We Must Act!

John M. Thurston’s speech, titled “We Must Act!” is a heart-wrenching cry for humanitarianism. Calling upon the spirit of his dead wife, who, one can only assume, died after interacting with the conditions of the internment camps in Cuba, Thurston pleads for the US to interfere in the Spanish-Cuban War. This document is interesting because, whereas others calling for action in Cuba inevitably make some mention of the economic gain that the US would benefit from, Thurston seems intent upon only relying on the narrative of human suffering that he has crafted. I say crafted – recounted, is perhaps a better word. He talks of men, women, and children who “stand silent, famishing with hunger… [who’s] only appeal comes from their sad eyes, through which one looks as through an open window into their agonizing souls”(Hoganson 64). Thurston’s call to action plays upon human morality in order to help those oppressed under Spanish rule.

However, Thurston’s argument in and of itself is not unique. Although he has the added advantage of being able to invoke his dead wife as a reminder of just how bad conditions in Cuba are, he is hardly the first white man to advocate for US interference in a “lesser” or “underdeveloped” country. The idea of humanitarians as a force to a) build a United States Empire and b) save “heathens” from their Godless ways is one that is explored at length, both in documents in this section and documents in other sections of Kristin L. Hoganson’s  book, American Empire at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.