Whitelaw Reid.

Continental union, Civil service for the Islands; An address at the Massachusetts Club, Boston, March 3, 1900 online

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Vol. 2

1. Barrows, David P. The Ilongot or

Ibilao of Luzon, 1910

2. Barrows, David P. The Negrito and

allied types in the Philippines,

3. Cunningham, Charles H. Origin of

the friar lands question in the
Philippines. 1916

4. Reid, Whitelaw. A Continental

union. 1900

5. Reid, Whitelaw. Later aspects of

our new duties. 1899

6. Robertson, James A. The Igorots

of Lepanto. 1914













MARCH 3, 1900













A third of a century ago or more, I had the honor to be a
guest at this club, which met then, as now, in Young's Hotel.
It has ever since been a pleasure to recall the men of Boston
who gathered about the board, interested, as now, in the affairs
of the Eepublic to which they were at once ornament and de-
fence. Frank Bird sat at the head. Near him was Henry
Wilson. John M. Forbes was here, and John A. Andrew, and
George S. Boutwell, and George L. Stearns, and many another,
eager in those times of trial to seek and know the best thing to
be done to serve this country of our pride and love. They were
practical business men, true Yankees in the best sense; and
they spent no time then in quarrelling over how we got into
our trouble. Their one concern was how to get out, to the
greatest advantage of the country.

Honored now by another opportunity to meet with the club,
I can do no better than profit by this example of your earlier
days. You have asked me to speak on some phase of the Phil-
ippine question. I would like to concentrate your attention
upon the present and practical phase ; and to withdraw it for
the time from things that are past and cannot be changed.

Stare decisis. There are some things settled. Have we not a Things that
better and more urgent use for our time now than in showing cannot fe e
why some of us would have liked them settled differently f In
my State there is a dictum by an eminent Judge of the Court of
Appeals, so familiar now as to be a commonplace, to the effect
that when that Court has rendered its decision, there are only
two things left to the disappointed advocate. One is to accept
the result attained, and go to work on it as best he can ; the
other, to go down to the tavern and " cuss " the Court. I want
to suggest to those who dislike the past of the Philippine ques-


tion that there is more important work pressing upon yon at
this moment than to cuss the Court. You cannot change the
past, but you may prevent some threatened sequences, which
even in your eyes would be far greater calamities.

There is no use bewailing the war with Spain. Nothing can
undo it, and its results are upon us. There is no use arguing
that Dewey should have abandoned his conquest. He didn't.
There is no use regretting the Peace of Paris. For good or for
ill, it is a part of the supreme law of the land. There is no use
begrudging the twenty millions. They are paid. There is no
use depreciating the islands, East or West. They are the prop-
erty of the United States, by an immutable title, which, what-
ever some of our own people say, the whole civilized world
recognizes and respects. There is no use talking about getting
rid of them ; — giving them back to Spain, or turning them over
to Aguinaldo, or simply running away from them. Whoever
thinks that any one of these things could be done, or is still
open to profitable debate, takes his observations, — will you
pardon me the liberty of saying it ? — takes his observations too
closely within the horizon of Boston bay to know the American

They have not been persuaded and they cannot be persuaded
that this is an inferior Grovernment, incapable of any duty
Providence (through the acts of a wicked Administration, if
you choose,) may send its way, — duties which other nations
could discharge, but we cannot. They do not and will not be-
lieve that it was any such maimed, imperfect, misshapen cripple
from birth for which our forefathers made a place in the family
of Nations. Nor are they misled by the sudden cry that, in a
populous region, thronged by the ships and traders of all coun-
tries, where their own prosecution of a just war broke down
whatever guarantees for order had previously existed, they are
violating the natural rights of man, by enforcing order. Just
as little are they misled by the other cry that they are violating
the right of self-government, and the Declaration of Independ-
ence, and the Constitution of the United States by preparing
for the distracted, warring tribes of that region, such local gov-
ernment as they may be found capable of conducting, in their
various stages of development from pure barbarism toward civ-
ilization. The American people know they are thus proceeding
to do just what Jefferson did in the vast region he bought
from France — without the consent, by the way, either of its
sovereign or its inhabitants. They know they are following in


the exact path of all the constructive statesmen of the Republic,
from the days of the man who wrote the Declaration, and of
those who made the Constitution, down to the days of the men
who conquered California, bought Alaska, and denied the right
of self-government to Jefferson Davis. They simply do not
believe that a new light has been given to Mr. Bryan, or to the
better men who are aiding him, greater and purer than was
given to Washington, or to Jefferson, or to Lincoln.

