The March of the Flag

The March of the Flag is a speech delivered by a one-time senator of Indiana and a rather passionate American imperialist, Albert Beveridge. On the 16th of September 1898, Beveridge gave The March of the Flag as a campaign speech to an audience in Tomlinson’s Hall after an armistice was signed a month prior to ending the war with Spain.

Beveridge particularly delivered the speech to preach the general acceptance of United States imperialism. Invoking God several times in his speech, Beveridge encouraged his audience to accept imperialism as a supernatural and national duty to take to make the country better. At that time, this kind of invocation was usually seen by the people as a confirmation that a particular politician was a divine selection. So, politicians were usually expected to be grounded in the Holy Bible.

The speech was not only a call to imperialism but was also used to celebrate the United States’ victory. It marks the celebration of Spain ceding the Philippines in the Paris Treaty, an event that led to the end of the US war with Spain.

The March of the Flag, was, as well, from paragraphs 1-3, a countercriticism of the critics of the imperialist movement who were most of the electorate and were unwaveringly opposed to the acceptance of the imperial movement in America. In paragraphs 4 to 7, Beveridge goes ahead to express the key issue behind his campaign which was the widespread objection against people embracing the imperialist policy. He also directly provided answers to the objections of anti-imperialists, explicitly stating that antagonism against imperialism defies the notion of nationalism as well as the foresight of America’s socio-economic power.

Although he acknowledges that, in the world, America was the most powerful state with both economic, political and geographical dominance in the global community, Beveridge continued to preach that, without true imperialist policies in place to set the structure of America in order, it would be completely impossible for the country to continuously retain its worldwide superiority.

In his delivery, Beveridge proposes a mythical observation of the western world and the role of the European superpowers in it.

Beveridge goes on, in addition to the social, political and global superiority America had at the time, to talk about racial superiority as well, referring to the high increase in the population of America as a strong indication of the virility of the race.

Beveridge adopts religious ideas to advance his arguments on the general acceptance of imperialism. To do this, he also makes use of pseudo-scientific language to deliberately explain the divine approval of imperialism. He gave the allusion to gospel stewardship in his delivery to inform his audiences of their obligation to accept the imperialist policy as it was God-approved. In addition to his appeal for stewardship came the necessity to extend democracy to the categories of people referred to as the “oppressed”.

Beveridge expresses his stand on the similarity between the values of the American Revolution and the policies of imperialism. In chapter 10, Beveridge clearly showcases his racist mindset by describing foreigners in America as inferior. He describes the people of foreign countries as “savage and an alien population”. Apparently, this mentality draws a parallel with that of southerners of the time who were strongly opposed to the blacks before the start of the Civil War.

He encourages the government of the United States to, like many other superpowers all over the world, continues to always take possession of lands and territories to expand America’s global dominance. He likened this act to the march of the flag, by acknowledging Jefferson’s (who he described as the first American imperialist) constant impulse to add new empires to the Republic; “and the march of the flag began”.

“The infidels to the gospel of liberty raved, but the flag swept on!” The one-sided undertone in his speech surfaced when he describes the opposers of the imperialist policy as “infidels”, saying, whether they like it or not, imperialism and territorial expansion of the US will continue;

“And, now, obeying the same voice that Jefferson heard and obeyed, that Jackson heard and obeyed, that Monroe heard and obeyed, that Seward heard and obeyed, that Grant heard and obeyed, that Harrison heard and obeyed, our President today plants the flag over the islands of the seas, outposts of commerce, citadels of national security, and the march of the flag goes on.” (Beveridge, 1898).

The high points of Beveridge’s speech were used to establish America’s global dominance and also preach the imperialist policy to his audience, and most probably to the American community at large. However, he ends on a rather light note by saying that “the American people cannot use a dishonest medium of exchange” to get things done. He believed that one of America’s responsibilities to the world was to constantly set an “example of right and honour” for the world.

He ends by pronouncing imperialism as a God-given obligation that must be obeyed no matter the hindrances;

We cannot fly from our world duties; it is ours to execute the purpose of a fate that has driven us to be greater than our small intentions. We cannot retreat from any soil where Providence has unfurled our banner; it is ours to save that soil for liberty and civilization.

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