This Sunday, July 4th, Americans celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. We note the event with fireworks, parades, patriotic displays and in singing our national anthem.
A few days ago, a local news station aired footage of our national bird, the American Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus, meaning “halo” and “head”).
As the camera zoomed in for a close-up of this noble symbol of strength and majesty, I felt that familiar sense of pride and a chill; visceral emotions that most Americans feel in the presence of our country’s emblems and when showing respect for our nation and history, such as standing in the presence of our flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and in the sound of our national anthem, sung heartily and with reverence for a flag “Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming…” (“The Star Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key)
Every morning in school, we stood with our hands over our hearts and “pledged allegiance to the flag…” We learned to respect the elements of our citizenship, including the symbols of liberty, such as the American Bald Eagle.
“The eagle represents freedom. Living as he does on the tops of lofty mountains, amid the solitary grandeur of Nature, he has unlimited freedom, whether with strong pinions he sweeps into the valleys below, or upward into the boundless spaces beyond.
It is said the eagle was used as a national emblem because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution (which occurred early in the morning) the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. “They are shrieking for Freedom,” said the patriots.
Thus the eagle, full of the boundless spirit of freedom, living above the valleys, strong and powerful in his might, has become the national emblem of a country that offers freedom in word and thought and an opportunity for a full and free expansion into the boundless space of the future.”
–Maude M. Grant
The American Bald Eagle appears on most official seals including the Seal of the Office of the President and on the backs on gold coins. It also graces the Great Seal of the United States of America, created by Charles Thomson in June 1782:
– The shield is composed of thirteen stripes that represent the several states joined into one solid compact, supporting the chief which unites the whole and represents Congress. The stripes are kept closely united by the chief and the chief depends upon that union and the strength resulting from it.
– The motto E Pluribus Unum alludes to this union.
– The shield is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue.
– The olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace and war which is exclusively vested in Congress.
– The constellation of thirteen stars denotes a new state taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.
– The pyramid signifies strength and duration.
– The Eye over it and the motto Annuit Coeptis allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favor of the American cause.
– The date 1776 underneath is that of the Declaration of Independence and the words Novus Ordo Seclorum under it signify the beginning of the new American Era, which commences from that date.
The Escutcheon is composed of the chief and pale, the two most honorable ordinaries. The Pieces, paly, represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole and represents Congress. The Motto alludes to this union. The pales in the arms are kept closely united by the chief and the Chief depends upon that union and the strength resulting from it for its support, to denote the Confederacy of the United States of America and the preservation of their union through Congress.
The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace and war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.
(Glossary of Heraldic Terms used in the Remarks: chief is the top part of the shield, escutcheon is the shield, pale, pieces, paly are the vertical stripes on the shield.)
The Bold Pursuit pays tribute to this great American symbol, our Bald Eagle, as he vigilantly watches over our nation from his lofty mountain aerie, just as America oversees the pursuit and protection of liberty at home and abroad.
Look upwards, to our banner – an icon of independence presides over The Bold Pursuit.
Happy Independence Day … and may God Bless America!
Photo credit: W. Mortimer, “Northwoods Eagle”
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