AT the last session of Congress, Senator Platt of Connecticut, speaking in reply to the idea that foreign conquest is forbidden to Americans by the Declaration of Independence, said that the true and just principle of government is that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of some of the governed.” And now, at the opening of the present Congress, Senator Beveridge of Indiana, speaking for and outlining the policy of the administration with reference to foreign conquests, states the same thing in another way, by the assertion that “The Declaration has no application to the present situation. It was written by self-governing men for self-governing men.” That is to say, “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the self-governed.” Not “all men are created equal,” but “all self-governing men are created equal.”
Let us suppose that this is what the Declaration of independence means, as this Indiana senator says it is. How would it have served the purpose of the American statesman of 1776?
The Declaration of Independence holds certain truths to be “self-evident,” which according to this new interpretation, are that “all self-governing men are created equal,” that this class of men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that to preserve these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the self-governed.” Are the self-evident truths? If they are self-evident, they are evident to all nations on the earth; to all people who have enough intelligence to comprehend the meaning of the language used in stating them. And the people who are now being subjugated by the United States have abundantly proved that they fully comprehend the language of the Declaration of Independence. Is it then self-evident to them that they have not the same natural rights that other people have, and that government, as regards themselves, does not derive is just powers from their consent? To say that such “truths” are self-evident—that these are the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence—is manifest absurdity.
The doctrine that only self-governing people are created equal and have the same unalienable rights, is not only not a self-evident truth, but it is not true at all. It is clearly contrary to the Word of the Creator. For that Word makes no distinction between men, save as regards character. It plainly says the God is no respecter of persons. It makes the same requirements upon all. It says that the Son of God came to the earth and died for all—for the individual of black or brown skin and uncivilized manners, just as truly and as fully as for the individual of white skin and civilized ways. Deny that all men have equal rights by creation, and you destroy the equality upon which all men are placed by the law and the gospel of God. If all men have not equal rights by creation, then their Creator has shown Himself respecter persons, contrary to His Word.
And how, as before inquired, with this new interpretation of the Declaration of Independence have suited the circumstances of 1776? What effect would it have produced upon King George III. and the English parliament, to be told that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of some of the governed?” Could not King George have agreed to that without any change in his views? Could he not have replied to the rebellious colonists, “It is true enough that governments derive their just powers from the consent of some of the governed, but you have not shown that this ‘some’ must include yourselves. And as a matter of fact, it does not include you at all, but only House of Lords, the House of Commons, and the English nobility.” That is what King George could and would have replied to the Declaration of Independence if it had meant what members of Congress are now saying that it means. And what reply could the colonists have made? By the very admission that the consent of only “some” of the governed—of only the “self-governing” ones, the party in power—was necessary to just government, they would wholly have failed to prove the justice of their cause, and would have stood discredited before England and before the world.
Our forefathers of the Revolution put forth the Declaration of Independence in defense of a struggle for liberty. To-day, it is quoted in defense of a fight for conquest, and with this new situation there is evidently demanded a new and vastly different interpretation of its language.
Senator Beveridge has been to the Philippines, and reports that he has “cruised more than two thousand miles through the archipelago,” and “ridden hundreds of miles on the islands.” He went for the express purpose of making an investigation, upon which he could report before Congress, as he has not done. He therefore speaks as an authority on the subject, and is accepted as such by Congress and the Administration. The question of subjugating the islands is not to be decided by Congress, and this senator is come forward as the authoritative spokesman of the party upholding the policy of foreign conquest that has been begun. It is worth while therefore to note the attitude of this party as indicated by this speech.
The question before the American people is one of justice. The Declaration of Independence was an appeal to justice. The American Constitution was designed as the embodiment of the principles of justice in government. By these principles the nation has professed to have been hitherto guided. The question of the justice of foreign conquests, therefore, is the primary question involved, if it is to be even pretended that former American principles have not been completely abandoned.
Turning therefore to the speech of Senator Beveridge in justification of the Government’s present attitude in this matter, what do we find? Hardly have we begun its perusal before we come to these words:—
“Just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets.”
What is the nation going to do with China’s “illimitable markets?” We know what England did—she found China only a good market for opium and she was obliged to force the Chinese to buy that. The Chinese people are very poor. Will this nation force another Chinese market?
Continuing, we read such statements as the following:—
“Our largest trade henceforth must be with Asia. The Pacific is our ocean.” “Where shall we turn for consumers of our surplus?” “The Philippines give us a base at the door of all the East.”
