ALBERT J. BEVERIDGE, "MARCH OF THE FLAG" (16 September 1898)
In studying imperialism
or globalization from an American perspective, the turn of the twentieth
century provides a useful starting point.
Until that time, the nation was able to isolate itself from major
overseas wars through geographic separation.
Washington and Jefferson’s warning against entangling alliances and the
Monroe Doctrine’s assertion of hemispheric self-determination provided strong
rhetorical justification for a policy of non-interference. This perspective changed after the
Spanish-American War of the late 1890s, when the United
States acquired the Philippines and other territories
as permanent possessions in postwar negotiations. For the first time, the United States had the eminent
capability to begin overseas expansion and rival European imperial powers. Albert Beveridge's "March of the
Flag" not only delivered a rhetorically powerful argument for such an
expansion project into the Philippines
and beyond, but also placed this argument into the larger context of Manifest
Destiny--the historic mission of Americans to spread liberty, civilization, and
"God’s kingdom on Earth." The
call for such a policy of imperial conquest had great appeal in its era and
carries insight for American foreign policy from that time forward.
The speech is
rhetorically significant as well. The march allegory has often been the
critical focus of American public address students and scholars. The vivid image brings alive the themes of
nationalist imperialism, making Beveridge's speech more memorable and
meaningful. The forward progress of the
flag gave the speech its organizing principle and its moral certitude. Rarely
has one figural theme held such centrality for American political oratory as in
the "March of the Flag" speech.
This analysis brings to
the foreground the values and keywords of the era to better understand how the
powerful march allegory functioned in the speech. Beveridge redefined several
key terms of the speech both through connotative and denotative strategies.
Specifically, "liberty" and "civilization" are linked to a
continuous forward march. Meanwhile, Beveridge employed altered meanings of the
terms that are specific to expansionist rhetoric while appearing consistent to
a larger narrative. The power of Beveridge's speech flowed not only from the
figurative language that scholars often identify as the major strength of the
speech, but also from the way Beveridge rooted both figurative and literal
appeals to "liberty" and "civilization." Through the articulation of an American
narrative grounded in the common values of his audience, Beveridge forged new
meaning across the past, present, and future of American political culture.
Many biographies of Albert Jeremiah
Beveridge note first and foremost his ability as an orator. For example, Edgar D. Jones' 1937 work, Lords
of Speech, begins a section on Beveridge with the epithet, "'Brilliant
Beveridge'--a superbly 'made' Orator."
According to tradition, Beveridge began perfecting his speech skills early and
diligently. Working with the plow on an Indiana
farm at the age of fourteen, Beveridge drove his team into a corner of the
fence, jumped onto a nearby stump, and began reciting a speech by General John
Logan he had heard the night before. In
the late nineteenth century, oratory represented an art that could earn extra
money for the speaker, provided a means to political power, and seemed at the
heart of the democratic process.
The gains of oratory were
particularly evident in the life of Senator Albert J. Beveridge. Beveridge was born on October 6, 1862, into a
very poor family, working manual jobs throughout his childhood in Ohio
and Illinois as a plow hand,
railroad worker, and logger. During the
winter months, Beveridge would study assiduously, eventually earning his way
into college. At DePauw University,
Beveridge won numerous prizes in oratory, scrupulously preparing speeches and
committing them to memory. After hearing Robert Ingersoll give a local speech,
Beveridge made personal appearance an important part of his public speaking,
donning fine suits and spotless attire in each speaking situation. By winning
competitions, Beveridge provided himself with the necessary income to continue
his university education. He also gained
influence in the Indiana Republican Party during this time for supporting
strong candidates like Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine.
After DePauw, Beveridge studied law and set up a practice in Indianapolis.
Over the decade leading up to 1898, Beveridge became convinced of the need for U.S. expansion into Canada,
Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and into coaling stations across the
Through a fervent oratorical campaign, initiated with the "March of the
Flag" speech that kicked off the state Republican campaign, Beveridge won
a tight race to become a U.S. Senator from the state of Indiana
Upon his election to the Senate,
Beveridge (then only thirty-six years of age) disregarded the traditional rule
that new members should be "seen and not heard." A visit to the Philippines
in 1899 and numerous speeches for permanent Philippine annexation on the Senate
floor helped Beveridge gain a seat with the Committee on the Philippine
Islands. Even those who usually agreed with Beveridge, including President
William McKinley, soon became wary of his ambition and egotism. Upon arrival in
the Senate, Beveridge began telling his colleagues of aspirations for the
presidency in 1904. Charles Gates Dawes, then Controller of the Currency,
wrote, "Beveridge is Presidential timber if he can restrain his intense
energies and commanding talents and have the patience to exercise tact and
Arrogance and ambition became noticeable character flaws to many contemporaries
who knew Beveridge.
After abandoning expansionist
policies due to growing public opposition and unsuccessful occupation in the Philippines,
Beveridge led the Progressives in the Senate on domestic issues. Following publication of Upton Sinclair’s The
Jungle, Beveridge authored the bill that enforced meat inspections and
introduced another for creating restrictions on child labor. Beveridge renegotiated his expansionist
ideology to the changing times. Alongside Henry Cabot Lodge, Beveridge opposed
Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations, which in their eyes would weaken U.S.
sovereignty and power.
Although he maintained his views of white superiority, he fought the Ku Klux
Klan and violent white supremacy at home. Beveridge often sided with big
business in political debates, though he fought with Progressives for the
federal government’s role in preventing corporate wrongdoing.
Due to the sometimes inconsistent
nature of his political beliefs, factions emerging within the Republican Party,
and a pretentious personality, the Senator’s electorate found little reason to
return him to office in 1910.
