Theodore Roosevelt's "Expansion
of the White Races" Speech
January 18, 1909 - Washington, D.C.
Methodist Episcopal Church celebration 
of the African Diamond Jubilee

There is one feature in the expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood during the past four centuries which should never be lost sight of, especially by those who denounce such expansion on moral grounds. On the whole, the movement has been fraught with lasting benefit to most of the peoples already dwelling in the lands over which the expansion took place. Of course any such general statement as this must be understood with the necessary reservations. Human nature being what it is, no movement lasting for four centuries and extending in one shape or another over the major part of the world could go on without cruel injustices being done at certain places and in certain times. Occasionally, although not very frequently, a mild and kindly race has been treated with wanton, brutal, and ruthless inhumanity by the white intruders. Moreover, mere savages, whose type of life was so primitive as to be absolutely incompatible with the existence of civilization, inevitably died out from the regions across which their sparse bands occasionally flitted, when these regions became filled with a dense population; they died out when they were kindly treated as quickly as when they were badly treated, for the simple reason that they were so little advanced that the conditions of life necessary to their existence were incompatible with any form of higher and better existence. It is also true that, even where great good has been done to the already existing inhabitants, where they have thriven under the new rule, it has sometimes brought with it discontent from the very fact that it has brought with it a certain amount of well-being and a certain amount of knowledge, so that people have learned enough to feel discontented and have prospered enough to be able to show their discontent. Such ingratitude is natural, and must be reckoned with as such; but it is also both unwarranted and foolish, and the fact of its existence in any given case does not justify any change of attitude on our part.

On the whole, and speaking generally, one extraordinary fact of this expansion of the European races is that with it has gone an increase in population and well-being among the natives of the countries where the expansion has taken place. As a result of this expansion there now live outside of Europe over a hundred million of people wholly of European blood and many millions more partly of European blood; and as another result there are now on the whole more people, of native blood in the regions where these hundred million intruders dwell than there were when the intruders went thither. In America the Indians of the West Indies were well-nigh exterminated, wantonly and cruelly. The merely savage tribes, both in North and South America, who were very few in number, have much decreased or have vanished, and grave wrongs have often been committed against them as well as by them. But all of the Indians who had attained to an even low grade of industrial and social efficiency have remained in the land, and have for the most part simply been assimilated with the intruders, the assimilation marking on the whole a very considerable rise in their conditions. Taking into account the Indians of pure blood, and the mixed bloods in which the Indian element is large, it is undoubtedly true that the Indian population of America is larger today than it was when Columbus discovered the continent, and stands on a far higher plane of happiness and efficiency. In Australia the few savages tend to die out simply because their grade of culture is so low that nothing can be done with them; doubtless occasional brutalities have been committed by white settlers but these brutalities were not an appreciable factor in the dying out of th natives. In India and Java there has been a great increase in well-being and population under the English and the Dutch, and the advance made has been in striking contrast to what has occurred during the same period in the near-by lands which have remained under native rule. In Egypt, in the Philippines, in Algiers, the native people have thriven under the rule of the foreigner, advancing as under no circumstances could they possibly have advanced if left to themselves, the increase in population going hand in hand with the increase in general well-being. In the Soudan, Mahdism during the ten years of its unchecked control was responsible for the death of over half the population and meant physical and moral ruin, a fact which should be taken into account by the perverted pseudo-philanthropy which fails to recognize the enormous advantages conferred by the English occupation of the Soudan, if not on the English themselves, certainly on the natives and on humanity at large. In the same way the Russian advance into Turkestan has meant the real advance in the well-being of the people, as well as the spread of civilization. In Natal the English found an empty desert; because of the peace they established it has filled up so densely with natives as to create very serious and totally new problems. There have been very dark spots in the European conquest and control of Africa, but on the whole the African regions which during the past century have seen the greatest cruelty, degradation, and suffering, the greatest diminution of population, are those where native control has been unchecked. The advance has been made in the regions that have been under European control or influence; that have been profoundly influenced by European administrators, and by European and American missionaries. Of course the best that can happen to any people that has not already a high civilization of its own is to assimilate and profit by American or European ideas, the ideas of civilization and Christianity, without submitting to alien control; but such control, in spite of all its defects, is in a very large number of cases the prerequisite condition to the moral and material advance of the peoples who dwell in the darker corners of the earth. Where the control is exercised brutally; where it is made use of merely to exploit the natives, without regard to their physical or moral well-being; it should be unsparingly criticised, and there should be resolute insistence on amendment and reform. But we must not, because of occasional wrong-doing, blind ourselves to the fact that on the whole the white administrator and the Christian missionary have exercised a profound and wholesome influence for good in savage regions.

