White Man’s Burden

This paper was written while I was in 11th grade at Winchester Thurston School for American History with Dr. Michael Naragon.

Carlos Macasaet
April 24, 2000
The White Man’s Burden

Rudyard Kipling wrote The White Man’s Burden specifically to encourage America to follow an imperialist policy toward the Philippines.� It appeared in McClure’s Magazine in February of 1899.� At this time, the Philippine-American War had just begun and Spain had ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States.� There was much debate about what America should do with its newly acquired territories.� Some people wanted to break from the traditional forms of expansionism by converting the Philippines into a colony instead of a state.� The anti-imperialists believed that such imperialism was morally wrong and impractical.� When Kipling advocated imperialism in The White Man’s Burden, it inspired angry objections often in the form parodies.� Three such examples are The Brown Man’s Burden by Henry Labouch, The Poor Man’s Burden by Howard S. Taylor and The Black Man’s Burden by John White Chadwick.�

In The White Man’s Burden, Kipling asserts that it is the “white man’s” duty to sacrifice the best in society to the wilderness of the colonial territories for the sake of the “sullen peoples”.� He declared that it was necessary to civilize the brutes so as to “veil the threat of terror”.� He also said that the “white man” must “Fill full the mouth of Famine, And bid the sickness cease” thus showing the popular belief that the “savages” situation was worse off without the guidance of an imperial power.� He understood that those the white man sought to better would resent his actions but he said that to turn to freedom, as an alternative would simply serve to conceal fatigue.�

Kipling also referred to those he sought to better, as “Half devil and half child”. This is reflective of the social hierarchy, which came about as a result of the shift in patterns of immigration in the United States.� In this hierarchy, Anglo-Saxons were at the top followed by Europeans.� Africans and Filipinos were towards the bottom.�

In The Brown Man’s Burden, Labouch contends that Kipling and those who supported his ideas only sought to gain profit by colonizing.� He saw the brown man’s loss as the white man’s gain.� He mocks the imperialists’ air of superiority towards less developed countries as well as their use of violent force as a solution for everything.� He also ridicules the imperialists for hiding their intentions under the guise of liberating the brown man while they are in reality, enslaving him.� He showed that the American’s believed that only they were fit for freedom.� In The Poor Man’s Burden, Taylor shows that imperialism was a tool for the upper class to gain profit while ignoring the needs of the poor at home.� He expresses his belief that the poor are exploited to further the gains of the imperialists while they in turn receive nothing.� In The Black Man’s Burden, Chadwick accuses the American imperialists of thinking first of the concerns of the native peoples of distant territories while ignoring the more pressing concerns of the African Americans at home.� He says that they owe it to the African Americans for what they put them through.

Leave a Reply