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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/110

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Hesiod's Works and Days to make any society now existing a good deal better than it is. When people talk of new duties they generally mean some new harum-scarum enterprise. The old duty would be good enough if they would only consider it closely and follow it faithfully. The Rev. Mr. Berle has spoken words in season; and it would be well if all who are like minded would unceasingly proclaim the same doctrines, if perchance they may sink into the heart of the masses, and give to this great people a public policy founded on righteousness and the love of peace.

 

 

A HUMILIATING SITUATION.

"How far, O Catiline, when all is said and done, are you going to abuse our patience?" So said the great Roman orator on a certain famous occasion. Our Catiline is no individual man; it is the party system which has inflicted on us the Puerto Rican disgrace. It was obvious to the common sense of every one that, having laid our hands on the island of Puerto Rico, there was no decent course to take save to make it, for all practical purposes, an integral portion of the Union. We had cut it off from the market it enjoyed in Spain, and left it to contend with the hostile tariffs of other countries—were we going, in addition to that, to make it a stranger to the land that had seized it, and subject its products to our own high scale of duties? The President, in his message to Congress, conceiving the proposition to be almost self-evident, had declared that it was "our plain duty to abolish all customs tariffs between the United States and Puerto Rico, and give her products free access to our markets." So thought nearly every disinterested citizen, and yet what have we since seen? The President, terrorized by the cry of party unity in danger, repudiates his former emphatic declaration, and gives his approval to a measure which virtually makes our unfortunate possession a foreign country. With the "free access to our markets" which the President had promised, the island would have entered on a new career of prosperity; but with its leading industries weighed down under an impost of fifteen per cent, there is nothing in view but commercial stagnation and general poverty. That the island has already languished under American rule—our revolutionary forefathers did not expect that their descendants would so soon go into the "ruling" business—the most disinterested witnesses attest. A leading journal of this city, The Herald, prints in heavy-faced type the following statement of a correspondent:

"American military officials told me at the outset that the year and a half of American sovereignty had been a blight on the island. This was not the echo of Spanish or of Puerto Rican feelings. They spoke their own views with soldierly frankness and sometimes with a word of regret for their own position. Their talk was more pointed than when filtered through official channels."

It is in these circumstances that our Legislature, at the instance of a benevolent President, decides to refund to the people of the island two million dollars of duties collected in our ports on their products. Our tariff system breeds poverty in the population it oppresses, and then we rush to their assistance with a largess. They ask for justice and we offer them alms—alms for which the correspondent already quoted says he can not find a single individual who is grateful. We rob the Puerto Rican Peter to pay our own tobacco-growing Paul; and then we rob the whole community in order to pay back Peter. And, strange to say, some of us feel very virtu-