The North American Review/Volume 168/Issue 506/Objections to Annexing the Philippines

When President Northrop, of the Minnesota University, sneeringly declares that the nation has become a giant, and “is no longer content with the nursery rhymes which were sung around his cradle,” and eminent statesmen ridicule “the swaddlng clothes” made by Washington and Madison, it is surely time to ask whether the American people are ready to follow these apostles of the New Evangel in revolutionizing our Government, and trampling upon the teachings and policies which have made us great and prosperous.

To those who thus manifest their contempt for the Constitution made by Madison and his wise associates, and for the teaching of Washington, I make no argument; but to the great body of citizens who love their country and revere the traditions and memories consecrated by the blood and sacrifices of our fathers, I confidently appeal against the fantastic and wicked scheme of colonial expansion, the adoption of which will change our form of government and will bring nothing but disaster.

I am opposed to annexing the Philippines because such annexation makes the people of those islands ultimately citizens of the United States, and necessitates the admission of the territory thus acquired as a State.

The idea of conferring American citizenship upon the half-civilized, piratical, muck-running inhabitants of two thousand islands, seven thousand miles distant, in another hemisphere, and creating a State of the Union from such materials, is so absurd and indefensible that the expansionists are driven to the necessity of advocating the colonial system of Europe, against which the American Colonies revolted when its application to them was attempted by the King of England.

In the rush and roar of recent events, the fact is ignored that the first four years of the Revolutionary War were fought against the colonial system of Europe, which was based upon the cardinal principle of monarchy, that millions of people could be held as colonial subjects, governed by laws in the making of which they had no part, and under whose exactions they were impoverished by unjust and excessive taxes. Against this system, graphically described by Jefferson as based upon the belief that “nine-tenths of mankind were born bridled and saddled, with the other tenth booted and spurred to ride them,” our fathers took up arms and defied the most powerful nation of the world. The history of that eventful period shows that they did not at first contemplate independence, but rebelled because they were denied representation, although taxed to support the Crown. When the people of Rhode Island burned the British war sloop, “Gaspee,” in Narragansett Bay, and the people of Massachusetts threw overboard the tea in Boston TTarbor, they claimed to be loyal subjects of the King; and when Thomas Jefferson and his friends met at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia, and resolved to share the fortunes of New England, they declared their object to be the maintenance of their rights as British citizens.

After four years of war, the leaders of the Revolution determined upon final and complete separation from the mother country, and in 1776 Jefferson framed the Declaration of Independence, the foundation stone of which is the sublime truth that “all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

It is incredible that the men who fought and suffered for seven years in resisting the colonial system of Europe, should have then formed a government whose constitution recognized and adopted the oppression against which they had successfully struggled.

It is a travesty upon history, and an insult to the memory of the glorious dead who suffered and died that we might be free.

That the heroic men who fought against the colonial system in the Revolution did not intend to abandon their position and surrender to absolutism, is evident from the fact that the Articles of Federation contained no provision for acquiring new territory, and Mr. Madison, in number 38 of the Federalist, complained that the Northwestern Territory had been received from Virginia, and a territorial government established there by Congress, without any authority, and upon this he based an argument for the adoption of the Constitution of 1789, in which he claimed there were limitations of Congressional power necessary to the preservation of those great principles of free government for which the war against England had been waged.

The Constitution of 1789 provided that Congress should have power “to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property of the United States,” and “to admit new states into the Union.”

These provisions must be taken together, and obviously mean that Congress can legislate for the sale of public lands, and for the proper government of newly acquired territory until it is ready for statehood.

In Dred Scott vs. Sandford, (19th U. S. Reports), the Supreme Court decided that “there is certainly no power given by the Constitution to the Federal Government to establish or maintain colonies bordering on the United States or at a distance, to be ruled and governed at its own pleasure, or to enlarge its territorial limits in any way, except by the admission of new states.”

This portion of the opinion was concurred in by all the Justices, including McLean and Curtis, who dissented from the views of the majority as to the rights of a slave owner to carry his slaves into a territory where slavery had been prohibited by Act of Congress. In their dissenting opinions, Justices McLean and Curtis declare that Congress can exercise no powers in territory acquired by conquest or purchase, which are prohibited by the Constitution, and their legislation must be for the protection of life and property, and “initiatory to the establishment of State governments.”

