Foreign Missions

Performed by William H. Taft
Recorded August 5, 1908

I have known a good many people who were opposed to foreign missions. I’ve known a good many regular attendants at church, consistent members, that religiously, if you choose to use that term, refuse to contribute to foreign missions. I confess that there was a time when I was enjoying a most provincialism, that I hope has left me now, when I rather sympathized with that view. Until I went to the Orient, until there was thrust upon me the responsibilities with reference to the extension of civilization in those far distant lands, I did not realize the immense importance of foreign mission. The truth is we have got to wake up in this country. We are not all there is in the world; there are lots besides us and there are lots of people besides us that are entitled to our effort and our money and our sacrifice to help them on in the world. Now no man can study the movement of modern civilization from an impartial standpoint and not realize that Christianity, and the spread of Christianity, are the only basis for hope of modern civilization in the growth of popular self-government. The spirit of Christianity is pure democracy; it is the equality of man before God. The equality of man before the law, which is, as I understand it, the most Godlike manifestation that man has been able to make. I am not here tonight to speak of foreign missions from a purely religious standpoint. That has been and will be done. I am here to speak of it from the standpoint of political governmental advancement. The advancement of modern civilization, and I think have had some opportunities to know how dependent we are on the spread of Christianity for any hope we may have of uplifting the people whom providence has thrust upon us for our guidance. I suppose I ought not to go into a discussion here of our business in the Philippines, but I never can take up that subject without pointing the moral. It is my conviction that our nation is just as much charged with the obligation to help the unfortunate peoples of other countries that are thrust upon us by faith onto their feet to become a self governing people as it is the business of the wealthy and fortunate in the community to help the infirm and the unfortunate of that community. It is said that there is nothing in the constitution of the United States that authorizes national altruism of this sort. Well of course there is not, but there is nothing in the Constitution of the United States that forbids it. What there is in the Constitution of the United States is a breathing spirit that we are a nation with all the responsibilities that any nation ever had and, therefore, when it becomes the Christian duty of a nation to assist another nation, the constitution authorizes it because it is part of national well being.