The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia—called for at the Convention of 1776 and designed by George Wythe—pictures on the front the Roman goddess of virtue, the word “Virginia,” and the Commonwealth’s motto, Sic Semper Tyrannis, or “thus always to tyrants.” On the reverse side are three more goddesses and the word Perseverando (“by persevering”). The Seal Of Virginia has remained largely unchanged since 1779, although at the start of the American Civil War (1861–1865), Unionists in western Virginia established the Restored government of Virginia, adding the words “Liberty and Union” to both sides of the seal. In 1873, the General Assembly removed the words, and in 1903, another ordinance described the Seal Of Virginia in essentially the same language as in 1776. The Virginia Convention of 1861, which adopted the Ordinance of Secession, also adopted a state flag that featured the front, or obverse, side of the seal against a background of deep blue.
July 5, 1776 – The Virginia Convention adopts an ordinance to create a new seal for the independent Commonwealth of Virginia.
1779 – The General Assembly orders a change made to the state seal. The words “Deus Nobis Haec otia fecit,” Latin for “God has given us this ease,” are replaced with “Perseverando,” or “by persevering.”
1856 – The words “Virginia” and “Perseverando” and the motto Sic Semper Tyrannis first appear inside the exertion of the state seal.
April 30, 1861 – The Virginia Convention adopts an ordinance specifying that the design on the obverse of the state seal appear against a background of deep blue and thereafter be the official design for the state flag.
June 1861 – At the Second Wheeling Convention, Francis Harrison Pierpont, governor of the Restored government of Virginia, orders that the words “Liberty and Union” be added to both sides of the state seal.
1861–1865 – Confederate Virginia, with its capital in Richmond, uses the 1856 version of the state seal while the Restored government of Virginia, with its capital in Wheeling and then Alexandria, uses a revised 1861 seal that bears the words “Liberty and Union.”
1873 – The General Assembly directs that new copies of the state Seal Of Virginia be struck, a greater one and a lesser one, and that the words “Liberty and Union” not appear on either side of either seal.
1903 – The General Assembly passes another law concerning the state Seal Of Virginia, essentially returning it to the language of the Convention of 1776. Subsequent acts of 1950, 1966, and 2005 will continue to describe the seal in the same manner.