Speeches of Carl Schurz
When forty-three years ago, after five years' residence in the country, I became a citizen of this Republic, I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. I understood that oath to mean that I would remain faithful to those principles of free government which are laid down in the Declaration of Independence and form the vital spirit of the fundamental law of our democracy. I was happy to feel that my sworn duty as an American citizen was in perfect harmony with my own cherished ideals of civil liberty, right and justice, and I have endeavored to keep my oath to the best of my knowledge and ability. Determined to keep it loyally to the end of my days, I stand here now to defend those principles against an attack even more crafty and dangerous than that which in times gone by was made upon them by the power of domestic slavery, and which was beaten back by the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. I mean the attack now made by the policy of imperialism as carried on by the present Administration.
Let me say at the start that I consider the manner in which the imperialistic policy is being commended by some persons to popular approval, the hugest confidence game ever practiced upon a free people. In my whole long life I have never known of such systematic use of distortion of history, hypocritical cant, garbling of documents and false pretense. I am here to speak a word for truth and justice; and in doing so I shall call things by their right names. You will pardon me if those names are not always of the mildest. For I must confess, when I witnessed some of the means employed to lure this great Republic from the path of righteousness, high principle and glorious destiny, my old blood boiled with indignation.
The partisans of the Administration object to the word “imperialism,” calling it a mere bugbear having no real existence. They pretend that in extending our sway over Porto Rico and the Philippines we merely continue that sort of territorial expansion which has been practiced by this Republic from its beginning. This is a mere juggle with words amounting to a downright falsification of history.
The truth is that until two years ago this Republic did indeed add to its territory, but never without the intention and well founded expectation that the acquired soil would be occupied by a population of our own or at least homogeneous with our own, and that it would in course of time be formed into regular States of this Union under our Constitution. It was therefore not mere expansion of our territorial domain to be perpetually ruled by our arbitrary will, but it was essentially an intended, and in the course of time practical, extension of our Constitutional system in entire accord with the fundamental principles of our democracy.
The only apparent exception to this rule was the annexation of Alaska — but that, too, only apparent, not real; for Alaska may be inhabited by a population of our own; and when the development of that territory has sufficiently progressed and its population becomes numerous enough, its claim to full Constitutional statehood will, no doubt, be readily recognized.
Some imperialists pretend that the purchase of Louisiana by Jefferson and the legislation connected with it furnish a precedent fully covering the principles of Mr. McKinley's policy with regard to Porto Rico and the Philippines. This I emphatically deny. Whatever that temporary legislation may have been, is there anybody brazen enough to assert — and this is the essential, the true point — that it was the spirit and intent of Jefferson's act and of the legislation referring to it, to hold the acquired territory perpetually as a vassal dependency outside of our Constitutional system subject to arbitrary rule by the President or Congress? Does anybody dare to deny that it was the understood intent and expectation that the territory of Louisiana would be filled by people substantially our own who would form out of it American States clothed with the full measure of Constitutional rights? Whoever denies this or equivocates about it, only seeks to falsify history, to slander Thomas Jefferson and to deceive the American people.
Nay, so little did the American people, until recently, mean to expand our territory without purposing correspondingly to extend our Constitutional system that, when San Domingo was offered to us, the offer was rejected by an overwhelming public opinion, mainly because it was believed that that tropical country and its present and prospective inhabitants were not fit to come under our Constitution, while they could not be permanently governed outside of it.
“Expansion,” then, in the historical and truly American sense, means the extension of our Constitutional system together with the extension of our territorial area. In this sense we are all expansionists, provided the expansion be honorably effected. And if in the course of events our northern neighbors, a people like our own and practiced in self-government, should express a wish to join this Union — a consummation which our present policy of imperialistic adventure is apt rather to put off than to bring on — we all would welcome them with heart and hand.
But when we annex to this Republic foreign territory, especially territory in the tropics which, owing to climatic conditions, can never be settled by our own or homogeneous people, with the intent and expectation that such territory shall never come into our Constitutional system, but shall as to the civil, political and economic status permanently depend upon the will of our central Government in which they are to have no determining share, those countries thus being vassal provinces, and their people subject populations, that is not mere expansion, in the historic American sense, but that is imperialism. And when such countries are annexed and such populations are subjected by force of arms — by what President McKinley has very properly called “criminal aggression” — it is imperialism in its worst form. Whoever calls this imperialism a mere bugbear is either grossly deceived or a gross deceiver.
Will anybody deny that this applies to our rule over our so-called dependencies? It is over and over again admitted, by the Porto Rico legislation as well as by the pronouncements of the imperialist spokesmen. It helps the imperialists nothing to say that they intend to give the subject populations as much self-government as may be good for them. For who is to decide how much self-government will be good for them? Not they themselves; not the Constitution, but our arbitrary will. We may give it and we may take it away. This is arbitrary rule, another name for despotism. Nor does it help the imperialists to say that we shall treat our subjects benevolently. A benevolent act is an act of grace, not a recognition of right. Benevolence to others not seldom comes into conflict with benevolence to one's self, and then the result is apt to be very uncertain. However benevolent the intentions of the imperialists may be, the benevolence of their acts is so far painfully felt by its victims. Look at the Philippine Islands, which are flooded with blood and tears. Look at poor Porto Rico, where our soldiers were received with transports of joy and hope, and where, according to trustworthy reports, a large majority of the inhabitants would now in their misery thank God for delivering them from their American liberators and for returning them to the rule of Spain.
Some extra-smart people shout at us: “You talk of imperialism! Nonsense! Where is your Emperor?” Why, what intelligent person does not know that it does not require a personal monarch to make an imperial government? Rome had an imperial government in her Senate long before CŠsar crossed the Rubicon. It may be the rule of a Republic over another people, arbitrary and irresponsible to the governed, and it will be an imperial government in its essence, however you may disguise the fact.
Indeed, disguising the character of imperialism is cultivated as a fine art by its devotees. President McKinley himself recently furnished an example of this, bold enough to make us gasp. In the speech responding to the announcement of his nomination he said: “To the party of Lincoln has come another supreme opportunity which it has bravely met in the liberation of ten millions of the human race from the yoke of imperialism.” There is poetic genius in this sentence.
The “party of Lincoln”? It was Lincoln who said: “Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow — what are those arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for the enslaving of the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments of kingcraft were always of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people — not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. Turn it whatever way you will, whether it comes from the mouth of a king, as an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouths of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same serpent.”
It was Lincoln who said: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it.”
The party of Lincoln! If men advocating the arbitrary rule of one people over another on the old despot's plea that such rule is good for the subject, had come to Abraham Lincoln saying that they were his party, it would have required all his good nature to keep him from lifting up his big foot to kick them downstairs.
And what shall we say of President McKinley's assertion that his party has “bravely liberated ten millions of the human race from the yoke of imperialism”? In the face of the fact that thousands upon thousands of Filipinos have been killed in their struggle against American imperialism, and that our Porto Rican subjects are loudly groaning under the same American imperialism, to say that Mr. McKinley's party has bravely saved those people from the yoke of imperialism is truly a great feat. We may well ask when Mr. McKinley pronounced that sentence, what he may have thought of the intelligence of his countrymen.
