Looks like the view from an expensive hotel, doesn’t it? It’s the back deck belonging to my good friends at the coast, who obviously live in paradise. The morning that I left, I stood in their kitchen writing a last-minute note and saw two raptors mixing it up over the ocean. One was quite a bit larger than the other, with the flat wingspan that marks an eagle. A moment later I saw a flash of white tail. Grabbing my friends’ always-handy binoculars, I focused in and confirmed that a Bald Eagle was harassing an Osprey. Bald Eagles are terrible thieves, which is the main reason why Benjamin Franklin was against their being named the national symbol of the United States. He wanted the wily Turkey, as he explained in a letter to his daughter Sally in January 1784:
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 [meaning an Osprey –OE]; 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 for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…
I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald 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 & 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.
It will probably not surprise you to know that this letter is not included in the standard history curriculum for American schoolchildren. (This is why the best parts of history are learned after school, not in it.)
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