The Philippine Problem

Having in previous articles discussed the conditions as I found them in the Philippines, let us consider what the United States should do in regard to the Filipinos and their islands.

First, as to the- northern group of islands-the islands north of Mindanao. Have the Filipinos a right to self government? Do they desire self government and independence? Have they the capacity for self government?

The first question must be answered in the affirmative if our theory of government is correct. That governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, is either true or false; if true, we cannot deny its application to the Filipinos ; if false, we must find some other foundation for our own government.

To the second question I am able to answer, yes. My visit to the Philippines has settled this question in my own mind. I have heard people in America affirm that the intelligent Filipinos preferred American sovereignty to self government, but this is unqualifiedly false. Captain J. A. Moss, a member of General Corbin’s personal staff, recently made a trip through the provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan and published a journal of his trip in one of the Manila papers upon his return. He concluded his observations as follows: “The discharged soldiers who are married to native women and who are `growing up with the country’ and are, therefore, in a most excellent position to feel the native pulse, all told me the great majority of the natives have no use for us. Ex-interpreters and other Filipinos with whom I was on intimate, cordial relations while serving in the provinces, told me the same thing. I have, therefore, from the foregoing, come to the conclusion that the Filipinos may be divided into three classes: (a) The `precious few,’ comprising those who are really friendly towards the Americans and think our govern-ment beneficial to the islands. (b) Those who are-in some way beneficiaries of the government and entertain for us what may be termed `expedient friendship.’ (c) The great majority, who have absolutely no use for us and to please whom we cannot get out of the islands any to soon.”

The conclusion drawn by Captain Moss is warranted by the facts, and the feeling for independence is stronger in Manila, if possible, than in the provinces. I talked with Filipinos, official and unofficial, and while they differed in the degree of friendliness which they. felt toward the United States, all expected ultimate independence. The college students of Manila in the various law schools, medical colleges, and engineering schools, numbering in all about a thousand, pre pared and presented to me a memorial of more than fifty printed pages. This was prepared by sub-committees and afterwards discussed, adopted and signed by the students. It presented an elaborate review of the economic, industrial and political situation, viewed from the standpoint of these young men. It criticised certain acts of the American government thought to be unjust and set forth arguments in favor of self government and independence—arguments so fundamental and so consistent with American ideals that no American statesman would have publicly disputed them ten years ago.

The Filipinos point out that the Americans lack that sympathy for, and interest in, the Filipinos necessary to just legislation, and this argument is no reflection upon the good intentions of Americans. In fact, good intention is generally admitted, but Americans at home recognize, as do Filipinos here, that good intentions are not all that is required. We have in the United States men of equal general intelligence but differing so in sympathy that no amount of good intent can keep one from doing what the other regards as unjust. Take for instance, the representative capitalist and the average laboring man ; neither would feel that the other, however well meaning, was competent to speak for him.

The Filipinos also deny that the Americans are sufficiently acquainted with Philippine affairs to legislate wisely. We also recognize the force of this argument at home, and we leave the people of each state to act upon their own affairs. The people of a city would resent interference in their local affairs by the people of the county although identical in race and language. And they would resent just as much the attempt of any group of men, however wise, to direct their government during a temporary residence. How, then, can congress expect to legislate wisely for people who are not only separated from America by the widest of the oceans, but differ from the people of the United States in color, race, history and traditions? How can a body of men, however benevolent and intelligent, hope by a few months’ residence to so identify themselves with the Filipinos as to make rules and regulations suited to their needs?

The Filipinos also present an argument against the expensiveness of American rule, and this argument is not only unanswerable, but it is directed against an evil which is without remedy. If Americans are to hold office in the Philippines, they must be well paid. They must not only receive as much as they would receive in the United States for the same work, but they must receive more in order to compensate them for serving so far from home. This is not only theoretically true, but the theory is exemplified in the pay roll. The governor general receives $20,000 a year, two-fifths of the salary of the president of the United States, and yet, what a contrast between the duties and responsibilities of the two positions! And what a difference, too, in the wealth of the two countries and in the ability of the taxpayers of the two countries to pay the salaries!

