The bald eagle is also referred to as the American Eagle. It is truly an all American bird and is the only eagle which is exclusive to North America. The Second Continental Congress, in 1782, officially declared the bald eagle as the National Emblem of the United States. It was chosen because of its exclusivity to North America. The bald eagle is a scavenger bird of prey, which kills other animals for food. This was thought to be a terrible ethical characteristic and hence Benjamin Franklin was in the favor of choosing the turkey as USA’s national symbol. But it was not to be and the bald eagle was selected because of its spirit of freedom and liberty.
The thirteen colonies had cast their votes in favor of liberty from Great Britain at the Second Continental Congress. At this time the need for an official seal was felt and thus a team comprising Mr. Jefferson, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. J. Adams was formed towards this end. They designed a seal but only one part of this seal was approved and these were the words ‘E pluribus unum’. After six long years, a picture of an eagle, representing ‘supreme power and authority’ was presented to the Congress. Having liked the design, the congress decided to use it in the official seal. Hence, in 1782, an eagle with a cluster of arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other was adopted as the official emblem of USA. This design seemed to be lacking something; so a crest atop the birds head, a shield of red and white stripes on the eagle’s chest, a ring of thirteen stars bounded by dazzling rays, and the eagle holding a scroll in its beak inscribed with the words ‘e pluribus unum’ were added to the original design and it was then adopted with this entire image.
The seal had been adopted but not the bald eagle as the national emblem. Only in 1787, after many states had started using this image of the eagle in their ‘coat of arms’ was the Bald Eagle chosen as USA’s national emblem.
Even while most people were recognizing the bald eagle as the national bird of USA, Benjamin Franklin disapproved of the choice publicly and openly. He was joined in his opinion by many other people who, like him, felt that the bald eagle was a ‘lazy’ bird that was short of courage and strength of character and was not a true representative of the spirit of America.
During one of the initial battles in the war of Revolution, the sounds of fighting awoke the eagles nearby and they started circling the fighters and shrieking. The patriots believed that these were cries for freedom. And so the eagle became the national emblem of a country which firstly, fore mostly, and above all things, believes in ‘Liberty’.
To date, the image of the eagle appears on American coins, such as the silver dollar, half dollar, gold coins, and quarters. This also extends to the Great Seal of the United States and various other places of national and historical importance.
June 20, 1782; the day when the bald eagle was finally and formally declared the national bird and symbol of USA owing to its sheer size, long life, powerful strength, spirit of freedom, magnificent looks, and its exclusivity to North America.
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