Inspired by viewing Audubon’s lithographs at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia, twenty-nine-year-old amateur naturalist and artist Genevieve Jones began working on a companion volume to The Birds of America, illustrating the nests and eggs that Audubon omitted. Her brother collected the nests and eggs, her father paid for the publishing, and Genevieve learned lithography and began illustrating the specimens. When Genevieve died suddenly of typhoid fever, her family labored for seven years to finish the project in her memory. The original book, sold by subscription in twenty-three parts, included Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt among its subscribers.
Only ninety copies of the original book were published in 1886, and fewer than twenty-five copies now remain in institutions and private hands. Featuring reproductions of all sixty-eight original color lithographs, archival photographs, selected field notes, and a key to the eggs and birds, America’s Other Audubon chronicles for the first time the story behind the making of this extraordinary nineteenth century book.
My short “Dispatch” item on traveling to Ottawa to become suddenly always Canadian appears in the new issue of The Atlantic, which is now available online and at fine news stands everywhere. A snippet:
After dining with other lost Canadians the evening before I became a citizen, I found myself walking the not-so-mean streets of Ottawa alone an hour before midnight. So I wandered into the Royal Oak, an English pub on Bank Street. I persuaded some game locals, Austin and Rachelle, to share a toast and snap my picture in front of the Maple Leaf hanging behind the bar. Midnight! To gain a citizenship in one magical moment, without exertion or will, is to experience as an adult the national baptism that comes with birth. I felt exhilarated, if a bit of a fraud. Austin and Rachelle were exceedingly kind to me. We exchanged cell-phone numbers. We agreed to connect on Facebook. We all understood that I am a thoroughgoing American, qualifying as Canadian through a weird technicality. But they were happy for me, happy to have me. Because they’re Canadians, I suppose.
Whenever I say nice things about Canada, some people get annoyed. After all, they have socialized medicine and are more inclined to regulate certain kinds of speech. But these are anecdotes. If looks for anecdotes on the lack of freedom in the U.S., one becomes buried in them. If I look at actual indices that attempt, however imperfectly, to measure various freedoms, the U.S. and Canada come out pretty much identical on a classical liberal conception of freedom. And Canada comes out ahead on contemporary capabilities conceptions of positve liberty. To my mind, the evidence pretty strongly supports the conclusion that Canada is at least as free as the United States. Why is this a problem for some Americans?
It’s true that the U.S. has in many ways a more libertarian culture and political tradition than does Canada. But then isn’t it all the more interesting to note that, despite America’s unique “land of the free” self-conception, we’re no more free than Canadians? I feel strongly that American culture is more varied, alive, weirder, synthetic, and creative than probably any other. This is in part because of, and not despite, the odd conservative and religions strands in American culture. And it is a culture especially amenable to all sorts of entrepreneurial experiments, which gives American culture a level of innovation and vitality (including countless varieties of religious weirdness) that I think partly explains why it is the world’s dominant exporter of culture. And I think the U.S.’s wealth relative to other countries is actually underestimated. We are astoundingly rich (recession or no recession) and this is a place of crazy opportunity. So I think the U.S. does better in positive liberty terms than it sometimes gets credit for.
But that doesn’t begin to mean that we live up to our reputation for the kind of liberty classical liberals tend to care about. My sense is that some American libertarians have a vague sense that if Canada really was more free, then they should want to move there. But they emphatically don’t want to move to Canada. My diagnosis is that many libertarians prefer to live in a place where it easy to find others who share their individualistic and libertarian values over living in a place where they would actually be more free, but would feel more culturally alienated.