Why a Bald Eagle? How about a Bold Turkey?
Here are Benjamin Franklin’s remarks to his daughter, Sarah Bache, in 1784, in which he criticizes a veterans’ organization (the American Order of the Cincinnati) for choosing the bald eagle as their emblem.
“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 like those among men who live by sharping and 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… I am, on this account, not displeased that the figure [i.e., the Cincinnati’s drawing] 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.
Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours… He is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that), a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”
Source: Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife