Archive for January, 2007

Anti-imperialist response to “The White Man’s Burden”

“The White Man’s Burden” as Prophecy
By Benjamin R. Tillman

Source of text: “Are We to Spread the Christian Religion with the Bayonet Point as Mahomet Spread Islam with a Scimiter?” In William Jennings Bryan, et al., Republic or Empire? The Philippine Question (Chicago: The Independence Co., 1899) — a book of essays by various anti-imperialists who were especially enraged by the Philippine-American War. Benjamin R. “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman (1847-1918) was an early vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League (1899) and an honorary vice president of the American Anti-Imperialist League (1899-1901). He was a central figure in Southern efforts to disfranchise African Americans during the 1890s and early 1900s.

Questions to consider:
1. What racial arguments are being made by Senator Tillman? What are his specific reasons for opposing colonization of places like the Philippines?

Extract from a speech delivered in the U.S. Senate, Feb. 7, 1899.

As though coming at the most opportune time possible, you might say just before the treaty reached the Senate, or about the time it was sent to us, there appeared in one of our magazines a poem by Rudyard Kipling, the greatest poet of England at this time. This poem, unique, and in some places too deep for me, is a prophecy. I do not imagine that in the history of human events any poet has ever felt inspired so clearly to portray our danger and our duty. It is called “The White Man’s Burden.” With the permission of Senators I will read a stanza, and I beg Senators to listen to it, for it is well worth their attention. This man has lived in the Indies. In fact, he is a citizen of the world, and has been all over it, and knows whereof he speaks.

“Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed– Go, bind your sons to exile,
To serve your captive’s need; To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild– Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.”

I will pause here. I intend to read more, but I wish to call attention to a fact which may have escaped the attention of Senators thus far, that with five exceptions every man in this chamber who has had to do with the colored race in this country voted against the ratification of the treaty. It was not because we are Democrats, but because we understand and realize what it is to have two races side by side that can not mix or mingle without deterioration and injury to both and the ultimate destruction of the civilization of the higher. We of the South have borne this white man’s burden of a colored race in our midst since their emancipation and before.

It was a burden upon our manhood and our ideas of liberty before they were emancipated. It is still a burden, although they have been granted the franchise. It clings to us like the shirt of Nessus, and we are not responsible, because we inherited it, and your fathers as well as ours are responsible for the presence amongst us of that people. Why do we as a people want to incorporate into our citizenship ten millions more of different or of differing races, three or four of them?

But we have not incorporated them yet, and let us see what this English poet has to say about it, and what he thinks.

“Take up the White Man’s burden–
No iron rule of kings, But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things. The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread, Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.”

Ah, if we have no other consideration, if no feeling of humanity, no love of our fellows, no regard for others’ rights, if nothing but our self-interest shall actuate us in this crisis, let me say to you that if we go madly on in the direction of crushing these people into subjection and submission we will do so at the cost of many, many thousands of the flower of American youth. There are 10,000,000 of these people, some of them fairly well civilized, and running to the extreme of naked savages, who are reported in our press dispatches as having stood out in the open and fired their bows and arrows, not flinching from the storm of shot and shell thrown into their midst by the American soldiers there.

The report of the battle claims that we lost only seventy-five killed and a hundred and odd wounded; but the first skirmish has carried with it what anguish, what desolation, to homes in a dozen states! How many more victims are we to offer up on this altar of Mammon or national greed? When those regiments march back, if they return with decimated ranks, as they are bound to come, if we have to send thousands and tens of thousands of re-enforcements there to press onward until we have subdued those ten millions, at whose door will lie these lives — their blood shed for what? An idea. If a man fires upon the American flag, shoot the last man and kill him, no matter how many Americans have to be shot to do it.

The city of Manila is surrounded by swamps and marshes, I am told. A few miles back lie the woods and jungles and mountains. These people are used to the climate. They know how to get about, and if they mean to have their liberties, as they appear to do, at what sacrifice will the American domination be placed over them? There is another verse of Kipling. I have fallen in love with this man. He tells us what we will reap:

“Take up the White Man’s burden,
And reap his old reward– The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard– The cry of those ye humor
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:– ‘Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?'”

Those peoples are not suited to our institutions. They are not ready for liberty as we understand it. They do not want it. Why are we bent on forcing upon them a civilization not suited to them and which only means in their view degradation and a loss of self-respect, which is worse than the loss of life itself?

