Animals: They were here first
An Eagle's Moral Attributes
Benjamin Franklin had second thoughts about designating the Bald Eagle as America’s emblem on the official seal of the United States. Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter lamenting, “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... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, 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. . . of America.. . . For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . 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."
Franklin, along with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had been assigned by the Continental Congress shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed, to come up with a design for the official seal. As is the case in such matters, others had dissenting opinions on the designs that the three men submitted, thus necessitating the formation of subsequent committees to do better. The eagle was chosen in the end for its long-standing place through previous centuries as a symbol of strength and power.
Here is an excerpt from an article posted on history.com which gives the rundown on the symbolism contained in the Great Seal of the United States:
On June 20, 1782, Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion.
The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with 13 vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue. The eagle’s beak clutches a banner inscribed, E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many One.” Above the eagle’s head, golden rays burst forth, encircling 13 stars.
Charles Thomas outlined the symbolic connotations of the seal’s elements when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the 13 states united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief), “which unites the whole and represents Congress.” The motto E Pluribus Unum serves as a textual representation of the same relationship. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag: alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor, topped by the blue of “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” The eagle’s talons hold symbols of Congress power to make peace (the olive branch) and war (arrows).
The constellation of stars indicates that “a new State [is] taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.”
The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar Masonic motif of a pyramid, which Thomas proposed as a symbol of “Strength and Duration.”
The pyramid, like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having 13 steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Thomas believed had acted “in favour of the American cause.” Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase Annuit Coeptis or “Providence has Favored Our Undertakings” appears above the providential eye; Novus Ordo Seclorum or “A New Order of the Ages” appears beneath the pyramid.
Even though Benjamin Franklin questioned the moral character of the Bald Eagle, the National Geographic gives a factual account of this bird’s life style, which mentions that Bald Eagles mate for life, and are great at building large sturdy nests for their families that last year after year. So there you have it. Judge a bird by its predatory habits, or judge a bird by its domestic prowess. Either way, America is well-represented by this magnificent bird.
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