I love this country, but I acknowledge America has its flaws. One of America’s great flaws is its history of imperialism. Many prominent Americans objected to the U.S. imperialistic adventures. One of the greatest American critics of American imperialism was the writer Mark Twain.
Twain objected to America’s imperialistic ambitions after the Spanish American War because he felt that imperialism was antithetical to America’s highest values of freedom and equality. In the Spanish American War of 1898, the U.S. acquired colonies in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. Twain joined the Anti-Imperialist League along with other prominent Americans like Jane Addams, Charles Francis Adams Jr., Andrew Carnegie, Grover Cleveland, Henry James, John Dewey and Samuel Gompers. Twain wrote articles and made speeches denouncing American imperialism, especially the atrocities the American military committed in trying to clamp down a Philippines insurrection against colonization. Twain was so vociferous in denouncing American imperialism that Theodore Roosevelt refused to be on the same stage as Twain when both men were to receive honorary degrees at a university.
The Philippines came out of the Spanish American War fully expecting to become an independent nation. When it found itself an American colony instead, many Filipinos revolted. On February 4, 1899, fighting broke out between American forces and Filipino forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo who sought independence rather than a change in colonial rulers. The war between American and Filipino forces lasted three years and resulted in the death of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants. As many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease.
One of Mark Twain’s fiercest denunciations of American imperialism was his speech against the Moro Massacre. On March 7, 1906, US troops under the command of Major General Leonard Wood massacred as many as 600 Filipino Moros, many of them women and children. Here is a video with an excerpt of Mark Twain’s speech from historian Howard Zinn’s “The People Speak” series.