This decision as to holding colonies has never been questioned by any court or public man in this country, until the craze for expansion made its appearance within the past few months.

The expansionists, made desperate by the plain teaching of our early history, and the unanimous opinion of nine Supreme Court Justices, representing all sections and political opinions, contend that the Constitution does not apply to the Territories, and that Congress has unlimited power to control new territory as colonies if it believes this condition to be needful. Mr. Webster is quoted as authority for the doctrine that the Constitution does not apply to the Territories, and it is true that in an acrimonious debate in the Senate with Mr. Calhoun in 1848, when the latter asserted that slavery existed in the territory acquired from Mexico by reason of the Federal Constitution, which recognized slavery, being extended over such territory, Mr. Webster not only declared that the Constitution did not apply to the Territories, but that the Constitution gave the Federal Government no power to acquire territory in any way.

With great deference to Mr. Webster’s ability and learning, it must be emphatically stated that his position is too monstrous for serious discussion. That Congress can ignore the Bill of Rights, and deprive citizens in a territory of the right to trial by jury, security from unlawful search and seizure, freedom of religious opinion, and the other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, cannot be defended successfully even by Webster.

The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly determined that the Federal Constitution, with all its provisions, applied to all territory under the jurisdiction of our Government.

In the case of Loughborough vs. Blake (4th Wheaton), Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion, said that the term “United States” meant “the whole Republic, composed of States and Territories, and all the provisions of the Constitution as to taxation and personal rights applied to the whole country alike.”

Chief Justice Waite, in the case of “The National Bank vs. the County of Yankton” (101 U.S. Reports), speaking for the Court, said that the Territories held the same relation to the Federal Government as counties to a State, and that “Congress had all the powers of the people of the United States, except such as have been expressly or by implication reserved by the prohibitions of the Constitution.”

In Thompson vs. Utah (170th U.S. Reports), the Supreme Court decided that the provisions of the Constitution relating to trials by jury for criminal offenses applied to the Territories, and that Congress in legislating for the Territories is subject to all the limitations of the Constitution.

The same doctrine is announced in The American Publishing Company vs. Fisher (166th U.S. Reports), and Crandall vs. Nevada (6th Wallace).

It is a significant indication of what our people have heretofore thought of the colonial system that, in all our acquisition of territory, provisions have been placed in the treaties of cession giving to the inhabitants of the ceded country as soon as possible American citizenship and statehood. The ordinance of 1787, providing for the government and disposition of the Northwest Territory, established self-government for the people of the ceded territory, and the same enactment is found in the treaties made with France, Spain, Mexico and Russia, for the cession of Louis-ana, Florida, the northern part of Mexico, and Alaska.

But, if the constitutional power to hold the Philippines as proposed were undoubted, I would oppose annexation if, instead of paying $20,000,000, we should receive five times that sum for taking them.

Nothing but foreign complications, ruinous expenditure, social and political deterioration; and the destruction of free institutions, can come from annexation.

The Philippine Islands are stated in a pamphlet forwarded in May last to the State Department by Mr. Hay, Ambassador to England, and found in the Consular Reports for July, 1898, to be about two thousand in number. They cover sixteen degrees of latitude, or a distance equal to that between Massachusetts and Florida, and are supposed to contain from eight to ten millions of inhabitants, no census having ever been taken, and one-half the archipelago being only nominally under Spanish rule. The natives of many islands arc savages in a state of barbarism, and very little is known of their actual number and condition.

The following extracts from the paper forwarded by Mr. Hay are interesting:

“On the whole, the Philippine natives find and take life easy. Their requirements are few. The sum of £5 will provide a native household with a dwelling of its own and ample furniture. Under a genial climate; on a soil lavishly grateful for the slightest tending; by waters teeming with fish, they know naught of hunger, and have much time left for amusements—such as dancing and public rejoicings on the smallest occasion. ... Cockfighting is the national sport, and no mean source of revenue to the authorities. Almost every native owns a fighting fowl, which is as dear to him as her lap-dog to a European lady. He carries it about with him and bets his bottom dollar on its performance in the arena.”

