Sunday, February 16, 2014

The White Man’s Burden

Of course, this refers to Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem.

Did you know the complete title is "The White Man's Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands"?  I didn’t.

It was originally published in the popular magazine McClure's in 1899, with the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands.  The poem was originally written for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, but exchanged for "Recessional"; Kipling changed the text of "Burden" to reflect the subject of American colonization of the Philippines, recently won from Spain in the Spanish-American War.

There are different interpretations of the poem, ranging from a racist call for the white man to rule the dark skinned all the way to satire – an interpretation I would greatly prefer; unfortunately Kipling’s actions surrounding the poem, his interactions with Teddy Roosevelt, and the events in the Philippines kind of get in the way:

In September 1898 Kipling wrote to Roosevelt, stating 'Now go in and put all the weight of your influence into hanging on permanently to the whole Philippines. America has gone and stuck a pickaxe into the foundations of a rotten house and she is morally bound to build the house over again from the foundations or have it fall about her ears'.  He forwarded the poem to Roosevelt in November of the same year, just after Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York.

Teddy Roosevelt?  Why would he write to Roosevelt in September 1898?  Why send the poem on this subject to him in November of the same year?  During this time, Roosevelt had no office that would make such a communication relevant:

·        He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy from April 19, 1897 – May 10, 1898
·        He was Governor of New York from January 1, 1899 – December 31, 1900
·        He was Vice-President of the United States from March 4, 1901 – September 14, 1901
·        He was President of the United States from September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909 – succeeding William McKinley, who left office due to a combination of an inconvenient bullet and perhaps a less-than-capable physician.

In the fall of 1898, Roosevelt had no official office – yet Kipling sent the poem to him.  Not to McKinley, who was President at the time; not to John D. Long, who was Secretary of the Navy.

No, he sent it to Roosevelt.

I have written before about the assassination of McKinley – the assassination that began the century of war.  Citing Schultze-Rhonhof:

Until McKinley’s presidency, the relations of the USA with the German Reich were always friendly and balanced.  The English-American relationship, on the other hand, up to then is still burdened by the former British Colonial rule and England’s colonial wars in America.

With the assassination of McKinley in 1901 and the change to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt a new kind of thinking arises in the USA.  (Page 32)

What difference was there between McKinley and Roosevelt, I wondered – both progressive, both taking steps toward empire?  I searched for clues.

Murray Rothbard solved this puzzle for me, as he has solved many other puzzles.  McKinley was a Rockefeller man, favorable toward Germany.  Roosevelt was a Morgan man, favorable toward England.  There was the difference.

This was during the critical time of the Great Rapprochement:

The Great Rapprochement, according to historians including Bradford Perkins, describes the convergence of diplomatic, political, military and economic objectives between the United States and Great Britain in 1895-1915, the two decades up to and including the beginning of World War I.

Before this time, the two countries were not always on such friendly terms – what with a revolutionary war, another war in the year 1812, and Britain’s dubious dealings during Lincoln’s uncivil war.

I have written before about this coming together of the English-speaking Anglos – W.T. Stead offered a good amount of the backstory.

The elite wanted to expand empire, and believed this could be better achieved through the rising and unlimited Americans as opposed to the declining and limited Brits.  Teddy Roosevelt, representing interests friendly to Britain, was the perfect candidate to continue expansion of the empire. 

After all, Teddy found it just that the continent was swept clean of the American Indian in favor of the white race:

In 1886 Roosevelt criticized Native Americans, stating: "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.”

So much for background. 

This book tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s secret dealings with Japan – secret from Congress, secret from the American people, secret from even the Constitution (yes, I was also shocked).  He cut a deal with Japan to be “Honorary Aryans” (don’t laugh, they can make up any theory when it suits their purpose), and thus continue the westward expansion of the great white race from the Caucasus through central Europe, then on to Britain, the New World, and the Pacific unto the Philippines. (Yes, we are all Georgians, apparently.)

Entire theories were developed in support of this great white expansion; scientists, authors, philosophers, professors, scholars, and religious leaders could all be found extolling the righteousness of the cause.  Further theories were developed to transfer this goodness to the Japanese.

