THE MARCH OF THE FLAG
Republican party won the presidential election of 1896 by running as
the party of the gold standard, economic stability, and prosperity.
With the help of massive campaign contributions from big business, William
McKinley defeated the Democratic-Populist fusion candidate William Jennings
Bryan and inaugurated a long period of Republican dominance. Responding
to a humanitarian crisis in Cuba while also pursuing American economic
interests, the McKinley administration went to war with Spain in April
of 1898 and quickly acquired Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
(It took a long and brutal war, however, to subjugate a Filipino rebellion.)
In late 1898, when Beveridge delivered this speech, the status of these
recent acquisitions remained to be settled. Using the trope of the "march
of the flag," Beveridge argued that the nation had a duty to extend
civilization to the people of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines
while simultaneously bolstering American economic strength. --D. Voelker
opening the Indiana Republican Campaign at Tomlinson Hall, Indianapolis,
September 16, 1898. This speech was made the Republican campaign document
for Indiana, Iowa and other states.)
is a noble land that God has given us; a land that can feed and clothe
the world; a land whose coastlines 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.
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, man-producing
working-folk 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.
It is a glorious history
our God has bestowed upon His chosen people; 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 wilderness; 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 overran a continent in half a century; a history
of prophets who saw the consequences of evils inherited from the past
and of martyrs who died  to save us from them; a history divinely
logical, in the process of whose tremendous reasoning we find ourselves
Therefore, in this
campaign, the question is larger than a party question. It is an American
question. It is a world question. Shall the American people continue their
march toward the commercial supremacy of the world? Shall free institutions
broaden their blessed reign as the children of liberty wax in strength,
until the empire of our principles is established over the hearts of all
Have we no mission
to perform, no duty to discharge to our fellow-man? Has God 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--as China
has, as India has, as Egypt has?
Shall we be as the
man who had one talent and hid it, or as he who had ten talents and used
them until they grew to riches? And shall we reap the reward that waits
on our discharge of our high duty; shall we occupy new markets for what
our farmers raise, our factories make, our merchants sell--aye, and, please
God, new markets for what our ships shall carry?
Hawaii is ours; Porto
Rico is to be ours; at the prayer of her people Cuba finally will be ours;
in the islands of the East, even to the gates of Asia, coaling stations
are to be ours at the very least; the flag of a liberal government is
to float over the Philippines, and may it be the banner that Taylor unfurled
in Texas and Fremont carried to the coast. 
The 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. How do they know that our government would be without their
consent? Would not the people 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?
And, regardless of
this formula of words made only for enlightened, self-governing people,
do we owe no duty to the world? Shall we turn these peoples back to the
reeking hands from which we have taken them? Shall we abandon them, with
Germany, England, Japan, hungering for them? Shall we save them from those
nations, to give them a self-rule of tragedy?
They ask us how we
shall govern these new possessions. I answer: Out of local conditions
and the necessities of the case methods of government will grow. If England
can govern foreign lands, so can America. If Germany can govern foreign
lands, so can America. If they can supervise protectorates, so can America.
Why is it more difficult to administer Hawaii than New Mexico or California?
Both had a savage and an alien population; both were more remote from
the seat of government when they came under our dominion than the Philippines
Will you say by your
vote that American ability to  govern has decayed; that a century's
experience in self-rule has failed of a result? Will you affirm by your
vote that you are an infidel to American power and practical sense? Or
will you say that ours is the blood of government; ours the heart of dominion;
ours the brain and genius of administration? Will you remember that we
do but what our fathers did--we but pitch the tents of liberty farther
westward, farther southward--we only continue the march of the flag?
The march of the flag!
In 1789 the flag of the Republic waved over 4,000,000 souls in thirteen
states, and their savage territory which stretched to the Mississippi,
to Canada, to the Floridas. The timid minds of that day said that no new
territory was needed, and, for the hour, they were right. But Jefferson,
through whose intellect the centuries marched; Jefferson, who dreamed
of Cuba as an American state; Jefferson, the first Imperialist of the
Republic--Jefferson acquired that imperial territory which swept from
the Mississippi to the mountains, from Texas to the British possessions,
and the march of the flag began!
The infidels to the
gospel of liberty raved, but the flag swept on! The title to that noble
land out of which Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana have been carved
was uncertain; Jefferson, strict constructionist of constitutional power
though he was, obeyed the Anglo-Saxon impulse within him, whose watchword
then and whose watchword throughout the world to-day is, "Forward!": another
empire was added to the Republic, and the march of the flag went on!
