“I Have Really Enjoyed the Hardships, the Excitement, the Change”

For the primary source analysis I read document 20, by John Clifford Brown. This document consists of excerpts from Brown’s diary, which he kept while serving as a common soldier in the Army during the Filipino-American war. An interesting thing to note about this document is Brown’s background as a graduate of MIT. This is the not the work of an ordinary grunt who enlisted because the family farm was failing. This is the work of someone who was fairly privileged, and could easily have 1) stayed at home to personal profit or 2) gotten a commission.

Why then, did Brown enlist and serve as a common soldier in the Philippines? One part of the document that sheds light on this is under the entry for November 21, in which he wishes that the war was not ending and shows that he has thought of the whole experience as a grand adventure (79). He praises the climate and the physical activity, “the hardships, the excitement, the change” (79). He seems to think of it as like a grand Boy Scout outing. An experience that will take him, a college graduate with soft hands, and turn him into a grizzled man. This connects to contemporary trends of hyper-masculinity that were most famously being embodied by Teddy Roosevelt.

Another interesting thing to note is Brown’s racial attitudes. The later part of the document consists of Brown’s racist musings about Filipinos¬† and his comparison of them with African-Americans. He denigrates Filipino society as unable to support itself without the backing of whites, and Filipinos as “childish” (79). In the June 12 entry he compares a Filipino woman to a dog (80). In the June 25 entry, in comparing Filipinos with African-Americans he expresses the belief that they are at the same level of so-called “racial development”, but Filipinos have slightly more promise of advancement (80). These racist sentiments provide insight into the mindset of the broader American public at the time. Combined with his previously expressed masculinity, a picture of Brown’s motivations and broader ideological currents present at the turn of the century emerges.

Document 20 provides insight into the personal motivations behind the author’s service, as well as a look into broader ideological trends within American society at the end of the 19th century that shaped its interactions with the rest of the world.