Chamblee54

Mark Twain Double Feature

Posted in History, Library of Congress by chamblee54 on May 26, 2020


In honor of the National Day of Prayer , Chamblee54 presents two reruns, both based on the words of Mark Twain. Pictures are from The Library of Congress.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, the United States was involved in a war, that did not want to end. This conflict was in the Philippines. Although there had been an official end to the war, guerrillas continued to fight the Americans. The war was a nasty affair, with many atrocities.

The War against the Philippine people was a souvenir of the Spanish American War. There had been a rebellion against Spanish rule in the islands. After the American forces routed the Spanish, the rebellion shifted to the American occupiers. It was a war stumbled into, and difficult to end.

Mark Twain was horrified. He wrote a story, The War Prayer. As Lew Rockwell tells the tale

“Twain wrote The War Prayer during the US war on the Philippines. It was submitted for publication, but on March 22, 1905, Harper’s Bazaar rejected it as “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine.” Eight days later, Twain wrote to his friend Dan Beard, to whom he had read the story,
“I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.” Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Mark Twain could not publish “The War Prayer” elsewhere and it remained unpublished until 1923.”
HT to David Crosby and his autobiography, “Since Then“. A book report is forthcoming.

Getting back to “A War Prayer“, the story starts in a church. A war has started, and is popular. The troops leave for glory the next day. The preacher has an emotional prayer to send them on their way. Unknown to the minister, there is a visitor.
“An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there, waiting.
With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,” Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger motioned to the preacher to step aside. The stranger stepped into the pulpit, and claimed to have a message for the worshipers, sent directly from G-d. The preacher’s message was for support in time of war, and implied that G-d and the preacher support the same side in this conflict. There is an unspoken part to a prayer like this. This unspoken part was what the stranger was going to put into words.

“”O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it-
for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”


Mark Twain wrote a lot during the American Genocide in the Philippines. Many of his words could apply today. War has gotten more high tech…for our side…, but the bottom line is the same. No matter how fancy the weapons get, the casualties are just as dead. And the investors make money.

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps —
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!”

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our g-d is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom — and for others’ goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich —
Our g-d is marching on.

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