To The Person Sitting In Darkness


To The Person Sitting In Darkness
"... There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety per cent, of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right."

The text of this essay can be found on-line at but my reading was done from the version published in The Oxford Mark Twain, included in the Following the Equator volume. This particular book has a subtitle, "and Anti-Imperialist Essays" of which this is perhaps his best known example. My included image is from the Princeton University Press.

A person sitting in darkness is anyone that needs convincing that "Civilization" is a good thing. Old ways need to be discarded and replaced with those offered by the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. Such people are become scarce. Too much light has been shed on actual costs and benefits fo adapting "Civilization". Mark Twain was initially for American intervention in foreign lands and was supportive of liberating Cuba from Spain. He had thought the same plan was in store for the Philippines when Dewey was sent to oust the Spanish from The Archipelago. He became disenchanted when American decided to stay and liberate the place from the Filipinos as well.

The essay is written as if from a marketing analyst for the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. The analyst is critical of several world leaders for doing a bad job of promoting civilization by exposing the differences between Civilization for home consumption and Civilization meant for export. Criticisms are aimed at Mr. McKinley, Mr. Chamberlain, the Kaiser, the Czar and the French. A full half of the essay is a scathing indictment of American policy.


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