The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Andrew Carnegie, August 2d, 1902


Bolton Landing, Lake George, N. Y.,
Aug. 2, 1902.

You may have noticed that a part of the imperialistic press, especially the New York Times, has received our open letter to President Roosevelt with frantic outcries of rage. This should not astonish us, as the Times has frequently proved itself somewhat insane on this subject;—you may perhaps remember that it once denounced your suggestion that you were willing to pay the $20,000,000 the Philippines cost us in purchase money, out of your own pocket, as a “wicked” proposition. But it would be deplorable if its present vociferations in any way represented the temper of the Administration.

I have a letter from Mr. Oswald Villard of the Evening Post in which he says: “Mr. Carnegie has written Horace White that he has received a letter from President Roosevelt in which Roosevelt, he says, is all right on the Philippine question.” I heard something similar from Senator Hoar who wrote me two months ago that President Roosevelt had told him he agreed with him (Hoar) but he could not make any declaration as to the future independence of the Philippines now because Governor Taft was opposed to it, believing that it would stir up unruly ambitions among the natives, etc., which perhaps it would, but it would do that always, and, consequently, independence ought then never to be promised.

Now, if President Roosevelt really means that the Philippines should ultimately have their independence—and we must believe him when he says so—then, it seems to me, the reasons why he should openly and promptly proclaim his faith, infinitely outweigh in importance the reasons which Governor Taft gives for a policy of delay and uncertainty, even if we admit these to be well founded.

Of course I recognize the fact that the President alone cannot give or even promise the Philippines independence. But what he might do is to declare that he is in favor of independence, and that he will as soon as possible send a message to Congress recommending that Congress pass a joint resolution or an act embodying the explicit pledge that the Philippines shall be treated substantially as Cuba has been treated.

Such a public declaration would undoubtedly have the following effects:

1. It would be received by a large majority of the American people, and even a large majority of the Republican party, with a sense of relief,—indeed with profound satisfaction; for it is certain that the people at large are heartily tired of the Philippine business and wish to be rid of it. Indeed, Senator Hoar wrote me, a considerable number of Republican Senators had privately confessed to him that they regretted very much to have voted for the ratification of the treaty of Paris.

2. It would at once and altogether take the Philippine question out of politics, which would be a great blessing.

3. It would—and it is perhaps the only thing that would—take the sting out of the disgrace that has been brought upon the country by the barbarous cruelties that have happened on our side in the Philippine war. The importance of this point cannot be exaggerated. Only think of it: In the name of the United States, of the Republic sprung from the Declaration of Independence, the Republic of Washington and Lincoln, atrocities have been committed which remind one of Djenquis Khan and Tamerlane; torture has been used to extort testimony just as it was done by the Spanish Inquisition; a system of “concentration” has been carried on quite like that of General Weyler's,—one of the things which, as we want the world to understand, drove us into the war against Spain. Whenever the Turkish Sultan again indulges himself in “Armenian atrocities,” or the Czar of Russia again “establishes order in Warsaw,” they can fall back upon the precedents made by this great Republic and quote it as their justifying example. Thus we have turned back the clock of civilization by centuries. And, to aggravate it all, we have done this, as the case now stands, in furtherance of a policy of conquest.

It is useless to try to minimize these things. New evidence of such barbarities is constantly cropping out as officers and soldiers come back from the Philippines. Much of it is in our possession in a more or less available shape, and the case gains a blacker aspect every day.

It is worse than useless to try to conceal, or excuse, or even justify those things, for this can only serve to add to the charge of barbarity the charge of hypocrisy or moral callousness. By the way, I doubt whether the President has with regard to the knowledge and appreciation of those occurrences been faithfully served by his subordinates and advisers.

Now, this Republic can be relieved of the awful burden of this disgrace only by a solemn and emphatic repudiation of the barbarities, by our Government, or, in default thereof, by a solemn and emphatic repudiation of them by the people in the National elections.

The necessity of the second method would be altogether deplorable, and the first method therefore greatly preferable.

President Roosevelt has already done something in that line. His action in the case of General Smith was most praiseworthy. Indeed, in that case he did all he could. Some other malefactors have been punished. But, after all, the punishments meted out by the military courts for offenses of such a character were so light as to be almost farcical. If we are, or appear to be, satisfied with them, it would indicate that as a Nation we regard the killing of people and the devastation of a country, and the practice of torture as mere peccadillos—offenses more venial than the stealing of a loaf of bread by a beggar.

That the President is not pleased with those sentences I can readily believe. And I fear he has not much reason to be satisfied with the manner in which his promise of a thorough and merciless investigation and exposure of abuses is carried out by his subordinates. He can remedy this, however, by putting a different spirit into those proceedings, although he may have to do so by a change of instruments.

But he certainly can do a greater thing than even that. He can, by making the public declaration suggested, initiate a policy which would show that whatever may have been done in the Philippines, was not done to serve the ends of a selfish war of conquest—a policy substantially proclaiming to the world that this Republic repudiates the idea of deriving any selfish profit from what has been done in the Philippines. That would go farther than anything else to wash the dreadful stain from our National honor.

And if President Roosevelt makes such a declaration, and makes it in the name of the great fundamental principles of this Republic, it will place his name, as that of the restorer of those principles, immediately in line with those of Washington and Lincoln.

It is a wonderful opportunity that thus presents itself to him. But to secure the full benefit of it he should act soon, in the course of this campaign, while he can act with full freedom. If he waits, and the Congressional elections should go against the Republicans—which at any rate is not altogether impossible—he would, making the same declaration, appear to act under a certain compulsion.

Now, do you not think that the reasons I have given here in favor of such a step, greatly outweigh in importance the reasons given by Governor Taft in opposition to it?

As you are in correspondence with President Roosevelt, I may assume that you have his ear. He will listen to you. Would you not make a suggestion to him, an impressive one, in the direction here indicated? You might thereby—possibly—render a great service to our dear adopted country; and I may say that the natives do not know how dear that country is to adopted citizens like you and me—dearer, perhaps, than to themselves.

As Mr. Adams has informed you, the task has been imposed upon me of making a final and comprehensive report upon the Philippine business. It is a hateful task. I am dreadfully tired of faultfinding, and my heart longs for something great to praise. But if things remain in the present state—I shall again have to do the hard duty.

I hope you are enjoying your summer. I am sure you are. What a handsome thing you did in giving Lord Acton's library to John Morley! You are indeed a happy man.