The three American members of the commission (excluding the governor general) receive $15,000 per year, almost twice the salary of cabinet officers and three times the salary of senators and members of congress. It is true that these salaries do not appear as salaries paid for work on the commission, but as each American member of the commission receives $10,000 as head of a department and $5,000 as a member-of the commission, his total income is $15,000 while the Filipino members of the commission receive but $5,000.

The members of the Philippine supreme court receive $10,000 each (the Filipino members of the court receiving the same as the Americans), a sum much larger than that usually paid to judges in the United States in courts of similar importance. This high range of salaries runs through the entire list of civil officials, and there is no chance of lowering it. Except in the case of judges, the Filipino officials, as a rule, receive considerably less than the Americans per-forming similar work, and this is a constant source of complaint. To Americans it is a sufficient answer to say that high salaries are necessary to secure able and efficient officials from the United States, but the Filipino is quick to respond, “why, then, do you insist upon sending us Americans to do what our people could do and would do for less compensation?”

Not only must the salaries of Americans be high, but Americans must be surrounded with comforts to which the average Filipino is not accustomed. No one can remain in the Philippines long without hearing of the Benguet road and the enormous amount expended in its construction. There is a mountain resort in Benguet Province, in north central Luzon, which the commission thought might be developed into a summer capital or a place to which the families of the officials, if not the officials themselves, might retreat during the heated term. The railroad running from Manila to Dagupan would carry the health-seeker to within thirty or forty miles of Benguet, and an engineer estimated that a wagon road could. be constructed the rest of the way for $75,000. It seemed worth while to the commission to appropriate that much for a purpose which promised so much for the;; health and comfort of those engaged in the benevolent work of establishing a stable government. The commission could hardly be blamed for relying upon the opinion of the engineer, and the engineer doubt-less meant well. But the first appropriation scarcely made an impression, and the second engineer estimated that the cost would be a little greater. Having invested $75,000, the commission did not like to abandon the plan and so further appropriations were made until more than two millions and a half dollars, gold, have been drained from the Insular treasury, and the Benguet road is not yet completed. If it is ever completed, it will require a constant outlay of a large sum annually to keep it in repair.

Having met the members of the commission and other Americans residing in the Philippines, I am glad to testify that- they are, as a rule, men of character, ability and standing. The personnel of Philippine official life is not likely to be improved, and so long as we occupy the islands under a colonial policy, the Benguet experiment is liable to be repeated in various forms, and yet the Filipinos point to the Benguet folly to show that the Americans are both ignorant of local conditions and partial toward the foreign population.

The third question, are the Filipinos competent to govern them-selves? is the one upon which the decision must finally turn. Americans will not long deny the fundamental principles upon which our own government rests, nor will they upon mature reflection assert that foreigners can sympathize as fully with the Filipino as representatives chosen by the Filipinos themselves. . The expensiveness of a foreign government and its proneness to misunderstand local needs will be admitted by those who give the subject any thought, but well-meaning persons may still delude themselves with the belief that Spanish rule has incapacitated the present generation for wisely exercising the franchise, or that special conditions may unfit the Filipinos for the establishment and maintenance of as good a government as can be imposed upon them from without.

Before visiting the Philippines, I advocated independence on the broad ground that all people are capable of self-government—not that all people, if left to themselves, would maintain governmonts equally good, or that all people are capable of participating upon equal terms in the maintenance of the same government, but that all people are endowed by their Creator with capacity to establish and maintain a government suited to their own needs and sufficient for their own requirements.

To deny this proposition would, as Henry Çlay suggested more than half a century ago, be to impeach the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator. I advocated independence for another reason, viz., because a refusal to admit the Filipinos capable of self-government would tend to impair the strength of the doctrine of self-government when applied to our own people.

Since becoming acquainted with the Filipinos I can argue from observation as well as from theory, and I insist that the Filipinos are capable of maintaining a stable government without supervision from without.

