Sunday, 23 August 2009

Mark Twain on American Imperialism in the Philippines

Mark Twain. "The man who was so livid with anger at his country's arrogance abroad that he laid aside his own work to inveigh against imperialism."
Arguably by Christopher Hitchens.
(accessed 19 may 2009)

Mark Twain – Anti-Imperialist
I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.- Mark Twain quoted in A Pen Warmed Up in Hell
To the Person Sitting in Darkness
By Mark Twain
From Jim Zwick, ed., Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992). Introduction and notes Copyright © 1992 Jim Zwick. All rights reserved.

xxxxextract followsxxxx

Mark Twain, The Greatest American Humorist, Returning Home, New York World [London, October 6, 1900] You ask me about what is called imperialism. Well, I have formed views about that question. I am at the disadvantage of not knowing whether our people are for or against spreading themselves over the face of the globe. I should be sorry if they are, for I don't think that it is wise or a necessary development. As to China, I quite approve of our Government's action in getting free of that complication. They are withdrawing, I understand, having done what they wanted. That is quite right. We have no more business in China than in any other country that is not ours. There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it -- perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands -- but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector -- not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now -- why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.

Mark Twain Quotations - PHILIPPINES
(accessed 19 may 2009)

This archipelago was benevolently assimilated by the puissant Republic. It was first ingeniously wrested from its owners, by help of the unsuspicious owners themselves, then it was purchased from its routed and dispossessed foreign possessors at a great price. This made the title perfect, even elegant. Also it added a Great Power to Blitzowski's riches and distinctions of that sort. The new Great Power was really no greater than it was before; the addition of the mud-piles was about the equivalent of adding a prairie-dog village to a mountain range, but the artificial expansion produced by the addition was so vast that it may justly be likened to a case of "before and after": the great Captive Balloon of Paris lying flat and observed by no passer-by, before filling, and the same balloon high in the air, rotund, prodigious, its belly full of gas, the wonder and admiration of a gazing world....The native bacilli of the islets are of the kind called "benevolent" by the Blitzowski scientist...Yes, they are small, like their archipelago, but to hear the Republic talk about the combination, you would think she had been annexing four comets and a constellation.- "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes"
The funniest thing was when at the close of the Spanish-American War the United States paid poor decrepit old Spain $20,000,000 for the Philippines. It was just a case of this country buying its way into good society. Honestly, when I read in the papers that this deal had been made, I laughed until my sides ached. There were the Filipinos fighting like blazes for their liberty. Spain would not hear to it. The United States stepped in, and after they had licked the enemy to a standstill, instead of freeing the Filipinos they paid that enormous amount for an island which is of no earthly account to us; just wanted to be like the aristocratic countries of Europe which have possessions in foreign waters. The United States wanted to be in the swim, and it, too, had to branch out, like an American heiress buying a Duke or an Earl. Sounds well, but that's all.-

interview "Mark Twain in Clover / Joseph in the Land of Cornbread and Chicken." Baltimore Sun, 10 May 1907, p. 14

ps 24 December 2016.

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