If Benjamin Franklin had had his way, the bald eagle would never haveturkey1 become a national symbol. He would have preferred the rattlesnake which he suggested was an appropriate symbol of “the temper and conduct of America.” He also suggested a scene of confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh.

In a January 26, 1784, letter to his daughter, Franklin outlines his case against the eagle: “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 . . .”

If we must have a bird as our symbol, why not the turkey? “For the Truth (says Franklin) the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.”

Soar like a turkey.

 

Ah, the patter of little feet around the house. There’s nothing like having a midget for a butler. ― W.C. Fields

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