Samuel Clemens, or as he was better known, Mark Twain, had enjoyed the success and fame of his literary achievements. By the late 1800's, he had circled the globe giving speeches and readings from his books. By his own admission, visiting almost every continent on earth, and seeing first hand the effects of an increasingly belligerent foreign policy changed his mind on how the American government should treat its neighbor nations. Since he had the ability to speak his mind and be applauded for it , and the skill to illustrate absurdity while doing so, he spent the last years of his life speaking out against interventionism, or, as it was known back then 'imperialism'.
He arrived back in America after a 9 year abscence just as the Philippine-American war was cresting. The American government had commited itself to liberating the Philippine Islands from the Spanish, and had committed troops to the same. As Mark Twain stepped off the boat in 1900, the press was anxious to know his thoughts on the events of the day. He told the New York Herald:
"I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with the Rockies. Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? And I thought it would be a real good thing to do.
I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.
But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.
We have also pledged the power of this country to maintain and protect the abominable system established in the Philippines by the Friars.
It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."
He was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, when asked if he was an anti-imperialist:
"Well, I am. A year ago I wasn't. I thought it would be a great thing to give a whole lot of freedom to the Filipinos, but I guess now that it's better to let them give it to themselves. Besides, on looking over the treaty I see we've got to saddle the friars and their churches. I guess we don't want to."The Missourian who wrote Huckleberry Finn had seen up-close and personal what this particular export of American interventionism was doing to the world opinion of the United States. A year later, at a meeting of the Anti-Imperialist league of New York, Mr. Twain referred to the 'uncivilized' people of the world and what they thought of our 'freedoms' exported at the point of a gun. Mark Twain had figured out early on that war is a racket;
The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it -- they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More -- they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light.Mr. Twain cited a specific example where the slaughter of some missionaries had given the Kaiser an excuse to interfere in Chinese politics.
He lost a couple of missionaries in a riot in Shantung, and in his account he made an overcharge for them. China had to pay a hundred thousand dollars apiece for them, in money; twelve miles of territory, containing several millions of inhabitants and worth twenty million dollars; and to build a monument, and also a Christian church; whereas the people of China could have been depended upon to remember the missionaries without the help of these expensive memorials. This was all bad play. Bad, because it would not, and could not, and will not now or ever, deceive the Person Sitting in Darkness. He knows that it was an overcharge. He knows that a missionary is like any other man: he is worth merely what you can supply his place for, and no more. He is useful, but so is a doctor, so is a sheriff, so is an editor; but a just Emperor does not charge war-prices for such. A diligent, intelligent, but obscure missionary, and a diligent, intelligent country editor are worth much, and we know it; but they are not worth the earth.Over a century before Dr. Paul made his historic "Armed Chinese Troops in Texas " speech, Mark Twain put forth a similar scenario for his audience.:
Would Germany charge America two hundred thousand dollars for two missionaries, and shake the mailed fist in her face, and send warships, and send soldiers, and say: 'Seize twelve miles of territory, worth twenty millions of dollars, as additional pay for the missionaries; and make those peasants build a monument to the missionaries, and a costly Christian church to remember them by?' And later would Germany say to her soldiers: 'March through America and slay, giving no quarter; make the German face there, as has been our Hun-face here, a terror for a thousand years; march through the Great Republic and slay, slay, slay, carving a road for our offended religion through its heart and bowels?' Would Germany do like this to America, to England, to France, to Russia? Or only to China the helpless -- imitating the elephant's assault upon the field-mice? Had we better invest in this Civilization -- this Civilization which called Napoleon a buccaneer for carrying off Venice's bronze horses, but which steals our ancient astronomical instruments from our walls, and goes looting like common bandits -- that is, all the alien soldiers except America's; and (Americans again excepted) storms frightened villages and cables the result to glad journals at home every day: 'Chinese losses, 450 killed; ours, one officer and two men wounded. Shall proceed against neighboring village to-morrow, where a massacre is reported.' Can we afford Civilization?"As a parting shot towards America policy, Twain put forth words that sting almost as if they were written yesterday.:
The Person Sitting in Darkness is almost sure to say: "There is something curious about this -- curious and unaccountable. There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive's new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land."Mark Twain's anti-imperialist sentiments were suppressed a bit by the inheritors of his estate, who wanted the world to remember the clever, witty bard of the Mississippi in light of his less controversial works. Recent years and fresh scholarship have revealed more of the whole man though, including the introduction Mark Twain gave to a young Winston Churchill in 1900 when Churchill was to speak before a group of New York businessmen. No doubt Twain had been brought in to lionize the younger man, but Twain was old enough, rich enough and opinionated enough to take this opportunity to address what he saw as poor British foreign policy that was being emulated by the United States. He told the assembled crowd;
For years I have been a self-appointed missionary, and have wrought zealously for my cause--the joining together of America and the motherland in bonds of friendship, esteem and affection--an alliance of the heart which should permanently and beneficently influence the political relations of the two countries. Wherever I have stood before a gathering of Americans or Englishmen, in England, India, Australia or elsewhere, I have urged my mission, and warmed it up with compliments to both countries and pointed out how nearly alike the two peoples are in character and spirit. They ought to be united....
...yet I think England sinned in getting into a war in South Africa which she could have avoided without loss of credit or dignity--just as I think we have sinned in crowding ourselves into a war in the Philippines on the same terms.
Mr. Churchill will tell you about the war in South Africa, and he is competent--he fought and wrote through it himself. And he made a record there which would be a proud one for a man twice his age. By his father he is English, by his mother he is American--to my mind the blend which makes the perfect man. We are now on the friendliest terms with England. Mainly through my missionary efforts I suppose; and I am glad. We have always been kin: kin in blood, kin in religion, kin in representative government, kin in ideals, kin in just and lofty purposes; and now we are kin in sin, the harmony is complete, the blend is perfect, like Mr. Churchill himself, whom I now have the honor to present to you.And the rest, as they say, is history.