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LETTER TO A FRIEND.
BOSTON, MASS., Oct. 21, 1899. My dear A, I read Mr. Thayer's article in the Harvard Law Review, with which you tell me you agree, when it first appeared, and gathered from it that we differed because, like some others, he had ceased to believe in the Declaration of Independence. I have now read it again carefully; but I am still unable to see how you can think that you uphold the Declaration and the doctrines of Lincoln, while you approve the war now waged upon the Filipinos. I think Mr. Thayer has lost sight of some vital distinctions, and I will state my position briefly. To answer his article fully would
. require more than a letter.
Let me say at the outset that I cordially agree with him in thinking that America's duty was “to illustrate how nations may be governed without wars and without waste, and how the great mass of men's earnings may be applied, not to the machinery of government, or the rewarding of office-holders, or the wasteful activities of war, but to the comforts and charities of life, and to all the nobler ends of human existence.” I am not willing, however, to admit that the Spanish War must result in the abandonment of this great mission.
He begins his article by apparently assuming that the rulers of our choice have so far 'committed us to a reversal of our “whole traditional policy” that we must accept the result. His conclusion is that “we no longer have before us the question of whether we will take in extra-continental colonies or not." That in his judgment is settled.
I agree that our rulers can embark us in war, and that we cannot wipe out some of their acts; but I do not think they can commit us irrevocably to any policy. I believe with Charles Sumner that “nothing is settled that is not settled right." Had you entertained in your youth such views as you now express, you would hardly have hoped to save Kansas for freedom, to keep slavery out of the territories, or to abolish it altogether. Certainly our rulers for