Mark Twain’s Denunciation of American Imperialism

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.

About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He did a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippine News Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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