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The Fable of the Eagle and the Cat

January 9, 2010

It was the spring of 1775 and the strains between Great Britain and the Americans were at its height prior to the war commencing.  Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the Americans’ chief representative in England, “losing all hope, folded his papers, sailed away from that country and came home to help his countrymen in the impending struggle with the brute force of Great Britain.”  One evening before Dr. Franklin departed, he was at Lord Spencer’s home in the company of a number of English noblemen. The light conversation reportedly turned to fables, and most agreed that not “any beast, bird, or fish could be worked into a new fable with any success.”  Dr. Franklin was not in agreement and, upon receiving a pen, ink, and paper from Earl Spencer, wrote the following:

Once upon a time, an eagle soaring around a farmer’s barn and espying a hare, darted down upon him like a sunbeam, seized him in his claws, and remounted with him in the air.  He soon found that he had a creature of more courage and strength than a hare, for which, notwithstanding the keenness of his eyesight, he had mistaken a cat. The snarling and scrambling of the prey was very inconvenient, and, what was worse, she had disengaged herself from his talons, grasped his body with her fore limbs, so as to stop his breath, and seized fast hold of his throat with her teeth.  ‘Pray,’ said the eagle, ‘let go your hold and I will release you.’  ‘Very fine,’ said the cat, ‘I have no fancy to fall from this height, and be crushed to death.  You have taken me up, and you shall stoop and let me down.’ The eagle thought it necessary to stoop accordingly.

The fable above was discovered in a book entitled Our Country, A Household History of the United States for All Readers, From the Discovery of America to the Present Time, Volume 1 by Benson J. Lossing, LL.D (The Amies Publishing Company, New York, 1888).  On the page preceding the preface of the book, the author wrote:

The Households of Our Country, wherein private virtue sustains the fabric of our free institutions, this work is dedicated, with the respect and affection of the author.

The copy I have was inscribed in 1891 by my great-great grandfather to his sons.

  1. Tim permalink
    January 9, 2010 7:01 pm

    Hugo, you’re the culmination of a long line of deep thinkers.


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