Additionally, Beveridge lost his bid for the Indiana
governor's seat in 1912 and the Senate position in 1914. Beveridge turned to
writing, producing the four-volume Life and Times of John Marshall, one
of the greatest political biographies of the early twentieth century. Running
once again for a Senate seat in 1922, Beveridge met defeat and began work on a
biography of Abraham Lincoln and a small handbook on public speaking. On April
27, 1927, Beveridge died suddenly of a heart attack before finishing the Lincoln
the political losses later in life, oratory brought Beveridge a lucrative
career as a lawyer, fame and power as a respected politician, and even prestige
in his later life through the publications inspired by and aided through
Beveridge’s oratorical ability.
Like many wars, the
Spanish-American War and its consequences were products of accident and
miscalculation. According to most historians, America’s initial goals in the war
were humanitarian--to support Cubans fighting for home rule against the
imperial Spanish navy.
Yet historians also believe the war effort reflected the nation’s desire to
show off the nation's enhanced naval capabilities or to obtain commercial
benefits. On April 11, 1898, President McKinley sent his war message to
Congress, proposing to free Cuba
from the oppression of Spanish imperialist powers. The president himself
disclaimed any ambitions of territorial gain, and the Teller Amendment, enacted
on April 11, 1898, foreswore annexation of Cuba. After all, the nation was
recovering nicely from financial woes of the decade, and territorial conquest
by European powers had resulted in constant military excursions. Beveridge, on the other hand, had no doubt that
the war was the act of Providence and told
friends that, "It may be that we will not annex the Philippines, Hawaii
but events will annex them."
Congress approved the annexation of Hawaii,
and Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders won the battle of San Juan Hill;
the battle of Santiago demolished the Spanish
navy; and Admiral George Dewey’s victory in the Philippines
secured the Pacific for the United
As the war came to a close in 1899,
it was clear that the United States
would gain the Philippines
as a territorial acquisition from imperial Spain.
As European powers were vying for land in China,
many Americans saw the Philippines
not only as a gain in itself, but also as a gateway to all of the Far East. Filipinos, on the other hand, saw the Spanish-American
War as a chance finally to attain self-rule. Under the leadership of Emilio
Aguinaldo, the citizens of the Philippines
prepared to fight for their independence if it was not granted by the United States.
Commodore George Dewey, leader of the American naval forces in the Pacific,
confided to Aguinaldo that the United
States had no interest in long-term
territorial acquisitions and thereby forestalled Filipino resistance for the
Leaders at home, however,
maintained their imperial ambitions. In
a letter to Charles Gates Dawes, Albert Beveridge wrote, "'I would rather
take part in organizing our colonial system than to do anything else on this
earth. I would rather map out and advocate the imperial policy of the Republic
than to have been the leading statesman of the late war. It means more for
humanity, more for our country and a larger place in history.'"
Although he had never held political office and was quite young, Beveridge eyed
the vacant Senate position in Indiana .
As Senate elections were still decided by state legislatures, Beveridge could
reach most of his audience in important political meetings. Hoping to take
advantage of his oratorical skill, Beveridge sought an invitation to deliver
the keynote address that August at Tomlinson Hall in Indianapolis
—the site of the Republican State Convention. Senator Charles W.
Fairbanks, the state's top Republican officer, insisted on the honor for
himself, however. Bitter and disappointed, Beveridge consented to give the
opening address for the Republican campaign on September 16, 1898 instead.
Although he was given this lesser speaking role, it is Beveridge’s speech that
stands out from the period a century later.
Beveridge biographer Claude Bowers
recalls the scene of the speech from his childhood in Indianapolis:
The stage-setting was worthy of a
master. Two hundred members of the Marion Club, with torches and red lights,
and preceded by a band, marched to the Beveridge home, where the orator was
conducted to a carriage immediately behind the band, and with much shouting,
waving of torches, burning of red fire, the procession moved to the hall. Long
before it had been packed to its capacity, to the highest gallery, and hundreds
were standing in the aisles. When Beveridge was introduced, the crowd roared
for two minutes.
Interpretation of the Speech
Albert Beveridge's "March of
the Flag," an ultimate U.S.
statement of expansionism, combined societal claims of Manifest Destiny, Social
Darwinism, evangelism, commercial ambition, and American patriotism. To structure such a multifaceted speech and make
it persuasive, Beveridge rooted his arguments in the themes of liberty and
civilization, completed through the allegory of the marching flag.
The majority of Beveridge's speech
worked through the concept of manifest destiny.
This defining American ideology, which precedes even the first permanent
settlement, gave life to political discourse throughout American history.
Indeed, as early as 1616, colonial agents wrote (in Early Modern English),
"What need wee then to feare, but to goe up at once as a peculiar people
marked and chosen by the finger of God to possess it." Puritans continued the tradition, adding that
history was predetermined, and their settlement was the kingdom of heaven
coming to earth, functioning as the "City on a Hill." This idea was
then combined with the civic republican belief that the United States was the great
experiment of liberal democracy for the benefit of all mankind. Thus by the
time of the ratification of the Constitution, the United States was endowed
with a mission to establish a nation set apart by God, which would ultimately
spread its enlightened politics, economics, culture, and religion into the
world. In his popular paper, Morning News, John O'Sullivan coined the
phrase in 1845, proclaiming "the right of our manifest destiny to
overspread and to possess the whole continent which providence has given us for
the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated
By the time of Beveridge's speech,
even more far-reaching formulations of manifest destiny had surfaced. Josiah
Strong, a Congregationalist minister, laid out a particularly convincing and
popular framework in a book entitled Our Country. In it he predicted that the United States, part of the
Anglo-Saxon race, was destined to conduct the civilizing mission for the whole
world. Much like our understanding of globalization today, Strong believed time
was accelerating because of improved transportation and global commerce. Yet
unlike current theories of globalization, Strong argued this acceleration would
lead to the moment of "final competition" between the races--a tenet
shared by Social Darwinists. Although the United States showed ominous signs
of degeneracy to Minister Strong--rampant immigration, Catholicism,
intemperance, Mormonism, wealth, socialism, urban expansion--he believed the
nation could still Christianize and civilize the world.
