Benjamin Franklin and the Turkey


It is part of the history of America that one of the founding fathers liked the Turkey over the Bald Eagle as the symbol of the America.  I find this a very interesting a curious tale.  The hint of this comes from a letter he wrote to his daughter Sarah Bache on January 26, 1784.  The main subject of the letter was concerning the Society of the Cincinnati and his objections to it but in the letter he has this to say about the Bald Eagle and it’s representation of America:

Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. 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.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in 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 as you prepare your bird for the table, this Thanksgiving, just remember that if Franklin had his way you would be serving up the symbol of America!


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