Even Teddy Roosevelt, the fake outdoorsman and prolific author, wrote often of this supremacy of the white race – displaying a character that would prove useful to those who would select a conveniently-placed vice-president.

In 1905, Roosevelt intended to give Japan the green light toward Korea, Manchuria, and other parts of eastern Asia.  He sent William Howard Taft on a cruise to the Far East with only verbal instructions to this end – hence the “Imperial Cruise.”  Of course, Teddy’s distant cousin later took advantage of Japan’s aggression in order to make war on Japan and Germany.  What a set-up.

I will cover the story of the cruise in more detail in a subsequent post.  In the book, Bradley also offers a history of US colonialism in the Pacific prior to this – one key being the Philippines. Once the Americans threw out the Spanish, things only got worse for the natives.  Let’s just say, just as with the American Indians and with the Mexicans who fell victim to James Polk’s deception and General Zachary Taylor’s un-neighborliness, the white man showed no benevolence toward their Filipino charges, or to use Kipling’s phrase, the Americans did not “serve your captives' need.”  From Bradley:

In 1898, Filipino freedom fighters had expected that America would aid them in their patriotic revolution against their Spanish colonial masters.  Instead, the Americans short-circuited the revolution and took the country for themselves.  Related American military actions left more than two hundred fifty thousand Filipinos dead.  Over the next seven years, many Filipinos came to associate the Americans with torture, concentration camps, rape and murder of civilians, and destruction of their villages. (P. 22)

To the Americans, the problem was the Filipinos themselves – unfit to govern and all that.

Bradley expands on these American crimes throughout the first sections of the book; but first, he offers the set-up:

[Admiral George] Dewey solicited Aguinaldo’s [Filipino revolutionary leader] assistance several times.  Within a month of the Maine explosion, he dispatched Commander Edward Wood to negotiate with the Filipino leader.  When he met with Wood, Aguinaldo naturally assumed that since he was dealing with an emissary of the top U.S. official in Asia, he was hearing the official American position on his revolution.  Wood told him the United States would support Filipino independence if the Filipino army teamed with the U.S. Navy against Spain. (P. 85)

Aguinaldo would regularly and naively ask for a signed agreement (it didn’t do the American Indian tribes much good, after all).  Wood replied that his word was good as gold (plus the administration likely couldn’t get a treaty through Congress anyway).

Now that the fish was hooked, the real crimes could begin – well, first the Spanish had to be booted out.  Dewey, with significant help from the natives, did this efficiently.  The American public responded with Dewey days, Dewey songs, Dewey fireworks, Dewey mugs, and baby boys named George. (P. 88)

The Filipinos eagerly awaited their prize, and celebrated Independence Day on June 12, 1898.  They would not celebrate another for sixty-four years (although, even then, “independence” would be a relative term).

McKinley had God on his side.  How could anyone compete with God?  McKinley confessed to a visiting delegation of Methodist ministers…

…that he fell to his knees and prayed for enlightenment and that God told him it was his duty to uplift, civilize, and Christianize the Filipinos. (P. 99)

Wait a minute, weren’t the Spanish Chris-….  Oh, never mind.

On June 30, 1898, now-President Aguinaldo made a fatal error – allowing 2,500 armed American soldiers to come ashore.  “I have studied attentively the Constitution of the United States, and I find in it no authority for colonies, and I have no fear.”  Whoops.  I think Aguinaldo hadn’t heard of the Supreme Court. Or the US military.

Admiral Dewey sent two American Navy men on a fact-finding mission to the Philippine Island of Luzon, from October 8 to November 20, 1898:

Wilcox and Sargent documented a fully functioning Filipino government that was efficiently administering justice through its courts, keeping the peace, providing police protection, holding elections, and carrying out the consent of the governed. (P. 101)

I guess God didn’t get the memo before He talked to McKinley.  But then God likely didn’t know about the report as it was immediately buried by the benevolent, burden-bearing white men.  I guess they didn’t want to burden Him.

