ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE, “MARCH OF THE FLAG” (16 SEPTEMBER 1898)
- What other metaphors of continuity are used in addition to the allegory of the march and the flag? Examples include references to the sun, fire, and, most often, water in motion. Within the speech, reference “the idiocy of him who changed horses while crossing a stream,” paragraph 16; “It is the tide of God’s great purposes made manifest in the instincts of our race,” paragraph 67; “And he who throws himself before that current is like him who, with puny arm, tries to turn the gulf stream from its course, or stay, by idle incantations, the blessed processes of the sun,” paragraph 67; “or, shall we risk it to those who would scuttle the ship of progress and build a dam in the current of destiny’s large designs. . . .,” paragraph 68; “blazing fires of joy and the ringing bells of gladness,” paragraph 78. Why might Beveridge have chosen the “March of the Flag” above the others as the theme of the speech?
- According to Beveridge, what is the “mission of our race,” and who or what has ordained that this is so? How was discourse involving race different in Beveridge’s day from contemporary politics?
- How does Beveridge prove that taking control of the Philippines is crucial to the economic interests of the United States? How does he use evidence and statistics to make his point?
- Although we mainly read “March of the Flag” today with an eye on the discourse of imperialism and race, Beveridge focused much of his speech on the party politics of his day and the need for reelecting the McKinley administration to office. How does Beveridge tie expansionism and currency issues with his characterizations of the administration (e.g., “McKinley the Just,” paragraph 25) and the opposition (e.g., “infidels to the gospel of liberty,” paragraph 40)? What does Beveridge gain from these characterizations?
- In what ways is “March of the Flag” a typical campaign speech? What does the march metaphor do for Beveridge’s campaign and his party’s agenda?
- Discuss the concepts of liberty, civilization, Manifest Destiny, Social Darwinism, and expansionism both today and in their historical context. Which of these terms might be key concepts in politics today and which might have diminished as useful ways of understanding social values? When and why did these changes occur over the course of last century?
- Divide the discussion topics above (liberty, civilization, Manifest Destiny, Social Darwinism, and expansionism) among students and write a short essay and prepare a class presentation on the idea as it was expressed and experienced during the Progressive Era. Other topics of historical research include the events of the Spanish-American War, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jennings Bryan.
- Read another text from the era, such as Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Strenuous Life” speech. How do the two texts differ in persuasive techniques, themes, and language? What similarities exist?
- Read Beveridge’s The Art of Public Speaking. The book contains interesting descriptions of stump campaign speeches of the eighteenth-century and gives a simple account of public speaking practices inherited from the classical tradition. What characteristics from Beveridge’s handbook are still reflected today in public speaking instruction?
- Visit the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov. Search the president’s speeches for terms such as “Liberty,” “Freedom,” “Security,” and “Civilization” to see how many times they are used in contemporary American discourse. Next, re-examine what exactly these words mean in their particular location in the speech and in the larger context of the rhetorical situation. Report the findings to the class or in the form of a short essay.
- Prepare a three or four minute rebuttal speech to “March of the Flag.” Instruct the students to consider ethical arguments to counter Beveridge’s argument, as well as rhetorical tropes like the march metaphor that could be persuasive. Reflect on the difficulty of finding strong choices of rebuttal suited for the context of an 1890s audience.
- Visit the CIA Country Factbook website and contrast the data on the United States and the Philippines today. Beveridge makes special references of the resources and culture of the country. Compare his descriptions to contemporary information, particularly on the issues of the economy (GDP), race and population, geographic size, religion, and natural resources
- Fran Shor, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Wayne State University, wrote about the Beveridge and the “March of the Flag” speech:
“The evangelical mission articulated by Beveridge is also evident in the Bush Doctrine, a doctrine premised on Bush’s sense that ‘Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, but Providence’s.’ In a more secular mode, the neo-conservatives (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, Rice, et. al.) who formulated the policy to ‘liberate’ Iraq and establish a beachhead of ‘democracy’ in the Middle East have much in common with those who believed with President McKinley that the U.S. would be rescuing the savage Filipinos from barbarism. Of course, the arrogance endemic in both efforts to reshape a foreign culture in the image of the United States accounts for the moral blindness, a blindness that led to massive slaughtering of Filipinos and is on that same tragic trajectory in Iraq.
- Other commonalities between U.S. policy in Iraq and the Philippines underscore the geopolitics of empire. In the Philippines, the United States was seeking coaling stations in its expansion to a two-ocean navy and as a stepping stone to the potential markets of China. In Iraq, the U.S. intends to set up permanent military bases for potential threats against Syria and Iran and to protect U.S. interests in oil and gas in the Middle East and Caspian Basin. Unlike Iraq where the politics of oil is central to U.S. policy, the policy in the Philippines was not driven by immediate economic interests.” Taken from Fran Shor, “Historical Analogies: Iraq is to Vietnam is to…,” George Mason University’s HNN History News Network (19 Feb 2004). Internet. Available at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/4652. Accessed on 7 Dec 2006.
- How does “March of the Flag” specifically relate to Shor’s argument? Can we find connections between Beveridge’s speech and the U.S. war in Iraq? How does Shor’s argument misrepresent President Bush’s policy in Iraq or the imperialist rhetoric of the late 1890s? For example, Shor makes the claim that policy in the Philippines was not driven by “immediate economic interests,” while the “March of the Flag” speech relies heavily on economic arguments as motivation for expansion. Do other problems exist in Shor’s argument in light of the Beveridge speech?
Last updated March 24, 2016