Those who deny the
power of free institutions to expand urged every argument, and more, that
we hear, to-day;  but the people's judgment approved the command of
their blood, and the march of the flag went on!
A screen of land from
New Orleans to Florida shut us from the Gulf, and over this and the Everglade
Peninsula waved the saffron flag of Spain; Andrew Jackson seized both,
the American people stood at his back, and, under Monroe, the Floridas
came under the dominion of the Republic, and the march of the flag went
on! The Cassandras prophesied every prophecy of despair we hear, to-day,
but the march of the flag went on!
Then Texas responded
to the bugle calls of liberty, and the march of the flag went on! And,
at last, we waged war with Mexico, and the flag swept over the southwest,
over peerless California, past the Gate of Gold to Oregon on the north,
and from ocean to ocean its folds of glory blazed.
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 to-day
plants the flag over the islands of the seas, outposts of commerce, citadels
of national security, and the march of the flag goes on!
Distance and oceans
are no arguments. The fact that all the territory our fathers bought and
seized is contiguous, is no argument. In 1819 Florida was farther from
New York than Porto Rico is from Chicago to-day; Texas, farther from Washington
in 1845 than Hawaii is from Boston in 1898; California, more inaccessible
in 1847 than the Philippines are now. Gibraltar is farther from London
than Havana is from  Washington; Melbourne is farther from Liverpool
than Manila is from San Francisco.
The ocean does not
separate us from lands of our duty and desire--the oceans join us, rivers
never to be dredged, canals never to be repaired. Steam joins us; electricity
joins us--the Very elements are in league with our destiny. Cuba not contiguous!
Porto Rico not contiguous! Hawaii and the Philippines not contiguous!
The oceans make them contiguous. And our navy will make them contiguous.
But the Opposition
is right--there is a difference. We did not need the western Mississippi
Valley when we acquired it, nor Florida, nor Texas, nor California, nor
the royal provinces of the far northwest. We had no emigrants to people
this imperial wilderness, no money to develop it, even no highways to
cover it. No trade awaited us in its savage fastnesses. Our productions
were not greater than our trade. There was not one reason for the land-lust
of our statesmen from Jefferson to Grant, other than the prophet and the
Saxon within them. But, to-day, we are raising more than we can consume,
making more than we can use. Therefore we must find new markets for our
And so, while we did
not need the territory taken during the past century at the time it was
acquired, we do need what we have taken in 1898, and we need it now. The
resources and the commerce of these immensely rich dominions will be increased
as much as American energy is greater than Spanish sloth. In Cuba, alone,
there are 15,000,000 acres of forest unacquainted with the ax, exhaustless
mines of iron, priceless deposits of manganese, millions of dollars' worth
of which we  must buy, to-day, from the Black Sea districts. There
are millions of acres yet unexplored.
The resources of Porto
Rico have only been trifled with. The riches of the Philippines have hardly
been touched by the fingertips of modern methods. And they produce what
we consume, and consume what we produce--the very predestination of reciprocity--a
reciprocity "not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." They sell hemp,
sugar, cocoanuts, fruits of the tropics, timber of price like mahogany;
they buy flour, clothing, tools, implements, machinery and all that we
can raise and make. Their trade will be ours in time. Do you indorse that
policy with your vote?
Cuba is as large as
Pennsylvania, and is the richest spot on the globe. Hawaii is as large
as New Jersey; Porto Rico half as large as Hawaii; the Philippines larger
than all New England, New York, New Jersey and Delaware combined. Together
they are larger than the British Isles, larger than France, larger than
Germany, larger than Japan.
If any man tells you
that trade depends on cheapness and not on government influence, ask him
why England does not abandon South Africa, Egypt, India. Why does France
seize South China, Germany the vast region whose port is Kaouchou?
Our trade with Porto
Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines must be as free as between the states
of the Union, because they are American territory, while every other nation
on earth must pay our tariff before they can compete with us. Until Cuba
shall ask for annexation, our trade with her will, at the very least,
be like the preferential trade of Canada with England. That, and the excellence
 of our goods and products; that, and the convenience of traffic;
that, and the kinship of interests and destiny, will give the monopoly
of these markets to the American people.
The commercial supremacy
of the Republic means that this Nation is to be the sovereign factor in
the peace of the world. For the conflicts of the future are to be conflicts
of trade--struggles for markets--commercial wars for existence. And the
golden rule of peace is impregnability of position and invincibility of
preparedness. So, we see England, the greatest strategist of history,
plant her flag and her cannon on Gibraltar, at Quebec, in the Bermudas,
at Vancouver, everywhere.