The favorite pastime of a Malay, when cockfighting becomes monotonous, is to “run-amuck,” which means an indiscriminate and murderous attack upon everybody within reach until physical exhaustion terminates the innocent recreation.

Foreman, an English author who lived many years in the Philippines, says in his book, “The Philippines,” published in 1890:

“The native is indolent in the extreme and never tired of sitting still gazing at nothing in particular. He will do no regular work without an advance—his work cannot be depended upon—he is fertile in exculpatory devices—he is momentarily obedient, but is averse to subjection. He feigns friendship, but has no loyalty—he is daring on the spur of the moment, but fails in resolution if he reflects.”

He also states that, out of 10,000,000 natives in the archipelago, 7,000,000 only are domesticated, the remaining 3,000,000 being savages; and that within a half-day’s journey from Manila there are several well-known haunts of pirates, such as San Mateo, Imus, Silan, and Indan.

It is respectfully suggested to the farmers and manufacturers of the United States, who are told by the expansionists that a great market for their products will be furnished in the Philippines, that the population of those islands, as described by reliable observers, will furnish very poor customers for the agricultural and manufactured exports of this country.

It is obvious from conditions in the Philippines that if we annex them, and plunge into the dangerous arena of foreign complications, we must keep there an army of at least 10,000 men, and four or five war vessels, at a cost of many millions annually. Besides this, whatever may be the status as to citizenship of the older inhabitants, their children born after annexation become citizens and voters. The Fourteenth Amendment declares that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States;” and the Fifteenth Amendment enacts that “the rights of citizens of the United States to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State.” It being certain from these amendments that the children of the Filipinos will be citizens and voters, in case of annexation, it follows that they must be educated and civilized in order to fit them for the duties imposed by our jurisdiction over their country.

The official record shows that we expend each year more than thirty dollars per capita in educating and governing the Indians, and if one-third this amount is expended upon the Filipinos the annual expenditure would be $100,000,000, with no certainty of making them law abiding and intelligent citizens.

The magnitude of the task is shown by the fact that in Manila, by far the most civilized community in the archipelago, there are in its population of about 300,000, 200,000 Chinese, 50,000 Japanese, 40,000 natives, principally Malays, and 3,000 whites. What must be the character of the population in the outlying islands!

We are told, however, that large revenues will be derived from the Philippines, which will reimburse us for all our outlay. The “Statesman’s Year Book” for 1898 gives the revenues from the Philippines in 1894–95 as $13,579,900, derived from imports, government monopolies, stamps, cock fighting, opium, gambling, lotteries, raffles, and Chinese capitation tax; and the expenditures for the same year $13,280,130. This leaves a net balance for the government of $299,770. Assuming that the United States would degrade itself by licensing gambling, lotteries, cockfighting, and the sale of opium, it will be seen that no governmental El Dorado has been discovered in these distant possessions. When the enterprising carpet-bagger, and hungry political appointee have swarmed to this new field of plunder, it requires no stretch of the imagination to see an enormous deficit each year to be paid by the taxpayer of the United States.

The principal argument of the expansionists is addressed to the greed of our merchants and exporters, in the assertion that large profits will accrue to this country from the trade of the Philippines and of China and Japan, which can be secured through our people in the archipelago. We will be fortunate if China and Japan, which are now raising cotton and importing the best machinery for manufacturing cotton goods, do not become our most dangerous rivals.

The exports of the Philippines for 1896 amounted, according to the Report of the Bureau of Statistics, to $30,806,250.

If this entire trade could be monopolized by the United States, the profit would be insignificant; but we must remember that England and Germany have large trade interests in the islands, and if an attempt is made to exclude them from what they now enjoy, it will result in retaliation by those countries. Besides this, it is stated that by the terms of the treaty signed at Paris, Spain is to have equal trade privileges with this country for ten years in the Philippines.

We are assured that American capital and labor will rush to our new possession~ and that the enormous mineral and agricultural resources of the islands will soon change them into American communities.

