The Philippine Mess


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The Philippine Mess: Letter to Joseph H. Twichell
by Mark Twain
HistoryWiz Primary Source
Dear Joe,

. . . I'm not expecting anything but kicks for scoffing, and am expecting a diminution of my bread and butter by it, but if Livy will let me I will have my say. This nation is like all the others that have been spewed upon the earth -- ready to shout for any cause that will tickle its vanity or fill its pocket. What a hell of a heaven it will be, when they get all these hypocrites assembled there!

I can't understand it! You are a public guide and teacher, Joe, and are under a heavy responsibility to men, young and old; if you teach your people -- as you teach me -- to hide their opinions when they believe the flag is being abused and dishonored, lest the utterance do them and a publisher a damage, how do you answer for it to your conscience? You are sorry for me; in the fair way of give and take, I am willing to be a little sorry for you.

However, I seem to be going counter to my own Private Philosophy -- which Livy won't allow me to publish -- because it would destroy me. But I hope to see it in print before I die. I planned it 15 years ago, and wrote it in '98. I've often tried to read it to Livy, but she won't have it; it makes her melancholy. The truth always has that effect on people. Would have, anyway, if they ever got hold of a rag of it -- Which they don't.

You are supposing that I am supposing that I am moved by a Large Patriotism, and that I am distressed because our President has blundered up to his neck in the Philippine mess; and that I am grieved because this great big ignorant nation, which doesn't know even the A B C facts of the Philippine episode, is in disgrace before the sarcastic world -- drop that idea! I care nothing for the rest -- I am only distressed and troubled because I am befouled by these things. That is all. When I search myself away down deep, I find this out. Whatever a man feels or thinks or does, there is never any but one reason for it -- and that is a selfish one.

 
 
 

At great inconvenience, and expense of precious time I went to the chief synagogue the other night and talked in the interest of a charity school of poor Jew girls. I know -- to the finest shades -- the selfish ends that moved me; but no one else suspects. I could give you the details if I had time. You would perceive how true they are.

I've written another article; you better hurry down and help Livy squelch it.

She's out pottering around somewhere, poor house-keeping slave; and Clara is in the hands of the osteopath, getting the bronchitis pulled and hauled out of her. It was a bad attack, and a little disquieting. It came day before yesterday, and she hasn't sat up till this afternoon. She is getting along satisfactorily, now.

Lots of love to you all.
Mark.

Source: Mark Twain's Letters (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1917)


Mark Twain and Imperialism

Part of Uncle Sam Plants the Flag: Imperialism in Latin America a HistoryWiz exhibit

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