Having thus fixed in our minds what imperialism is, let us now see what the pursuit of the imperialistic policy has already done for — or rather with us. It has at once involved us in a war of conquest, of “criminal aggression,” to subjugate a people fighting for their freedom and independence. I am aware that President McKinley in his recent letter of acceptance denies that the war against the Filipinos was a war of conquest. He devotes nearly 10,000 words to the task of persuading us that it is only a war of duty and humanity, and that all that has been done was done “not for aggrandizement, nor for pride of might, nor for trade or commerce, nor for exploitation, but for humanity and civilization.” These are words of unctuous sweetness.
Now listen to this plain tale. When Spain was ready for peace, the Secretary of the Navy telegraphed to Admiral Dewey as follows: “Washington, Aug. 13, 1898: The President desires to receive from you any important information you may have of the Philippines; the desirability of the several islands; the character of their population; coal and other mineral deposits; their harbor and commercial advantages; and in a naval and commercial sense, which would be the most advantageous.” There was nothing about “humanity and civilization” in this. President McKinley was then much more interested to know about “coal and other mineral deposits, and harbor and commercial advantages.” And Dewey, who had previously informed the President that upon close acquaintance he believed the Filipinos far better fitted for self-government than the Cubans, then reported that in a naval and commercial sense, Luzon was the most desirable island, but that there were others worth having. And then President McKinley concluded to take them all.
But, aside from that, how low an opinion of the intelligence of his countrymen must he have to dare to tell them that “not for our aggrandizement, not for trade or commerce, not for exploitation” we are trying to subjugate the Filipinos, while at this very day every nook and corner of the land is fairly ringing with the appeals of the President's spokesmen to coarsest greed of wealth and the most vainglorious pride of might, describing in absurdly gorgeous colors the riches somebody might get on those islands, and the magnificent position as a great world-power their possession will give us!
No, from whatever side we may look at it, this Filipino war was from the beginning, and is, a barefaced, cynical war of conquest in the word's truest sense. How was this war brought about? Here again the President's presentation of the case in his letter of acceptance must be confronted with indisputable historical facts. When Dewey had destroyed the Spanish fleet he brought to Manila Bay on a United States vessel Aguinaldo, the chief of the Filipino insurgents against Spain, whom he had invited to come. Why had Dewey invited that chief? Because, as he telegraphed to the Navy Department, that chief “may render assistance that will be valuable.” Under Dewey's eyes and with his aid in the way of arms and ammunition Aguinaldo organized a large army, and he set up a well organized civil government, of which Dewey was duly notified. Who were these Filipinos with Aguinaldo at their head? They were a people in insurrection against Spanish misrule, just as the Cubans were — only that they were much stronger and far more successful in the field and had a far better organized and more efficient civil government. And what did they do? They valiantly fought against the Spaniards, whom Dewey designated to them as the “common enemy,” defeating them in many engagements and taking many thousands of them prisoners, until the interior of the country was well cleared of the common enemy and the main body of the Spaniards was cooped up in Manila, blockaded by our forces on the sea side and tightly hemmed in by the Filipinos on the land side, so that they could neither receive reinforcements nor escape into the interior. The Spanish commander mentioned this fact as one of the main reasons for the bloodless surrender of Manila. The high value of the services rendered by the Filipino army was officially testified to by several of our most respectable officers.
Now, when the time came for determining the future of the Philippines in the peace treaty with the “common enemy,” our President, having nothing but justice and humanity and civilization in his mind, of course promptly invited the Filipinos, who had rendered such good service against the “common enemy,” to acquaint him with their views and wishes? Any just and benevolent man would have been eager to do this. Alas, our President did not think of it. But when the Filipinos asked to be heard, he at least kindly gave them audience? No, not even that. He coldly turned his back upon them. And then, behind doors tightly shut against our Filipino allies, the President, through his Peace Commission, bargained with the defeated “common enemy,” from whom the Filipinos had wrested the interior of their native land, for the transfer of the Philippine Islanders at $2 a head from Spanish foreign rule to American foreign rule. And he did this while he knew that Spain had not only morally forfeited her sovereignty over the Philippines by her misrule, as we had held in the case of Cuba, to the inhabitants of the country, but that Spain had actually lost that sovereignty in the war carried on in great part by the Filipinos, and could not deliver it. Nobody can deny this. It is history.
What? Such a thing was done by the President of this great American Republic, the child of the Declaration of Independence, the champion of liberty and justice in the world, the guiding star of liberty-loving mankind? In the name of this Republic he bought a people like a herd of cattle from a defeated “common enemy,” against whom by the side of our flag those people had victoriously fought for their freedom and independence? Yes, he did that very thing, without even listening to them, and he now asks the American people to declare by their solemn votes that it was well done, and that they approve it.
American citizens, I appeal to you in all soberness — what would you have said three years ago, before the imperialistic poison had corrupted your blood — what would you have said if anybody had predicted such a thing as possible? There is not a man among you who would not have declared such a prophet fit for the madhouse.
And how do the President's defenders excuse this atrocity? By saying that we owe the Filipinos no moral consideration that should have kept us from doing it. This excuse is almost, nay fully as mean as the original misdeed itself. The Filipinos were in fact our allies in the war against Spain. They had been called by Dewey to our assistance to do military work, which at the time with the forces we had we could not have done ourselves. They were not a mere little band of barbaric auxiliaries to hover about the flanks of the enemy. They had an army of 20,000 to 30,000 men, and a well organized civil government effectively ruling a large part of the population and recognized by well-nigh the whole of it. They rendered important service in the field. They corresponded with our commanders on an independent footing. Nay, they were practically recognized by our commanders as allies even to the extent of having thousands of Spanish prisoners, partly taken by our forces, turned over to them. Can practical recognition as allies go further? If they were not our allies, what were they?
The imperialist answer is, that they were not our allies because we never officially called them so; and that therefore we owed them no moral obligation as such. Are those who use such an argument men of self-respect? Are we a nation of gentlemen, and will not every gentleman be ashamed to repudiate a moral obligation upon a mere technicality? What man of honor will deny that if they did us service such as is done by allies, and if we, as we did in the case of the Spanish prisoners, imposed upon them trusts such as are imposed only upon allies, they actually were our allies and fully entitled to respect as such?
But why was their official recognition as allies refused them? Because they claimed their independence. And why should they not claim their independence? Might they not just as rightfully claim their independence as the Cubans claimed theirs? Why not? And here the President's defenders have a curious answer: Because the President thought his officers never promised it to them. As if people in their position had a just claim to their independence only if the President promised it to them! But was their independence really never promised to them? Let us see.
