In some of these posts I am going to comment on the concept of Empire. It has been with us since the 1840s with Manifest Destiny when we expanded into much of Mexico. While this was the result of a mistake on the part of Major General Zachary Taylor when he crossed the Rio Grand and Polk decided to go to war without a declaration. However, in 1898, at the urging of publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Congress declared war on Spain. The pretext was the explosion (probably from the boiler) of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. The result of the war was the acquisition of Spain’s overseas empire—most notably the Philippines.

President McKinley opposed the war and was not thrilled with the new territories with the expenses involved in their maintenance. When Roosevelt became governor of New York, McKinley breathed relief that he would no longer have to deal with Teddy. Rudyard Kipling dusted off a poem he had written, and then rejected, for Queen Victoria’s jubilee. In a magnificent dose of irony Kipling ridiculed Roosevelt’s thirst for empire. A note here is that Kipling was born and grew up in Colonial India and he was also raised to third degree in a predominantly Hindu lodge.


Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To choke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Have done with childish days–
The lightly proferred laurel
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Our old friend Anonymous added fuel to the fire in the New York World on July 15, 1899.

 Weve taken up the white man’s burden:

Of ebony and brown;;

Now will you kindly tell us, Rudyard,

How we may put it down? 

 Americans were not entirely excited about this Empire. And they were of the opinion that we should not be involved. The chorus to a popular broadside and vaudeville song went.

“Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos!
Cut throat khaki ladrones!
Underneath the starry flag,
Civilize them with a Krag,
And return us to our beloved home.”

Kipling is thought to be the poet of Empire he was not really happy with the idea of jingoistic boasts and belief in military force, as reflected in the poem he substituted. It was a hymn I learned in my youth that we sang to the tune of Faith of Our Fathers. When the Episcopal Hymnal was revised in 1982, it disappeared but I think it appropriate. It was called Recessional.

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Further, those who wish to see what Kipling would have to say about our adventure in Afghanistan should read Kim. This describes the situation in that part of the world as the nineteenth century was closing. And there is little difference today. Afghanistan is still a loose collection of tribal regions living in the eighth century, but now they have 20th century weapons.


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