Manifest Destiny as an
ideology affected Beveridge's argument in three crucial ways. First, it supports his notion of Anglo-Saxon
racial superiority. Beveridge believed the widespread notion that his race was
descended from the Teutons--a conquering race superior to others worldwide. The
speech noted Beveridge’s race as "the ruling race of the world"
(14). In the era of Jim Crow, lynching, Chinese exclusion, Native American
relocation, and immigration restriction, white supremacy was no foreign
concept. In addition, manifest destiny provided Beveridge with the argument
that white Americans were God’s "chosen people" (1, 29, 30). Since the Israelites had rejected the Gospel,
American Christians believed themselves to be the inheritors of the sacred
covenant. Therefore, these groups were assigned the sacred obligation to
inculcate the "savages" with Christianity and civilization. With God
on their side, Americans displaced natives and expanded across the continent in
the name of "civilization." Now this same project would expand beyond
geographic and ethnic borders, and it must do so if the nation retained its
Christian mission in the world.
Second, Manifest Destiny backed
Beveridge's argument for expansion as an essential part of God’s covenant.
Although the term "destiny" carries with it a predetermined finality,
Manifest Destiny was seen as a deal--one that could be broken with eternal
consequences. Beveridge therefore labeled opponents of imperialism as
"infidels to the gospel" (15). If opponents won and the project of
expansion was not followed, European powers would gain the territories God had
specifically assigned to American protection. As if this were not
enough, Beveridge also added that the continuation of American isolationist
policies was inherently selfish:
we no mission to perform--no duty to discharge to our fellow-man? Has the
Almighty Father endowed us with gifts beyond our deserts, and marked us as the
people of His peculiar favor, merely to rot in our own selfishness, as men and
nations must who take cowardice for their companion and self for their Deity...
In this way, Beveridge also believed his generation could
preserve the spirit of the American fathers who had tamed the wilderness.
Finally, Manifest Destiny provided
Beveridge a more ethical and provocative reason to engage in imperial actions
against other countries beyond the rationale of commercial supremacy. Beveridge
characterized the Spanish-American War as, "the most holy ever waged by
one nation against another; a war for civilization; a war for a permanent
peace; a war which, under God, although we knew it not in the beginning, has
swung open to the Republic the portals of the commerce of the world" (6).
American citizens believed God had also blessed the nation by its
separation from the rest of the world’s problems, particularly the European
turmoil of the previous centuries. In this way, the rich and vast "Kingdom
of God" could be built distant
from the secular and revolutionary tendencies of modern Europe.
After the Civil War, many citizens viewed the United
States in the final stages of this project; the
eradication of slavery meant the United States was closer than ever
to God's will. By the late 1800s, as post-war economic
issues began to subside at home, intervention in world affairs meant that America
could attain the riches promised throughout the centuries to God’s chosen
people. However, a tradition of supposed U.S. isolation, humanitarian
concerns over expansionist policy, and even anti-Asian racism still proved to
be significant barriers for expansionists.
To overcome such obstacles, Beveridge puts his oratorical power to use in a
series of vivid rhetorical images, built on the watchwords and slogans of
Articulating the March
From the very beginning of the
speech, Beveridge connected the past and present through the forward march of
the American flag--a common theme for expansionists. Months before Beveridge’s
speech, expansionist Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts
noted, "As one of the great nations of the world, the United States must not fall out of
the line of march."
Five years prior to "The March of the Flag," Beveridge warned a group
of businessmen that European powers "seize island and archipelago and new
territory everywhere to make monopolies for their markets and fortresses for
their flags," while the United States remained "without a single
naval rendezvous in any sea."
Yet in September of 1898, Beveridge took the symbol of the flag and the march
metaphor as the cohesive theme and climax of his address.
Hall puts forth the
concept of articulation which helps illuminate Beveridge’s argument.
For Hall, articulation makes connections by fusing disparate events, people,
ideas, or social movements. Articulation goes beyond analogy, making
connections based on reshaping previous conceptions of reality rather than
merely pointing out similarities and differences. Articulating the purpose of expansionism
through a mythic, grandiose history of Manifest Destiny, Beveridge saturated
his cause with meaning.
He began this process at the outset
of the speech, outlining three distinct aspects of the progress of Manifest
Destiny. First, Beveridge evoked the central concept of Manifest Destiny
through the sacred narrative of the land. "Fellow-citizens," called
Beveridge, "It is a noble land that God has given us; a land that can feed
and clothe the world; a land whose coast lines would inclose half the countries
of Europe; a land set like a sentinel between the two imperial oceans of the
globe; a greater England with a nobler destiny" (1). The mythical land
personified by Beveridge stands rich beyond imagination, looms larger than the
European imagination can fathom, and is endowed with a destiny beyond prior
comprehension. The United States
not only outshined the greatness of Great Britain, then the largest
empire on the planet, but also had a divine mission granted by God. In this
way, Beveridge articulated the spatial area of the United States through the broader
idea of Manifest Destiny.
