THE United States claims possession of the Philippine Islands by virtue of the treaty with Spain. To repudiate that would be to throw away the basis upon which the Government seeks to justify its course in the Philippines before the world. But to stand by the treaty, also involves the United States in a dilemma, for under it this Government is obliged to maintain the Sultan of Sulu, a Mohammedan polygamist, at a salary of $4,900 a year; and also the system of slavery which prevails in that island of the Philippines group. The facts of the situation are set out in the following narrative of an interview between the Sultan of Sulu and Philippine commissioner Jacob G. Schurman, just back from the Philippines, which we copy from The World, of the city:—
“‘He received us cordially. We went through two rooms and were then seated in the reception room. I sat on a lounge and the Sultan seated himself, while a score of his household guards stood behind him. They were big, muscular, brave-looking fellows, and each one had a big knife handle sticking out of his belt.
“‘I told him that Spain had ceded its rights in the Sulu group to the United States and that we could carry out the same treaty terms he had made with Spain. He said that was all right, but for one thing; he would like to have some customs revenues and increased pensions, and, therefore, he wanted an island of the group in which he could have a port to collect tariffs customs. The only port in the group is the city of Sulu and that is a free port.
“‘The reason the Sultan gave for wanting that port was that he had twelve wives and it took a good deal of money to support them. Already they were learning Occidental extravagance in dress and were pestering the life out of him for foreign finery.
“‘Another reason for wanting this port for its revenue was that he wished to go to Mecca to make his pilgrimages, and that, too, cost money.
“‘The treaty with the Sultan which the United States became a party to as Spain’s successor, provides that he and his chiefs shall receive about $5,000 annually. The Sultan has many subjects in Borneo also, and the North British Borneo Company pays him $5,000 a year to stay out of Borneo.’
“Mr. Schurman was asked whether or not the system of slavery in the Sulu Islands is likely to be disturbed by the United States Government.
“‘I am not in a position that answer that question,’ he replied. ‘I assured the Sultan that all of his rights would be preserved as defined under the treaty with Spain, and he seemed contented.
“‘Slavery, as it is practiced in the Sulu Islands, is not the cruel, inhuman slavery. On the contrary, it is  rather beneficent in form, and the relations between masters and slaves are, as a general thing, most friendly.’”
The treaty of Spain with the Sultan of Sulu provided for the maintenance of the Sultan at a salary of $5,000 yearly, with polygamy and slavery as carried on by him; and now the United States, “as Spain’s successor,” has “become a party to” this treaty. The United States is bound by this which was included in the treaty with Spain, the same as by any other part of that treaty. The Government can repudiate this part of the treaty, but it will not be very consistent to do this, while constantly holding up the treaty as the justification of its claim to the possession of the islands.
Spain never had any right in the islands, save such as the robber and the freebooter acquires to the ownership of the property he steals. This is one inequity recognized and sanctioned by the treaty with Spain. And even had Spain once possessed any rights there, she had forfeited them by her merciless oppression of the people. This is another iniquity; so that the treaty with Spain was only a justification of Spanish iniquity, and the iniquity of maintaining polygamy and slavery in one of the islands is only on a par with the rest that the treaty embodies.
Will the United States, then, unseat congressmen Roberts of Utah for polygamy, and maintain the Sultan of Sulu in polygamy at a salary of $5,000? Will it maintain slavery in Sulu against the express prohibition of the Constitution, that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction”?
What right, anyway, had the treaty makers to make a treaty which recognized slavery as a lawful thing in a territory that was to come by virtue of that treaty under the jurisdiction of the United States?