LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
The Eagle Has Landed
To the Editors:
In "Beauty Is Only Feather Deep" (Macroscope,
September-October), Catherine Raven incorrectly states that Thomas
Jefferson appointed the bald eagle as our national emblem. Although
Jefferson, John Adams and Franklin initially held the responsibility
of designing a seal in 1776, very few of their ideas appealed to
Congress. The use of the motto "E pluribus unum"
is one of the few exceptions; however, these words are attributed to
a consultant to the original committee, Pierre Du Simitiere.
No bald eagle is proposed in the report to Congress in 1776. Nor did
the second committee assigned to the charge in 1780 recommend a bald
eagle. It was not until after the third committee sought outside
help in 1782 that the bald eagle made its way into our national
seal. Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, and William Barton,
heraldry consultant from Philadelphia, share the fame (or blame for
those who think it a bad choice) for the incorporation of the bald
eagle into the final design. The bald eagle is unique to the North
American continent and thus received preference over other eagles in
representing the newly formed United States of America.
Although Franklin commented on the poor character of the bald eagle
versus the honest and respectable turkey in a letter to his daughter
in 1784, his remarks are perceived as cheeky and non-argumentative,
as Congress had already approved the emblem years earlier while he
resided in France. I must admit, however, that I actually rather
enjoy the common misconception that Franklin actively fought for the
noble turkey to be our national bird; it always makes for
interesting dinner conversation at Thanksgiving!
Christy C. Visaggi
University of North