letters too diminutive to be easily seen."