The second sentence of
his introduction focuses on the sacred narrative of the people. Beveridge exclaimed, "It is a mighty
people that He has planted on this soil; a people sprung from the most
masterful blood of history; a people perpetually revitalized by the virile
workingfolk of all the earth; a people imperial by virtue of their power, by
right of their institutions, by authority of their heaven-directed purposes,
the propagandists and not the misers of liberty" (1). Through a transition
linking the soil of the United States
to its people, Beveridge produced a series of metaphors linking the United States
to its racial heritage, its ethos of work, its masculine attributes, and its
imperial destiny. Beveridge outlined attributes that gave the Anglo-American
race its undeniable superiority--masculine power, liberal democratic
institutions, and the mission to spread liberty. Beveridge thus articulated a
conception of Americans as a collective body, unified throughout history. Not
only did Americans reproduce Manifest Destiny in their ideals and politics, but
also in their everyday jobs and through the act of procreation.
Beveridge forged his final and most
powerful articulation in a great American history, creating linkages between
disparate aspects of history separated by time. "It is a glorious history
our God has bestowed upon his chosen people," said Beveridge,
a history whose keynote was
struck by Liberty Bell; a history heroic with faith in our mission and our
future; a history of statesmen, who flung the boundaries of the Republic out
into unexplored lands and savage wildernesses; a history of soldiers, who
carried the flag across blazing deserts and through the ranks of hostile
mountains, even to the gates of sunset; a history of a multiplying people, who
overrun a continent in half a century; a history divinely logical, in the
process of whose tremendous reasoning we find ourselves to-day. (1)
Beveridge truncated a hundred years of American history into
a beautiful and "divinely logical" myth, embodied in biblical
allusions to prophets, martyrs, and natural landscapes.
Beveridge's story also
resonates with Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis" from the
same era. Both
connect an evolutionary progression of history in the forward expansion of America’s
borders into the "unexplored lands and savage wilderness" (1)
necessary for the continued expansion of freedom, with Beveridge answering the
dilemma through a call for imperial expansion. In all three sections of the
introduction, Beveridge used the present-tense verb "is" to connect
historic images of America's
past, its people, and its land with the present situation of annexation. In this way, Americans were not just
deciding whether or not to follow a policy of the past, as presented by
Beveridge, but whether to live up to their present identity, derived from
At the heart of the speech,
Beveridge connected his cause to the forefathers' work in expanding national
territory, exclaiming, "We do but what our fathers did--but pitch the
tents of liberty farther westward, farther southward; we only continue the
march of the flag" (14). Repeating the "march of the flag"
metaphor, Beveridge emphasized the continuity of expansion throughout American
history. Through this proud common heritage, Beveridge connected his appeal for
overseas expansion with the ongoing continental expansion that has taken place
for over a century, especially evoking the heroic presidents and generals who
made such expansion possible. If Americans halted this forward progress of the
mythic march, they would turn their backs not only centuries of American
history, but also on the heroic men who led the march. As in the military, to break off from the
soldiers' march is to become a coward and a deserter to the cause, only to be
mocked and shamed by friends and family. By halting the forward progress, the
United States would become a shameful place in which to live, turning its back
to God, His mission to the United States, the heroic men of the past, and the
nation’s central virtue of liberty. The
flag, which must be carried by the forward marching soldier, Beveridge's
reasoning suggested, created the iconic representation of all these assets,
making the message all the more vivid and memorable for the audience. The flag, supported by the American soldier,
would carry the virtues, religion, market economy, and republican government of
the United States
around the world to the poor and oppressed under the banner of
Whereas the United States had sometimes welcomed the huddled
masses to its shores, and was forced to do so at a growing rate during this
period of rapid economic growth, Beveridge encouraged the nation to now seek
foreigners in their geographic destinations, thus saving the United States from the overcrowding
of "inferior" races. Beveridge, in his conclusion, thus stated,
"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" (30).
If the audience accepted the articulated connection between past and present
situations, they were bound to the course of imperialism put forth by
Beveridge--lest they be the first Americans to "doubt their mission,
question fate, prove apostate to the spirit of their race, and halt the
ceaseless march of free institutions?" (12). Temporal continuity thus
became the core of persuasive appeals in Beveridge’s speech, with several
distinct American values brought out as central to such continuity.
Liberty and Civilization as Key
Americans have always
believed liberty to be their most sacred and absolute natural right. Terms such as liberty serve as linguistic
centers for political power structures and decision-making processes.
However, these terms are not static in meaning and alter depending on
historical and linguistic context (that is, how they are defined over time and
in their specific usage vis-à-vis other ideas and expressions). Moreover,
general terms such as liberty are especially susceptible to a wide range of
meanings, since individual beliefs and experiences play such a major role in
how each person defines the term.
Studying these meanings closely illuminates the differences of culture
and ethics embodied in speech and their relation to other worldviews.
For Americans, liberty has arguably
served as the chief term around which all other political values and principles
gain their meaning from the time of the Declaration of Independence forward.
Yet the meaning of even this central term is not fixed. It becomes altered to
some extent with each association. For example, in Daniel Webster’s "Liberty
and Union, now and forever one and
inseparable," the orator linked liberty and union as principles that
defined the nation.
In this instance, positive liberty was restricted for citizens who believed
nullification and secession could be necessary measures against federal
tyranny. After the Civil War, Lincoln’s call for
liberty and equality at Gettysburg
emerged as the dominant association of the era as freed slaves and women fought
for their political rights. Many citizens of this era simultaneously felt their
liberty restricted as previously disenfranchised groups entered the public
sphere--no longer were Southerners "free" to own slaves, for example.
As the century drew to a close and the Reconstruction era came to an end, the
nation turned increasingly away from the rhetorical goal of equality to the
economic concerns of Beveridge's era.
