Did you know that Benjamin Franklin really wasn’t very happy about the bald eagle being selected as the symbol of America? He was of the opinion that the turkey was a much better candidate for the honor. Franklin wasn’t always right, of course. Just think how much we’d all be missing if instead of turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving fare was bald eagle.
Franklin expressed his opinion and compared the turkey with the bald eagle in a letter that he wrote to his daughter, Sally, in 1782. Ben thought that the artistic rendering of the bald eagle looked more like a turkey than an eagle. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”
Franklin went on: “I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
So while you are enjoying your turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, remember that Benjamin Franklin thought that the turkey was a noble bird. Noble AND tasty; now there’s a winning combination!