Imperialism Pro or Con


    Mark Twain and American Imperialism in the Gilded Age; Are we for it or against it?

    Judy Rowell 9th and 10th Grade Social Studies, Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Monica Kwiatkowski, 8th Grade Social Studies, Cuba-Rushford Middle School, Cuba New York



    Students will review a number of primary source materials and recognize them as pro or anti-imperialist propaganda. They will recognize Mark Twain as an anti-imperialist and identify some major proponents of the issue.  Using information provided, they will then be able to respond with an assessable response, choosing from several, one of which should fit their learning style.


    Important Discussion Quote for Class:


    “If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism, we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.” - Vladimir Lenin




     Reading Assignment:                                       



    As a result of the Spanish American War,  America stood at a cross road.  The country had to decide whether to annex former Spanish possessions or give them their independence.  In 1899 most Americans could not find the Philippines on a map, and yet we were to determine their fate; to become an independent country or a territory of the United States.  Because of their distance from the States and the fact that they did not have a spokesperson like Jose Marti was for the Cubans, most people in this country were unaware that the Filipinos had been fighting for independence from Spain for longer than had the Cubans.  These people, seeing the Cubans granted independence expected that the same would be their lot, but they were sadly mistaken.  The decision to annex the Philippines led to the continuation of their freedom fight; this time the oppressor was the United States of America.  Some Americans were totally against our waging a war to subject people fighting for their own independence, and among those people was Samuel Clemens.



    Written Assignments


    When you have finished all the Document based questions, (A-H) on a separate sheet of paper, use the information garnered to do one of the following:


    1. Write a one page newspaper opinion article about whether the United States should have possessions overseas or not.  Be sure to back up your statements with facts and support for your view from the material we have studied.

    1. Draw a political cartoon taking a stand for or against Imperialism.  Use color and a caption.  Neatness counts!

    1. Write a song either protesting or supporting Imperialism.  Make it more than one verse and be sure it is specific enough to show that you know what you are singing about.

    1. Do a collage with a caption.  Write one paragraph about your collage, explaining the images you have chosen.



    A. Answe


    r the questions as you read the selection that follows:

    1. Who did Twain say were the oppressors?
    2. What is an oppressor?
    3. What did Twain say about the division of wealth?
    4. What statement did he make about American Imperialism?



    Mark Twain Speaks to Us: 

    "I Am an Anti-Imperialist"

    by Norman Solomon


    With U.S. troops occupying Iraq and the Bush administration making bellicose noises about Syria, let's consider some rarely mentioned words from the most revered writer in American history.

    Mark Twain was painfully aware of many people's inclinations to go along with prevailing evils. When slavery was lawful, he recalled, abolitionists were "despised and ostracized, and insulted" -- by "patriots." As far as Twain was concerned, "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

    With chiseled precision, he wielded language as a hard-edged tool. "The difference between the right word and the almost right word," he once commented, "is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." Here are a few volts of Twain's lightning that you probably never saw before:

    * "Who are the oppressors? The few: the king, the capitalist and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat."

    * "Why is it right that there is not a fairer division of the spoil all around? Because laws and constitutions have ordered otherwise. Then it follows that laws and constitutions should change around and say there shall be a more nearly equal division."

    • "I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."



    B. Answer the questions as you read the following selection:


    1.Who does the writer say gave “us” our land?

    1. How does he compare us to England?
    2. What does he say we are perpetually revitalized by?
    3. How long did he say it took us to over run our continent?
    4. Where does this author see Manifest Destiny taking us next?
    5. Who does he say has selected us for this great mission in the world?
    6. What does he finally say that we are after in those new places?


    Albert J. Beveridge,
    September 1898

    Speech given at the Indiana Republican Convention of that year.


    An excerpt: 

    It is a noble land that God has given us; a land that can feed and clothe the world; a land whose coastlines would inclose half the countries of Europe; a land set like a sentinel between the two imperial oceans of the globe, a greater England with a nobler destiny. 


    It is a mighty people that He has planted on this soil; a people sprung from the most masterful blood of history; a people perpetually revitalized by the virile, man-producing working-folk of all the earth; a people imperial by virtue of their power, by right of their institutions, by authority of their Heaven-directed purposes--the propagandists and not the misers of liberty. 


    It is a glorious history our God has bestowed upon His chosen people; a history heroic with faith in our mission and our future; a history of statesmen who flung the boundaries of the Republic out into unexplored lands and savage wilderness; a history of soldiers wh o carried the flag across blazing deserts and through the ranks of hostile mountains, even to the gates of sunset; a history of a multiplying people who overran a continent in half a century; a history of prophets who saw the consequences of evils inherited from the past and of martyrs who died [48] to save us from them; a history divinely logical, in the process of whose tremendous reasoning we find ourselves to-day. 


    Therefore, in this campaign, the question is larger than a party question. It is an American question. It is a world question. Shall the American people continue their march toward the commercial supremacy of the world? Shall free institutions broaden their blessed reign as the children of liberty wax in strength, until the empire of our principles is established over the hearts of all mankind? 


    Have we no mission to perform, no duty to discharge to our fellow-man? Has God endowed us with gifts beyond our deserts and marked us as the people of His peculiar favor, merely to rot in our own selfishness, as men and nations must, who take cowardice for their companion and self for their deity--as China has, as India has, as Egypt has? 


