Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Porto Rican bill is declared by the revolutionists to be the forerunner of a like bill as to the Philippines. The Filipinos know this. They also know and believe that President McKinley was right when he said that "forcible annexation is criminal aggression," and, believing these words, they have taken encouragement from them and are resisting criminal aggression. But suppose the supreme court decides that the constitution is over the islands where the congress is expressly restrained and that it is not otherwise over the islands; that in consequence the Porto Rican act is constitutional, not because it is warranted by words in the constitution, but because it is not expressly prohibited by words in the constitution-what will be the status of the republic?

Will the people have the courage to say that such a decision cannot prescribe a rule of political action which shall be binding on future presidents and congresses? Or will they tamely submit as upon a question irrevocably and firmly settled? To this point does the Porto Rican bill conduct a republic which grew out of resistance to taxation without representation.

THE PHILIPPINE CONQUEST.

During the campaign of 1900 the argument advanced against the Philippine aggression was the repudiation of the fundamental principles of the republic involved in that aggression. And coupled with this was the claim of injustice being perpetrated against a helpless people. The problem now seems to be what guarantees have the people at home against infractions of their liberties and why may not the limitless power of a "sovereign" nation be directed against them when the apparent exigency arises in favor of those who control the government? For when a principle is once undermined the principle can no longer be looked to for security. It is then a question of chance as to the means of redress and protection,

Since then the constitution and the declaration have been duly ravished. The country has settled down to hear the reports of pillage, murder and rapine in the islands in the great work of destroying an Asiatic republic. Plutocracy proceeds with solemnity and dispatch to gather in the insular concessions or to obstruct all policies when the concessions are not readily granted. The people at large are paying the taxes and undergoing the obvious moral decline which has set in. In short it is discovered that the United States have embarked on a colonial policy, but not the colonial policy of England today. It is the colonial policy of the Eng

land of 1776, maintained to build up a nation of customers for the benefit of a favored class at home. And so we find American ideas sacrificed not merely to commercialism but to special privilege. The people furnish the soldiers; the people pay the taxes; the people build the ships, and the trusts gather in the spoils.

This revolution in our government and ideals has been accomplished by wrenching the fundamental law and the fundamental sentiments of a whole people once devoted to liberty. The whole of society has been shaken. The evil passions, the evil ambitions of men are kept down in a large measure by the unwritten law of ideals which have become intrenched by centuries of indoctrination. There is no written penalty affixed to selfishness, cruelty, lying, hypocrisy, greed, dishonor or hatred or the other demons of human nature exorcised or controlled by the power of civilization. But when the rigor of those ideals is loosened at the top the whole system of morals suffers a relaxation and a relapse. A president may initiate the catastrophe, but its impulse will recoil upon him. The congressman and the senator will feel released from the strict course of rectitude. The judge on the bench will see in the life about him and the policies about him excuse for yielding to the gathering pressure. All other officials will be similarly affected. The influence will creep into private life. It will dominate the relations between men in business and in society. All principles, whether of government or of individuals, become affected. The highwayman in the alley knows what is going on and merely raves at the system that marks him out for sure punishment. At last it is only

a mask that conceals the bloated face of society. There is nothing left but organized hypocrisy.

We all expect men as individuals to be more or less illogical. Life is illogical. History is illogical. Governmental policy is still more illogical. But there is a limit to its illogic. When it reaches that point morals are prostrated upon their foundations. A president may change his mind—but not from the right to the wrong. He may contradict himself—but not in the same breath. He may preach one thing and do another -but circumstances must change. There must be reason for such alterations; there must be sound sentiment for them. If these are absent it will not be long until the humblest man in the land will understand. And if the president may do such things why not himself? It is a question of example.

If there ever was an irrational war it was the war with Spain. Americans deride the French as mercurial, sentimental, unsubstantial. And yet what appeared to be the American people demanded war with Spain. The Spaniards were governing without the consent of the governed, but they were willing to concede more than we have conceded. Weyler had instituted the reconcentrado camps, but Spain had yielded on that point. The homes of the islanders were being burned, the people were being butchered and the horrors of war hovered over the desolate land.

But they promised to end the war. Spain confessed the objections to her course. And yet there must be war. The Maine incident was eliminated from the controversy by a court of our own selection. And yet there must be war. And the war came.

Then the American people beheld the United States move up and occupy the place vacated by Spain. We took their war and their methods. We tricked the Filipinos, we shot them, we burned their homes. We adopted Weyler's reconcentrado policy. We taxed them without representation. We put ourselves in the position where a combination of powers could drive us out for the same reason that we drove out Spain, and thereby make us a theme for epic laughter as long as the world should stand. Does the whole of history furnish so illogical a chapter? It seems too puerile to believe of a great nation which traces its liberties to the time when our ancestors were wild men in the north of Germany and when, as barbarians in the British Isles, they resisted Caesar and threw off the yoke of benevolent assimilation. The moral effect of such a course of shuffling and hypocrisy cannot be calculated because it is likely to affect untold generations.

At the very outset of the scheme of conquering the Filipinos it was known that the theory of the army had to be changed. Conquest cannot be left to a citizen soldiery, because volunteers fight for a principle. They fight for their rights and their homes. Such were our soldiers before imperialism became a national dream. With the volunteers we had twice driven back the hosts of monarchy. With volunteers we had met and defeated the greatest Anglo-Saxon army that ever took the field. And yet for the purpose of conquering a people armed in part with primitive weapons the creation of a regular soldiery many times its former size

« PreviousContinue »