I created this “coin” in Photoshop. The coin is resting on the 1775 “rough draft” text of the Declaration of Independence, as Jefferson probably presented it to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for correction prior to committee. Hence, the mint mark of “1775”. At the top of the rough draft can be read “A Declaration” and “UNITED STATES”. On the bottom is the line “mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Thus, my graphic is relevant to both then and now, as a statement of disagreement with the respective governments. On the coin, the legend in Latin on the outside circle reads “Nemo Me Impune Lacesset,” i.e., “No one will provoke me with impunity.” The motto “Don’t Tread on Me” is based on the Gadsden flag, the famous yellow flag with a rattle snake, an early symbol of American independence. The date corresponds to the date of Jefferson’s rough draft. The mint mark is “L”, the initial of the place the coin was made: Lafayette, IN USA.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any graphic work in Photoshop. This week I worked five full-time days on this coin in preparation for Independence Day. The coin’s field incorporates the large device of the rattle snake, along with a motto, mint and date mark, making it rather cluttered, I think. However that is, it’s set in a rough and used appearance, not newly minted, a bit worn. Not silver or gold, but a copper piece, with a yellow-bronze patina. I imagined a pattern minted perhaps by a skilled colonial engraver with a heavy press, or a lone gunsmith or even a button maker who could make an accurate impression.
So here it is. It’s a symbol of the legend of a people who took the stand that “no one will provoke me with impunity”. According to that legend, America’s founders drafted documents meant to make the government afraid to tread upon the rights that each individual possesses according to his very nature as a human being. Today, it’s the obverse. Individuals are afraid to tread anywhere, for fear of breaking some new law coming down on them from their government. The defiance and rebellion the rattlesnake signified before and during the War of Independence is almost gone.