I do not speak of verbal promises said to have been made to them. But they rendered us services as our allies in the war. We accepted those services and profited by them. We knew that while they rendered the services which we accepted, they confidently believed that in fighting side by side with us they were fighting for their own independence. I am aware it is asserted that the Filipinos never told our Government that they wanted or expected to be independent. But here is the record: On July 15, 1898, Aguinaldo, as chief of the Philippine Republic, officially informed Admiral Dewey that “the revolution having taken possession of the various provinces of the archipelago, the revolutionary Government had found it necessary to adopt the form and organization best suited to the popular will”; and he requested the Admiral to transmit to his Government in Washington the provisional constitution of the Philippine Republic, together with his message as President, and a decree in which the following sentences occur: “In the face of the whole world I have proclaimed that the aspiration of my whole life is your independence, because I am convinced that it is also your constant longing, since independence means for us the recovery of lost liberty and admission to the concert of civilized nations.” And in another document: “They [the people of the Philippines] are fighting for their independence, firmly convinced that the time has come when they can and must govern themselves.” And on July 17, 1898, Admiral Dewey, at Aguinaldo's request, officially forwarded these documents to the Administration in Washington. President McKinley must have forgotten this when he wrote his letter of acceptance. He must also have forgotten that already in June, 1898, the Philippine Republic was formally proclaimed, and that vessels flying its flag were sailing to and fro under the very eyes of our war fleet. At any rate, he fails to mention these facts.
But the President does say that we “never promised” them independence. Oh, Mr. President, what constitutes a promise in the conscience of an honest man? We invited their co÷peration against the common enemy. We accepted the service they rendered and profited from it. We knew that in fighting by our side they thought they were fighting for their own independence. We knew more. We knew that the Filipinos would not have rendered the service from which we profited, had they believed that we would deny them their independence. But then our Government was at least honorable enough, before accepting and profiting from their service, frankly to tell them as any honest man would have done, that they were mistaken in their belief? Oh no, our Government did not honestly tell them so. It left them in their confiding belief and accepted from them what advantage it could get. Do you want proof? As a fair specimen take what General Anderson, who for a time commanded our troops there, tells us in a magazine article signed by him: “A few days thereafter (July 1, 1898) he, Aguinaldo, made an official call with cabinet, staff and a band of music. He asked if we, the North Americans, as he called us, intended to hold the Philippines as dependencies. I said I could not answer that, but that in one hundred and twenty years we had established no colonies. He then made this remarkable statement: ‘I have studied attentively the Constitution of the United States, and I find in it no authority for colonies, and I have no fear.’ It may seem [adds General Anderson] that my answer was somewhat evasive; but I was at the time contracting with the Filipinos for horses, carts, fuel and forage.” Can any American having respect for the character of his country hear such a tale without feeling a blush of shame tingle in his cheeks?
When you invite some other person to co÷perate with you in a common enterprise; when that other person upon your invitation does so and renders effective service from which you profit; when you know that the other person in rendering that service believes himself entitled to a certain thing and expects that thing in case of common success; when he tells you that he expects this thing so that you will understand it; when you know that the other person would not render that service if he believed that the thing expected would not be forthcoming; when knowing all this you continue to accept the service in co÷peration, leaving the other person in his belief — where is the honest man in the world that would not consider your conduct as a promise morally as binding as if it had been written down and signed, sealed and delivered? And what would you call a man who sought to sneak out of such a moral obligation on the miserable plea that it had not been formally written down and signed and sealed and delivered? What you would call him I leave to your sense of honor; you would certainly regard him as a person obtaining valuables under false pretenses, unfit for the company of gentlemen.
And that is the attitude in which President McKinley has placed this great Republic. Are you Americans proud of your country? Here stands the poor Filipino before you able to say to you: “You have cheated me!” And you must cast down your proud eyes, for you cannot answer Nay. This is one of the things the President's imperialistic policy has done with us.
But the poor Filipino may say something more. He may say: “In order to carry through your cheat you are now slaughtering us.” And again we cannot answer Nay. I am aware that the President in his letter of acceptance, trying to revive a long-exploded story, tells us that the Filipinos began the fight — the lamb ferociously assailing the lion. Everybody knows that the first shot was fired by an American soldier, killing a Filipino who crossed the line on territory which ought not to have been occupied by the Americans, and that General Otis officially reported: “The engagement was one strictly defensive on the part of the insurgents, and of vigorous attack by our forces.” This is one of the things which the President also forgot.
But the question of the first shot is not the main one. The main question is who was responsible for the condition of things which made that bloody conflict inevitable? And I maintain that President McKinley was responsible. It was he who by his famous “benevolent assimilation” order of December 21, 1898, officially informed the Philippine Islanders that they would not be permitted to be independent; that the United States were prepared to impose upon them American foreign rule instead of Spanish foreign rule, and that our Army would, if they refused to submit, subject them to that American foreign rule by force of arms. It was an open and rude declaration of war against the Filipinos standing up for their freedom and independence.
Is it not amazing that in order to make the Filipinos appear as a wantonly attacking party, Mr. McKinley should go so far as to say in his letter of acceptance: “The insurgents did not wait for the action of Congress — before the treaty was ratified by the Senate, they attacked the American Army”? How groundless the assertion is that the Filipinos were the first assailants, I have already shown. But who was it that really “did not wait for the action of Congress”? Who was it that took the decisive step “before the treaty was ratified by the Senate”? Not the Filipinos, but President McKinley himself; for it was he who six weeks before the ratification of the treaty by the Senate, without the slightest legal authority and by a barefaced usurpation of power, issued that order which was a declaration of war and a direct provocation of hostilities and thus precipitated that abominable conflict.
And here we have also a specimen of the candor with which Mr. McKinley in his letter of acceptance tells his countrymen what has happened. Of that fateful order he quotes only one paragraph, full of assurances of his sweet and benevolent intentions as to the welfare of the islanders; but there he stops. He does not tell his confiding countrymen that in other paragraphs he assumed, in pursuance of the treaty concluded, full sovereignty over the whole Philippine archipelago whether the inhabitants liked it or not, and that “the actual occupation and administration of the entire group of the Philippine Islands became immediately necessary, and the military government heretofore maintained by the United States in the city, harbor and bay of Manila, is to be extended with all possible despatch to the whole of the ceded territory.”
Here we have a most extraordinary performance. President McKinley pretends to give in his letter of acceptance to his countrymen a truthful, candid and complete account of what has happened; and out of the account of one of the most important transactions he leaves out the most important part. Is that good faith?
And what a transaction it was! In the first place, the order was issued six weeks before the treaty of peace was confirmed — that is, six weeks before the United States acquired even a technical title of sovereignty over the islands. The assumption of that sovereignty by the President of his own motion and the order to the Army to enforce it constituted therefore one of the clearest, most barefaced usurpations of power that can be imagined — a usurpation of power striking so flagrantly at the very foundation of Constitutional Government that, if it passes into a ruling precedent, we may well tremble for the safety of our free institutions. There were times when a President daring to do such a thing would hardly have escaped impeachment.
