Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto


Missouri’s state motto emerged in 1822 when it was approved as part of the Great Seal of the State of Missouri. The Latin phrase salus populi suprema lex esto can be traced back to Cicero’s De Legibus. There has been much debate over the years regarding the correct and intended English translation of this Latin motto.

Great Seal designer William Wells proposed the motto, translating it in 1847 as “Let the good of the people be the supreme law.” He went on to explain, “This motto being that upon which the supporters stand, was intended to represent the foundation of the government of the State. That foundation is ‘the good of the people’ or the public good.” The current 2019-2020 Official Manual of the State of Missouri, printed by the Great Seal’s official keeper, the Missouri Secretary of State, translates it as “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.”


Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)

(The State Motto is technically not its own statute. It is part of the Great Seal. See the State Seal page.)


Photo Gallery:

Click on an image below to enlarge and read a caption. This will open a new window in the Missouri State Symbols Flickr album.

symbols/MS192_058_204.jpg symbols/Seal_VerticalFile.jpg


Additional Resources:

The Missouri State Archives maintains a vertical file of articles, letters and newspaper clippings regarding the state motto.

King, Roy T. “Robert William Wells: Jurist, Public Servant and Designer of the Missouri State Seal.” Missouri Historical Review 30, no. 2 (January 1936): 107-131.

Rader, Perry S. “The Great Seal of the State of Missouri.” Missouri Historical Review 23, no. 2 (January 1929): 270-297.

Skiles, Johna W.D. “A Little Learning II.” The Classical Journal 36, no. 8 (May 1941): 483-485.


Back to State Symbols Main Page