The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Erving Winslow, July 29th, 1904


Bolton Landing, N. Y., July 29, 1904.

I am sorry I cannot attend your meeting on August 1st. The American people of to-day—indeed, almost all that have not sunk their moral natures in the grossest selfishness of commercialism—glory with just pride in the fact that this Republic, after having driven the Spanish Power out of Cuba, has faithfully aided the Cuban people in establishing a free and independent commonwealth of their own.

The day will come—and I think it is near—when the American people will, with equal unanimity, frankly deplore that dark page of their history which records the other fact that, instead of treating the Philippines as we have treated Cuba, we turned our arms against the Filipinos, who were, and are now, almost universally recognized to have been our allies in the war against Spain, in order to beat down their efforts for independence and to make them our subjects. I am confident that the day of the general revival of the true national pride would already have come had not the excessive party spirit stood in the way, which so frequently induces men to permit their reason and their conscience to be overruled by the command of party discipline.

How right I am in this assumption has recently been proved by the astonishing demonstration of the best representatives of the intelligence and the moral sense of the country—churchmen from the highest rank to the lowest, presidents and professors of universities and colleges, judges, members of all the learned professions, prominent citizens of all callings—a demonstration of a quality unmatched in the history of this country urgently demanding of the great political parties that they should pronounce themselves in favor of treating the Philippines as Cuba has been treated. There is not the slightest doubt that, were the pressure of partisanship removed, such a demand would upon its own merits to-day be joined by an overwhelming majority of the American people.

And what has been the response of those in power and of the ruling party? The member of the Government having the Philippine business in charge simply tells those high and low dignitaries of the churches, those presidents and professors of colleges, those judges and members of the learned professions and other prominent citizens to hush; that they should not presume to discuss Philippine independence; that in fact Philippine independence should not be discussed at all by the people; that the Government should be let alone to deal with it.

This is a significant spectacle. We call ours a democratic government. Democratic government is essentially a government by free discussion. As soon as it ceases to be a government by free discussion it ceases to be democratic government. And what kind of subject is this that we are told we must not discuss? Is it not a question involving the very principles upon which this Republic rests? Does it not involve the justice and general morality of our dealings with foreign peoples? Does it not involve in the largest sense our character as a nation? And this is the thing which we are told by a member of our Government—a government of which free discussion is the very life—we must not discuss? By its fruits you shall know it. This is one of the fine fruits of our policy of imperialism—it is time to take heed.

And what response has the Republican platform made? That we have suppressed insurrection—that is, we have drowned in blood the efforts of the Filipinos for independence; that we have given the Philippines more security and better administration than they ever had—that is, that American absolutism is better than Spanish absolutism; and that the possession of the Philippines had made military operations in China easier for us—which implies that it may be of use for further military enterprises. But not a word for Philippine independence.

And what does the President say in his speech of acceptance? He simply repeats the promises often made of enlarged local self-government in the Philippines under American dominion, but he, too, cautions against the discussion of the subject of independence, as if it were the forbidden fruit, not to be touched.

What does all this mean? Does it mean that it is the settled purpose of the ruling influences in the Republican party to keep the Philippines in practically permanent subjection to this Republic? Probably it does. But if it means that the question of Philippine independence should be kept open indefinitely, the practical effect will be the same unwholesome, disquieting, dangerous uncertainty. The Republicans must know, and do know, that the treatment of the Philippines upon the principles applied to Cuba is the only solution of the problem in harmony with the fundamental principles of our government; the only one that is just and right; the only one fitting the true greatness of this Nation; the only one that will satisfy the Filipinos as well as our own people; the only one that will really strengthen us by making freemen and friends out of discontented and, at heart, hostile subjects. But this they will not promise.

With a sense of relief we may turn to the Democratic party which, with a leader at its head deserving and possessing the confidence and respect of the people, meets us with the frank and ringing declaration that “we ought to do for the Filipinos what we have already done for the Cubans, and that it is our duty to make that promise now and to set the Filipinos upon their feet, free and in dependent, to work out their own destiny.” This is the voice of right, of justice, of genuine Americanism and of true statesmanship. The sooner and the more triumphantly it prevails the prouder every patriotic American will be of his country.