In the second place, that order was such an insult to the Filipino people, our late allies, so direct a provocation of immediate and violent trouble, that General Otis, fearful of its effect, found himself compelled to assume a most extraordinary responsibility for a military officer — the responsibility of suppressing a proclamation of his chief, and of substituting one of his own. But in spite of the General's precautions, the President's order, his direct declaration of war against the Filipinos standing for freedom and independence, did become public, and soon the bloody conflict was on. And now Mr. McKinley blandly tells his countrymen that the disturbance was all owing to the pestilent Filipinos fiercely assailing a most benevolent and considerate ruler. And in pursuance of his order our Army under President McKinley's direction proceeded to destroy in blood a well-ordered native government, to carry desolation into peaceful and orderly communities recognizing and obeying that government and to kill by the thousands innocent people who had never harmed us, who, on the contrary, had effectively fought as our allies by the side of the Stars and Stripes against the common enemy, and whose only sin was that they wanted to be free and independent, while we coveted their land. And we still go on killing.
I have again and again challenged the imperialists to show me in the whole history of the world a single act of perfidy committed by any republic more infamous than that committed by Mr. McKinley's Administration against our Filipino allies, and I have received no answer but a sickly sneer. Not one of the imperialists has been able to point out in the history of any republic a single act surpassing in treacherous villainy this thing done in the name of the great Republic sprung from the Declaration of Independence — the Republic of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Where is the American having the honor of his country truly at heart who will not hang his head in shame and contrite humiliation at this deep disgrace?
And now mark the ingenious reasons President McKinley gives in his letter of acceptance for doing this awful deed. With the air of saying something conclusive, he asks whether his opponents “would not have sent Dewey's fleet to Manila to destroy the Spanish sea-power; and whether they would have withdrawn Dewey's squadron after the destruction of the Spanish fleet; and if so, whither they would have directed it to sail? Where could it have gone? What port in the Orient was opened to it? Do you condemn the expedition under General Merritt to strengthen Dewey in the distant ocean and assist in our triumph over Spain? Was it not our highest duty to strike Spain at every vulnerable point? And was it not our duty to protect the lives and property of those who came within our control by the fortunes of war?”
Admitting all this for argument's sake — although there is much to be said about what Dewey might have done — will the President assert that because Dewey could not use some other Oriental port for his convenience, or because Merritt with the land force had to assist in our triumph over Spain, or because it was our duty to protect the lives and property of those who came within our control by the fortunes of war, we had to betray our allies, to destroy the government they had created for them selves, to subjugate them to foreign rule under our sovereignty and to shoot them down because they insisted upon free and independent government like the Cubans, having under the principles proclaimed by ourselves the same right to freedom and independence that the Cubans had? Is it not evident to the plainest understanding that all the objects mentioned by President McKinley might have easily been attained — indeed, in some respects more easily — if we, according to the fundamental principles upon which our own Republic is based, had recognized that right?
And why did not President McKinley recognize that right of the Philippine Islanders? Because, as he said in his instruction to his Peace Commissioners reported in his letter of acceptance, “We must either hold the Philippine Islands or turn them back to Spain.” What? Did no other alternative present itself to his mind? Did it never occur to the President of the American Republic, sprung from the Declaration of Independence, that there was another alternative which should at the very start have suggested itself to a Republican President as the most natural namely, to let them, according to our own precedent and that of Cuba, have an independent government of their own? Why should it not, just as in the case of Cuba? Can anybody tell?
Indeed, the spectacle of an American President who, when he had to deal with a people striving for freedom and independence and had so successfully thrown off the Spanish yoke, jumped at the conclusion that there was nothing else to do than either to return them to Spanish foreign rule or to subject them to American foreign rule — foreign rule at all events — but that the freedom and independence they had fought for could not at all be thought of — and this after a war we had with proud profession begun for the liberation of the oppressed — the spectacle presented by such an American President would only three years ago have excited the indignation of the whole American people. Who will gainsay this?
In the third place, President McKinley, in his letter of acceptance, has much to say of mysterious “responsibilities” for all sorts of things, and to all sorts of people, which our victory over Spain in the Philippines devolved upon us, and that those “responsibilities” inspired his sense of duty to adopt the course he did. I will not inquire here what kind of responsibilities under the rules of international law such a victory as ours creates for the victor. I will only ask this simple question: Did our victory at Manila create for us responsibilities essentially different from those which were created for us by our victory at Santiago in Cuba? Nobody will pretend that it did. But nobody finds that our Cuban responsibilities make it impossible for us to tolerate and recognize the independence of Cuba. Can anybody tell me why our Philippine responsibilities, which are essentially the same, should oblige us, in law or in morals, to subjugate the Philippines to our sovereignty and to flood those islands with the blood of people who ask for nothing but what we recognize as the right of the Cubans? Is not therefore this solemn responsibility talk as an excuse for our policy of “criminal aggression” the shallowest of false pretenses?
Such are the reasons put forth by Mr. McKinley in his letter of acceptance to justify that betrayal of our Filipino allies which — I deliberately repeat it — has, as an act of cold-blooded, cruel and disgraceful treachery, no parallel in the history of republics.
This is the character of the Filipino war, in which the President wantonly involved us — I say “wantonly,” for there is no candid man living who will not admit that had the President instructed our Peace Commissioners to embody in the peace treaty the same provisions with regard to the Philippines as to Cuba, and had he treated the Filipinos accordingly, not a gun would have been fired, and not a drop of blood would have been shed as no blood has been shed in Cuba since her liberation.
And what a war it is, this war carried on to subjugate or kill our Filipino allies! A war without glory, without enthusiasm, a war for which even those who defend it, have nothing but regret and shamefaced apology. And that war has caused us to keep on foreign soil, under the most noxious climatic influences, breeding disease and death, and under conditions in the most repulsive degree demoralizing, an army more than three times as large as any we had in active field service in the Revolutionary war, in the war of 1812, in the Mexican war or in active operations on the island of Cuba — in short, in any of our wars except our great civil conflict. That war has now lasted more than eighteen months, and no end in sight. The cry is still for more soldiers — 100,000 of them, good military authorities say, five times as many as we ever had actively employed in any of our foreign wars; a war costing our taxpayers many scores of millions a year, gradually to mount into the hundreds, besides thousands of American lives and the wreck of the mental and physical as well as the moral health of many more thousands — a war which, the more successful it is, the more it will be demoralizing, disgraceful and dangerous to the American people.
