Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem

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Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem is a Latin passage and the official motto of the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The phrase is often loosely translated into English as "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." The literal translation, however, is "she seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty." The "she" in question refers to the word "manus" from the full phrase "manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem," which means "this hand, an enemy to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty."

It was written c. 1659 by English soldier-statesman Algernon Sidney, who was an opponent of Charles II and who was later executed for treason. The motto was first adopted in 1775 by the Massachusetts General Court (the official name of the state legislature) and applied to the temporary seal of Massachusetts. On December 13, 1780, the legislature approved its application to the current Great Seal of Massachusetts.

See also[edit]


  • Crampton, William G. Webster's Concise Encyclopedia of Flags & Coats of Arms. Crescent Books: 1985. ISBN 0-517-49951-7.
  • Zieber, Eugene, Heraldry in America: The Civic Armorial Bearings of American States. Greenwich House: 1976.

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