In this tradition, Beveridge
connected liberty and civilization as defining values of the expansionists. Yet
in Beveridge's usage, the fundamental definition of liberty appeared not only
transformed from earlier conceptions but also seemingly contained inherent
contradictions. How can the United
States bring liberty, usually defined as the
immunity from the arbitrary exercise of authority, to the territories it
conquers for economic gain? In his
explanation of this dilemma, Beveridge stated:
opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent.
I answer, the rule of liberty that all just government derives its authority
from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of
self-government. We govern the Indians without their consent; we govern our
territories without their consent; we govern our children without their
consent. I answer, would not the natives of the Philippines prefer the just,
humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of
pillage and extortion from which we have rescued them? (13)
Using simple repetition in his sentence structure to veil
the diversity of his examples, Beveridge equated the territories, the
"Indians," and the nation's children as in need of domination. By
utilizing the pervasive racism of his era, Beveridge reasoned that liberty
could not be given to those who cannot govern themselves. Yet if Beveridge
believed the Filipinos incapable of this sort of liberty, why did he make the
expansion of this principle a key theme of his address?
One remedy to this paradox would be
a temporal appeal--as the Filipino people became more "civilized,"
they could either rule themselves or consent to be governed by the United States.
However, Beveridge strongly articulated, "We cannot retreat from any soil
where Providence has unfurled our
banner; it is ours to save that soil for liberty and civilization"
(30). His later Senate speeches would
resound with the claim that "The Philippines are ours forever!"
If so, the resolution of the paradox would depend on the Filipinos' eventual
consent to be ruled as U.S.
citizens, and thus achieve eventual liberty through (pressured)
self-determination. Yet the Filipino movement for self-rule was evident, and
their chances for obtaining the rights of citizenship were slim. Although the
sheer physical separation from the continental United States would be one problem,
race played a much larger factor. In Race over Empire, Eric Love
repeatedly shows that Americans were opposed to incorporating any non-white
areas into statehood. For example, acquisitions during the Mexican
War of 1848 revealed that the United States
could secure large parts of northern Mexico. However, it was clear
through debates and public opinion at the time that Americans enjoyed being a
predominantly white country, and therefore rejected the acquisition of
territory held today by Mexico.
Any territories that were not amenable to a future white-majority population
were excluded from consideration. On the other hand, Texas,
an independent republic governed by white men, could be incorporated directly
into statehood. Race played an important role in imperial conquest, and it did
so not solely on the side of the expansionists, but also for those opposed to
taking up "the white man's burden" in the realms of cultural politics
To achieve resolution for this
central paradox in "March of the Flag," a new definition of liberty
must emerge. Later, in his first Senate speech, Beveridge elaborated:
what is liberty? The liberty of a people means law. First of all, it is a
common rule of action, applying equally to all within its limits. Liberty
means protection of property and life without price, free speech without
intimidation, justice without purchase or delay, government without favor or
Beveridge here defined liberty, which traditionally
encompasses both personal freedom and political sovereignty, as the protection
under the rule of law. Yet even this
definition of liberty demands a great deal of restraint and diligence on the
part of the U.S. government
if it planned to acquire the Philippines.
It needed to ensure private property rights in a land without Western private
property laws, democratic institutions to make free speech possible for all
Filipino citizens, a fair and speedy court system, and an unbiased government
which treats whites and Filipinos fair and equally. It is hard to believe
Beveridge intended as much from the other aspects of his speech, which
encouraged control of an inferior race and economic exploitation by the United States.
If the speaker left a
number of inconsistencies between his definition of liberty and his other
statements on the issue, it seems that a more accurate definition of liberty
for Beveridge was "the capacity to follow the will of God." By
following God's path shown to Beveridge through American history, the United States
could achieve its supreme goal without adhering to previous definitions of
liberty. Only in this way could imperialism be equated with the enforcement of
"liberty" overseas. Thus, agency for the audience was constrained to
following or opposing God’s plan as defined by Beveridge. Through this shift,
Beveridge subtly changed the battleground of expansionism from practical and
ethical policy concerns to the interpretation of God's will. If Beveridge's
opponents were to argue on the same grounds, they would have to show that God
would prefer the United
States to limit territorial expansion in
order to continue its moral progress at home. If Beveridge on the other hand
was true to God's purpose, the United
States could expand liberty around the globe
by conquering lands as territories and bringing them "civilization,"
the other key term of Beveridge’s "March of the Flag" oration.
Civilization: The God Term of Imperialist Rhetoric
Civilization stood as the defining
term of imperialist rhetoric in the United States, carrying all the
arguments for expansion: Christianity, technology, democratic government,
Anglo-Saxon ideas of social protocol, and economic success through capitalism.
Beveridge's speech focused primarily on the latter quality of economic
civilization, as the others needed less explicit moral justification in his
era. Yet the opposition could dispute the real economic gains for America,
as well as the moral questions of economic exploitation created by European
colonizers. Beveridge needed to embed the march of the flag not solely in an
economic project of "civilization," but in an economic plan of
"civilization" with much deeper values at stake.
Many U.S. citizens in Beveridge's time
believed the economic problems of the mid-1890s came from a lack of markets for
American goods. Theodore Roosevelt and Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, one of the
most popular writers of that time, embraced America’s rise to world power. They
believed the U.S.
navy was vital to continued power and the "civilizing" effects of
economic prosperity and military ambition.
During the 1880s the United
States had begun to build a stronger navy,
motivated mostly by the need to protect its economic interests overseas. According to Mahan and Roosevelt, this new
military power could be used for more than just economic benefits. With the
model of Great Britain in mind, the United States could secure itself against
economic decline and revolutionary upheaval by becoming a world leader in every
sense of the word--economically, militarily, morally, and symbolically. A
shining naval fleet was fundamental to such power.