February 4, 1899 seems to be when the tension erupted into shooting.  American sentries were ordered to fire on Filipino “intruders,” intruders to the ever-expanding US zone.  The sentries obligingly followed orders.  As more Filipinos arrived on the scene, Private Grayson said “Line up fellows…the n*gg*rs are in here all through these yards.”  (P. 101)

Instantly and miraculously, the Americans were able to fight along a ten-mile front:

An Englishman who observed the coordinated American attack noted skeptically, “If the Filipinos were aggressors, it is very remarkable that the American troops should have been so well prepared for an unseen event as to be able to immediately and simultaneously attack, in full force, all the native outposts for miles around the capital.” (P. 102)

The Americans were quite efficient for being caught off-guard.  Within 24 hours they killed 3,000 Filipino freedom fighters.  More Filipinos died that day than did Americans on D-day. (P. 102) I guess they could be considered the Greatest Generation of the Philippines.

Now the atrocities.  Numerous atrocities. 

A soldier wrote home:

“Brutality began right off.  At Malabon three women were raped by the soldiers…Morals became awfully bad.  Vino drinking and whiskey guzzling go the upper hand of benevolent assimilation.” (P. 104)

The few, the proud…

F.A. Blake of the American Red Cross visited the Philippines and reported, “American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight.”  And there was “fun” to be had with the women: Captain Fred McDonald ordered every native killed in the hamlet of La Nog, save a beautiful mestizo mother, whom the officers repeatedly raped, before turning her over to enlisted men. (P. 106)

This was reported in Washington as the good Captain taking care of his troops, perhaps?

Water boarding was an oft-practiced art:

“Water detail!” an officer would bark, and up came the torturers with their black tools.  In the Philippines conflict, waterboarding was known as the “water cure.” (P. 106)

A First Lieutenant later offers testimony of the process to a Senate panel.  It is not a pleasant read.  (P. 106) One soldier wrote that he had personally water boarded 160 Filipinos, of which 134 died (or “cured,” it seems). (P. 125)

The US Army penned a marching song, an ode to the “treatment”:

Get the good old syringe boys and fill it to the brim.
We’ve caught another n*gg*r and we’ll operate on him.
Let someone take the handle who can work it with a vim.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom. (P.108)

Doesn’t that sound like something fun to sing about?  There are many more verses.

That wasn’t all: flogging, scorching over open fires, hanging trussed prisoners from the ceiling.  A private from Utah writes home to the folks:

“No cruelty is too severe for these brainless monkeys, who can appreciate no sense of honor, kindness, or justice.” (P. 109)

Probably provided for a benevolent thanks to God by the fireplace.

It wasn’t enough to kill them with kindness – they had to be tortured, raped, and otherwise humiliated first, it seems.

Concentration camps were established.  Those who did not report within hours of being notified were then shot on sight.  Those that did report would likely die from the conditions in the camps.  General Frederick Funston bragged to reporters about personal stringing up thirty-five civilians.  Major Edwin Glenn chimed in that he had forty-seven prisoners kneel before him and repent their sins before having them bayonetted to death. (P 112)

By now, Roosevelt was president.  He was immediately faced with a crisis; it seems some Filipinos on the island of Samar did not appreciate the way they were being benevolently assimilated.  On September 28, 1901, they revolted, killing fifty-one Americans. (P. 122)

General Jacob “Hell Roaring Jake” Smith was put in charge of bringing the sheep back into the fold.  He sent Major Littleton Waller to act as the kindly shepherd, caring for the flock:

Smith ordered Waller, “I want no prisoners.  I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn the better you will please me.  I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.” (P. 123)

Smith set the age limit at ten as “capable.”  Not one American was killed in this island-clearing operation.

Slowly, the truth of the atrocities was coming to light.  It made little difference.  Roosevelt put to trial forty-four officers and soldiers for cruelty; thirty-nine of these were convicted.  They were…wait a minute…reprimanded. (P. 126) 

The Washington Post reported about…

…how the U.S. Army had systematically executed thirteen hundred Filipino prisoners of war in just one camp.  The Americans brought in a native priest to hear the condemned prisoners’ last confessions.  U.S. soldiers marched the Filipino prisoners to the killing ground and, after making them dig their own graves, shot them in the head.  The body of the priest swung from a noose overhead. (P. 128)

American soldiers committing atrocities?  The American people would have none of it:

Americans so embraced the benevolent intentions myth that they ultimately could not accept the idea that their humanitarian military was capable of atrocities. (P. 126)

On the history of US Indian policy and the debate over Philippine annexation, Walter Williams wrote:

White Americans generally did not believe that their past was criminal, they accepted the rightness of their actions in the Philippines.  To admit doubt would have undercut the whole history of the nation. (P. 98)

Yes, the myths might get their feelings hurt.

