THE United States Government has acquired possession of the Philippine Islands by conquest and purchase from Spain, and now considers that it has a right to do with them as it sees fit.
It obtained this right—if such it is—from Spain. But what right had Spain in the islands? Spain’s rights in the Philippines were only those of the robber and freebooter. Spain took what she possessed in the islands by force, just as any highwayman takes money and other valuables from the defenseless traveler. In the courts, this style of procedure is not considered as conferring any right of possession upon the highwayman. But where the robbery is a national act, it is different.
Does the United States Government mean to indorse the acts of Spain by which that nation got possession of the Philippines? Whether it means it or not, that is just what is actually done by the United States in assuming possession of the Philippines as it has now done.
There are human beings in the Philippines—eight millions of them. These people are the natural and rightful owners of the islands. These are the people who must be dealt with in securing any just title to a single foot of land in the Philippine group.
The United States Government drove Spain out of Cuba, because, as it says, Spain was a robber and oppressor of the Cuban people, who by here cruelty and injustice had forfeited all right to the island. If Spain had a right to the possession of Cuba, the United States had no right to deprive her of it. Spain had no right in Cuba—that is true; but she had exactly as much right in Cuba as she had in the Philippines; and now the United States claims possession of the Philippines by virtue of the very thing which, in the case of Cuba, it points to as nullifying all claim to possession. This is not quite consistent to say the least.
The United States might as well be a robber itself as to take away the spoils of a robber and hold them as its own. The right of possession still remains in the one from whom the robber took them, which in this case is the Philippine people. The United States cannot afford to expand by justifying and perpetuating a robbery.