ADVOCATES of “expansion” justify this policy upon the ground that the national Constitution gives Congress the power “to dispose of and made all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” The Philippines, they declare, are merely territorial property, and as such, can be ruled and regulated under this constitutional provision as Congress sees fit.
But the Constitution does not authorize Congress to dispose of property acquired unjustly, nor does any such power rightfully inhere in any nation or individual. This Philippine question, however, is more than a mere question of the disposal of a certain amount of land. The chief consideration in the transaction, from the standpoint of justice, is not the disposal of the land, but the disposal of the people upon the land.
Are those people to be considered as the property of the United States, of which Congress can dispose as it sees fit? That is just what is assumed in the course which has been pursued towards them by the nations without.
Every form of government which does not recognize the rights and liberties of the people, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, assumes that the people who are governed are the property of the governing power. The government of the czar, for example, assumes the right to dispose of the people under it, and does dispose of them, as it sees fit. That is the assumption upon which every despotism is built. A government must either assume just this, or it must recognize the rights of the people, which is a recognition of their right to govern themselves. There is no middle ground. Not to recognize their rights is itself an assumption of the right to treat them as property. And when the United States Government denies to the Philippine people the right to govern themselves, taking control over them as it does over their land, ignoring their will in the matter entirely, it thereby proclaims that it regards the people themselves as its property, in common with the land on which they live. Such treatment of the Filipinos cannot be harmonized with any other conception than that they are property, to be controlled in live animals. But this is the basis upon which the institution of negro slavery rested in the United States.
It cost this nation several billions of dollars and the lives of hundreds of thousands of its best citizens, to learn that the image of God—for all men are in his image—cannot be held and treated as the property of the United States or of any part of it. That lesson should have been well learned. And if at that fearful sacrifice it was not learned so as to be remembered, and the principles of truth and justice it emphasized are not to be  repudiated, what hope can remain for the nation which has been established expressly to exemplify the virtue of those principles of government before the world?