So Hawaii furnishes
us a naval base in the heart of the Pacific; the Ladrones another, a voyage
further on; Manila another, at the gates of Asia--Asia, to the trade of
whose hundreds of millions American merchants, manufacturers, farmers,
have as good right as those of Germany or France or Russia or England;
Asia, whose commerce with the United Kingdom alone amounts to hundreds
of millions of dollars every year; Asia, to whom Germany looks to take
her surplus products; Asia, whose doors must not be shut against American
trade. Within five decades the bulk of Oriental commerce will be ours.
No wonder that, in
the shadows of coming events so great, free-silver is already a memory.
The current of history has swept past that episode. Men understand, to-day,
that the greatest commerce of the world must be conducted with the steadiest
standard of value and most convenient medium of exchange human ingenuity
can devise. Time, that unerring reasoner, has settled the silver question.
The American people are tired of talking  about money--they want to
make it. Why should the farmer get a half-measure dollar of money any
more that he should give a half-measure bushel of grain?
Why should not the
proposition for the free coinage of silver be as dead as the proposition
of irredeemable paper money? It is the same proposition in a different
form. If the Government stamp can make a piece of silver, which you can
buy for 45 cents, pass for 100 cents, the Government stamp can make a
piece of pewter, worth one cent, pass for 100 cents, and a piece of paper,
worth a fraction of a cent, pass for 100 cents. Free-silver is the principle
of fiat money applied to metal. If you favor fiat silver, you necessarily
favor fiat paper.
If the Government can
make money with a stamp, why does the Government borrow money? If the
Government can create value out of nothing, why not abolish all taxation?
And if it is not the
stamp of the Government that raises the value, but the demand which free
coinage creates, why has the value of silver gone down at a time when
more silver was bought and coined by the Government than ever before?
Again, if the people want more silver, why do they refuse what we already
have? And if free silver makes money more plentiful, how will you get
any of it? Will the silver-mine owner give it to you? Will he loan it
to you? Will the Government give or loan it to you?, Where do you or I
come in on this free-silver proposition?
The American people
want this money question settled for ever. They want a uniform currency,
a convenient currency, a currency that grows as business grows, a currency
based on science and not on chance. 
And now, on the threshold
of our new and great career, is the time permanently to adjust our system
of finance. The American people have the mightiest commerce of the world
to conduct. They can not halt to unsettle their money system every time
some ardent imagination sees a vision and dreams a dream. Think of Great
Britain becoming the commercial monarch of the world with her financial
system periodically assailed! Think of Holland or Germany or France bearing
their burdens, and, yet, sending their flag to every sea, with their money
at the mercy of politicians-out-of-an-issue. Let us settle the whole financial
system on principles so sound that no agitation can shake it. And then,
like men and not like children, let us on to our tasks, our mission and
There are so many real
things to be done--canals to be dug, railways to be laid, forests to be
felled, cities to be builded, fields to be tilled, markets to be won,
ships to be launched, peoples to be saved, civilization to be proclaimed
and the flag of liberty flung to the eager air of every sea. Is this an
hour to waste upon triflers with nature's laws? Is this a season to give
our destiny over to word-mongers and prosperity-wreckers? No! It is an
hour to remember our duty to our homes. It is a moment to realize the
opportunities fate has opened to us. And so it is an hour for us to stand
by the Government.
Wonderfully has God
guided us. Yonder at Bunker Hill and Yorktown His providence was above
us. At New Orleans and on ensanguined seas His hand sustained us. Abraham
Lincoln was His minister and His was the altar of freedom the Nation's
soldiers set up on a hundred battle-fields. His power directed Dewey in
 the East and delivered the Spanish fleet into our hands, as He delivered
the elder Armada into the hands of our English sires two centuries ago.
The American people can not use a dishonest medium of exchange; it is
ours to set the world its example of right and honor. We can not 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 can not retreat
from any soil where Providence has unfurled our banner; it is ours to
save that soil for liberty and civilization.
- How did Beveridge
characterize the purposes and goals of the U.S.?
- How did Beveridge
justify the subjugation of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos by
- Why did Beveridge
believe that the U.S. needed an overseas empire?
Source: Albert J.
Beveridge, The Meaning of the Times, and Other Speeches (Indianapolis:
Bobbs-Merrill, 1908), 47-57. Paragraph numbers have been added,
and the original pagination appears in brackets.