Let me impress it upon your mind. The more successful we are in making the Filipinos our subjects by force of arms, the more will our triumph corrupt our morals, tarnish our honor and undermine our free institutions of government. It is a war not merely against the Filipinos but a war against our own Republic — a war against the principles, the ideals, the beliefs and the conservative influences which hold this democracy together; a war against ourselves as a free people. Never was there a truer word spoken than that of James Russell Lowell — a wise man — when he said that this Republic would endure only so long as it faithfully adhered to the principles of those who had founded it. What he meant was that, if our people ever ceased to respect and to believe in the high ideals of right, justice and liberty, set up by the Fathers of the Republic and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, our democracy would lose the element of conservative poise necessary for its stability, and the Republic, while perhaps remaining a Republic in name, would not remain one in essence. Without popular reverence for those ideals, without popular belief in those high principles to appeal to, a democracy will inevitably be ruled by greed and selfish ambition, and the powers of the government will be more and more grasped and used to serve the ignoblest impulses and passions of human nature. A democracy working through universal suffrage ruled by such influences and believing in nothing is apt to become the worst government that can be conceived. And nothing can in this respect be more dangerous in its effects upon a democracy like ours than a policy of conquest and of arbitrary rule over vassal provinces and subject populations such as we have now begun.
Imagine what it will lead to if our people are constantly taught, as they now are, that there is a rich country in our grasp which we must have, there being lots of money to be made in it; that the means by which we get it may indeed be somewhat queer, but we must not be foolishly sentimental about that; that we are a masterful race and the inhabitants of that country are a poor lot, and that the strong must not be too squeamish about the rights of the weak; that the Declaration of Independence, with its talk about human equality and “consent of the governed,” and all that, is a mere glittering generality and antiquated rubbish; that we have outgrown the Constitution and must not let it stand in the way of quest of wealth; that we have power and must use that power for our profit, it matters little how. Is not this the real gist of the arguments for the imperialistic policy with which the country is resounding to-day, and do we not all know that if the motive of the greed of power and money were taken out of the imperialistic movement, it would speedily collapse?
Now let the popular mind in this democracy be well saturated with such teachings which shatter all our traditional principles and popular beliefs and ideals of right and justice and liberty — that is, the whole moral basis of our democracy, and substitute for all this the doctrine that might is right — and what will be the consequence? A demoralization of public sentiment more than ever fatal to public justice and eventually to public order and peace; unscrupulous struggles for the possession of power to be used in the exploitation of opportunities without regard to the rights of the defeated — that is, alternating despotisms.
It is often said that an imperialistic policy has long been carried on in England without producing such effects in a very dangerous degree, and that England is a democracy too. This is a grave error. England is not a democracy like ours. England is a monarchy with democratic tendencies, but with very powerful aristocratic institutions and traditions. There is a world of difference between it and a democracy working through universal suffrage. And I cannot repeat too often that a monarchy or an aristocracy can do many things and remain a strong monarchy or aristocracy, which a democracy cannot do and remain a true democracy; and one of those things is to rule other people with substantially arbitrary power. The vital principle of a democracy is self-government of the people. It cannot rule another people without denying the very reason of its being.
It is amazing with what lightness of mind our imperialists scoff at the most fundamental principle of democracy, which is that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” They flippantly talk as if they had disposed of the whole matter when they show that in some instances in our history the consent of the governed has not been formally asked or obtained. Will they please tell me from what source government does derive its just powers if not from the consent of the governed? From divine right? That is absolutism. From the possession of the strongest fist? That is government by force. From the possession of the greatest wealth, the longest purse? That is plutocracy. From the privilege of birth? That is aristocracy. There remains, then, only the consent of the governed, meaning, as the authors of the Declaration of Independence no doubt intended it to mean, that the people, expressing the will of the majority in a manner prescribed by constitutions or laws made by themselves, shall have the decisive word as to what kind of government they are to have, who is to constitute that government and what that government is to do — a government organically springing from, and responsible to, the governed — or, as Lincoln expressed it, a government of, for and by the people.
That this ideal has not in every respect been realized, we certainly have to admit. But it is also certain that every step toward its realization is a step toward the perfection of democratic government and that every step away from that ideal is a step toward the subversion of democracy. And, surely, no greater and more fateful backward step away from the true principles of democracy has been taken in our times than the new imperialistic policy of the greatest of republics which involves the imposition of its arbitrary rule, foreign rule, by bloody force upon a distant and unwilling people. And still more ominous and deplorable is the fact that this backward step is advocated by the same party which, within our own memory, fought its greatest battle and achieved its most glorious triumph in vindication of the same fundamental principles of the Republic, which it now tramples upon intoxicated with the lust of wealth and power — one of the most glaring apostasies that history tells us of.
And what have we gained by this apostasy? Not wealth. For all that wonderful material development we can boast of has not been achieved under the new policy, but under the old. The tremendous growth of our population, of our industries, of our commerce, the conquest of foreign markets one after another by our export trade, all this was accomplished while the country still observed the precepts of Washington's Farewell Address, while our “strenuous life” was devoted, not to the killing of men, the sinking of ships and the destruction of towns, but to the employment of the genius and the energies of our people in the pursuits of peace. It was accomplished before we conceived the barbarous notion that we must own the countries we are to trade with. Indeed, since we started on our career of conquest, we have increased only our expenditures by scores upon scores of millions to be paid by our taxpayers, not our foreign commerce on the whole. And as to the countries which were touched by our fleets and armies, only our trade with Cuba has respectably grown; and Cuba is of those countries the only one which we do not pretend to own. The rest of our commercial gain is in the uncertain chances of the future in which we can see only one thing distinctly — and that is that it will surely take the better part of a century to repay to us through the profits of any possible trade with the Philippines anything like the enormous sums which the Filipino war has already cost us. And nothing can on the other hand be more certain — a fact which I have repeatedly, but in vain, challenged the imperialists to deny — than that, if we had treated or did now treat, the Philippine Islanders as we have promised to treat the Cubans, we would have received from them peaceably, gladly, for the mere asking, all the coaling-stations, all the commercial facilities, all the footholds for our Oriental trade, which we might fairly have desired, and which our sovereignty over the archipelago could ever give us, but then imperiled by the hatred of the subjugated people.
What, then, have we gained? We are told that we have gained a grand position as a world-power. But did we not have a grand position as a world-power, especially since our civil war demonstrated the solidity of this Union — so grand indeed that the strongest and haughtiest sea-power in the world paid more deference to this Republic than to any of its neighbors, even while we had no Army or Navy large enough to count? What more have we now? There are in the outside world two kinds of public opinion concerning this Republic. One is the opinion of those who hate democracy, and who have always wished that this Republic should, and always predicted that it would, break down as a democracy, and become, instead of an encouraging model, a warning example to other peoples striving for free institutions of government. These men are quite satisfied with our recent course. Since we have destroyed the reputation of this Republic as a steadfast friend of peace and as a faithful champion of human rights and justice and liberty in our dealings with other people, these men respect us for our strength and perhaps dread us for our grasping unscrupulousness, but as a seductive example of free institutions and as a missionary and propagator of liberal ideas they fear this Republic no longer. They hail it as a great Power which is in its moral character and influence no better than the rest of them. Have we reason to be proud of that?
There is another kind of public opinion about us abroad. Ask the men who, themselves believers in liberty and free government, loved this Republic for the principles it held high, for the example with which it encouraged the progress of liberal institutions the world over — ask your James Bryces, your John Morleys and a host of others in all civilized countries, our true friends — ask them what they think and feel about us since it is our loud boast that we have become a great world-power, not by the example of our virtues, but by the warships we can set afloat and the battalions we can put into the field to fight and to subjugate foreign lands and make the world afraid! Their disappointment is most painful and discouraging. To them, our true friends, we are now not nearly as great a world-power as we had been before. Are we proud of that?