The United States, which Beveridge
described as a "glorious young manhood," must then capitalize on its
situation in gaining the Philippine territory and begin a colonial trade system
with its newly acquired partners (18). Much like Theodore Roosevelt’s famous
speech, "The Strenuous Life," Beveridge’s speech tied imperial destiny
to masculinity, making isolation look weak and cowardly. Beveridge moved to
describe the lands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines (using feminine
prepositions, as tradition would have it) as virgin land ready for the taking
by the "manhood" that is the American people (18). By couching his
economic claims in sexual metaphors, Beveridge explained the economic reward
for individual Americans--more jobs, more businesses, more natural resources,
and a reduction in income gaps that existed in the turn-of-the-century United States.
Beveridge pushed the
point further, asserting that the Democratic Party supported greedy
international powers such as England
or Germany who would take
the Philippines if the United States
did not. By shifting the calculus of values, Beveridge made his audience
believe failure to acquire the Philippines
would not only result in great economic loss for the United States, but also for the
Filipino people, who would soon be conquered by a less benign imperial power.
In fact, as Beveridge's speech warned the audience, a vote for the opposition
would reject all the work of the nation's forefathers, repudiate the soldiers
who fought valiantly in the Spanish-American War, and oppose God’s sacred
covenant to his chosen people. Beveridge showed himself to be not only a gifted
orator, but also an excruciatingly savvy politician in his fight for expanding
"civilization." A vote for the opposition meant a vote against
everything for which America
seemed to stand--enlightened civilization, liberty defined through divine will,
and the articulated narrative of the forward moving flag that heralded these
The Legacy of the "March of the
The immediate effects of the speech
were visible and widespread. The crowd
applauded and cheered wildly, both during his "march of the flag"
narrative and at the end of his speech. Claude Bowers reports the scene as "a
remarkable ovation. Never had Indianapolis
been more stirred by campaign oratory; never more startled by the novelty of
new ideas. Its pride of race, its imagination, had been touched to the utmost.
And never was Beveridge to be in finer fettle."
The Indianapolis Journal published the speech the next day, and the
Republican state committee disseminated three hundred thousand reprints
throughout the Midwest as campaign fliers.
The feedback Beveridge received motivated him to give speeches on the topic of
expansion policy at all of his campaign stops, even taking the position to Washington,
D.C. as his central platform.
Yet the speech also had occasional
critics. A young Democrat in the audience described the speech as "a great
string of sophistries and inconsistencies covered by Rhetoric."
In addition, soon after Beveridge’s rise to the Senate, critiques of
imperialism began to accumulate, from some Democrats, religious groups,
intellectuals, and German Americans;
the foreign policy posited by the speech eventually met dismal failure. The Philippines remained a U.S. territorial possession;
however, the bloodshed that soon ravaged the territory shifted national focus
to withdrawal as soon as was feasible for regional stability. The formal end of
conflict on July 4, 1902, saw 7,000 Americans dead or wounded, while roughly
20,000 Filipino soldiers lost their lives in the struggle. Far more
devastating, hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians lost their lives due
to disease, war-related injuries, and famine from agricultural devastation.
Even when popular opinion had become decidedly anti-expansionist, Beveridge
continued his battle in the Senate to advance the imperialist cause.
By 1906, Beveridge found little support at all for the expansion project and
began blending his beliefs into mainstream Progressivism.
American isolation policy
increasingly gave away, but not at as Beveridge had put forth in his speech.
The United States slowly
relinquished the idea of a new world empire akin to the British Empire, but
events unfolding in Europe during the early
twentieth century permanently altered the nation’s global status. Both World
War I and World War II made way for increasing U.S.
dominance in international decision-making and leadership, especially through
vehicles such as the League of Nations and
later the United Nations. Conflict in Korea,
Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia,
Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq,
and many other missions around the world continually call the United States to question its
militaristic role in the world.
Economic and cultural globalization
also creates a greater place for U.S. involvement in world affairs.
The movement of transnational capital and labor increasingly brings pressure on
the United States
to manage its role as economic superpower in trade relations and its voice in
institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade
Organization (WTO). The "March of the Flag" as imperialist rhetoric
continues not through expansionism per se, but through the rhetorical
strategies enacted to maintain the hegemonic role of the United States in international
affairs. Many citizens today, including the nation's leaders, cite providential
destiny as a great factor in U.S.
idea is inscribed forever in the nation's seal: Annuit coeptis; Novus ordo
seclorum, or "He has blessed this undertaking; a new order for the
In addition to the religious
overtones in American political rhetoric today, liberty continues to serve as a
guiding concept of the national political dialogue. After September 11th,
2001, President George W. Bush linked liberty and security as the nation's most
important values. Like
Beveridge, the Bush administration shifted the fundamental meaning of liberty
by tying it to another key term of the era. Precautions were taken to avoid
breaches of security in transportation, international trade, immigration, mail,
and even public safety. Much as in the past, liberty became altered and
constrained by its attachment to other values. In the years following the
terrorist attacks, many groups reacted in strong opposition to measures such as
the U.S. Patriot Act to strengthen law enforcement regarding terrorism and
government wire-tapping, all conducted under the banner of "national
Civilization, the god term of the
expansionist era, finds much less verbal resonance with contemporary discourse.