Let me illustrate what I mean by particularly alluding to three cases - Algiers, India, and the Philippines. The North African coast was a mere nest of pirates during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Punitive expeditions were sent against these pirates again and again, but they could not be permanently suppressed by such expeditions, and all the great commercial nations were forced to pay them a more or less thinly disguised tribute or blackmail. The United States was among that number. It was the French conquest of Algiers which put a final stop to this blackmail; and it also put a stop, to the unspeakable barbarism and cruelty inevitably attendant upon the slave-hunting piracy of the dwellers in the independent North African states. In other words, the independence of these states was a menace to every peaceful people, and incidentally it meant dreadful wrong and injustice within the states themselves. Algiers is far better off in every way under French rule than it was eighty years ago, before the French came into the land, and it is far better off in every way than is the neighboring state of Morocco at the present time; and this simply and solely because the neighboring state of Morocco continues to enjoy much the same kind of independent self-government that Algiers enjoyed until the French went there.

In India we encounter the most colossal example history affords of the successful administration by men of European blood of a thickly populated region. in another continent. It is the greatest feat of the kind that has been performed since the break-up of the Roman Empire. Indeed, it is a greater feat than was performed under the Roman Empire. Unquestionably mistakes have been made; it would indicate qualities literally superhuman if so gigantic a task had been accomplished without mistakes. It is easy enough to point out shortcomings; but the fact remains that the successful administration of the Indian Empire by the English has been one of the most notable and most admirable achievements of the white race during the past two centuries. On the whole it has been for the immeasurable benefit of the natives of India themselves. Suffering has been caused in particular cases and at particular times to these natives; much more often, I believe, by well-intentioned ignorance or bad judgment than by any moral obliquity. But on the whole there has been a far more resolute effort to do justice, a far more resolute effort to secure fair treatment for the humble and the oppressed during the days of English rule in India than during any other period of recorded Indian history. England does not draw a penny from India for English purposes; she spends for India the revenues raised in India; and they are spent for the benefit of the Indians themselves. Undoubtedly India is a less pleasant place than formerly for the heads of tyrannical states. There is now little or no room in it for successful freebooter chieftains, for the despots who lived in gorgeous splendor while under their cruel rule the immense mass of their countrymen festered in sodden misery. But the mass of the people have been and are far better off than ever before, and far better off than they would now be if English control were overthrown or withdrawn. Indeed, if English control were now withdrawn from India, the whole peninsula would become a chaos of bloodshed and violence; till the weaker peoples, and the most industrious and law-abiding, would be plundered. and forced to submit to indescribable wrong and oppression; and the only beneficiaries among the natives would be the lawless, violent, and bloodthirsty. I have no question that there are reforms to be advanced--this is merely another way of saying that the government has been human; I have also no question that there is being made and will be made a successful effort to accomplish these reforms. But the great salient fact is that the presence of the English in India, like the presence of the English in Egypt and the Soudan, of the French in Algiers, of the Russians in Turkestan, of the Germans in Southwest Africa and East Africa (and of all these peoples, and of other white peoples, in many other places), has been for the advantage of mankind. Every well-wisher of mankind, every true friend of humanity, should realize that the part England has played in India has been to the immeasurable advantage of India, and for the honor and profit of civilization, and should feel profound satisfaction in the stability and permanence of English rule. I have seen many American missionaries who have come from India, and I cannot overstate the terms of admiration in which they speak of the English rule in India, and of the incalculable benefits it has conferred and is conferring upon the natives.

