Ben Franklin on the Great Seal of America: Honor the Brave, Respectable Turkey!

Ben Franklin was a man of magnetic charm, wit, and good humor—we all know that. gives us a chance to discover how charming he was. The site features his humorous letter to his daughter Sally in Philadelphia in 1784, when he was Ambassador to France.

The bald eagle had just been chosen as America’s symbol, and this perplexed the ambassador.  Why, this was “a Bird of bad moral Character,” he wrote, and “a rank Coward” to boot. Shouldn’t we consider the turkey as a “Representative of our Country”? He is a “much more respectable Bird,” Franklin opined. “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.”

The turkey may be a respectable bird in this great man’s estimation, but as we all dine in this Thanksgiving, are we giving him the proper respect?

Read Franklin’s delightful letter here.

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