With high levels of movement across national borders and the decline of white
supremacy in the United
States, "civilization" as a
rhetorical tool for imperial rhetoric has almost disappeared. Civilization,
tied up in cultural values, race, economics, and almost every other feature of
any given society, becomes to most people a clearly impossible project for
expansion. Instead, the United
States carries out similar actions in more
discreet and justifiable discourses, such as free trade agreements, military
action against repressive regimes, and human rights campaigns. The civilizing
affects of Western society are still glorified as a means and an end for
imperial projects, but with the positive attachments of humane and just action
necessary for persuasive appeal today. Although it may be less useful to look
for the term "civilization" as a rhetorical tool for expansion, the
value underlies a great deal of current foreign policy and is helpful for
understanding how these somewhat disparate calls for intervention and
imperialism can be understood as a part of a larger transnational process for
or against "civilization." Samuel Huntington's "Clash of
Civilizations" thesis would be one attempt to use the term productively in
In addition to its political
relevance, the "March of the Flag" oration reveals a great deal about
the history of public communication over the last century as well. Given at the
very end of an era before electronic media, the public speech was still one of
the few ways to reach a wide audience, both in person and through newspaper
publication and pamphlets. Further, the "March of the Flag" speech
gives us a sense of the respect for oratory in the nineteenth century. The
orator trained himself from early childhood throughout college, preparing for
occasions to show off his talent as a polished orator and a virtuous citizen.
Beveridge published an influential book on public speaking that professed these
beliefs related to the field of public speaking. Heavily repulsed by rowdy
shouting and name-calling at stump speeches heard in his childhood, Beveridge
concentrated on the ethical and epistemological importance of rhetoric, as well
as the need for decorum in clothing and style. In concluding his work,
Beveridge comments, "So be as brief as you are simple, as plain as you are
fair, and, content with a good job well done, stop when you are through."
To the reader today, it seems the author could learn much from his simple
words. The full speech delivered in Indianapolis
was quite long and blatantly unethical to the contemporary reader.
However, it is always important to
locate public address in its particular context and realize its situated
position in history. Before entertainment in radio, television, or motion
pictures, public speech served even more important functions in society than it
does today. It built community through collective emotionality, through the
dissemination of knowledge, and through the elevation in political society of
the orator. Similar to national political party conventions or a protest march
today, speech situations often arose in this era as the pinnacle of a day
filled with events. A rigorous and emotion-filled speech could have been the
most appropriate response for Beveridge.
As for the "fair" and
ethical claims of Beveridge’s speech, it is hard to read the text today without
questioning Beveridge's moral intentions. International exploitation, racial
subordination, and a divine agenda under the rubric of "liberty" are
less transparent today in normalized political discourse, although the
possibility of such aims cannot be ruled out in contemporary circumstances. The
context of the era given in this essay shows the currents of opinion--the
historic development of the Manifest Destiny and Social Darwinist ideologies up
to the 1890s and the economic and military competition of European imperial
powers over the nineteenth century. For many of the people of Beveridge's era,
his claims would seem ethical and, more importantly, progressive and divinely
inspired. By discreetly altering the definition of liberty and connecting it
with the ideal of "civilization," Beveridge grounded a forward moving
march that Americans appeared bound to follow. To fall out of line with the
march of imperialism meant to fall out from the chief values of the United States
in 1898 and the narrative of the nation up to that point. Although persuasion
and communication are not by their very nature unethical, they certainly
contain the capacity for ill ends when not considered critically. By reviewing
the principles and arguments of the past in such a way, by situating them in
their historical context, and by continually gauging them against contemporary
practice, speakers and audiences can approach a more ethical way to live in an
increasingly interconnected world. If citizens, students, and orators alike
take this process as a personal duty, Beveridge’s hope for a more fair way of
speaking and acting could become a reality. Only then might "March of the
Flag" become a great speech in American history.
Last updated—26 June 2007
Inabinet is a second-year graduate student in the program of Rhetoric and
Public Culture, Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern
University. He would like
to thank David Zarefsky for his guidance throughout the project, as well as the
editing support of Shawn J. Parry-Giles and J. Michael Hogan.
 The nation isolated itself
from most international wars, however, the United States was by no means
isolated from all international disputes up to this time. For more on the
subject, see Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of
American Power (New York:
Basic Books, 2002).
 This essay incorporates the
dual definition of imperialism, both as the exercise of political authority
over territories by a sovereign nation and as the exploitation of foreign
entities. Thus, while direct territorial conquest or settlement is not
normative today, imperialist rhetoric still exerts influence on the national
and international level. Lenin's Imperialism, the Highest Stage of
Capitalism argued along these lines that capitalism necessarily induced
imperialism in order to find new markets and resources across national borders.
This tendency toward exploitation can also be found outside of Marxist
discourse, including international trade theory and the philosophies of Hannah
Arendt in The Human Condition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago,
1958). When I specifically refer to the
imperial military policies supported by Beveridge and others of the era, I use
the terms "expansion" and "expansionist" to denote the
specific mode of imperialism that explicitly supports territorial acquisition.
 Edgar Dewitt Jones, Lords
of Speech: Portraits of Fifteen American Orators (Chicago, IL: Willlett,
Clark, and Company, 1937), 195.
 Jones, Lords of Speech,
 John Braeman, Albert J.
Beveridge: American Nationalist (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1971),
 Braeman, Albert J.
 At this time in Indiana,
the state legislature, not the populace, elected its U.S. Senator to office.
Charles F. Remy, "The Election of Beveridge to the Senate," Indiana
Magazine of History 36 (June 1940): 123-135.
 Charles G. Dawes, A
Journal of the McKinley Years (Chicago, IL: R.R. Donnelley & Sons,
 Braeman, Albert J. Beveridge,
 James T. Kloppenberg, Uncertain
Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought,
1870-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
 Braeman, Albert J.
 Braeman, Albert J.
 For example, Henry F.
Graff, ed., "Introduction," American Imperialism and the
Philippine Insurrection: Testimony taken from Hearings on Affairs in the
Philippine Islands before the Senate Committee on the Philippines (Boston,
MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1969), vii; Boot, The Savage Wars, 103.