    Shall we be as the man who had one talent and hid it, or as he who had ten talents and used them until they grew to riches? And shall we reap the reward that waits on our discharge of our high duty; shall we occupy new markets for what our farmers raise, our factories make, our merchants sell--aye, and, please God, new markets for what our ships shall carry? 




    C. Answer the following questions as you read the selection:


    1. Describe the flag Twain suggested for the Philippines.
    2. Why do you think Twain says to give Christendom the soap and towel, but hide the looking glass?
    3. Why do you think his comments would anger the American Missionary Board?
    4. List the four things from the song that Twain says are “marching on”.
    5. He says “as He died to make men holy” but why does he say we should die?
    6. How do you feel about this parody?  Is it okay for people to write such parodies? Why or why not?



    Mark Twain’s parody of the Battle Hymn of the Republic


    At the turn of the century, as the Philippines came under the wing of the U.S. government, Mark Twain suggested a new flag for the Philippine province -- "just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones."

    While the United States followed up on its victory in the Spanish-American War by slaughtering thousands of Filipino people, Twain spoke at anti-war rallies. He also flooded newspapers with letters and wrote brilliant, unrelenting articles.

    On Dec. 30, 1900, the New York Herald published Mark Twain's commentary -- "A Greeting from the 19th Century to the 20th Century" -- denouncing the blood-drenched colonial forays of England, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. "I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched and dishonored from pirate-raids in Kiao-Chou, Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her the soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass."

    Twain followed up in early 1901 with an essay titled "To the Person Sitting in Darkness." Each of the world's strongest nations, he wrote, was proceeding "with its banner of the Prince of Peace in one hand and its loot-basket and its butcher-knife in the other." Many readers and some newspapers praised Twain's polemic. But his essay angered others, including the American Missionary Board and the New York Times.

    "Particularly in his later years," scholar Tom Quirk has noted, "the fierceness of Twain's anti-imperialist convictions disturbed and dismayed those who regarded him as the archetypal American citizen who had somehow turned upon Americanism itself."

    What Mark Twain had to say is all too relevant to what's happening these days. But policymakers in Washington can rest easy. Twain's most inflammatory writings are smoldering in his grave -- while few opportunities exist for the general public to hear similar views expounded today.

    "None but the dead are permitted to speak truth," Twain remarked. Even then, evidently, their voices tend to be muffled. In 1901, in the wake of American imperialism in the Spanish and Philippine Wars, Mark Twain penned a parody of the "Battle Hymn," from the perspective of an American industrialist, entitled - "The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated":




    Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
    He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger's wealth is stored;
    He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
    His lust is marching on.


    I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
    They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
    I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps-
    His night is marching on.


    I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
    "As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
    Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
    Lo, Greed is marching on!"


    We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
    Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgment seat;
    O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
    Our god is marching on!


    In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
    With a longing in his bosom-and for others' goods an itch.
    As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich –
    Our god is marching on.




    D. Answer the questions as you read the following selection:

    1. What happened in 1898 that he thinks means we have to face a problem?
    2. What did we have to do once we were in?
    3. What countries do we now face responsibility for?
    4. Describe one of the kinds of men TR thinks would shrink from our new duty.
    5. What is one of the duties that kind of man might shrink from?
    6. What is Roosevelt’s belief about our involvement in an imperialist policy?

     "In 1898 we could not help being brought face to face with the problem of war with Spain.  All we could decide was whether we should shrink like cowards from the contest, or enter into it as beseemed a brave and high-spirited people; and, once in, whether failure or success should crown our banners.  So it is now.  We cannot avoid the responsibilities that confront us in Hawaii, Cuba, [Puerto] Rico and the Philippines....  The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant men, and a man of dull mind, whose soul is incapable of feeling the mighty life that thrills ‘strong men with empires in their brains’ -- all these, of course, shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and an army adequate to our needs; shrink from seeing us do our share of the world's work, by bringing order out of chaos in the great, fair tropic islands from which the valor of our soldiers and sailors has driven the Spanish flag.  These are the men who fear the strenuous life, who fear the only national life which is really worth leading....”

    -- Theodore Roosevelt, “The Strenuous Life” (speech delivered at a Chicago men’s club), 1899





    E. Answer the questions using the following cartoon:

    1. Who do the bride and groom represent?
    2. Who is the Minister?
    3. From what book is he reading the wedding ceremony?
    4. What is “Puck”
    5. Write a caption for the cartoon.


    Another Shotgun Wedding






    F. Answer the questions using the following cartoon:


    1. For what is the center character being measured?
    2. What are the men at the door trying to “sell”?
    3. Who is the tailor?
    4. Do you notice anything different about the looks of the men at the door?  Why do you think the cartoonist made them look that way?


    Uncle Sam being measured by the Cloth:




    G.  Answer the questions using the following cartoon:


    1. When was the cartoon drawn?
    2. What does the eagle portray?
    3. What does the eagle’s wing span symbolize?
    4. What does the smaller eagle’s wing span symbolize?
    5. Name the two farthest places the eagle reaches.
    6. Is this cartoon pro or anti imperialist?  How do you know?

    10000 miles from tip to tip 



    H. Answer the questions using the following cartoon:


    1. Is this cartoon pro or anti imperialism?
    2. Who is the man in the cartoon?
    3. What is he studying?
    4. Who is pulling back the curtain?
    5. What is the caption?
    6. What does the scene behind the curtain portray?  Where is the violence taking place?  How can you tell?  Could it be anywhere else?


    Civilization begins at Home