How an American Myth Took Flight

From a Wall Street Journal review by Bill Heavey of the book by Jack E. Davis titled “The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird”

It’s commonly believed that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the wild turkey as America’s national bird. In a letter addressed to his daughter, he branded the bald eagle a “rank coward” and a bird of “bad moral character” because it feeds on the meat of dead animals and steals food from other birds. He admitted that the turkey was a “vain and silly” creature but still deemed it a “much more respectable” candidate. Franklin was, of course, anthropomorphizing the wild birds by the moral standards of his time, a misguided practice that continues to this day. It is only through the human lens that a pig is greedy, a donkey stubborn or a fox sly.