The Philippine Problem – Continued

In speaking of the Philippine independence I have presented some of the reasons given by Filipinos for desiring it, but there are arguments which ought to appeal especially to Americans. If it were our duty to maintain a colonial policy, no argument could be made against it, because duties are imperative and never conflict. If, on the other hand the Filipinos desire independence and are capable of self-government, we cannot justify the retention of the islands unless we are prepared to put our own interests above theirs, and even then we must be satisfied that our interests will be advanced by a colonial policy.

In the beginning of the controversy there .were many who believed that the Philippine Islands would become a source of profit to the United States. It was confidently predicted that a multitude of Americans would flock to the islands and find rich reward in the development of their resources. These hopes have not been realized. Except in Mindanao, of which I shall speak later, there is no evidence of any present or future colonization by Americans. There are a few Americans engaged in business in Manila and at other army posts, but these are insignificant in number and the business done by them is nothing as compared with the cost of colonialism to the United States. We are maintaining about twelve thousand American soldiers in the island and five thousand native scouts, officered by Americans and paid for by the United States. Besides this outlay for the army, our Philippine policy has been made the excuse for a large increase in our naval expenditures. While it is difficult to determine accurately the annual cost of our Philippine policy to the people of the United States, it is safe to say that it exceeds the value of all the merchandise that we export to the Philippine Islands and all the money made by Americans in the islands, including salaries paid to Americans from taxes collected in the Philippines—and the expenses are borne by all the people while the benefits are received by a mere handful. No one, therefore, can justify the holding of the Philippines on the ground that they are a pecuniary advantage.

If it is argued that we need the Philippine Islands as a base for the extension of our trade in the Orient, I answer that it is not necessary to deny the Filipinos independence in order to hold a sufficient number of harbors and coaling stations to answer all the requirements of trade. The Filipinos are not only anxious to have the advantage of our protection, but they recognize that to protect them we must have harbors and a naval base. In return for the services we have rendered them we have a right to ask, and they would gladly grant, such reservations as we need. These reservations could be properly fortified and would furnish coaling stations both for our navy and for our merchant marine. It goes without saying that in case we had war with an oriental nation, it would be infinitely better to have the Filipinos supporting us, in their own interest as well as out of gratitude, than to have them awaiting an opportunity for insurrection.

I have already referred to the danger which may come to the principle of self-government in the United States from the systematic denial of self-government to the Filipinos. As our officials can only explain their continued presence in the Philippines by alleging incapacity in the Filipinos, they find themselves unconsciously surrendering the governmental theories which were until recently universally accepted in our country. We cannot overlook the influence that these changed opinions may have upon the politics of our own country if a colonial policy is indefinitely continued.

Neither can we ignore the fact that our prestige as a teacher of the principles of republican government must be impaired if we hold colonies under the law of force and defend ourselves by using the arguments employed by kings and emperors as an excuse for denying self-government to their own people. We cannot preach that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and at the same time adopt a different principle in practice.

It is worth while also to remember that foreign service is more or less demoralizing to our troops. Our soldiers are good, average men, but all men are more or less influenced by environment, and our soldiers cannot be expected to maintain as high a standard of morality when far away from home and the influences of home, as when their good purposes are strengthened by the presence of mothers, sisters and friends. The hospital records show the extent to which our soldiers yield to the temptations which surround the post, and the saloons that follow our’ army speak forcibly of the dangers which attend foreign service. Can we afford to subject the morals of our young men to such severe tests unless there is some national gain commensurate with the loss?

If our nation would at once declare its intention to treat the Filipinos living north of Mindanao as it ‘treated the Cubans, and then proceed, first, to establish a stable government, patterned after our own; second, to convert that government into a native government by the substitution of Filipino for American officials as rapidly as possible; third, to grant independence to the Filipinos, reserving such harbors and naval stations as may be thought necessary; and, fourth, to announce its purpose to protect the Filipinos from outside interferences while they work out their destiny–if our nation would do this, it would save a large annual expense, protect its trade interests, gratify the just ambition of the Filipinos for national existence and repeat the moral victory won in Cuba.