I do not mean to say that they could maintain their independence, if attacked by some great land-grabbing power (it would be easier to protect them from aggression if they were independent, for then they would be interested with us against the attacking party), but that so far as their own internal affairs are concerned, they do not need to be subject to any alien government. There is a wide difference, it is true, between the general intelligence of the educated Filipino and the intelligence of the laborer on the street and in the field, but this is not a barrier to self-government. Intelligence controls in every government, except where it is suppressed by military force. Where all the people vote, the intelligent, man has more influence than the unintelligent one, and where there is an obvious inequality, a suffrage qualification usually excludes the more ignorant.

Take the case of the Japanese for instance, no one is disposed to question their ability to govern themselves, and yet the suffrage qualifications are such that less than one-tenth of the adult males are permitted to vote. Nine-tenths of the Japanese have no part in the law making, either directly or through representatives, and still Japan is the marvel of the present generation. In Mexico the gap between the educated classes and the peons is fully as great, if not greater, than the gap between the extremes of Filipino society, and yet Mexico is maintaining a stable government, and no party in the United States advocates our making a colony of Mexico on the theory that she cannot govern herself.

Those who question the capacity of the Filipinos for self-government overlook the stimulating influence of self-government upon the people; they forget that responsibility is an educating influence and that patriotism raises up persons fitted for the work that needs to be done. Those who speak contemptuously of the capacity of the Filipinos, ignore the fact that they were fighting for self-government before the majority of our people knew where the Philippine islands were. Two years before our war with Spain, Rizal was put to death because of his advocacy of larger liberty for his people, and after witnessing the celebration of the ninth anniversary of his death, I cannot doubt that his martyrdom would be potent to stir the hearts of coming generations whenever any government, foreign or domestic, disregarded the rights of the people.

A year before our war with Spain the Filipino people were in insurrection against that country, and they demanded among other things “parliamentary representation, freedom of the press, toleration of all religious sects, laws common with hers, and administrative and economic autonomy.”

Here was a recognition of the doctrine of self-government and a recognition of the freedom of the press as the bulwark of liberty.

There was also a demand for freedom of conscience and the right to administer their own affairs for their own interests. In the proclamation from which I have quoted there was no demand for independence, but it must be remembered that we did not demand independence from England until after we found it was impossible to secure justice under a colonial system.

Whether by the demand for “laws common with hers” the Filipinos meant that they wanted the protection of laws made by the Spanish for themselves, I do not know. If that is the meaning of their demand, they must be credited with understanding the importance of a principle to which some of our own public men seem to be blind.

The evil of a colonial policy, the gross injustice of it, arises largely from the fact that the colony is governed by laws made for it, but not binding upon the country which makes the laws. The Mexican who does not participate in the making of the laws of his country has at least the protection of living under laws which bind the maker as well as himself. So with the colored man of the south who does not vote, the laws which he must obey must be obeyed by those who do vote, and the taxes which he pays must be paid also by those who enjoy the franchise.

But under a colonial system the subject must obey a law made for him by one who is not himself subject to the law. The distinction-is so plain that it ought to be apparent to anyone upon a moment’s thought.

If it is objected that but a small proportion of the Filipinos are educated, it may be answered that the number of the educated is increasing every day. The fact that the Filipinos support the schools so enthusiastically, even when those schools are established by outsiders and when the teaching is in a language strange to them, speaks eloquently in their behalf. Nor is this a new-born zeal. The Aguinaldo government provided for public schools and, cock fighting being prohibited, cock pits were actually turned into school houses in some sections over which the authority of his government extended.

It is objected by some that the intelligent Filipinos would, under independence, use the instrumentalities of government to tyrannize over the masses. This is not a new argument; it is always employed where an excuse for outside interference is desired, but there is no reason to believe that the Filipinos would be less interested in the people of their own race and blood than are aliens whose salaries are so large that it is impossible for them to claim that they serve from purely altruistic motives.