Of course, a Senate investigation buried the “slander” contradicting the benevolence. (P. 127)  Never fear, little myths.

Roosevelt used the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to tell his side of the story.  More than eighteen million people saw the depictions of American benevolence in the Philippines…well, not exactly in the Philippines, but it sure looked real to the visitors. (P. 129)

Most American history books place the number of Filipino civilians killed by Americans at between 200,000 and 300,000.  Other sources report one- to three-million.  Even with the figure of 300,000, the rate per month of civilian deaths exceeds the rate per month of all of the US military deaths at the hands of Hitler and Tojo in World War II. (P. 127)

The white man’s burden?  I suspect most brown skin members of the human race would gladly offer to lighten the load and not have the white man feel so burdened; instead, perhaps just follow the silver rule.


  1. I wonder if Roosevelt was peripherally involved with Milner's people? The Kipling poem and it's timing is peculiar indeed.

  2. Excellent research in all your articles, and well presented. Keep up the good work...and publish!

  3. I got the impression the Kipling was very much the Jingo which fit the times very well but after the war and the death of his son who he had helped get into into the Army after being disqualified because of poor eyesight, not quite so much.
    the march into the Phillipines was the result of what one copperhead poet in 1960 on the anniversary of the War between the States, wrote about the US government taking possession of 'an inexhaustible treasury of virtue' which allows the feds to this day paint anything they do, no matter how vile and pernicious as something Jesus would do. I heard a discusion between Toms Woods and Paul Gottfried on Toms podcast and Paul said the Germans should really get over the war guilt at first i thought that sound reasonable then it struck me that the German government between 1945 to about the time of Bosnian war in the 90s was shut out of the corridors of power while Germans worked hard and sold stuff that people wanted becaming quite well off.. What if all governments had to slink around rending their garments to atone for their "war guilt' instead of jockeying for influence .

  4. Taking the Philippines shows the shallowness of the American Imperialists thinking

    A big reason they wanted the Philippines was to build a major naval base there to secure their position in Asia. They started building fortifications at the mouth of the Manila and Subic Bays to prevent someone else following Dewey’s example and sailing in.

    But the Russo Japanese War soon showed the danger of building naval bases far from home without adequate land fortifications to prevent someone landing and marching across to take the base from behind. The land side of Manila Bay was far too large to defend while even Subic Bay would require at least 100,000 troops and land fortifications to hope to be secure.

    The defense of the Philippines soon became a major headache for the US military and drove US military policy for decades. In fact they never did come up with a plan to defend the Philippines and settled for a very expensive and long drawn out war to retake the Philippines if necessary.

    So instead of securing a place in Asia the imperialists managed to create a huge military liability which would require a major war to hope to regain once lost.

    And as an economic prize the Philippines was just as bad, a few people got rich off of it, some more made a living but to the US taxpayer it was just a burden, all the taxes and tariffs paid by the Philippines went to the Philippines while the US taxpayers had to pay for the military and any administration needs that Philippine taxes did not cover.

    Past US imperialism and present US globalism is driven more by ego and unrealistic ideas then by reality. But since in both cases the people who push these things don’t bare the cost they keep on pushing them. A hundred years ago they push the idea of US military base in the Philippines to secure their interests, today they push the idea of US military bases in half the countries of the world for the same reason. Whether they are practicable or supportable is not considered, the big egos and big ideas come first.

    1. “Taking the Philippines shows the shallowness of the American Imperialists thinking”

      I agree with much of your post – as always, very thoughtful. However, “shallowness” is not the term I would apply, nor “American” to the imperialists.

