Miles' invective against this bird (Cyanocitta cristata) runs high in
Our Southern Birds:
He is accused of murderous attacks on smaller birds, and certainly eats both eggs and
young when he can find an unguarded nest; but he is rather cowardly. I have seen a pair of
Red-Eyed Vireos, defending their home, put a pair of these noisy bullies to flight . . . .
Emerson, alone I believe among observers, declares that the Blue Jay does "more good
than harm." But when I see a whole neighborhood of song-birds silenced and terrorized
by the passing of a troop of these feathered Uhlans, I can only wonder what reason the
philosopher had for his statement. (70-1)
Miles' dislike of the Bluejay may explain his brief appearance at the opening and close of this FSC. While the Sparrows and the Pigeons enthusiastically discuss the sanitation reform of the City Beautiful Club (see note following), the Jay is conspicuously quiet--as if a silent representative of the city's slumlords and unsanitary food producers who "prey" upon its most vulnerable sector. The Jay cloaks his exploitation of the poor in the philosophy of Social Darwinism--not that espoused by her model Herbert Spencer, but the cruder form put forth by Americans such as William Graham Sumner, who argued that social inequality was necessary in order to insure the survival of the "fittest" members of society. Thus at the end of this FSC the Jay comments "But I maintain that the principle set forth, as shown by the grub's fate when split out of an unripe acorn by the freewill of a stout beak--" For the Social Darwinist, the poor are grubs, "fated" by heredity to their lowly condition, while the bourgeoisie are birds, a product of superior evolution, who are merely exercising their natural "freewill" in preying upon them. Miles' disgust for this argument is epitomized by the Sparrows' hasty retreat from this long-winded ideological "bully."