In return for protection from without, the Filipinos would agree, as the Cubans did, that in their dealings with other nations they would not embarrass us.

The reservations retained could be converted into centers for the extension of American influence and American ideals, and our nation would increase its importance as a real world power. Unless our religion and our philosophy are entirely wrong, moral forces are more permanent and, in the end, more potent than physical force, and our nation has an opportunity to prove that a nation’s greatness, like the greatness of an individual, is measured by service. It also has an opportunity to prove that the Oriental can be led by advice and improved by example and does not need to be coerced by military power.

Our reservations ought to contain model schools, with a central college, experimental farms and institutions in which the people could be trained in the arts and industries most suited to the natural resources of the country. Our nation is unfitted by history and by tradition to exploit the tropical countries according to the methods employed by the monarchies of Europe. To hold people in subjection requires a large military expenditure; if we were to attempt to make our own people bear such a burden, they would soon protest ; if we were to make the Filipinos bear it, it would crush them. The Filipinos would resist such a policy, if employed by us, more bitterly than if it were employed by a European country, because they have learned from us the lessons of liberty. Subject peoples are not willing laborers, and our country would not endorse a system of compulsory labor. Education, too, is inconsistent with a permanent colonial system and cannot be carried far without danger to the ruling power.

We must choose, therefore, between two policies, and the sooner the choice is made, the better. As we cannot adopt the European policy without a radical departure from our ideals, and ultimately from our form of government at home, we are virtually forced to adopt a plan distinctly American—a plan in which advice, example and helpfulness shall be employed as means of reaching the native heart. Some of the European nations have been content to seize land and develop it with European capital and Chinese labor; our plan must be to develop the natives themselves by showing them better methods and by opening before them a wider horizon. At our reservations there would be religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, self-government and public instruction for all, and every uplifting influence would have free play. If we believe that right makes might and that truth has within itself a propagating power, we cannot doubt the spread of American civilization from these American centers.

While the Philippine Islands are under American authority, the government ought to be administered for the benefit of the Filipinos, in accordance with Secretary Taft’s promise. If they are to be subject to our tariff laws when they buy of other nations, they ought to have free trade with us, but the- Philippine Islands are so far from us that it would be more just to allow the Philippine tariff to be made by the Philippine assembly soon to be established. The Filipinos belong to the Orient and their dealings must be largely with the countries of the Orient ; unless they are in a position to have their tariff laws con-form to their geographical position, there must necessarily be friction and injustice.

So important are geographical considerations that Americans who see fit to take up their residence upon such reservation as we retain for harbors, coaling stations and a naval base ought to be freed from the fetters of our tariff laws and shipping laws. I even venture to suggest the creation of an Oriental territory, to be composed of such stations and reservations as we may now have or hereafter acquire in the Orient. This territory should have a delegate in congress like other territories, but should be freed by constitutional amendment from our tariff laws and permitted to legislate for itself upon the subject. It could thus establish free ports, if it chose, and give to its people the trade advantages enjoyed by those who live in Hong Kong, Singapore and other open ports.

In what I have said about independence and self-government in the Philippines, I have been speaking of Luzon and the other islands north of Mindanao. As I have already pointed out, the conditions existing in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago are so different from those existing in the northern islands that the two groups should be dealt with separately. It would not be fair to deny independence to the Christian Filipinos living in the north merely because the Moms have never shown any desire to adopt a republican form of govern-ment. (They live under a sort of feudal system, with sultan and datu as the ruling lords.)

