Sunday book review – A Connecticut Yankee goes to Washington by Will McLean Greeley

This biography of a very distinguished conservationist and politician was written by the subject’s great great nephew. It charts the journey of George McLean (1857-1932) from the family farm in Connecticut to a political career as a Republican Governor of his home state and an 18-year spell in the Senate (1911-29). Those dates show that he lived through the Civil War (and celebrated its end as a seven year old), through World War One and into The Great Depression. A political life through that period is likely to be interesting in itself, and this life was.

But also, one of the achievements of that political career was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which nailed the provisions originally secured (and then lost) in the Weeks-Mclean Act of 1913. The USA became the first nation to regulate the shooting (particularly in spring) and trade of migratory birds. It’s an interesting example of cleverness in achieving an outcome as the 1918 Treaty Act, being a federal US treaty, trumps state legislatures. The Act is still in place and still important and in a legal case in 2020 the priority of the federal treaty over state legislatures was confirmed with a statement by a federal judge that ‘It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime’.

The book is excellent. If you are interested in people, politics, the law, the USA and/or nature conservation then there will be something in this book for you. All of those interest me and I found it a fascinating read.

The cover? I like it. That guy has quite a look – those eyes are piercing. And the black and white portrait immediately conveys the fact that this person lived a long time ago. I’d give it 8/10.

A Connecticut Yankee goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, birdman of the Senate by Will McLean Greeley is published by Rochester Institute of Technology Press.