Or is their judgment unjust? Consider what has happened. When we started out on the Spanish war, Congress ostentatiously proclaimed that this was not to be a war of conquest but of liberation and humanity. President McKinley solemnly declared that annexation by force could not be thought of because according to our code of morals it would be “criminal aggression.” The temptation of victory had hardly presented itself when the war of liberation and humanity was turned into a greedy land-grabbing game and when “criminal aggression” was resorted to in its bloodiest form. Who will after this cynical breach of faith believe any profession of virtuous purpose on our part again? Our detractors the world over point their fingers at us and say with a smile of triumph: “We told you so.” Our moral credit with the world is thoroughly ruined; and that is the kind of great world-power imperialism has made of the proud American Republic. Where is our self-respect?
Let us now review in a few words what imperialism has so far really made of us. It has perverted the solemnly proclaimed war of liberation and humanity into a war of land-grabbing conquest, criminal aggression and subjugation, thus destroying the belief of mankind in the sincerity of our virtuous profession, branding us as a nation of hypocrites and destroying our moral credit with the world. It has seduced us to commit the meanest misdeed a nation can commit — the crafty betrayal of an ally and the wanton slaughter of innocent people. It has made our former friends in the conquered countries hate us with an undying hatred. It has involved us in an unnecessary, wicked and abominable war that has already cost us thousands of American lives and nearly two hundred millions of money, and will cost incalculably more. It has made our President commit a flagrant usurpation of power which, if condoned and permitted to stand as a ruling precedent, will become most dangerous to our free institutions. It has put to contempt and ridicule the fundamental principles of our democracy and is undermining the popular belief in our old ideals of right, justice and liberty, which alone furnish the conservative element indispensable to a democracy working through universal suffrage. It has taught our people that might makes right, and other like lessons, which, unless sternly rebuked, will utterly demoralize public sentiment and transform the political life of our democracy into wild, unscrupulous and, eventually, anarchistic struggles of selfish passions and greedy interests.
It has done something more which is alarmingly characteristic of its tendencies. In this Republic, which should be governed by an intelligent and well-informed public opinion, it has introduced one of the most insidious practices of despotic governments — a censorship of news. That censorship has largely falsified and still more largely concealed from the knowledge of the people the information to which the people are entitled as citizens called upon to act with intelligent judgment upon their own affairs. This practice of secrecy in the conduct of our Government has gone so far that, for two years, one of the most fateful periods in our history, our people have not been permitted to see, a few items excepted, the most important diplomatic correspondence and the directions to Government agents entrusted with most momentous business. We are now witnessing the strange, the unprecedented, spectacle of the President, as a candidate for reelection, in his letter of acceptance, a partisan campaign paper, drawing upon hidden stores of official knowledge and publishing detached pieces of documents as they may be advantageous to his and his party's interest. He has no reason to complain of the widespread suspicion that, if all those documents were published entire, they might bring unwelcome light — for, as I have shown, his “benevolent assimilation” order, that usurping declaration of war against the Filipinos, standing up for freedom and independence, the whole of which happens to be known, appears in his letter of acceptance in a garbled condition, misleadingly omitting the most important parts. Here we have, I repeat, an attempt at secret government, one of the worst practices of unadulterated despotism. You deny the influence of imperialism on the character of our Government? Here you have an instance.
These are some of the known things imperialism has already done for us. What may be still in store you may conjecture. And what benefit have we to show for it? A shadowy prospect of commercial profit, which, so far as it depends upon our sovereign rule over the dependencies, will redound only to the benefit of a favored few at the heavy expense of the taxpayers; but which so far as the generally useful expansion of our foreign commerce is concerned, might have been, and might still be, fully obtained without any criminal aggression, without the atrocities of the Filipino war, simply by treating those people as we have promised to treat the Cubans.
And what is the excuse for this policy of wickedness and blunder? That it was the President's duty to act as he did. Let us see. We will charge him with no undue personal responsibilities. But Senator Lodge, in his speech presenting the nomination, said to him: “The peace you had to make alone. Cuba, Porto Rico, the Philippines, you had to assume alone the responsibility of taking them all from Spain.” Well, then. Was it President McKinley's duty to pervert the war of liberation and humanity which had been so solemnly proclaimed by Congress into a war of conquest, land-grabbing and “criminal aggression”? Was it his duty to betray the Filipinos by using them as serviceable allies, then brutally excluding them from the peace negotiations, and then buying them like a flock of sheep from the defeated “common enemy”? Was it his duty to issue his “benevolent assimilation” order weeks before the ratification of the peace treaty by which, committing a flagrant usurpation of power, he declared war against the Filipinos, and thus provoked that bloody and disgraceful conflict? His duty, indeed! A truly republican President, a President after the pattern of Washington and Lincoln, would unerringly have felt it to be his first duty to remain faithful to the fundamental principles of the Republic; to set his face like flint against any influence demanding their violation; to respect the resolutions put forth by Congress as a morally binding direction to make the Spanish war in truth a war of liberation and humanity, and not a war of selfish aggrandizement; and to treat all the populations with which that war brought us into contact, with that justice and good faith with which we wish to be treated ourselves.
This was his real duty, and any deviation from it was an arbitrary, autocratic and unprincipled violation not only of the true republican policy, but of the pledge of unselfish purpose which Congress had so emphatically given to the world. Had he faithfully performed his real duty, he would then have had the almost unanimous acclaim of the American people, and he would also have infinitely better served than by what he has done not only the stability of our democracy and our National honor, but the commercial interests and the material welfare of the country.
What is now, in view of all this, to be done to repair the terrible wrongs that have been committed — the wrongs done to the Porto Ricans by denying them their just rights, and to the Philippine Islanders by basely betraying them and subjugating them with a bloody hand; the wrong done to our own people by violating the vital conservative principles of our Republic and by smirching the National honor, and the wrong done to all mankind by setting a bad example which discourages the belief in the salutary efficacy of democratic institutions? Those who have got the Republic into this frightful and pitiable situation ask with a triumphant smile: “Well, how will you now get out of it?” Common-sense suggests the answer. First let us turn out of power those who got us into it and put into power men who wish to get us out of it. But is it really possible to get out of it? Yes, a thousand times yes! To get out of it will be not only far more honorable, but also far easier and far less costly than to stay in it. Let the American people declare that the slaughter of those demanding freedom and independence must cease; that we will have no vassal provinces or subject populations; that our Government shall in good faith aid them in setting up an independent government of their own and meantime assure them of our protection against foreign aggression — in one word that they shall be treated simply as we have promised to treat the people of Cuba. Let this be declared and done. This can be done if we will it. Where there is a will there is a way. Let not the will be wanting.