I am nearly done. Nobody answers and nobody can. The commercial instinct which seeks to furnish a market and places for the growth of commerce or the investment of capital for the money making of the few is pressing this country madly to the final and ultimate annexation of these people regardless of their own wishes.

Vocabulary for this post:
shirt of Nessus

The “White Man’s Burden”

This famous poem, written by Britain’s imperial poet, was a used by some Americans as a response to the American take-over of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

Questions to consider:
1. Is the tone of this poem ironic or serious? Explain.
2. In what ways are the “captives” made to seem like children (infantilized), and why are they portrayed in this manner?

The White Man’s Burden
Rudyard Kipling, 1899

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Have done with childish days–
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Margaret Sanger– An Autobiography

from the Modern History Sourcebook

Margaret Sanger (1883-1966) after she served as a nurse on New York ‘s impoverished Lower East Side, as noted in her autobiography, became a crusader for birth control. In 1917 she founded the National Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

During these years in New York trained nurses were in great demand. Few people wanted to enter hospitals; they were afraid they might be “practiced” upon, and consented to go only in desperate emergencies. Sentiment was especially vehement in the matter of having babies. A woman’s own bedroom, no matter how inconveniently arranged, was the usual place for her lying-in. I was not sufficiently free from domestic duties to be a general nurse, but I could ordinarily manage obstetrical cases because I was notified far enough ahead to plan my schedule. And after serving my two weeks I could get home again.

Sometimes I was summoned to small apartments occupied by young clerks, insurance salesmen, or lawyers, just starting out, most of them under thirty and whose wives were having their first or second baby. They were always eager to know the best and latest method in infant care and feeding. In particular, Jewish patients, whose lives centered around the family, welcomed advice and followed it implicitly.

But more and more my calls began to come from the Lower East Side, as though I were being magnetically drawn there by some force outside my control. I hated the wretchedness and hopelessness of the poor, and never experienced that satisfaction in working among them that so many noble women have found. My concern for my patients was now quite different from my earlier hospital attitude. I could see that much was wrong with them which did not appear in the physiological or medical diagnosis. A woman in childbirth was not merely a woman in childbirth. My expanded outlook included a view of her background, her potentialities as a human being, the kind of children she was bearing, and what was going to happen to them.

. . .

As soon as the neighbors learned that a nurse was in the building they came in a friendly way to visit, often carrying fruit, jellies, or gefilte fish made after a cherished recipe. It was infinitely pathetic to me that they, so poor themselves should bring me food. Later they drifted in again with the excuse of getting the plate, and sat down for a nice talk; there was no hurry. Always back of the little gift was the question, “I am pregnant (or my daughter, or my sister is). Tell me something to keep from having another baby. We cannot afford another yet. ”

I tried to explain the only two methods I had ever heard among the middle classes, both of which were invariably brushed aside as unacceptable. They were of no certain avail to the wife because they placed the burden of responsibility solely upon the husband-a burden which he seldom assumed. What she was seeking was self-protection she could herself use, and there was none.

Below this stratum of society was one in truly desperate circumstances. The men were sullen and unskilled, picking up odd jobs now and then, but more often unemployed, lounging in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night. The women seemed to slink on their way to market and were without neighborliness.

These submerged, untouched classes were beyond the scope of organized charity or religion. No labor union, no church, not even the Salvation Army reached them. They were apprehensive of everyone and rejected help of any kind, ordering all intruders to keep out; both birth and death they considered their own business. Social agents, who were just beginning to appear, were profoundly mistrusted because they pried into homes and lives, asking questions about wages, how many were in the family, had any of them ever been in jail. Often two or three had been there or were now under suspicion of prostitution, shoplifting, purse snatching, petty thievery, and, in consequence, passed furtively by the big blue uniforms on the corner.

. . .

Pregnancy was a chronic condition among the women of this class. Suggestions as to what to do for a girl who was “in trouble” or a married woman who was “caught” passed from mouth to mouth-herb teas, turpentine, steaming, rolling downstairs, inserting slippery elm, knitting needles, shoe?hooks. When they had word of a new remedy they hurried to the drugstore, and if the clerk were inclined to be friendly he might say, “Oh, that won’t help you, but here’s something that may.” The younger druggists usually refused to give advice because, if it were to be known, they would come under the law; midwives were even more fearful. The doomed women implored me to reveal the “secret” rich people had, offering to pay me extra to tell them; many really believed I was holding back information for money. They asked everybody and tried anything, g but nothing did them any good. On Saturday nights I have seen groups of from fifty to one hundred with their shawls over their heads waiting outside the office of a five?dollar abortionist.

