Monday, May 31, 2010

Today -100: May 31, 1910: Run, Taft, run

Misleading Headline of the Day -100: “Taft Enjoys Fast Run.” Turns out to be his train.

Roosevelt gave a speech (full text) in London today. Reactions to it will fill the paper for days, including praise, vitriolic criticism, and death threats.

He said that his recent travels in Africa included four British colonies (Uganda, Kenya, the Sudan, Egypt). “Your men in Africa are doing a great work for your Empire, and they are also doing a great work for civilization. ... the great fact in world history during the last century has been the spread of civilization over the world’s waste spaces.” He suggested that imperialist nations (or as he called them, “The civilized nations who are conquering for civilization savage lands”) should “work together in a spirit of hearty mutual good-will”, whether it be in Africa or, ahem, the Philippines.

He praised Britain for beginning to make the highlands of Kenya “a true white man’s country.”

However, Uganda, he said, “cannot be made a white man’s country, and the prime need is to administer the land in the interest of the native races, and to help forward their development.” By which he means turning them into Christians.

The Sudan, he said, shows the wisdom “of disregarding the well-meaning but unwise sentimentalists who object to the spread of civilization at the expense of savagery.” Under their own rule, the Sudanese had showed “much what independence and self-government would have been in a wolf pack.” Britain should stay in the Sudan even if it doesn’t pay, just like the US built the Panama Canal.

Then he turned to the controversial part of the speech, about Egypt. “In Egypt you are not only the guardians of your own interests; you are also the guardians of the interests of civilization; and the present condition of affairs in Egypt is a grave menace to both your Empire and the entire civilized world. You have given Egypt the best government it has had for at least two thousand years—probably a better government than it has ever had before”. But there have been errors, resulting from trying to do too much for the Egyptians, “but unfortunately it is necessary for all of us who have to do with uncivilized peoples, and especially with fanatical peoples, to remember that in such a situation as yours in Egypt weakness, timidity, and sentimentality may cause even more far-reaching harm than violence and injustice. Of all broken reeds, sentimentality is the most broken reed on which righteousness can lean.” For example, they make a mistake in “treating all religions with studied fairness and impartiality,” which led to the assassination of Boutros Pasha in February. “Now, either you have the right to be in Egypt or you have not; either it is or it is not your duty to establish and keep order. If you feel that you have not the right to be in Egypt, if you do not wish to establish and to keep order there, why, then, by all means get out of Egypt. If, as I hope, you feel that your duty to civilized mankind and your fealty to your own great traditions alike bid you to stay, then make the fact and the name agree and show that you are ready to meet in very deed the responsibility which is yours. It is the thing, not the form, which is vital; if the present forms of government in Egypt, established by you in the hope that they would help the Egyptians upward, merely serve to provoke and permit disorder, then it is for you to alter the forms... When a people treats assassination as the corner-stone of self-government, it forfeits all right to be treated as worthy of self-government. ... Some nation must govern Egypt. I hope and believe that you will decide that it is your duty to be that nation.”

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