But while the work of establishing a stable government among the Moros is a more difficult one and will proceed more slowly, the same principles should govern it. The Moros have furnished a great many pirates for the southern seas, and the influence of the adventurer and free-booter is still felt in Moroland. Then, too, they have an unpleasant way of killing Christians, on the theory that by doing so they not only insure an entrance into heaven, but earn the right to four wives in their celestial home. Occasionally a Moro takes an oath to die killing Christians (he is called a juramentado), and after a season of fasting and prayer, and generally with shaven eyebrows, he goes forth to slay until he himself is slain. Besides those who deliberately take human life by retail or by wholesale, there are religious fanatics who act under frenzy. All in all, the Moro country is far below the northern islands in civilization whether the civilization is measured by a material, an intellectual, a political or a moral standard. But even among the Moros I believe it is possible to introduce American ideas. Already some progress is being made in the establishment of schools, and Governor Findley has succeeded in interesting the natives in exchanges where trade is carried on according to American methods. While polygamy is still permitted, slavery is being exterminated and the natives are being shown the advantage of free labor. I believe that even among them our work can be advanced by assuring them of ultimate independence, to be granted as soon as a government is established capable of maintaining order and enforcing law. By educating young Moros and then using them in official position, we can convince the Moros of the sincerity of our friendship, and these officials will exert an increasing influence for good. In the mean time, we should establish experimental stations and by the use of native labor train the people to make the best use of the resources of their country. I believe General Wood is already planning for an experimental farm near Zamboanga.

While the Moros are a fierce people and accustomed to bloodshed, they have enough good qualities to show the possibility of improvement. They are a temperate people, abstaining entirely from intact, eating liquors, and while they practice polygamy and add concubinage to plurality of wives, they carefully guard the chastity of their women. They have their system of laws, with courts for the investigation of criminal charges and for the imposition of fines. The existing code in the Sulu archipelago, while lamentably below our penal code, shows a desire for the establishment of justice between man and man. Dr. Saleeby has published a translation of the exist. ing code, together with the code (not yet adopted) prepared by the present prime minister of the sultan, and a comparison of the two shows distinctly that American influence is already being felt.

While I do not believe that any large number of Americans can be induced to settle permanently in Mindanao (and Mindanao seems to be the most inviting place), there will be ample time to test this question while a government is being established among the Moros. It is more likely that the waste lands will be settled upon by immigrants from the northern islands and that in time the Christian Filipinos will be sufficiently numerous to control the islands, and they can then be annexed to the northern group.

The leaven of American ideas is already spreading. At Zamboanga we met Datu Mandi, who has adopted the American dress and opened one of his buildings for a Moro school for girls. He is manifesting an increasing interest in the American work. Datu Mandi’s brother was one of the Moros taken to the World’s Fair and he, too, has abandoned the native dress. I have already referred to the desire expressed by Datu Piang to have his sons attend school in America. This is a good sign, and money spent in educating them would reduce military expenditures in that part of the island. The sultan of Sulu also wants to visit America, and a trip would do him more good than a year’s salary. As soon as we convince these people that our purpose is an unselfish one, they will become willing pupils, and in the course of time they will find the home more congenial than the harem and the ways of peace more pleasant than the war path.

While our plans should be unselfish, they would probably prove profitable in the end, for friends are better customers than enemies, and our trade is apt to develop in proportion as we teach the natives to live as we do. When Solomon came to the throne, instead of choosing riches or long life, he asked for wisdom that he might govern his people aright, and he received not only wisdom, but the riches and the length of days which he had regarded as less important. May we not expect a similar reward if we choose the better part and put the welfare of the natives above our own gain?

After all, the test question is, have we “faith in the wisdom of doing right?” Are we willing to trust the conscience and moral sense of those whom we desire to aid?

Individuals have put Christianity to the test and have convinced themselves that benevolence, unarmed, is mightier than selfishness equipped with sword and mail, but nations have as yet seldom ventured to embody the spirit of the Nazarene in their foreign policy. Is it not an opportune time for our nation to make the trial? Our president has recently been hailed as a peacemaker because he took the initiative in terminating a great war, but this involved no sacrifice upon our part. May we not win a greater victory by proving our disinterested concern for the welfare of a people separated from us not only by vast waters but by race, by language and by color?

Carlyle in concluding his history ,of the French revolution declared that thought is stronger than artillery parks and that back of every great thought is love. This is a lofty platform, but not too lofty for the United States of America.