 Letter to George W.
Perkins, 7 May 1898. Breaman, Albert J. Beveridge, 28.
 Boot, The Savage Wars, 105
 Filipinos felt betrayed
forces continued to occupy the island nation in the years to come, eventually
leading to the Philippine-American War from 1898 to 1913. See Stuart Creighton Miller, "Benevolent Assimilation": The American Conquest of the Philippines,
1899–1903 (New Haven, CT: Yale University
 Beveridge to Charles G. Dawes,
25 April 1898. Breaman, Albert J. Beveridge, 26.
 Claude G. Bowers, Beveridge
and the Progressive Era (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1932), 73.
 Bowers, Beveridge and the
Progressive Era, 76.
 Anders Stephanson, Manifest
Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1995), xii.
 John L. O'Sullivan,
"The True Title," Morning News (27 Dec 1845), 1. For more, see
Julius W. Pratt, "The Origin of 'Manifest Destiny,'" The American
Historical Review 32 no. 4 (July 1927), 795-798.
 Josiah Strong, Our
Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis (1885; reprint, Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press,
 Strong, Our Country, 252-256.
 Here and elsewhere passages
from "March of the Flag" are cited parenthetically with reference to
paragraph numbers in the text of the speech that accompanies this essay.
 Again, Strong summarizes the
arguments of the time best in his work, especially in the chapter on "The
Anglo-Saxon and World Future," Our Country, 200-218.
 Stephanson, Manifest Destiny, 65.
 Miller, "Benevolent
 Henry C. Lodge, "Our
Blundering Foreign Policy," The Forum 19 (March 1895), 17.
 Braeman, Albert J.
 Stuart Hall, "The
Rediscovery of 'Ideology': Return of the Repressed in Media Studies," Culture,
Society, and the Media, ed. Gurevitch et al. (London: Methuen, 1982),
 Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New
York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1920).
 As a technical word in
rhetorical theory, an ideograph is a one-term summary of one aspect of a
people’s historical ideology. For more, see Michael Calvin McGee, "The
'Ideograph': A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology," Quarterly Journal
of Speech 66 (February 1980),
 Daniel Webster,
"Webster-Hayne Debate on Foot’s Resolution," in American
Rhetorical Discourse, Third
Edition, eds. Ronald F. Reid and James F. Klumpp (Long
Grove, IL: Waveland,
 Albert Beveridge, "Our
Philippine Policy," The Meaning of The Times and Other Speeches
(Indianapolis, IL: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1908), 59.
 Eric T. L. Love, Race
Over Empire: Racism and U.S.
Imperialism, 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina, 2004),
 Beveridge, "Our
Philippine Policy," 78.
 J. Michael Hogan, The Panama Canal in American Politics: Domestic Advocacy and
the Evolution of Policy (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University
Press, 1986), 20-31.
 See Alfred T. Mahan, The
Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (1890; reprint, New
York: Hill and Wang, 1957).
 Braeman, Albert J.
 Bowers, Beveridge and the
Progressive Era, 76.
 Beveridge, "The March
of the Flag," The Meaning of The Times and Other Speeches, 47.
Holman Hamilton and Gayle Thornbrough, ed., Indianapolis
in the "Gay Nineties": High
School Diaries of Claude G. Bowers (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical
Society, 1964), 202.
 Many German Americans believed imperial ambitions on the
part of the United States
were part of a larger scheme for war with their "Fatherland." Miller,
"Benevolent Assimilation," 19.
 By the time of the 1904 St.
Louis World's Fair, sentiment against the war in the Philippines
was strong and the government sponsored an "ethnic Filipino village"
to try and encourage a civilizing sentiment among Americans. Sharon Delmendo, The
Star-Entangled Banner: One Hundred Years of America
in the Philippines (New
Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers
University Press, 2004),
50-53. For more on international sentiment at the time during and following the
Great War, see Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the
Quest for a New World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 48-69.
 A. Cheree Carlson,
"Albert J. Beveridge as Imperialist and Progressive: The Means Justify the
End," Western Journal of Speech Communication 52 (Winter 1988), 46.
 President Bush's most
famous address just after September 11th attacks warned, "The
course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have
always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." He
continued, "Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient
justice--assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories
to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch
over the United States of
America." Taken from "Freedom at
War with Fear: Address to a Joint Session of Congress," United States Capitol Washington,
D.C. The White House, 20
Sept 2001. Available at < http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/
20010920-8.html>. Internet. Accessed
on 12 Nov 2006.
 One example comes from the
speech President Bush gave on the one year anniversary of the September 11th
attacks, in which he stated, "We owe them, and their children, and our
own, the most enduring monument we can build: a world of liberty and security
made possible by the way America leads, and by the way Americans lead our
lives." Given on Ellis Island in New York, NY.
The White House, 11 Sept 2002. Available at
<http://www.whitehouse.gov/ news/releases/2002/09/20020911-3.html#>. Internet. Accessed on 12 Nov 2006.
 The ideograph
<civilization> is examined in this context in: Dana L. Cloud, "'To
Veil the Threat of Terror': Afghan Women and the <Clash of Civilizations>
in the Imagery of the U.S.
war on Terrorism," Quarterly Journal of Speech 90 (2004): 285-306.
Samuel Huntington's thesis in international theory states that national
disputes and wars will decline in the era of globalization, and conflict will
largely be fought between the major civilizations of the world instead.
Disparities and disagreements regarding world civilization will be the major
issue in Huntington's opinion. See
Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign
Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993): 22-49.
 Albert Beveridge, The
Art of Public Speaking (Los Angeles, CA: Nash Publishing, 1974); reprint of