Naboth's Vineyard

William Jennings Bryan, three time Presidential candidate

William Jennings Bryan

Holy, Holy, Holy
Delivered at Denver, Colo., in the winter of 1898-9, and one of the earliest protests made against colonialism.

THE Bible tells us that Ahab, the king, wanted the vineyard of Naboth and was sorely grieved because the owner thereof refused to part with the inheritance of his fathers. Then followed a plot, and false charges were preferred against Naboth to furnish an excuse for getting rid of him.

“Thou shalt not covet!” “Thou shalt not bear false witness!” “Thou shalt not kill”—three commandments broken, and still a fourth, “Thou shalt not steal,” to be broken in order to get a little piece of ground! And what was the result? When the king went forth to take possession, Elijah, that brave old prophet of the early days, met him and pronounced against him the sentence of the Almighty. “In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall the dogs lick thy blood, even thine.”

Neither his own exalted position nor the lowly station of his victim could save him from the avenging hand of outraged justice. His case was tried in a court where neither wealth, nor rank, nor power, could shield the transgressor.

Wars of conquest have their origin in covetousness, and the history of the human race has been written in characters of blood because rulers have looked with longing eyes upon the lands of others.

Covetousness is prone to seek the aid of false pretense to carry out its plans, but what it cannot secure by persuasion it takes by the sword.

Senator Teller’s amendment to the intervention resolution saved the Cubans from the covetousness of those who are so anxious to secure possession of the island, that they are willing to deny the truth of the declaration of our own Congress, that “the people of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free.”

Imperialism might expand the nation’s territory, but it would contract the nation’s purpose. It is not a step forward toward a broader destiny; it is a step backward, toward the narrow views of kings and emperors.

Dr. Taylor has aptly expressed it in his “Creed of the Flag,” when he asks:

Shall we turn to the old world again
With the penitent prodigal’s cry?

I answer, never. This republic is not a prodigal son; it has not spent its substance in riotous living. It is not ready to retrace its steps and, with shamed face and trembling voice, solicit an humble place among the servants of royalty. It has not sinned against heaven, and God grant that the crowned heads of Europe may never have occasion to kill the fatted calf to commemorate its return from reliance upon the will of the people to dependence upon the authority which flows from regal birth or superior force.

We cannot afford to enter upon a colonial policy. The theory upon which a government is built is a matter of vital importance. The national idea has a controlling influence upon the thought and character of the people. Our national idea is self-government, and unless we are ready to abandon that idea forever we cannot ignore it in dealing with the Filipinos.

That idea is entwined with our traditions; it permeates our history; it is a part of our literature.

That idea has given eloquence to the orator and inspiration to the poet. Take from our national hymns the three words, free, freedom and liberty, and they would be as meaningless as would be our flag if robbed of its red, white and blue.

Other nations may dream of wars of conquest and of distant dependencies governed by external force; not so with the United States.

The fruits of imperialism, be they bitter or sweet, must be left to the subjects of monarchy. This is the one tree of which the citizens of a republic may not partake. It is the voice of the serpent, not the voice of God, that bids us eat.

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