There is a myth that the turkey almost came to represent the United States. The story goes that after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Congress asked Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to design a seal for our new nation. Since many of the Germanic nations, incorporate eagles into their pageantry, the eagle was ultimately adopted for our national seal but Benjamin Franklin is often cites as pushing for the turkey to become the national bird. The real story is much more complex.

In 1784, Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter in which he disapproves of the country adopting the bald eagle as our national symbol. He claims that the drawing that had been produced looked like a turkey anyway and that such a bird would actually be preferable to the eagle. Franklin explained that the bald eagle had a “bad moral character” and was a “rank coward” that merely steals from other birds.

“I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as an 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 and 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. “

Franklin’s letter from Paris to his daughter, dated January 26, 1784

So, Franklin did argue in favor of the turkey but not actually in favor of it becoming our national bird. That won’t happen until the people actually elected a turkey in 2016 to be our President…

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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