THE United States Philippine Commissioners have issued a proclamation to the Filipinos, promising them “ample liberty” if they will submit.
“Liberty” means, of course, the same thing the world over. It means the same in the United States that it means in the islands off the coast of Asia. What does it mean in these islands, according to this proclamation?
The proclamation begins with the statement that “The Commission desires to assure the people of the Philippine Islands of the cordial good will and fraternal feeling which is entertained for them by the President of the United States and by the American people.” These are words that scarcely fit the tune to which the Filipinos have for some weeks been listening. And there can be no doubt in their minds of the primary importance of the meaning conveyed by the tune.
The President and the people for whom the proclamation speaks have the same “cordial good will and fraternal feeling” toward the Filipinos who were killed  in the battle with the American troops. It was only by chance—not intention—that this “cordial good will and fraternal feeling” did not affect the survivors in the way that it did their less fortunate companions in arms. When a person fires a gun at you with intent to kill, it matters not whether he is actuated by “cordial good will and fraternal feeling” or by cordial hatred.
The proclamation proceeds with the statement that “The aim and object of the American Government, apart from the fulfillment of the solemn obligations it has assumed toward the family of nations by its acceptance of sovereignty over the Philippine Islands, is the well being, prosperity and happiness of the Philippine people and their elevation and advancement to a position among the most civilized peoples of the world.” This is to be brought about, under American rule, by “the assurance of peace and order, by the guarantee of civil and religious liberty, by the establishment of justice, by the cultivation of letters, science, and the liberal and practical arts, by the enlargement of intercourse with foreign nations, by expansion of industrial pursuits, by trade and commerce, by multiplication and improvement of the means of internal communication, by development, with the aid of modern mechanical inventions, of the great natural resources of the Archipelago, and, in a word, by the uninterrupted devotion of the people to the pursuit of useful objects and the realization of those noble ideas which constitute the higher civilization of mankind.”
“Unfortunately,” the address continues, “these pure aims and purposes of the American Government and people have been misinterpreted to some of the inhabitants of certain islands, and as a consequence the friendly American forces have, without provocation or cause been openly attacked.” How has this misinterpretation been made? We know of nothing better calculated to misinterpret benevolent motives and intentions than weapons of war. Nobody ever gets any hint of benevolent intentions from such things; consequently, if benevolence is really behind them, they grossly misinterpret it. And since this is so, it is against reason to use them in the execution of benevolent designs.
What would be the meaning of an armed force of a foreign power being stationed on soil of the United States, and affirming an intention of staying till they got ready to go? What would such a thing mean to the American people? How much misinterpreting would be required to precipitate hostilities between them and the people?
And if that attitude would not be expressive of good will in the United States, would it be expressive of good will anywhere else?
The proclamation affirms that—
“1. The supremacy of the United States must and will be enforced throughout every part of the Archipelago, and those who resist it can accomplish no end other than their own ruin.
“2. To the Philippine people will be granted the most ample liberty and self-government reconcilable with the maintenance of a wise, just, stable, effective, and economical administration of public affairs and compatible with the sovereign and international rights and the obligations of the United States.”
Would this mean “ample liberty” in the United States? Would it mean liberty in any sense? Would the American people who lived in the days of Washington have accepted this king of “ample liberty” from George III? Is not this precisely the liberty he was willing to grant?
No argument is necessary to convince Americans that this would not mean liberty for them. It would not mean liberty in the United States. And if it does not mean liberty here, does it mean liberty anywhere else?
The one thing that is withheld from these people under American rule is the one thing George III. wanted to withhold from the Americans—liberty. And that is the one thing above all others that they want.
But is the United States going to insist upon this definition of “ample liberty”? That is the question which lends vast importance to the situation at Manila. If this meaning of liberty is insisted on there, what is liberty going to mean here? If we accept this meaning for it there, can we refuse to accept it here? We cannot, without taking leave of consistency and logic.
Let American people maintain one meaning for liberty the world over, and that the meaning insisted on hold up to the world by this nation at the time of its birth.