No intelligent man can be made to believe that our laborers can be induced to make homes in the tropics, amidst a population like that of the Philippines, and where the wages and comforts of the temperate zone are impossible. Speculators and promoters may go there for a time, but they will soon find that the natural resources of that distant region have been greatly exaggerated. While mineral deposits are found, they have not been developed to such an extent as will justify the certainty of profitable returns for the miner, and Spain has granted to an English company exclusive mining rights in Luzon, not to expire for many years. The valleys are fertile, but the largest part of the tillable land is owned by the Catholic Church and the priests, making it certain that the United States will be confronted with temporal and ecclesiastical claims of the most serious nature.

No intelligent American can see why we should leave the safe and sure policy of a century for this dangerous experiment.

Great Britain has in her colonies 16,662,073 square miles, containing 322,000,000 inhabitants, while the mother country has 39,825,000 people, and 120,979 square miles. The United States has no colonies, yet our exports are larger than those of Great Britain, and our export trade in the last seven years has gained eighteen, while that of Great Britain has lost five per cent.

Why should we now disregard the counsel of Washington, that: “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”

The colonial system inevitably brings war, and the proof of this assertion is, that in no two years of Queen Victoria’s long reign has the British Empire been at peace with all the world.

Macaulay, the English historian, says:

“There are some who assert that in a military and political point of view the West Indies are of great importance to this country [meaning England]. This is a common but monstrous misrepresentation. We venture to say that colonial empire has been one of the greatest curses of modern Europe. What nation has it ever strengthened? What nation has it ever enriched? What have been its fruits? Wars of frequent occurrence and immense cost; fettered trade; lavish expenditure, clashing jurisdiction, corruption in government, and indigence among the people.
“What have Mexico and Peru done for Spain, the Brazils for Portugal, Batavia for Holland? Or, if the experience of others is lost upon us, shall we not profit by our own? What have we not sacrificed to our Infatuated passion for trans-Atlantic dominion? This it is that has so often led us to risk our own smiling gardens and dear firesides for snowy desert and infectious morass on the other side of the globe. This inspired us with the project of conquering America. This induced us to resign all the advantages of our insular situation—to embroil ourselves in the intrigues and fight the battles of half the continent—to form coalitions which were instantly broken and to give subsidies which were never earned. This gave birth to the fratricidal war against American liberty, with all its barren victories, and all the massacres of the Indian hatchet, and all the bloody contracts of the Hessian slaughter-house.
“This it was which in the war against the French republic induced us to send thousands and tens of thousands of our bravest troops to die in West Indian hospitals, while the armies of our enemies were pouring over the Rhine and the Alps. When a colonial acquisition has been in prospect, we have thought no expenditure extravagant, no interference perilous. Gold has been but as dust, and blood as water. Shall we never learn wisdom? Shall we never cease to prosecute a pursuit wilder than the wildest dream of alchemy, with all the credulity and all the profusion of Sir Epicure Mammon?
“Those who maintain that settlements so remote conduce to the military or maritime power of nations, fly in the face of history. The colonies of Spain were far more extensive and populous than ours. Has Spain any time in the last two centuries been a match for England, either by land or sea? Fifty years ago our colonial dominions in America were far larger and more prosperous than those which we now possess. Have we since that time experienced any decay in our political influence, in our opulence, or in our security? Or shall we say that Virginia was a less valuable possession than Jamaica, or Massachusetts than Barbadoes?”

A great crisis is upon us, and our free institutions must be maintained by the intelligence and virtue of the people, or cease to exist. We cannot escape the peril by stopping our ears, as did Ulysses those of his sailors, when allured to ruin by the sirens’ song. Let us keep them wide open, that we can hear the truth.

Let us listen to that lofty resolution of Congress declaring the war with Spain to be waged, not for conquest, but for humanity and the liberation of Cuba from Spanish despotism; and then let us hear with impatient disgust those who are shouting against “hauling down the flag,” which they would dishonor and degrade by violating this solemn pledge.

Let the flag of our Republic not be “hauled down,” but brought back to congenial soil where it will wave over freemen, instead of floating above conquered islands in another hemisphere and ten million half-barbarians bought for two dollars each.