Imperialism: Western Justifications Imperialism can be defined simply as the domination or control of one country over another. This action or attitude of dominating and controlling foreign peoples has, and always will be a hot topic for debate. Two men from different cultural backgrounds, but from around the same time period, give speeches in which they oppose the anti-imperialist views of their time. In July of 1883, Jules Ferry of France, expressed his imperialistic views to the French Chamber of Deputies, and in February of 1899, Theodore Roosevelt expressed his views to the U.
S. Senate in his Chicago speech, “The Strenuous Life. ” Although Ferry and Roosevelt were on the same side of the argument their justifications for imperialism differ. This can be attributed to both their political agendas and the audience in which they are speaking to. Jules Ferry was a French politician and passionate imperialist. He frequently defended his policies in debates in the French Chamber of Deputies against both socialist and conservative critics, who for different reasons were anti-imperialist.
In Ferry’s 1883 speech he begins by saying, “the policy of colonial expansion is a political and economic system; I wish to say that one can relate this system to three orders of ideas: economic ideas, ideas of civilization in its highest sense, and ideas of politics and patriotism. ” In this statement Ferry lays out three points that in his mind justify imperialism. In the area of economics he goes on to explain that trading goods with other nations is essential for a countries survival. In order to strive as a nation France needs to increase export markets.
Ferry seems frustrated with the fact that the U. S. and Germany have become almost impossible to export goods too, through various barriers and tariffs on imported goods. It is through this protectionist mentality of these large markets that Ferry concludes France must look elsewhere to export their goods. Roosevelt fails to give any economic argument in his speech that defends imperialism. This can be attributed to the fact that Roosevelt was probably trying to focus more on the issues widely debated at the time in the Treaty of Paris.
The main issue in the Treaty of Paris was that the U. S. had no right to pass laws for a people they didn’t represent; Roosevelt argued that the U. S. does have this right. Ferry’s second point regarding ideas of civilization in its highest sense is where Roosevelt’s views can be both compared and contrasted. In Ferry’s second attempt to justify imperialism he explains that superior races have a right and duty to civilize inferior races. Roosevelt does, in a sense, have this same view but doesn’t put it so bluntly.
In an attempt to help Americans understand where he stands on this issue he explains, “We cannot avoid the responsibilities that confront us is Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines…Puerto Rico is not large enough to stand alone…Until order and stable liberty are secured in Cuba, we must remain on the island…The Philippines population includes half-caste and native Christians, warlike Moslems, and wild pagans. Many of their people are utterly unfit for self-government, and show no signs of becoming fit. ” Roosevelt does not call it the U. S. ’s right to control inferior races but instead calls it the U. S. s responsibility. By saying a superior nation has a responsibility over, and not rights over an inferior nation, he can sound more sympathetic towards their situation. In other words, Roosevelt is trying to make it sound like the U. S. just wants to help these nations, and has made it his responsibility to protect Puerto Rico, bring order and liberty to Cuba, and to govern the uncivilized people of the Philippines. Both Ferry and Roosevelt basically have the same idea of “white man’s burden,” but because of the difference in audience and political agenda Roosevelt is a little more careful with his choice of words.
In the area of politics and patriotism Ferry was obviously motivated by Frances defeat by Prussia and other German states in the Franco-Prussian War. Ferry goes on to say that naval warfare has become increasingly important and the need to set up ports around the globe has increased as well. Ferry gives an example explaining why this is necessary: “At this time, as you know, a warship cannot carry more than fourteen days’ worth of coal, no matter how perfectly it is organized, and a ship which is out of coal is a derelict on the surface of the sea, abandoned to the first person who comes along. This is one argument that many of the French probably agreed with Ferry on. They had just come out of a war that they lost and any ideas that attempt to increase the strength of the military were most likely praised. On the contrary, Roosevelt did not come right out and say imperialism is important for a nation trying to build a stronger military, although he definitely hinted at the idea. Again, I think Roosevelt wanted to focus more on the issues outlined in the Treaty of Paris in an attempt to get it approved. In comparison to Ferry, Roosevelt, was however, motivated by China just as Ferry was motivated by the Franco-Prussian War.
Roosevelt goes on to explain: “In this world a nation like China that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. ” Roosevelt is using China as an example in order to show Americans that isolation from the rest of the world is a recipe for disaster, and in order to become a stronger nation the U. S. must expand its horizons. Through Roosevelt’s continued use of words like stronger, manlier, and power it’s obvious he’s talking about military power and the importance of maintaining and expanding that power.