Anti-Imperialism - Mark twain and the imperial apologists




Not only was Mark Twain the author of some of the greatest works in American literature, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but he was also, less known, an acerbic critic of U.S. politics, challenging the idea that so-called captains of industry were creating a better society in the Gilded Age, and, more intensely, railing against American imperialism, the wars of 1898 in particular. In one of his more notable essays, "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," Twain both rages against the U.S. intervention in the Philippines and mocks apologists, such as the "person sitting in darkness," for supporting the actions of the "Blessings-of-Civilization Trust," the imperialists:

Having now laid all the historical facts before the Person Sitting in Darkness, we should bring him to again, and explain them to him. We should say to him: They look doubtful, but in reality they are not. There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us. We have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work … but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right.

— "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," North American Review, February 1901—

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