      I have written much about this, so no need to go into great detail; in summary:

      As to “shallowness”: it seems to me there is a long term plan to bring all regions in the world under the thumb of regulatory democracy – the best tool invented for control. This is not shallow thinking; the success cannot be denied.

      As to “American”: the elite are above this. They work through governments; it seems pretty easy to follow the string from Great Britain to the US. I suspect there might be some strings that precede Britain; it is difficult to see what tool the elite will use once the US state has been milked dry – I don’t think China will play along.

      This is why I think they will do anything to save regulatory democracy in the west – even take a step back, if necessary. Certainly, default on debt – real, no-kidding defaults.

  5. This is off-topic from the focus of your article but can you tell me why you call TR a "fake outdoorsman"?

    I've seen references to TR in several places being a fake outdoorsman. I have never done much reading about him, but since first seeing that claim I've been searching for more details. The only thing I've found so far that was clearly made up is the picture of him riding the swimming moose.

    I'm not defending him, I'd be the last person on earth to do that, but I really am curious to know what's behind the "fake outdoorsman" claim.

    1. The story is told in this book, for example beginning P. 50 – when Teddy first appeared on the political scene in New York: “To New York’s political press and players, Teddy was a shrimp-size dandy, dressed in tight-fitting, tailor-made suits, a rich daddy’s boy who read books and collected butterflies.”

      Teddy decided a makeover was needed, to “reform his effeminate image.” He wrote: “For a number of years I spent most of my time on the frontier, and lived and worked like any frontiersman….” He goes on to describe all the rough-and-tumble frontier things he did…“exactly as did the pioneers.”

      According to the author, Bradley: “In fact, Roosevelt had commuted west aboard deluxe Pullman cars, staying for short periods of time to check on his investments and gather material for his books…. Until his death, Teddy would repeat these mythical accounts of his Western adventures, passing them along as fact. But despite his claims to the contrary, Roosevelt spent the majority of his “Western years” in Manhattan.”

      Apparently, the west where Teddy spent even this little bit of time was not so wild, and he didn’t lack for company: “As Aspen is to a rich college graduate today, so the Dakota Territory was to young nineteenth-century mansion dwellers.”

      “Teddy’s ranches went bust within two years….”

    2. Your spot on mosquito!!! I am a Cowboy here in Owyhee County ,Idaho. Anyone that has lived and worked around the inherent dangerous that are faced everyday with cattle and horses can tale he is (all hat and no cattle) a candy ass!!!!!

    3. Teddy riding a swimming moose? I recently saw a picture of Putin riding a bear. What next, Harper riding a beaver? And what would Obama ride?

    4. P.S You may want to consider "Honor in the dust" By Gregg
      Jones, Too

  6. U.S. imperial apologists point to the Pearl Harbor antecedent when I call the atomic bombings acts of terrorism. So then I tell them FDR provoked Pearl Harbor with his oil embargo--an act of war--and numerous acts of saber-rattling. These all preceded Pearl Harbor.

    They parry by citing the Japanese Rape of Nanking. Japan's atrocities could not go unpunished! Only a humanitarian bombing campaign by the U.S. could set the Japanese straight!

    "How does that follow?" I ask them. "Japan commits crimes against China and Korea, so that justifies U.S. intervention in Japan? Talk about a *non sequitur*."

    I lose them with the Latin. So now I just tell them if Pearl Harbor was retaliation for the Rape of Nanking, the Rape of Nanking was retaliation for U.S. pacification of the Philippines. In that case, the jingoists grasp the concept of disconnect.

    1. This is the important part of this book, "The Imperial Cruise," which I will soon write about in detail. Teddy Roosevelt gave the green-light to Japan to colonize these various parts of the Far East. After that, just as the US soldiers demonstrated in the Philippines (and Teddy was aware), boys will be boys...what did he expect that agents of a colonial power would do when the subjects have been totally demonized?

  7. [quote]"an understanding was reached that in case of a war begun by Germany or Austria for the purpose of executing Pan-Germanism, the United States would promptly declare in favor of England and France and do her utmost to assist them. The fact that no open acknowledgement of this agreement was then made need not lessen its importance and significance"[/quote]

    Bear in mind that the above was written in 1913.