DEVELOPMENTS at the seat of the national Government reveal a rapid progress along the pathway to governmental despotism.
The first great step in this direction was the subjection of the policy of foreign conquest. That policy has to be justified in some way, and in the effort to do that have been involved the further steps in the direction of repudiating the principles of free government that has since been taken.
First, it was declared that the policy of foreign conquest was upheld by the Constitution. Next, the Constitution was declared to be a very flexible instrument that could be stretched and bent so as to cover almost anything. Next it was declared that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were “out of date and that while entitled to some regard as venerable documents having a historical importance, they could not be binding upon such a great and growing power as the United States has now become.
Next it was discovered that, however these doctrines might be regarded, the Government possessed certain powers which might be exercised “outside the Constitution;” and this was soon hailed as a discovery of great importance. It was soon settled, in fact, that the Constitution did not apply to territory outside the mainland of North America at all, and that in the new island possessions Congress might govern just as it pleased. And so it was considered proper to vest in one individual, for the government of this new territory, power and authority beyond any that could belong to him under the Constitution. Power and authority was vested in the Chief Executive of the United States—the President—which under the Constitution belonged to the legislative and judicial departments of the Government; and by this he was raised to a position over the new territory little if anything short of an actual dictator.
Under the Constitution, Congress alone can declare war; yet the President of the United States, without Congress, put into the field of warfare against the Filipinos a larger army than was ever before raised by the United States to contend with a foreign power.
This was a plain usurpation of power, growing out of the authorized policy that had been adopted in dealing with the territory taken from Spain. But with this, as with every step in the departure from the former principles, vigorous and unceasing efforts have been made to fortify it and establish it as a legitimate feature of American government. It has even been proposed, under this program of government “without the Constitution,” that the President shall have authority to conclude secret treaties with other nations, himself alone, or with such advice as he may choose, from his cabinet or perchance from a Catholic prelate, instead of “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,” as the Constitution provides.
As was inevitable, all these steps taken for the government of foreign territory “without the Constitution,” and which were in the direction of “government by a single mind”—a one-man power—have begun to react upon the government of the home territory, to which it is still admitted the Constitution applies; and steps are now being taken at Washington to strengthen the power and authority of the Chief Executive over the people of the United States.
A New Hampshire senator has moved for an amendment to the rules of the Senate, for the purpose of shutting off the privilege of speaking upon general resolutions that may be introduced. The proposed amendment provides that “All resolutions shall be referred without debate to their appropriate committees, unless the Senate by unanimous consent orders otherwise.” The purpose and significance of this move are explained thus:—
“The adoption of this rule would make it impossible for any senator to speak during the morning hour upon any resolution which he might have offered, except by unanimous consent expressly granted, because any resolution offered would go without debate to the appropriate committee. The committees are in the control of the majority party in Congress, and would not report any resolution for consideration which did not support the administration. Thus, by the operation of this rule, the voice of free debate would be as completely justified in the Senate as is the case in the House, where nothing can be considered without the previous indorsement of the committee on rules.
“The Senate, which has remained a deliberative body, where ever State had the right, through its two senators, to be heard upon the general state of the country, would fall under the complete control of the man making up the majority of the committee on rules, and practically under the control of the one man who might be chairman of that committee.”
It is felt by the supporters of this move that there is too much talk in the Senate in favor of political liberty. A senator from South Dakota has been speaking in behalf of freedom for the people of the Philippines, and a senator from Illinois has been speaking in behalf of the Boers, and it is declared that the administration must not be subjected to such attacks. This proposed amendment to the rules will, if carried, practically shut off all speeches attacking the policy of the administration, because it will be necessary first to secure the unanimous consent of the Senate, and the Senate will never be unanimous in opposition to the policy of the President. It will consign all resolutions attacking the President’s policy to committees which “are in the control of the majority party in Congress, and would not report any resolution for consideration which did not support the administration.”
Thus the administration will be left practically at liberty to pursue its own policy, regardless of Congress, which is to say, regardless of the people whom Congress represents. And then, the Government will not be a government of the people by the people, but a government of the people by “the administration,” which at least approximates to and must naturally soon result in, government by a single mind—a one-man power—a monarchy as absolute as that of Russia.
In line with all this that has been cited, is a bill that is now before Congress which provides that the President shall be given complete authority to prescribe rules of government and to appoint officials for their enforcement throughout the Philippine archipelago. The passage of this measure is looked for at an early date.