What is there to be said against this? The Administration party pretend that they substantially propose the same thing that is proposed by their opponents — to give the islanders a stable government. But cannot every child see the vital difference between securing to them a stable government under foreign rule, which they are fighting against, and a stable government under their own sovereignty, which they are fighting for?
It is said that “in spite of their mental gifts and domestic virtues,” as Mr. Schurman remarks, they are unfit for independent self-government. This is an afterthought brought forward since the Administration resolved that they should not be independent. Before that it was believed, with Admiral Dewey, that the Filipinos were far better fitted for self-government than the Cubans. But now we are told that they are not a people because they are divided into a great many tribes speaking different languages. Do those who say this remember how many independent states actually exist in the world containing different nationalities that speak different languages? Take the example of Mexico. In 1847, when, after our victorious invasion we had that country in our power, some advocates of annexation made the same argument, that the Mexicans were unfitted for independent existence on account of their tribal differences and antagonisms, there being any number of different languages spoken (indeed, more than in the Philippines), and a vast majority of the people being utterly illiterate and ignorant. Well, we left to the Mexicans their independent government, which, to be sure, was for a period turbulent and disorderly, but has in the course of time become, although by no means ideal, yet peaceable and well regulated, and now occupies a very respectable position in the family of nations. There is as much intelligence and education in the Philippines as in Mexico, if not more. The fact is that, before we attacked them, the Filipinos had the beginnings of a well-organized and effective government of their own, testified to and likened to that of Japan by so ardent an imperialist as Mr. Barrett, late United States Minister to Siam; and that government was recognized and obeyed by a very large part of the people, who lived under it in a peaceable and orderly manner, as testified to by two very respectable navy men, vouched for by Admiral Dewey, who had travelled hundreds of miles through their country. That independent native government we drowned in blood. Had we permitted it to live, the Philippine Islanders would probably have a stable, respectable and efficient independent government now.
It is said that a majority of the Philippine Islanders are now willing to submit to American sovereignty. If true, this would mean that the spirit of a people fighting for freedom had actually been broken by bloody force under the American flag. But is it true? Have we not heard the same story for a year? And has it not been our experience that the Filipinos who were regarded, and even appointed to office, as good American Filipinos one day, were found to be co÷perating with Aguinaldo the next, and that all the sweet tales told about their having changed their minds turned out to be flimsy fables? And if you think of all that has happened, can it be otherwise?
It is said that if we withdraw our forces from the Philippines, the Filipinos would at once drop into anarchy, loot their cities and cut one another's throats. What evidence is there to support this slanderous assumption? None. They have carried on their war humanely, far more humanely than some European troops have carried on their war in China. They have, perhaps a few cases excepted, treated their prisoners kindly. They have had opportunities for looting their cities. What did they do? The Spaniards surrendered to them Iloilo, the second city of the archipelago in commercial importance. General M. P. Miller of our Army was sent before that city to take it. As he himself has publicly stated he “received a letter from the business people of Iloilo, principally foreigners, stating that good order was being maintained, life and property being protected, and requesting him not to attack at present.” But soon he did attack to “restore order,” and to prevent anarchy; and it was our Army that brought bloodshed and devastation into that community. It sounds almost like a ghastly jest that we should have killed 30,000 of those people for the purpose of preventing them from killing each other. No “anarchy” in the Philippines would shed one-half as much blood as we have already shed. It may be true that the guerilla warfare has brought forth some cruel excesses. All guerilla war fare does. But who caused that irregular guerilla war fare? We did by breaking up their government and regular army.
It is said that if we left the Philippines independent, some foreign power would instantly seize them. In an excess of extraordinary silliness a New York paper charged me with opposing the annexation of those islands in the interest of Germany. Whether the Emperor of Germany did not at one time wish to acquire the Philippines, I do not know. But if we offered him the Philippines to-day with our compliments, he would doubtless ask: “How large an army do you have to employ to subjugate that country?” The answer would be: “At present 60,000 men; we may need 100,000.” The Emperor would smilingly reply: “Thank you. Offer this job to some one who is as foolish as you have been.” He would probably be too polite to say so, but he would doubtless think so. Since the stubborn fight of the Filipinos for independence a sensible government would be about as eager to grab that archipelago as a prudent dog would be to grab a porcupine. And all the less if in addition to all this our great Republic tells the world: “Hands off!”
It is said that this sort of protectorate would involve us in enormous responsibilities which it would require a tremendous Army and Navy to sustain. President McKinley is quite pathetic on this point. Why, he seems not to be aware that under the Monroe doctrine we have for more than half a century exercised just that sort of protectorate over our Southern neighbors, simply letting the Old-World powers know that while we are not responsible for any internal troubles, or any international obligations of those neighbors, and foreign powers may enforce such obligations by all proper means, we insist that in doing so they must stop short of infringing on our neighbors' territorial integrity or independence. Has that sort of protectorate ever burdened us with heavy and complicated responsibilities requiring an enormous Army or Navy? And why should the application of the same rule to the Philippines be more burdensome? It is a childish pretense.
It is said that we cannot honorably put Aguinaldo in unrestrained power and turn over to his tender mercies those who have befriended the Americans. And this point, too, Mr. McKinley argues with moving eloquence. But who is there proposing that we should put Aguinaldo and his Tagalogs in unrestrained power, when aiding the islanders in setting up an independent government? Nobody. Do we put Gomez or Cisneros in unrestrained power when aiding the Cubans to construct their independent government? We are endeavoring to put the people of Cuba in power, not any particular person. And is there anybody proposing to do anything else in the case of the Philippines? Why does Mr. McKinley find it necessary to conjure up such scarecrows for the purpose of frightening the unwary?
It is said that before all things we must “establish order.” What kind of order are we seeking to establish? It is our sovereignty, our arbitrary rule under the name of order, for which we have already killed more human beings than the bloody Spaniards ever killed there in all the insurrections of this century. It is the kind of “order” that Louis Napoleon established in Paris when he shot down those who resisted him in destroying the constitution of the French Republic, and in transforming the Republic into an empire. The speediest and surest way to establish order is to give full assurance to the Philippine Islanders that their right to independence will be recognized. There is no reason for doubting that the fighting will quickly cease and that the Filipinos and our troops will then heartily co÷perate in quelling disturbances, if, indeed, any should arise, and that the same conditions of peace and order would prevail there which we now, under the same assurance, witness in Cuba.
Lastly, it is said that if we voluntarily give up the subjugation of the Philippines we shall lose our prestige in the world. Ah, yes! We shall indeed lose our prestige with the land-robbers; our prestige with the oppressors of weak peoples; our prestige with the swashbucklers who are constantly spoiling for a fight; our prestige with the scoffers at democratic institutions; our prestige with the devotees of despotic rule. Yes, with them our prestige will be irretrievably gone. We shall even be in danger of being regarded the world over as an honest people; as a just, generous, noble and liberty-loving people; as a people of such moral greatness that, in spite of the intoxicating seductiveness of victory, it may be counted on always to listen to its conscience, and to overcome all false pride in repairing a wrong done, and in vindicating its high principles; a people so truthful that its word will always be believed; a people so upright that the powers of the world will feel instinctively inclined to trust it as the safest general arbiter in the peaceful adjustment of their differences. Here are the two kinds of prestige, one of which we may lose, and the other of which we may win. Americans, proud of your country, which will be your choice?
