The New York Times/In the Last Ditch

In the Last Ditch

From The New York Times of July 28, 1902.


From the home of Mr. Carl Schurz, upon the shores of Lake George, where that venerable man has gathered about him a little band of other men who dissent from the prevailing belief that we ought to restore peace and establish a civil government in the Philippines, there has gone forth a singular letter of protest and demand which, while addressed to President Roosevelt, is submitted through the press to the judgment of a candid Nation. It is signed by Mr. Schurz, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Mr. Edwin Burritt Smith, Mr. Moorfield Storey, and Mr. Herbert Welsh, a committee appointed at the Plaza Hotel conference of anti-imperialists to conduct an investigation of the charges of inhumanity against our officers and soldiers in the Philippines. We print the letter in full this morning, and bespeak for it no careless and hasty reading, but an examination so patient, attentive, and open-minded that its structure, substance, and merit shall stand exposed for unprejudiced valuation, as the depth or the shallowness of an advocate's plea would be revealed to the mind of a just Judge desiring nothing but the ascertainment of the truth.

What are the counts of the indictment which these leaders of anti-imperialism draw up against our army? These “criminal acts contrary to all recognized rules and usages of war on the part of officers and soldiers of the United States”: Kidnapping, murder, robbery, torture, outraging of women, and the infliction of the death penalty on the strength of evidence elicited by torture. And they further find themselves “compelled to believe” that the acts of cruelty referred to were “far more general,” the demoralization “more all-pervasive,” than the President declared or would admit in his review of the Smith court-martial. They say: “The allegations we make are grave; the condition of affairs we describe serious. As a National record it is discreditable.”

So grave, so serious, so shockingly discreditable that a candid person reading their letter of charges to the end will at once re-examine the document for a consideration, one by one, of the proofs upon which these grave allegations rest.

The proofs and substantiations which Mr. Schurz in New York and at Lake George, Mr. Adams in Quincy and Boston, Mr. Smith in Chicago, Mr. Storey in Boston, and Mr. Welsh in Philadelphia have been able to assemble shall be described and characterized in their own words. We quote such descriptive passages from the typewritten copy of their letter forwarded to The Times:

The inquiries we, as a committee, have made, necessarily imperfect, have yet been sufficient to satisfy us that Gen. Smith and Major Waller were not the sole culprits; nor should they suffice in the character of scapegoats. — Pp. 3, 4.

In your “review” of July 14 you say that these cases were exceptional. Your means of information on this point should unquestionably be infinitely better than ours, for you have access to the files of the War Department. We have not. — P. 4.

Such are certain of the conclusions reached by us from as careful a study as it has been in our power to make of facts thus far procurable. We have endeavored to supplement and perfect the evidence, but our efforts to that end have encountered obstructive embarrassments. — P. 10.

From the scanty material thus by mere chance made accessible to us here, many thousand miles from the scene and long after the time of their occurrences, we hold ourselves ready to direct your attention to concrete cases. — Pp. 11, 12

Scanty material, means of information compared to which the President's are “infinitely superior,” necessarily imperfect evidence, which they have vainly endeavored, thousands of miles away from the scene, to supplement and perfect — this is the estimate which the authors of this memorial put upon the quality of their own testimony.

What say they of the witnesses for the defense? First, that the President's review of the Smith court-martial is misleading, owing to his ignorance of the facts, although his means of information were “infinitely better” than theirs. He had averred that the case of Gen. Smith was exceptional. They tell him to his face that the facts in the case were notorious rather than exceptional. Upon the courts-martial held by officers of our army in the Philippines they cast the slur of a reference to the Dreyfus case as showing “what may be expected from military tribunals and investigations when the esprit de corps is enlisted or ‘the honor of the army’ is thought to be involved.” The Secretary of War asserts that Gen. Smith's reckless kill and burn order was not obeyed in Samar. These gentlemen are not so sure about it. First they say that they are not aware that reliable statistics are generally accessible; then boldly declare that “fire and sword had full sway there.” Of the testimony given before sympathetic courts-martial by certain officers they say that it indicates such a state of demoralization in both witness and tribunal that “the impudence of the mockery is manifest.” The results of another inquiry they pronounce “certainly suggestive,” and “reminiscent of Dreyfus incidents.” An officer high in command who had explained the high proportion of Filipinos killed to Filipinos wounded by attributing it to the excellent marksmanship of our men and the Filipino habit of carrying off their wounded exhibited “utter military demoralization” “with difficulty distinguished from what is usually known as audacious mendacity.” The reports of our medical inspectors on the concentration camps in the Philippines are “little less than an insult to the intelligence of those to whom they are addressed.” In words of sarcastic circumlocution they brand Secretary Root as a liar, and when the President says that Mr. Root is anxious to probe to the bottom the charges of outrage they warn him that “the draft on our credulity is great.” The President affirms that almost universally the higher officers have so borne themselves as to supply a check upon their subordinates. “We, on the contrary, have found ourselves compelled to believe that the acts referred to were far more general.”

Now what must be the conclusion reached by a man fairly candid and of decent honesty of mind who reads this letter? Simply that it is the most impudent communication ever addressed to a President of the United States. These men have not one scintilla of evidence not already passed upon by the public, they have not one pertinent fact to contribute to the President's stock of knowledge. There is nothing, absolutely no single thing, in their letter but a perverse and scalding review of facts long since accessible and known to everybody, with allegations that the army in the Philippines, officers and men, is demoralized and criminal, and expressions of belief that everybody who testifies to the contrary, from officers of courts-martial up to the Secretary of War and the President himself, is mendaciously deceiving the people.

Not many months ago the spokesmen of anti-imperialism were shrieking out against the perfidy of making war upon Aguinaldo, with whom they said we had made a binding alliance. Then they exalted the paper Government of the insurgents into an established, sacred, and inviolable sovereignty, which it would be an infamous crime to destroy. The capture of Aguinaldo furnished them a new ground of opposition to our Philippine policy, and a little later we see them seize eagerly upon every form of charge or calumny that is uttered against the army. It would seem that they have now come to the closing stage of their campaign of impotent resistance to the policy of the Government and the will of the people. Certainly this latest proclamation exhibits the desperate hardihood of an army that is out of ammunition. Moreover, they have now come to the pitch of insulting the whole Nation. Comparing the feeling of the American people during the campaign of calumny against the army with the feeling of the French people during the Dreyfus excitement they say: “Of the National conscience, in either case, we do not speak.” Anti-imperialism of this sort has come pretty near to the end of its rope — or shall we say has fallen into its last ditch?

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).