That those in power in Washington contemplate independence must be admitted, unless those who speak for the administration intend gross deception. In his speech on the evening of Rizal Day, December last, General Smith, one of the Philippine commission and head of the educational department,* said: “Popular self-government for the Philippines is the purpose of both people. If either seeks to achieve it independent of the other, the experiment is doomed to failure. If both work for it harmoniously there is no reason why it should not be accomplished. If it is accomplished, the history of the Philippines will hold no brighter page than that which recites the, struggle of a simple people to fit themselves for independent govern-ment. If it is accomplished, the fairest page in American history will be that which records the creation of a new nation and the unselfish development of an alien race.” If this is not a promise of ultimate independence, what possible meaning can the language have? If the administration does not intend that the Filipinos shall some day be independent, its representatives should not hold out this hope.

But there is even higher authority for the hope of independence. When the so-called “Taft Party” visited the Philippines last summer, Secretary Taft made a speech in which he assumed to speak for the president. Referring to the president’s opinion, he said: “He *General Smith has since been made the president of the Philippine commission believes, as I believe and as do most Americans who have had great familiarity with the facts, that it is absolutely impossible to hope that the lessons which it is the duty of the United States to teach the whole Filipino people, can be learned by them, as a body, in less than a generation ; and that the probability is that it will take a longer period in which to render them capable of establishing and maintaining a stable independent government.”

This, it is true, states when independence cannot be hoped for, rather than when it can be hoped for, and yet, no honest man would use the language Secretary Taft employed without having in his mind the idea that independence would be granted at some future date. But his concluding words even more clearly present the hope of ultimate independence, for he says : “All that can be asserted is that the policy which has several times been authoritatively stated, that this Filipino government shall be carried on solely for the benefit of the Filipino people and that self-government shall be extended to the Filipino people, as’ speedily as they show themselves fitted to assume and exercise it, must be pursued consistently by the people of the United States or else they shall forfeit their honor.”

Here Secretary Taft pledges the American government as far as` he has power to pledge it—and he pledges the president also—to extend self-government to the Filipinos as rapidly as they show them-selves fitted for it. The great trouble about these utterances and similar ones is that they are not binding upon the government, and the Filipinos are constantly disturbed by doubts and fears. Both at Manila and in the United States ridicule is often cast upon the aspirations of the Filipino people, and plains are made which are inconsistent with ultimate independence. The attempt on the part of the commission to issue perpetual franchises is naturally, and I think rightfully, opposed by all Filipinos. If our occupation is to be temporary, why should our legislation be permanent? Why bind the ward in perpetuity so that he cannot control his own affairs when he reaches years of maturity? What is needed is an immediate declaration of the nation’s purpose to recognize the independence. of the Filipinos when a stable government is established. U is not necessary that a definite time shall be stated, nor is it so important just when the Filipinos are to have their independence, as it is that the nation’s purpose shall be made known in an authoritative way and that the subsequent acts of our government shall be in harmony with that declaration. I believe that a stable government can be established within a short time and that independence could be granted with advantage to our government and with safety to the Filipinos within five years at the farthest. But whether independence is to be granted in five or ten or fifteen years or after a longer period, there should be no longer delay about announcing a policy. I have tried to impress upon the Filipinos the necessity of leaving this question to the people of the United States and the importance of proving in every possible way the virtues, the character and the progress of the people; I have pointed out the folly of insurrection and the damage done to their cause by resorting to force of arms, but I am equally anxious to impress upon my own countrymen the importance of dealing frankly and fairly with the Filipinos.

We have more at stake in this matter than have the Filipinos. They still have their national greatness to achieve; our position is already established. We have the greatest republic known to history; we are the foremost champion of the doctrine of self-government and one of the leading exponents of Christianity. We can afford, aye our honor requires us, to be candid with the Filipinos and to take them into our confidence. We dare not make them victims of commercial greed or use their islands for purely selfish purposes. It is high time to announce a purpose that shall be righteous and to carry out that purpose by means that shall be honorable. In my next article I shall endeavor to elaborate a plan which will, in my judgment, bring independence to the Filipinos, relieve us of the expense of colonialism, secure us every legitimate advantage which could be expected from a permanent occupation of the islands and, in addition, enable our nation to set the world an example in dealing with tropical races.