I have addressed this appeal to you hoping that you will give it candid consideration. Throughout my whole public life I have held it to be my duty to tell my hearers the truth as I understood it, without fear or favor, and I have done so now. It is needless to say that I have not gone into this contest with a light heart. Four years ago I took, with many others who were not partisans, an earnest and active part in the struggle for sound money. It was that cause that commanded my efforts, not the candidate. In fact, I differed with Mr. McKinley's platform and party on several important subjects. I simply regarded them as the lesser evil then; but their conduct of public affairs has been such that I am conscientiously bound to regard and to oppose the cause they at present represent as by far the greater evil now.
As to the money question, my convictions have, of course, not changed in the least. But while the money question was the paramount issue four years ago, we never admitted that it must remain the paramount question always; or that, however important sound money is to the economic interests, as well as to the character of the Nation, there may not be other things of even more vital moment; or that a party representing sound money may do things ever so obnoxious to good morals or good policy and still rightfully exact our support under all circumstances. In my correspondence with Secretary Gage I have shown, I think, that the dangers to our present monetary system are by no means as threatening now, as zealous partisanship represents them, and that we may freely act upon the question of imperialism without serious peril to our standard of value. I candidly believe so. But I frankly declare that even if the dangers so luridly depicted by the imperialists really existed, my position in the present crisis would be the same.
He would not have been counted a good American patriot who, at the time of the American revolution, had abandoned the cause of liberty and independence on account of the disastrous viciousness of the continental money, or who, during our civil war, had given up the cause of liberty and union because its defense brought on the dangerous issue of irredeemable paper dollars, or other economic perils; or who, at either of those periods had forsaken either of those causes for the reason that the men in position of leadership might hold obnoxious opinions or be inclined to do unwelcome things with regard to other matters. It is still remembered in how little esteem John Adams held the members of the Continental Congress, but how firmly he nevertheless, as a patriot, stood for the cause of his country.
And now a sober, candid and conscientious consideration of the circumstances before us should convince you, as it has profoundly convinced me, that the present crisis is fully as momentous as the revolution which created the Republic, and as the civil war which held it together and purged it of slavery. For now we find ourselves confronted by a powerful attempt, advancing under seductive guises, to fasten upon the country a policy essentially putting in peril the best fruits of the great struggles of the past; a policy cynically disdainful of the fact that it was the Declaration of Independence, with its proclamation of high principles, that made this Republic a really great and beneficent power in the world; a policy which at the very start broke the moral force of our Republic by mean treachery to its lofty professions; a policy which, beginning with criminal aggression, will need more and more criminal aggression for its sustenance; a policy which, living upon unjust rule by force abroad, will inevitably tend to unjust rule by force at home; a policy which, making sport of the vital principles of our organic law, cannot but run into more and more despotic usurpations; a policy which, utterly demoralizing this democracy working through universal suffrage by the destruction of its ideal beliefs and aspirations, will leave to our children, instead of a free, happy and peaceably powerful commonwealth, a mere sham Republic tossed and torn by wild passions and rapacious ambitions, and bound to sink in disorder, disaster and disgrace. To check this policy in its growth, if possible without delay, I believe to be the very first duty of the American citizen. Whatever it may cost to check it now, that cost will be far less than the cost will become if that policy be permitted to continue.
I cannot agree with some esteemed friends who think that the struggle against imperialism should now be suspended and that those in power should be kept there in order to avoid other troublesome risks. I do, indeed, not believe that, if now baffled, the efforts against imperialism will cease. They certainly will not, as the efforts against slavery, however often baffled, did not cease until their final triumph came through a tremendous crisis which perhaps might have been avoided had they succeeded earlier. But our efforts should not now be suspended, for weighty reasons.
One is this: There is but too much ground for believing that the party in power is largely controlled by strong and grasping interests trying to exploit the Government for their profit, and inclined to make the American flag, in the characteristic phrase of the famous Cecil Rhodes, “A first-class commercial asset.” Such interests have not yet thrown large financial means into our “dependencies” for speculative venture. But if our present rulers be continued in power, speculative moneyed syndicates — extensive settlement of those tropical countries by Americans being out of the question — will be much encouraged to go there relying upon their influence with the Government for the furtherance of their operations. As soon as their money is largely engaged there we shall witness attempts by them to control the Government in its different branches, in comparison with which the influence exercised by railroad and other corporations over State legislatures, which we know from observation, will pale into insignificance. The efforts to break the imperialistic policy will then have to meet a power, the resources and skill of which will immensely increase the difficulties to be overcome.
Another reason is this: We are engaged in the awful business of killing people because they continue to fight for their freedom and independence. This has cost us so far 2732 brave American soldiers, killed in the field or by disease, and 2374 wounded, in the hospitals; in all, 5106 men. They deserve our profound sympathy, especially as they have been sacrificed in such a cause. But we read also such terrible stories as that of more than eighty Filipinos having been indiscriminately shot down because two of our soldiers had been killed in a shop near by, or that of a whole wedding party having been put to death because there were one or two “insurgents” among them. Several similar stories have not been contradicted. Let us hope they may be. But you may remember the reports in the papers, constantly recurring for many months, of fights in the Philippines in which one or two American soldiers were killed and a few wounded, while the number of Filipinos killed amounted to 100 or 150 or 200, and some villages or towns burned down. The aggregate of the Filipinos killed is computed largely to overrun 30,000, not counting the wounded. Now, no one having the slightest knowledge of war, even guerilla warfare, can fail to understand what all this means. It means the gradual extermination of the weaker party — that weaker party fighting for freedom and independence. This is horrible — doubly horrible considering the way it began. And this, my countrymen, is done under the flag of the great American Republic. I ask you solemnly, can we as a civilized nation postpone the stopping of this dreadful and wanton bloodshed when the American people have the means of stopping it by an act of justice in their hands?
Fellow-citizens, I have given to this matter many days and nights of anxious thought, much troubled by the perplexing alternative before us in the impending election. The more I think of it, the more does every drop of my blood revolt at the monstrous wrong we have done and continue to do; and the more clearly does my reason tell me that the policy of imperialism has brought upon our Republic the greatest peril to the integrity of its free institutions, its peace, its honor and its true greatness, that has ever befallen it; that conscientiously I can never, never consent to uphold that policy by helping to keep in power those who wantonly originated it and are now carrying it on; and that as an honest man and an American patriot I am in duty bound to contribute my humble aid to whatever gives us an assurance, or even only a reasonable hope, of its overthrow. That duty calls on us all aloud. Let us, then, come what may, stand together with a good conscience and unflinching courage for Truth, Justice and Liberty.
Speeches of Carl Schurz