January 26, 2017
“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 this living honestly.”
Benjamin Franklin penned these words to his daughter, Sally, on January 26, 1784. He argued, “He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America.” A year and a half after Congress approved the new Great Seal of America, Franklin decided to express his displeasure to Sally in Philadelphia from his location in France. The Society of Cincinnati, the brand new organization for Revolutionary War veterans, also used a bird on their seal. (see ) However, it more resembled a turkey, which prompted Franklin’s comment, “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.”
Despite Franklin’s reservations, the American Bald Eagle became a symbol of strength, freedom and liberty to the American people. While not native to the United States exclusively, as the founders originally thought, the American Bald Eagle is indigenous to North America.
Shortly after America declared her independence on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress tasked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson with designing the new nation’s new seal. Congress rejected their proposals along with the proposals of the two following seal design committees. In June 1782, all the designs were given to Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress. He was charged with creating the new seal. He took the best elements of all the proposals, including the eagle, and displayed it into one.
However, the American Bald Eagle was just one of the significant symbols on the new emblem. Thomson placed an olive branch in the eagle’s right talon with arrows in the left. These two symbols represent peace and war. A shield, resembling the country’s new flag, hangs from the eagle’s chest without support. According to the state department, this illustrates that the United States “ought to rely on their own virtue.” In other words, they should be independent from other countries. The thirteen colonies are represented in several places including the stars above the eagle’s head, the arrows in his talon, and the stripes on the shield. The words E Pluribus Unum, or “Out of Many, One”, appear on the banner above the eagle’s head. The idea, first proposed to the original committee, recognized the new country’s citizens immigrated from all across the Old World.
In spite of Franklin’s characterization, the eagle had been a symbol of national strength since Roman times. It has long been associated with authority, statehood and governmental power. As America was still at war with Great Britain at the time, any symbol of strength would have been preferred for such a seal. In a letter dated July 18, 1961, President John F. Kennedy wrote, "The founding fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
As Christians, the symbol of the eagle is even more profound than federal strength and power. God uses the symbol of the eagle to demonstrate His strength, as well as to show His love and compassion in caring for his people.
God repeatedly uses the image of the eagle to show His people that He will bare their burdens. He will take us to safety, protecting and shielding us from the enemy.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.” Exodus 19:4
“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him.” Deuteronomy 32:10-12
“But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Revelation 12:14
But God also uses the eagle to demonstrate His anger against His people for repeatedly, but more critically, unrepentantly, rejecting that safety and protection He so lovingly offers.
“Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law.” Hosea 8:1
"The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,” Deuteronomy 28:49
One of my most favorite hymn’s is On Eagle’s Wings. The chorus is so incredibly inspirational.
And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand.
Liberty, regardless why our founders chose the American Bald Eagle for our symbol, as Christians we should use it to remind us of what God promised. No matter what happens in this country or the world, God will always protect us, carrying us to safety on His wings.
So when we see the American Bald Eagle on The Great Seal, other governmental seals, coins, stamps, or other national items, it’s ok to have some American pride. But more importantly we should be humbled and thankful that God has bore all our iniquities through the blood of His Only son, Jesus Christ, carrying us to safety “On Eagles’ Wings,” so that we may live eternally in His Kingdom.
That’s my 2 cents.
ON EAGLES' WINGS