Theodore Roosevelt, “Free Silver, Trusts, and the Philippines,” Teaching-Learning Materials

Classroom Activities

A. What sort of vision of America is present in Roosevelt’s speech?  How does Roosevelt portray America’s national character and destiny?  How do ideas about masculinity contribute to this portrait of America and its role in the world?

B. How does Roosevelt portray the people of the Philippines?  How do Native Americans figure in Roosevelt’s speech?  Are Filipinos and Native Americans portrayed in the same way or differently in the speech?  Does Roosevelt have a similar attitude toward both? 

C. Of the three major themes in Roosevelt’s speech (honor, unity, strength), which do you think is the most compelling?  Which does Roosevelt himself seems to value most, and how does he make the case for its importance?  Give specific examples from the speech. 

D. How does Roosevelt make the argument that military strength is the best way to guarantee peace? What sort of evidence, if any, does he present for that argument?  Do you think that argument might have been more persuasive in Roosevelt’s day than it is today?  Why?  

E. How does Roosevelt portray those who oppose the administration’s policies in the Philippines?  Do you think his criticisms of his political opponents are sincere and reasonable?  Or do you think Roosevelt may have exaggerated his criticisms of his opponents for campaign purposes? How do people talk about those opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq today?  Do you think the arguments have changed, and if so, in what ways?

F. Examine some of the relevant political cartoons from the era, such as “School Begins,” which was published in Puck on January 1899 (below).  (Other examples are available at–History–Philippine+American+War%2C+1899-1902).  How were outlying territories, such as Cuba, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines represented in such cartoons?  How was the United States represented?  How does Roosevelt’s rhetoric complement or complicate the verbal and visual content of these cartoons? 


(Courtesy the Library of Congress)

The caption reads: “School Begins. Uncle Sam (to his new class in Civilization): Now, children, you’ve got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!”

G. Examine closely this campaign poster from 1900.  How does Roosevelt’s speech relate to the themes or ideas represented in the poster?  Does the poster make some of the same “arguments” visually? 

Student Research

A. Compare Roosevelt’s speech with the acceptance address of William Jennings Bryan at the Democratic National Convention a month earlier. What specific issues are in dispute?  Are there similarities between the two speeches?  How might Bryan have responded to Roosevelt’s speech?  Bryan’s speech (“Imperialism,” August 8, 1900) may be found at Voices of Democracy,

B. Compare Roosevelt’s speech with Senator Albert Beveridge’s “March of the Flag.”  Both speakers discussed the issue of annexing the Philippines. How are their speeches similar and how are they different?  That speech can be found on the Voices of Democracy website:

C. Imperialism was an extremely important issue at the turn of the twentieth century.  Research the major arguments for and against imperialism.  Would you consider Roosevelt an “imperialist,” an “anti-imperialist,” or something in between?  

D. Compare “Free Silver, Trusts, and the Philippines” with Roosevelt’s speech, “The Strenuous Life,” given the previous year.  Are there similar themes or ideas expressed in the two speeches?  Which do you think is a better speech? Why?  That speech can be found at the Voices of Democracy website: TRStrenuousLife.htm.

E. Research Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the Spanish American War.  Why do you think the story of Roosevelt’s role in that war became such big news in the United States?  From your research, do you think Roosevelt really deserved his reputation as a “war hero,” or do you think the story of his heroism might have been embellished or exaggerated for political purposes? 

F.  Examine campaign speeches from 2008, available at  How did the candidates talk about U.S. foreign policy?  Are there similarities to Roosevelt’s speech?  Consider the genre of campaign speeches more generally–are there similarities between Roosevelt’s speech and those of Obama’s and McCain’s?

Citizenship Resources

A. Examine President Obama’s speech at West Point about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq found at  Are similar arguments visible in the contemporary conflicts that connect the protection of peace with aggressive action?  Are similar themes such as honor, unity, and strength raised in these current conflicts as well?  How are such arguments different from Roosevelt’s appeals and how are they similar?

B. The issue of U.S. internationalism was important to the campaign of 1900.  How is it important in contemporary politics?  Examine current editorials from local and national newspapers.  Is U.S. internationalism talked about in different or similar ways to those presented by Roosevelt?  In looking at articles and editorials from your college or university’s newspaper, how is internationalism talked about on your campus?

C. Roosevelt argued that the United States could bring peace to the Philippines just as the United States brought peace to different warring indigenous groups in the continental United States.  But the relationship between the United States and Native Americans has changed significantly over the last one hundred years.  To take one example, visit the Republic of Lakotah website at  How do the Lakotah’s discuss their relationship with the United States?  How do you think Roosevelt would respond to their claims?