These were not merely “unfortunate conditions among the poor” such as we read about. I knew the women personally. They were living, breathing, human beings, with hopes, fears, and aspirations like my own, yet their weary, misshapen bodies, “always ailing, never failing, ” were destined to be thrown on the scrap heap before they were thirty-five. I could not escape from the facts of their wretchedness; neither was I able to see any way out. My own cozy and comfortable family existence was becoming a reproach to me.

. . .

. . . No matter what it might cost, I was finished with palliatives and superficial cures; I was resolved to seek out the root of evil, to do something to change the destiny of mothers whose miseries were vast as the sky.

Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1938), pp. 86-89, 92.


Due to the fact that my classes will be visiting the college counselor on January 19, I will have to give you the 26-29 quiz during the last half of our B/C days next week. Please prepare accordingly.

Words of the day for the week of January 8-11

These were the words to which we were introduced during this week If I have forgotten any, please put them in the comments and I will add them.

New Words:

Greek and Latin roots:
eu- good
logy- word, study, speech

Practice MC questions January 10-11

These were the practice MC questions we used on January 10-11. Make sure you know what the correct answers are, and why they are correct.

1. The primary purpose of the Proclamation of 1763 was to
A. encourage westward colonial migration
B. avoid conflict with the trans-Appalachian Indians
C. gain much-needed revenue
D. drive out French colonists
E. provide a haven for Catholics

2. In his Atlanta Compromise speech, Booker T. Washington called for which of the following?
A. African American voting rights
B. an end to racial segregation
C. support for African American self-help
D. educational equality for African Americans
E. racial integration of religious organizations

3. In 1890 the most important source of revenue for the federal government was
A. income taxes
B. inheritance taxes
C. sales taxes
D. liquor taxes
E. customs duties

4. Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor was significant because it aroused public awareness of the
A. injustice of having taken land from Mexico in the Southwest
B. need for reforms in federal land policy
C. wrongs that the federal government had inflicted on American Indians
D. hardships endured by Chinese laborers while building the transcontinental railroad
E. plight of sharecroppers in the Deep South

5. The federal government’s attempt to confine the Indians to certain areas through formal treaties in the late 1800 was largely ineffective because
A. the nomadic Plains Indians largely rejected the idea of formal authority and defined territory.
B. Congress refused to ratify treaties signed with Indians.
C. the treaties made no provisions for enforcement.
D. the largest tribe, the Sioux, refused to sign any treaties with whites.
E. Indians preferred to move to Indian Territory, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

6. Indian resistance in the late 19th century was finally subdued because
A. most of the effective Indians leadership was bought off.
B. the growth of the railroads destroyed the buffalo and therefore the Indians’ way of life.
C. most Indians lost the will to resist after the Sand Creek Massacre.
D. the army developed effective techniques of guerilla warfare.
E. the frontier was declared officially closed in the 1890 census.

7. The Populist movement hoped to
A. aid unions in their struggles with management.
B. limit the number of states allowing women’s suffrage.
C. gain greater restrictions on immigration.
D. convince the federal government to allow the free coinage of silver.
E. unite industrialists and middle class farmers against unskilled workers.

8. Which immigrant group was the first one officially banned from entering the U.S. by an Act of Congress?
A. Irish
B. Armenians
C. Japanese
D. Chinese
E. Italians

An overview of Indian Treaty History in the Pcific Northwest

Go to this link and read the article on how centuries-old treaties with Indian nations still have ramifications today. Read paragraphs 1-17.

This assignment is worth extra credit.

Answer the following questions by Tuesday, January 16:
1. What was the original understanding on the part of the government regarding treaties?
2. What did the treaty-makers of the late 19th century expect to happen that would make treaties unnecessary? How did the government attempt to encourage this to happen?
3. How did the oral tradition (make sure you know what that means) in most tribes complicate treaty matters? Use the following quote in your response:
“A treaty, in the minds of our people, is an eternal word.”
4. What did Senator Hemry Dawes– author of the Dawes Act– say was the fundamental flaw in Indian culture which kept them from progressing? What did he mean?
5. What is the “supercitizenship” argument?
6. Explain, in 3-5 sentences including examples, why treaties and Indian-US relations can appear contradictory (see paragraph 17).