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Mark Twain and Imperialism

To be ignorant of history is to remain always a child - Cicero
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Mark Twain was an avid anti-imperialist. He commented frequently on his opposition to the annexation of the Philippines (See Twain's Comments on Imperialism). His executors suppressed some of his more controversial social and political writings after his death. One of these, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, is a satire of the American-Filipino war. Here is an excerpt.

The plan developed, stage by stage, and quite satisfactorily. We entered into a military alliance with the trusting Filipinos, and they hemmed in Manila on the land side, and by their valuable help the place, with its garrison of 8,000 or 10,000 Spaniards, was captured -- a thing which we could not have accomplished unaided at that time. We got their help by -- by ingenuity. We knew they were fighting for their independence, and that they had been at it for two years. We knew they supposed that we also were fighting in their worthy cause -- just as we had helped the Cubans fight for Cuban independence -- and we allowed them to go on thinking so. Until Manila was ours and we could get along without them. Then we showed our hand. Of course, they were surprised -- that was natural; surprised and disappointed; disappointed and grieved. To them it looked un-American; uncharacteristic; foreign to our established traditions. And this was natural, too; for we were only playing the American Game in public -- in private it was the European. It was neatly done, very neatly, and it bewildered them. They could not understand it; for we had been so friendly -- so affectionate, even -- with those simple-minded patriots! We, our own selves, had brought back out of exile their leader, their hero, their hope, their Washington -- Aguinaldo; brought him in a warship, in high honor, under the sacred shelter and hospitality of the flag; brought him back and restored him to his people, and got their moving and eloquent gratitude for it. Yes, we had been so friendly to them, and had heartened them up in so many ways! We had lent them guns and ammunition; advised with them; exchanged pleasant courtesies with them; placed our sick and wounded in their kindly care; entrusted our Spanish prisoners to their humane and honest hands; fought shoulder to shoulder with them against "the common enemy" (our own phrase); praised their courage, praised their gallantry, praised their mercifulness, praised their fine and honorable conduct; borrowed their trenches, borrowed strong positions which they had previously captured from the Spaniard; petted them, lied to them -- officially proclaiming that our land and naval forces came to give them their freedom and displace the bad Spanish Government -- fooled them, used them until we needed them no longer; then derided the sucked orange and threw it away. We kept the positions which we had beguiled them of; by and by, we moved a force forward and overlapped patriot ground -- a clever thought, for we needed trouble, and this would produce it. A Filipino soldier, crossing the ground, where no one had a right to forbid him, was shot by our sentry. The badgered patriots resented this with arms, without waiting to know whether Aguinaldo, who was absent, would approve or not. Aguinaldo did not approve; but that availed nothing. What we wanted, in the interest of Progress and Civilization, was the Archipelago, unencumbered by patriots struggling for independence; and the War was what we needed. We clinched our opportunity. 

For Twain's views on Belgian imperialism in the Congo, visit Mark Twain and Imperialism, Mark Twain's Comments on Imperialism, King Leopold's Soliloquy, and To the Person Sitting in Darkness.

Part of That Magnificent African Cake: The Congo Free State exhibit