The Burden of Empire

Rudyard Kipling: The White Man’s Burden

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…

In February 1899, British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling writes “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.”

In the poem, Kipling urges the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations.

The poem is published on the same day as the US Navy lands in the Philippines, in February of 1899. It is written in open encouragement of colonization, the object of the Spanish-American War launched by President McKinley.

The War is America’s debut into ‘empire building. In it, we captured Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are captured. Puerto Rico remains an American colony to this day.

Historians estimate over 600,000 Filipinos are killed in the war of American imperial expansion.

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