Today in Philippine history, February 10, 1899, Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" was first published

Saturday September 10, 2016 ()

Rudyard Kipling
(Rudyard Kipling)

On February 10, 1899, the poem "The White Man's Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands" by Rudyard Kipling, was first published in the New York Sun, a McLure's Magazine. It was originally written for the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Britains' Queen Victoria's reign, but was exchanged for the poem "Recessional", also by Kipling. Later, Kipling rewrote the text of "The White Man's Burden" to address the American colonization of the Philippine Islands.

The White Man's Burden is a poetic celebration of imperialism, which Rudyard Kipling believed eventually would benefit the colonised peoples.

Today in Philippine history, February 10, 1899, Kipling

Three days earlier, on February 7, 1899, on the senate floor, Senator Benjamin Tillman had read aloud three stanzas of "The White Man's Burden" in argument against ratification of the Treaty of Paris, and that the U.S should renounce claim of authority over the Philippine Islands. To that effect, Senator Tillman asked:

Why are we bent on forcing upon them a civilization not suited to them, and which only means, in their view, degradation and a loss of self-respect, which is worse than the loss of life itself?

Four days later, on February 11, 1899, the U.S. Congress ratified the "Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain" (Treaty of Paris, 1898), which established American imperial jurisdiction upon the archipelago of the Philippine Islands.

The imperialist interpretation of "The White Man's Burden", proposes that the white man has a moral obligation to rule the non-white peoples of the Earth, whilst encouraging their economic, cultural, and social progress through colonialism, until they can independently manage their own affairs. As such, the term white man's burden is a racist perception of non-white people as inferior to white people, which derives from the European ascendancy of cultural imperialism, e.g. Westernising the colonial subjects.

The White Man's Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands

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 make 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 cloak 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!

Sources:

  1. The White Man's Burden, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org)
  2. Modern History Sourcebook: Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, 1899, Fordham University (http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/)

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Comments (Today in Philippine history, February 10, 1899, Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" was first published)