And here is one that deserves special emphasis:—
“The power that rules the Pacific, therefore, is the power that rules the world. And with the Philippines, that power is and will forever be the American Republic!”
The Republic started out not only to be a “world power,” but actually to rule the world!
We read further:—
“China’s trade is the mightiest commercial fact in our future. Her foreign commerce was $285,738,300 in 1897, of which we, her neighbor, had less than 15 per cent… We ought to have 50 per cent. and we will.”
That will leave Russia, France, England, Germany, and other nations to divide up the remaining 50 per cent., a scheme in which it is supposed they will readily acquiesce, to the great gain of the world’s peace!
But, aside from all this, we read, the nation ought to take and hold the Philippines, because they are very valuable in themselves. “The wood of the Philippines can supply the furniture of the world for a century to come. At Cebu, the Rev. Father Segrera told me that forty miles of Cebu’s mountain chain are practically mountains of coal.”
The most remarkable mountain chain in the world, this must be. But that is not all:—
“I have a nugget of pure gold picked up on the banks of a Philippine creek. I have gold dust washed out by crude processes of careless natives from the sands of a Philippine stream. Both indicate great deposits at the source from which they come.”
There is gold in the islands!
And the climate also is something wonderful, for it “is the best topic climate in the world.” We will not try to adjust this conclusion with what we have heard about the rainy seasons.
The speaker does not forget to state that the Filipinos are not capable of self-government. “It is barely possible that one thousand men in all the archipelago are capable of self-government in the Anglo-Saxon sense. My own belief is that there is not one hundred men among them who comprehend what Anglo-Saxon self-government even means.”
There is something mysterious about Anglo-Saxon self-government, as seen to-day, even to ordinary people in America.
The people of the Philippines “are not capable of self-government. How could they be? They are not of a self-governing race. “They are as a people, dull and stupid,” and “incurably indolent.”
We have heard of white people in America who were dull, stupid, and indolent, but we have never heard that for this reason they ought to be deprived of the right to vote.
In the following words there is forecast a long period of military rule, if not a permanent one, in the new territory:—
“The men we sent to administer civilized government in the Philippines must be themselves the highest examples of our civilization.” “They must be as incorruptible as honor, as stainless as purity, men whom no force can frighten, no influence coerce, no money buy.”
And if such men cannot be had for this distant territory, then “Better pure military occupation for years, than government by any other quality of administration.”
In conclusion, we quote from this speech some statements which contribute especially to its significance. Note this:—
“If this be imperialism, its final end will be the empire of the Son of Man.”
And that it is imperialism, and meant to be such, is plainly admitted:—
“Pray God the time may never come when mammon and the love of the ease shall so debase our blood that we will fear to shed it for the flag and its imperial destiny.”
And this imperialism is to end in setting up the “empire of the Son of Man!” That was the way Constantine’s imperialism was to end, and Charlemagne’s. And there are other statements to the same effect:—
“Quick upon the stroke of that great honor [the end of the century] presses upon us our world opportunity, world duty, and world glory,” and “Blind indeed is he who sees not the hand of God in events so vast, so harmonious, so benign.” “And so, senators, with reverent hearts, where dwells the fear of God, the American people move forward to the future of their hope in the doing of His will.” (Italics ours.)
The scheme of foreign conquest into which the nation has gone is now before us in full outline, showing its salient and characterizing features. The nation must taken hold the Philippines because they are valuable. They will give us wealth in Asiatic trade and territory, and they contain valuable wood, gold mines, and other treasures. In a word, we must have all this because it means riches to us. This is the consideration urged upon the American people; and in what way does it differ from the consideration which moves to any act of robbery, from seizing territory down to robbing a bank or plundering a house?
And the nation is thus to become a world power; and not only that, but it is actually to rule the world. And this is the will of God, and is to result in setting up the kingdom of the Son of Man!
It is a project which appeals to all classes of people, save those who hold the that all beings created in the image of God are endowed with sacred rights. The wealth to be gained appeals to the avaricious. The “world opportunity,” “world glory,” and world rule appeals to the ambitious; and the “call of God” to go forward and set up the “empire of the Son of man,” appeals to the religious. All these can unite in giving it enthusiastic support; and all present indications affirm that this will actually be done.
All who can now say that this Republic has not now reach the greatest crisis in its history?