Finally, take our own experience in the Philippines. Spain finally lost power to be of benefit to the islands; but do not forget that Spain accomplished very, very much for them during more than two centuries; and that the islands owe their present possibilities to the fact that the Spaniards took possession of them. Then we came in. I am sure that when international history is written, from the standpoint of acclaiming international justice, one chapter will tell with heartiest praise what our people have done in the Philippines. Exactly as, in the Caribbean Sea we have endeavored to give genuine and disinterested help to the independent peoples of Cuba and San Domingo, so, in the same spirit--though the task is of quite different character--we are endeavoring to educate and train the native races under our sovereignty in the Philippines. in our treatment of the Filipinos we have acted up to the highest standard that has yet been set as marking the proper way in which a powerful and advanced nation should treat a weaker people. Cuba we are at this moment leaving for the second time, to work out a destiny which we now hope and believe will be one of stable and orderly independence and prosperity. In the Philippines we are constantly giving an increasing measure of self-government. Of course, in one sense of the word self-government can never be bestowed by outsiders upon any people. It must be achieved by themselves. It means in this sense primarily self-control, self-restraint, and if those qualities do not exist--that is, if the people are unable to govern themselves--then, as there must be government somewhere, it has to come from outside. But we are constantly giving to the people of the Philippines an increasing share in, an increasing opportunity to learn by practice, the difficult art of self-government. If we had abandoned them at the outset to their own devices, if we had shirked our duty and sailed out of the islands, leaving them in a bloody welter of confusion, the chief sufferers would have been the Philippine people themselves. We are leading them forward steadily in the right direction and we are doing it because our people at home desire that they shall be treated right, and because our people in the islands, in the civil government, in the army, and among the missionary representatives of the various creeds work primarily for the advancement of the people among whom they dwell. I believe that I am speaking with historic accuracy and impartiality when I say that the American treatment of and attitude toward the Filipino people, in its combination of disinterested ethical purpose and sound common sense, marks a new and long stride forward, in advance of all steps that have hitherto been taken, along the path of wise and proper treatment of weaker by stronger races.

Now in speaking tonight I wish to lay stress upon the missionary side of the general work in the foreign lands. America has for over a century done its share of missionary work. We who stay at home should as a matter of duty give cordial support to those who in a spirit of devotion to all that is highest in human nature, spend the best part of their lives in trying to carry civilization and Christianity into lands which have hitherto known little or nothing of either. The work is vast, and it is done under many and widely varied conditions., Personally I have always been particularly interested, for instance, in the extraordinary work done by the American schools and colleges in the Turkish Empire, both Turkey in Europe and Turkey in Asia; a work which has borne such wonderful fruit among the Bulgarians, among Syrian and Armenian Christians, and also among the Mohammedans; and this although among the Mohammedans there has been no effort to convert them, simply an effort to make them, good citizens, to make them vie with their fellow citizens who are Christians in showing those qualities which it should be the pride of every creed to develop; and the present movement to introduce far-reaching and genuine reforms, political and social, in Turkey, an effort with which we all keenly sympathize, is one in which these young Moslems, educated at the American schools and colleges, are especially fitted to take part.

Bishop Hartzell's work has been done in Africa, the continent in which of all others there has been the most need for Christian work, and in which that work shows signs of reaching its widest development. It has been indeed a Dark Continent, and some of the white men who have gone thither have by their acts deepened the gloom. Let us as a race be thankful that so many other men have gone thither to strive for the uplift of the people; to strive for the betterment of conditions. Our own country has in the past committed grave wrong against Africa for which it should amply atone, and no better atonement can be made than that which is being made by the American missionaries of every creed and church, who are now doing so much in almost every corner of Africa for the physical, the intellectual, and the moral betterment of the people. I hope there will be the most hearty support of these men, who in far-off regions are fighting for progress in things of the spirit no less than in things of the body. Let us help them to make the missions centres of industrial no less than of ethical teaching; for unless we raise the savage in industrial efficiency we cannot permanently keep him on a high plane of moral efficiency, nor yet can we render him able to hold his own in the world.

Bishop Hartzell, I greet you; and I extend my heartiest good wishes to the great Methodist body on this golden jubilee of its far-reaching work in Africa. No denomination has done more zealous and effective missionary work than the Methodists. They were in many large regions west of the Alleghanies the pioneers of missionary work in our own land; and their missionaries are now to be found in every continent and under every clime. In Africa, on the west coast, the foreign missionary work of the Methodist Episcopal Church was begun seventy-five years ago.

From that beginning a world-wide missionary movement has developed which now involves the annual expenditure of three million dollars from America, besides large amounts raised on the various foreign fields. This great work includes the establishment and maintenance, in several foreign countries, of churches and hospitals, schools of various grades and kinds, and far-reaching evangelistic effort. In recent years, with the opening of that continent to civilization, the work in Africa has grown to large proportions, and the church is face to face with unparalleled opportunities and responsibilities in the strengthening of the centres it now occupies and in answering the calls for enlargement.

The missionary authorities of the church, with the cordial approval of the board of bishops, have designated the year 1909 as Africa Diamond Jubilee year. The nearly twenty thousand pastors of the church will present to their people the claims of Africa as a mission field and ask for jubilee offerings. The amount asked for from America is three hundred thousand dollars. Suitable literature is being published for wide distribution. In addition to the contributions in money, it is fully expected that a large number of well-prepared young men and women will consecrate their lives to service in different parts of the Dark Continent.

