Medals and Commemorative Pieces

A medal showing both sides, struck by Catherine the Great in 1780. The first piece depicts the Empress and the second piece has the inscription in Latin, “Mare Liberum” – which means “Free Seas”. This refers to Catherine’s Declaration of Armed Neutrality of February 28, 1780, the goal of which was to preserve the struggling but ever-increasing Russian commerce on the high seas from the depredations of the warring British, Spanish, French and American navies during the American Revolutionary War. Proclaiming principles that free ships make free goods and that contraband be given a narrow definition, Catherine invited the leading maritime nations not involved in the war to enforce their rights by banding together in a neutral confederation. All the major non-belligerents did so, with the result that the warring parties were compelled to recognize the rights of neutrals for the duration of the war. Great Britain, as the possessor of the most powerful fleet, was most adversely affected by the Declaration.

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of C. Wyllys Betts

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