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The White Man's Burden

Go here for more about  William Jennings Bryan.

Go here for more about
 William Jennings Bryan's The White Man's Burden speech.

It follows an excerpt of the transcript of Bryan's address to the American Society, also called The White Man's Burden Speech, delivered at London, England - July 4, 1906.


William Jennings Bryan - Speech Our English friends, under whose flag we meet tonight, recalling

that this is the anniversary of our nation's birth, would doubtless pardon us if our rejoicing contained something of self-congratulation, for it is at such times as this that we are wont to review those national achievements which have given to the United States its prominence among the nations.

But I hope I shall not be thought lacking in patriotic spirit if, instead of drawing a picture of the past, bright with heroic deeds and unparalleled in progress, I summon you rather to a serious consideration of the responsibility resting upon those nations which aspire to premiership.

This line of thought is suggested by a sense of propriety as well as by recent experiences. By a sense of propriety because such a subject will interest the Briton as well as the American, and by recent experiences because they have impressed me not less with our national duty than with the superiority of Western over Eastern civilization.

Asking your attention to such a theme, it is not unfitting to adopt a phrase coined by a poet to whom America as well as England can lay some claim, and take for my text The White Man's Burden.

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.

Thus sings Kipling, and, with the exception of the third line of the meaning of which I am not quite sure, the stanza embodies the thought which is uppermost in my mind tonight.

No one can travel among the dark-skinned races of the Orient without feeling that the white man occupies an especially favored position among the children of men, and the recognition of this fact is accompanied by the conviction that there is a
duty inseparably connected with the advantages enjoyed.

There is a white man's burden, a burden which the white man should not shirk even if he could, a burden which he could not shirk even if he would. That no one "liveth unto himself or dieth unto himself" has a national as well as an individual application. Our destinies are so interwoven that each exerts an influence directly or indirectly upon all others.

Among the blessings which the Christian nations are at this time able, and in duty bound, to carry to the rest of the world, I may mention five: education, knowledge of the science of government, arbitration as a substitute for war, appreciation of the dignity of labor, and a high conception of life.

In India, in the Philippines, in Egypt, and even in Turkey, statistics show a gradual extension of education, and I trust I will be pardoned if I say that neither the armies nor the navies, nor yet the commerce of our nations, have given us so just a claim to the gratitude of the people of Asia as have our schoolteachers, sent, many of them, by private rather than by public funds.

The Christian nations must lead the movement for the promotion of peace not only because they are enlisted under the banner of the Prince of Peace, but also because they have attained such a degree of intelligence that they can no longer
take pride in a purely physical victory.

Our country has reason to congratulate itself upon the success of President Roosevelt in hastening peace between Russia and Japan. Through him our nation won a moral victory more glorious than a victory in war. King Edward has also shown himself a promoter of arbitration, and a large number of members of Parliament are enlisted in the same work. It means much that the two great English speaking nations are thus arrayed on the side of peace.

Society has passed through a period of aggrandizement, the nations taking what they had the strength to take and holding what they had the power to hold. But we are already entering a second era, an era in which the nations discuss not merely what they can do, but what they should do, considering justice to be more important than physical prowess. In tribunals like that of The Hague the chosen representatives of the nations weigh questions of right and wrong, and give a small nation an equal hearing with great and a decree according to conscience. This marks an immeasurable advance.

But is another step yet to be taken? Justice after all is cold and pulseless, a negative virtue. The world needs something warmer, more generous. Harmlessness is better than harmfulness, but positive helpfulness is vastly superior to harmlessness, and we still have before us a larger, higher destiny of service.

Even now there are signs of the approach of this third era, not so much in the actions of governments as in the growing tendency of men and women in many lands to contribute their means, in some cases their lives, to the intellectual, moral awakening of those who sit in darkness. Nowhere are these signs more abundant than in our own beloved land. Before the sun sets on one of these new centers of civilization it arises upon another.

While in America and in Europe there is much to be corrected and abundant room for improvement, there has never been so much altruism in the world as there is today, never so many who acknowledge the indissoluble tie that binds each
to every other member of the race. I have felt more pride in my own countrymen than ever before as I have visited the circuit of schools, hospitals, and churches which American money has built around the world. The example of the Christian
nations, though but feebly reflecting the light of the Master, is gradually reforming society.

On the walls of the temple at Karnak an ancient artist carved a picture of an Egyptian king. He is represented as holding a group of captives by the hair, one hand raising a club as if to strike them. No king would be willing to confess himself
so cruel today. In some of the capitals of Europe there are monuments built from, or ornamented with, cannon taken in war. That form of boasting is still tolerated, but let us hope that it will in time give way to some emblem of victory which will imply helpfulness rather than slaughter.



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