« PreviousContinue »
LIBERTY is the foremost of the great ideals to whose service our nation was dedicated.
We still stamp the word upon our coins, the famous statue in New York harbor still welcomes the oppressed of every land; millions have come to our shores to breathe this freer air, and millions of others have kept up courage through the thought of American freedom.
First among the various embodiments of this ideal we may speak of that political liberty that was asserted in the historical Declaration of Independence “these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”'
Of the Revolution which won this political independence, President Wilson has said, "It was not urged on by disorderly passions, but went forward in a love of order and legality.” The Declaration recites the reasons that necessitated the step, and urges that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” But, it goes on to say, "a decent regard to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
It is clear to any one who reads the history of the Revolution that the British rulers of that day were stupidly blind to the needs and instincts of their subjects over seas. The slowness of communication made an adequate representation of the Colonies in the British Parliament impossible; but this physical difficulty was less serious than the mental barriers that were interposed. It is probable, indeed, that a greater patience would have presently solved the problems, and ended the tyrannies under which the colonists suffered, and that the mother country would in time have granted us autonomy of her own free will, without the cost of war. But it was impossible for our forefathers to foresee the growth of liberalism in England; and in fighting for liberty and democracy they were tearing old ties for what they cherished as most precious in life. Patrick Henry voiced this spirit in his memorable speech before the Virginia Convention of Delegates, on the twenty-third of March 1775: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”
The American colonists were not a backward people, to be autocratically ruled from across the ocean. They were trained in self-government, politically as intelligent as any of their contemporaries; and they deserved what we now call self-determination. That this should have been granted them only after a long and unhappy war is a matter for profound regret. Not only because war is always a great evil, but because the memory of this war has made an "ancient grudge” between us and the British people, who are blood-brothers to many of us and spiritual brothers to us all. At this day their ideals, and those of the English-speaking peoples throughout the world, are on the whole probably nearer to our own than those of any other people.
But the political separation has had many excellent results. It taught England a salutary lesson, as Burke acknowledged; it showed her how not to treat her colonists, and paved the way for the present-day autonomy of her self-governing Dominions. It proved a great impetus to political and social thinking and organization in this country, and advertised to the world the principle of Liberty as perhaps nothing else could have done; so that the years following it saw the assertion of similar principles in many other countries. It enabled us to acquire the Western lands which never would have been allowed to pass peacefully into British hands—and thus to extend our sovereignty from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The loss of efficiency which naturally comes through the political division of a larger unit was scarcely felt, owing to the meagre and slow communications with the Old World. Doubtless in some ways a provincial spirit was encouraged. But certainly patriotism was vastly stimulated; and through the stress of the emergency the spirit and hopes of those pioneers were crystallized into the principles that we today call Americanism.
Happily, the schism has long been healed in spirit, although no political reunion has been attempted. For well over a century there has been no war, and scarcely a rumor of war, between us. Many Englishmen at the time of our Revolution sided with us; and even in Parliament we had staunch defenders. Now all Englishmen acknowledge that these were in the right, and unite in honoring our Washington and Lincoln, and the other great men that our nation has produced. And they, with the rest of the world, agree now in principle, if not always yet in every concrete case, with our assertion of the right of every people to determine its own destinies,
This principle was put by President Wilson, when stating our war-aims, as the rule that "no people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live.” Again he spoke, in his Address to the Senate, on January 22, 1917, of the "principle that Governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that no right anywhere exists to hand peoples about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were property. [This is a) political principle which has always been held very dear by those who have sought to build up America."
America was naturally foremost in sympathy with the ideals of the French Revolution, with Kossuth, with Garibaldi, with the Greek patriots, and the Russian revolutionists. Our Monroe Doctrine was the announcement to the world that we stood ready to protect the freedom of the South and Central American republics. And in the Great War, we fought to save the oppressed nationalities of Europe from alien domination. Our action in setting Cuba up as an independent nation, after we had spent money and lives in ousting her earlier oppressors, was almost unprecedented in the history of the great nations, and proves that we practise what we preach.
In the light of all this, it is obvious that we can not permanently retain our sovereignty over the Philippines, if the majority of the natives desire their independence. As they are alien to us by race, by language, and by their traditions, it is altogether probable that the mass of them will wish to be free, in spite of possible advantages for them of American rule. It is true that we paid twenty million dollars to Spain for the Islands, besides the cost of the war. And since then our government has expended over three hundred million dollars in bringing to them the benefits of civilization. But we are rich and prosperous, they were poor and ignorant; we should not begrudge the help we have given them or allow our financial outlay to blind us to their elemental right to their freedom. In spite of our unprecedentedly altruistic rule, there have been some wrongs infticted, there has been friction, such as inevitably arises when one race rules another. As Lincoln said, in the often-quoted words, “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other man's consent.”
The problem of the right moment at which to free them is one of expediency, so long as the release is not too long delayed. It may be wisest to wait until they have had a more widespread education and longer experience in political affairs, until the various tribes have become more homogeneous and more capable of getting along peaceably together. It would surely be wrong to withdraw our flag without the acceptance by the other Powers of treaties guaranteeing their freedom. But in many ways the outlook for the future of the Islands under their own flag looks promising, even now. There is no royal dynasty whose members might attempt to recover lost power, there are no slaves, there are no vexing boundary questions. Many of the Filipinos have proved themselves able and honest in business and in politics. Governor Harrison, after intimate experience in working with them, declared, “I have found the native Filipino official to be honest, efficient, and as capable of administering executive positions as any men I have met anywhere in the world . . . By temperament, by experience, by financial ability, in every way, the ten