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Expansion Fragments

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Robert Green Ingersoll


A NATION rises from infancy to manhood and sinks from dotage to death. I think that the great Republic is in the morning of her life — the sun just above the horizon — the grass still wet with dew.

Our country has the courage and enthusiasm of youth — her blood flows full — her heart beats strong and her brow is fair. We stand on the threshold of a great, a sublime career. All the conditions are favorable — the environment kind. The best part of this hemisphere is ours. We have a thousand million acres of fertile land, vast forests, whole States underlaid with coal; ranges of mountains filled with iron, silver and gold, and we have seventy-five millions of the most energetic, active, inventive, progressive and practical people in the world. The great Republic is a happy combination of mind and muscle, of head and heart, of courage and good nature. We are growing. We have the instinct. of expansion. We are full of life and health. We are about to take our rightful place at the head of the nations. The great powers have been struggling to obtain markets. They are fighting for the trade of the East. They are contending for China. We watched, but we did not act. They paid no attention to us or we to them. Conditions have changed. We own the Hawaiian Islands. We will own the Philippines.

Japan and China will be our neighbors — our customers. Our interests must be protected. In China we want the “open door,” and we will see to it that the door is kept open. The nation that tries to shut it, will get its fingers pinched. We have taught the Old World that the Republic must be consulted. We have entered on the great highway, and we are destined to become the most powerful, the most successful and the most generous of nations. I am for expansion. The more people beneath the flag the better. Let the Republic grow.

**** ****

I BELIEVE in growth. Of course there are many moss-back conservatives who fear expansion. Thousands opposed the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon, thousands were against the acquisition of Florida and of the vast territory we obtained from Mexico. So, thousands were against the purchase of Alaska, and some dear old mummies opposed the annexation of the Sandwich Islands, and yet, I do not believe that there is an intelligent American who would like to part with one acre that has been acquired by the Government. Now, there are some timid, withered statesmen who do not want Porto Rico — who beg us in a trembling, patriotic voice not to keep the Philippines. But the sensible people feel exactly the other way. They love to see our borders extended. They love to see the flag floating over the islands of the tropics, — showering its blessings upon the poor people who have been robbed and tortured by the Spanish. Let the Republic grow! Let us spread the gospel of Freedom! In a few years I hope that Canada will be ours — I want Mexico — in other words, I want all of North America. I want to see our flag waving from the North Pole.

I think it was a mistake to appoint a peace commission. The President should have demanded the unconditional surrender of Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines. Spain was helpless. The war would have ended on our terms, and all this commission nonsense would have been saved. Still, I make no complaint. it will probably come out right, though it would have been far better to have ended the business when we could — when Spain was prostrate. It was foolish to let her get up and catch her breath and hunt for friends.

**** ****

ONLY a few days ago our President, by proclamation, thanked God for giving us the victory at Santiago. He did not thank him for sending the yellow fever. To be consistent the President should have thanked him equally for both. Man should think; he should use all his senses; he should examine; he should reason. The man who cannot think is less than man; the man who will not think is a traitor to himself; the man who fears to think is superstition’s slave. I do not thank God for the splendid victory in Manila Bay. I don’t know whether he had anything to do with it; if I find out that he did I will thank him readily. Meanwhile, I will thank Admiral George Dewey and the brave fellows who were with him.

I do not thank God for the destruction of Cervera’s fleet at Santiago. No, I thank Schley and the men with the trained eyes and the nerves of steel, who stood behind the guns. I do not thank God because we won the battle of Santiago. I thank the Regular Army, black and white — the Volunteers — the Rough Riders, and all the men who made the grand charge at San Juan Hill. I have asked, “Why should God help us to whip Spain?” and have been answered: “For the sake of the Cubans, who have been crushed and ill-treated by their Spanish masters.” Then why did not God help the Cubans long before? Certainly, they were fighting long enough and needed his help badly enough. But, I am told, God’s ways are inscrutable. Suppose Spain had whipped us; would the Christians then say that God did it? Very likely they would, and would have as an excuse, that we broke the Sabbath with our base-ball, our bicycles and bloomers.

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