The twentieth century will see and is now seeing the transformation of Africa into a new world. Within a few years, its vast domain has been partitioned among various European nations. These nations are expending enormous sums of money and utilizing their best statesmanship and colonizing abilities in the development of colonial empires of wide extent and extraordinary material possibilities. Steamship lines encircle the continent. A continental system of railways and of lake and river steamboats will soon extend northward from Cape Town six thousand miles to Cairo, while branch lines will unite the east and west coasts at several points. The latest results of science are being utilized in mining and agriculture, while scholarly experts in different centres of Europe are studying the questions of native languages and religions, as well as the best methods of advancing civilization among the many millions of native peoples. The wealth of the commerce which will be developed cannot be estimated. The white man rules; but there is only one white man on the continent to one hundred others, who are either barbaric black heathen or fanatical Mohammedans.

Self-interest and competition will, I believe, unite in making the governments fair to the people, and the indomitable energy of the adventurous settlers and the wealth of the nations behind them will result in exploiting the vast commercial resources of the continents. But there is a question that is larger than either government or trade, and that is the moral well-being of these vast millions who have come under the protection of modern governments. The representative of the Christian religion must have his place side by side with the man of government and trade, and for generations that representative must be supplied in the person of the foreign missionary from America and Europe. Civilization can only be permanent and continue a blessing to any people if, in addition to promoting their material well-being, it also stands for an orderly individual liberty, for the growth of intelligence, and for equal justice in the administration of law. Christianity alone meets these fundamental requirements.

The change of sentiment in favor of the foreign missionary in a single generation has been remarkable. The whole world, which is rapidly coming into neighborhood relations, is recognizing as never before the real needs of mankind, and is ready to approve and strengthen all the moral forces which stand for the uplift of humanity. There must be government for the orderly and permanent development of society. There must be intercourse among peoples in the interests of commerce and growth. But, above all, there must be moral power, established and maintained under the leadership of good men and women. The upright and far-seeing statesman, the honest and capable trader, and the devoted Christian missionary represent the combined forces which are to change the Africa of today into the greater and better Africa of the future.

The responsibility of America for the moral well-being of the people of Africa is manifest. Our wealth and power have given us a place of influence among the nations of the world. But world-wide influence and power mean more than dollars or social, intellectual, or industrial supremacy. They involve a responsibility for the moral welfare of others which cannot be evaded.

The United States has no territorial interests in Africa, and may never have. The republic of Liberia was the outgrowth of immigration movements from our colored populations. But beyond a paternal interest, the United States has no organic relation with or responsibility to that government. We are friendly to all governments on the continent, and stand with them, to the extent of our influence, for righteous rule, especially as applied to the vast native populations. Our commercial relations, already large, will grow to vast proportions in coming years. But beyond questions of rule or traffic are the responsibilities of America as to the moral uplift of the people of Africa. This responsibility is to be met in cooperation with the Christian forces of other nations. So vast is this problem of redeeming a continent, which has lain for thousands of years in darkness, that all sections of the Christian Church must have a hand in this great work. The few score of missionaries who are now on the field from America should be multiplied in the near future, and the money contributed to Africa should be doubled over and over again year after year. It is a joy to learn that among the, missionary forces in Africa, from different lands and representing different branches of the church, there are fraternal and mutually helpful relations.

The responsibility of America toward Africa is emphasized because of our past history, and because of the number of our citizens who are of African descent. As a result of the African slave-trade, the crime of the ages, and of two and a half centuries of slavery in America, the United States has nearly ten millions of colored people as a part of its citizenship. No other country outside of Africa has so large a negro population; and, what is more, there are no other ten millions of negroes in the world who own as much property and have as large a per cent, who are intelligent, moral, and thrifty. The education and uplift of the American negro now going forward should be accompanied by the increase of the missionary and Christian forces on the continent from which his ancestors came. The number of those who go as missionaries to Africa will increase; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that a large share of the leadership for the evangelization of the continent will be furnished from among our own colored leaders in America.

In the redemption of Africa all sections of the Christian church must be united, but Methodism, because of the vast numbers it represents and the spirit and methods of its movements, should have a share of especial note. The spirit of Methodism is the spirit of expansion and of world-wide conquests in the kingdom of righteousness. John Wesley's motto was: "The world is my parish." I hope the Methodists of to-day will make this statement good.