Turkey vs. Eagle

Posted December 3rd, 2009 by kcorliss. Comment (1).

A common story perpetuated through the years has founding father, Benjamin Franklin advocating the wild turkey as our national symbol in lieu of the bald eagle. More than one source I have seen pokes holes into this legend.

A story in the Marin Independent Journal by a guy named Preston Cook takes a coherent stab at it.

Fact and fiction have turned Franklin’s few words into mythological proportions. While his words are accurate, they have been misapplied ever since the letter became posthumously public.

Benjamin Franklin conveyed in a private letter to his daughter 18 months after the adoption of the bald eagle on the Great Seal, his now famous comments of our now national bird: “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly, he is generally poor and often very lousy. …”

The other cogent statements from the story are:

Franklin never publically advocated for the turkey to be the symbol for our country.

Franklin did state, “For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird,” He added the turkey looked “a little vain and silly”

Here’s the best clue to this:

Franklin is known for his sense of humor, and, at times caustic remarks.  

Read Benjamin Franklin, An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. In it you will find a fascinatingly complex character with a penchant for wit and satire plus a streak of rascal. I don’t know the whole truth of this eagle vs. turkey story. But I believe he was probably against the bald eagle. The turkey line above was likely stated in jest. That’s just my opinion.

One response to “Turkey vs. Eagle”

  1. Preston Cook

    Hello Keith, thanks for your comments regarding my Franklin Eagle/Turkey item. Franklin’s negative eagle comments have long justified shoot at and killing of eagles. Breaking the myth in children’s books could lead to a more positive perception of our national bird. Preston