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Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate – 10,000 Birds

The Nice Egret was in breeding plumage and courtship posture–vibrant lime inexperienced lores, head bending down after which snapping up, lengthy, impossibly delicate plumes waving over its physique as if possessed by impartial spirits. The guests alongside the boardwalk at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida had been taking pictures nonstop, we solely had a couple of minutes earlier than the wetlands closed, oohing and aaahing. I considered these plumes and about how lucky we had been to be seeing this egret in all its glory. Plume looking raged supreme 150 years in the past, when egret feathers had been a part of a worldwide commerce in feathers and different fowl elements, used for girls’s hats and different articles of clothes (however largely hats), delighting the higher courses and virtually wiping out  fowl species. I may see what all of the fuss was about, why they had been price, actually, as a lot as gold. “Thank goodness for the Migratory Chicken Treaty Act,” I mentioned to the photographer beside me, who simply checked out me quizzically earlier than returning to her digital camera.

©2023, Donna L. Schulman

The Migratory Chicken Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) is the legislative implementation of the Migratory Chicken Treaty negotiated with Nice Britain, on behalf of Canada, in 1916 (subsequent treaties with Mexico, Japan, and Russia have been integrated into the Act). Its purpose was to restrict the grasping amassing of birds killed for the plume commerce, the fowl meat commerce (as within the wholesale slaughter of the Passenger Pigeon), and for sport (once more, the Passenger Pigeon and declining numbers of waterfowl). It has turn into the cornerstone of U.S. conservation laws and regulation, a instrument used to guard birds from irresponsible looking, industrial intrusion and incidental take, habitat loss and air pollution, and to encourage finest practices by everybody, from birders to companies. And its passage was not simple.

The MBT and the MBTA had been hard-won victories of years of lobbying by involved naturalists and ornithologists, newly shaped Audubon organizations, and some members of the U.S. Congress and Senate who acknowledged the necessity to defend the birds. Various state legal guidelines, with restricted and problematic impact, and two main federal legal guidelines preceded the MBTA: (1) the Lacey Act of 1900, which made it unlawful to move or promote a fowl in a single state when illegally hunted in one other state, and (2) the Weeks-McLean Act of 1913, which prohibited the spring looking and advertising of migratory fowl and the importation of untamed fowl feathers for girls’s trend, and which gave the Secretary of Agriculture the ability to set looking seasons nationwide. The Lacey Act nonetheless exists, however the Weeks-McLean Act was doomed as a result of it violated the idea, enforced by the courts, that birds belonged to the states, not the federal authorities. Realizing this, Senator George P. McLean, one of many sponsors of the act, really greater than a sponsor, a real believer, proposed and set in movement the concept of negotiating a treaty (an idea originated by politician Elihu Root). Treaties trump state legal guidelines.

A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate by Will McLean Greeley is about George P. McLean, the Senator from Connecticut who was decided to save lots of our birds and who used a lifetime of hard-learned political maneuvering, collegial networking, and a worldview targeted on the purpose, not the glory, to make it work. The biography covers his life from childhood to dying (and even pre-childhood, because it reaches again to his Pilgrim/Puritan ancestors), October 7, 1857 – June 6, 1932, and his careers as reporter, lawyer, state governor, and senator. It’s set inside three vital intervals of our historical past, as Greeley writes: the Gilded Age, the Progressive Period, and the “Roaring Twenties.” (There was additionally a dip into the Nice Melancholy on the finish of his life.) McLean’s work on fowl safety laws is described and analyzed in a single 30-page chapter, “Saving the Birds.” You’ll be able to learn simply that chapter and the ultimate chapter summarizing this achievement and study quite a bit, but it surely actually isn’t the entire story, not the one Greeley desires to current.

An amazing-great nephew of Senator McLean, Greeley spent three years researching and scripting this e book. His purpose, he says within the Preface, is to satisfy a childhood want to study extra a few stern determine in a household {photograph}, a mysterious man with spectacular however largely undocumented achievements. However this isn’t a hagiography. Greeley has a historian’s instincts, maybe stemming from his coaching as an archivist (although he ended up, he says vaguely, in enterprise and market analysis). He has executed an infinite quantity of analysis, fastidiously documented the textual content, and produced a bibliography 13 pages lengthy. He has consulted unpublished interviews and diaries, authorities paperwork, native newspapers, archival collections, and lots of of books and magazines, totally on historical past politics but in addition on different areas that impacted McLean’s life, like livestock farming. Greeley will not be afraid to level out the darker and never very flattering-in-today’s-light features of McLean’s life–the despair which marred his final years as Governor of Connecticut, his failure throughout that tenure to rout out corruption, his later complete opposition to girls’s suffrage. And though there are occasions when Greeley tries slightly too arduous to color McLean as a person of the individuals (the story taken from an area newspaper of him speaking to a black, aged caddy on a white Southern golf course actually jolts), he succeeds in portray a portrait of a posh, clever, modest man of nice ambition, a politician who walked a superb line between Progressive and conservative politics, and who discovered the right way to manipulate the system to do good.

In all probability one of many supreme ironies described in A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington is that though McLean’s identify is hooked up to the primary piece of fowl safety laws, the Weeks-McLean Act, he was not a sponsor of its successor, the Migratory Chicken Treaty Act. A change of president meant that McLean’s celebration, the Republicans, had been not in cost (that is when the Republicans had been a unique type of celebration). The brand new president, Woodrow Wilson, supported the act, however as a Democrat he put Democratic leaders in cost. McLean, a pragmatist, gracefully accepted the change and, in keeping with Greeley, spent extra time than some other Senator ensuring the act handed, even when up in opposition to the calls for of World Battle I. At one level, Democratic Senator James Reed, his longtime enemy, opposed dialogue of the act, saying solely war-related points must be on the Senate flooring. Ready by the Audubon Society with statistics, Greeley was in a position to hyperlink fowl safety to crop safety, making it a meals conservation precedence and thus a struggle concern. The Migratory Chicken Treaty Act was not solely a bipartisan legislative triumph, it was a mannequin for legislative advocacy, how nonprofits can efficiently work with legislators and politicians.

I feel birders will take pleasure in studying this political historical past of the MBTA. The conservation facet, the story of the egrets and their aigrettes and Frank Chapman counting fowl species on the hats of the ladies of New York Metropolis and Harriet Hemenway’s tea conferences turning into Massachusetts Audubon, is pretty well-known (and should you’re not aware of this historical past, learn Scott Weidensaul’s Of a Feather (2007) or one of many glorious articles showing on the Audubon and Smithsonian web sites). The political and legislative historical past and the position performed by an upper-class, reserved Republican Senator from Connecticut will not be. And it must be identified. It’s a historical past that enhances our appreciation for the Migratory Chicken Treaty Act, nearly gutted underneath the Trump administration, and in addition serves as a mannequin, as cited above, of bipartisan cooperation in direction of a typical, mutual good. Is that attainable anymore? Perhaps. It’s good to have tales that encourage. I do suppose that only some birders, these serious about United States historical past, would benefit from the biography as an entire. This isn’t a detrimental criticism, it’s a reflection of the viewers for this weblog. I hope that Chapter 8, the chapter on the MBTA, may be excerpted and reprinted in one among our birding magazines. Or, that birders are in a position to get A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate from their native libraries. Chapter 8 is definitely worth the learn.

*Observe: This evaluation relies on a PDF copy of the e book equipped by the writer.

A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate
by Will McLean Greeley
RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press; March 2023)
Paperback, ?350 pages
ISBN-10 : 1939125995; ISBN-13 ? : ? 978-1939125996


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