And so I venture to repeat, without qualification or reserve,
that what is past cannot be changed. Candid and dispassionate
minds, knowing the American people of all political shades and
in all sections of the country, can see no possibility that any
party in power, whether the present one or its opponent, would
or could now or soon, if ever, abandon or give back one foot of
the territory gained in the late war, and ours now by the
supreme law of the land and with the assent of the civilized
world. As well may you look to see California, which your own
Daniel Webster, quite in a certain modern Massachusetts style,
once declared in the Senate to be not worth a dollar, now aban-
doned to Mexico.

It seems to me then idle to thresh over old straw when the No abstrac*
grain is not only winnowed but gone to the mill. And so I am tions or
not here to discuss abstract questions, as for example whether in apo 8 e *

or flttflcks.

the year 1898 the United States was wise in going to war with
Spain, though on that I might not greatly disagree with the
malcontents ; or as to the wisdom of expansion ; or as to the
possibility of a republic's maintaining its authority over a people
without their consent. Nor am I here to apologize for my part
in making the nation that was in the wrong and beaten in the
late war pay for it in territory. I have never thought of deny-
ing or evading my own full share of responsibility in that matter.
Conscious of a duty done, I am happily independent enough to
be measurably indifferent as to a mere present and temporary
effect. Whatever the verdict of the men of Massachusetts to-day,
I contentedly await the verdict of their sons.

But, on the other hand, I am not here either to launch charges
of treason against any opponent of these policies, who neverthe-
less loves the institutions founded on these shores by your
ancestors, and wishes to perpetuate what they created. Least
of all would it occur to me to utter a word in disparagement of
your senior Senator, of whom it may be said with respectful
and almost affectionate regard that he bears a warrant as



authentic as that of the most distinguished of his predecessors
to speak for the conscience and the culture of Massachusetts.
Nor shall any reproach be uttered by rne against another
eminent son of the Commonwealth and servant of the Republic,
who was expected, as one of the officers of your Club told me,
to make this occasion distinguished by his presence. He has
been represented as resenting the unchangeable past so sternly
that he hopes to aid in defeating the party he has helped to lead
through former trials to present glory. If so, and if from the
young and unremembering reproach should come, be it ours,
silent and walking backward, merely to cast over him the mantle
of his own honored service.

Common duty No, no ! Let us have a truce to profitless disputes about
and a common w } ia t cannot be reversed. Censure us if you must. Even
strike at your old associates and your own party if you will,
and when you can, without harming causes you hold dear. But
for the duty of this hour, consider if there is not a common
meeting ground and instant necessity for union in a rational
effort to avert present perils. This, then, is my appeal. Dis-
agree as we may about the past, let us to-day at least see
straight — see things as they are. Let us suspend disputes
about what is done and cannot be undone, long enough to rally
all the forces of goodwill, all the undoubted courage and zeal
and patriotism that are now at odds, in a devoted effort to
meet the greater dangers that are upon us.

For the enemy is at the gates. More than that, there is some
reason to fear that, through dissensions from within, he may
gain the citadel. In their eagerness to embarrass the advocates
of what has been done, and with the vain hope of in some way
undoing it, and so lifting this Nation of seventy-five millions
bodily backward two years on its path, there are many who are
still putting forth all their energies in straining our Constitution
and defying our history, to show that we have no possessions
whose people are not entitled to citizenship and ultimately to
Statehood. Grant that, and instead of reversing engines safely
in mid-career, as they vainly hope, they must simply plunge us
over the precipice. The movement began in the demand that our
Dingley tariff — as a matter of right, not of policy, for most of
these people denounce the tariff itself as barbarous — that our
Dingley tariff should of necessity be extended over Puerto Rico
as an integral part of the United States. Following an assent


to this must have come inevitably all the other rights and priv-
ileges belonging to citizenship, and then no power could prevent
the admission of the State of Puerto Rico.

Some may think that in itself would be no great thing ;
though it is for you to say how Massachusetts would relish hav-
ing this mixed population, a little more than half colonial Span-
ish, the rest negro and half breed, illiterate, alien in language,
alien in ideas of right, interests and government, send in from
the mid- Atlantic, nearly a third of the way over to Africa, two
Senators to balance the votes of Mr. Hoar and Lodge; — for you
to say how Massachusetts would regard the spectacle of her Sen-
atorial vote nullified, and one-third of her representation in the
House offset on questions, for instance, of sectional and trop-
ical interest, in the government of this Continent, and in the
administration of this precious heritage of our fathers.

Or, suppose Massachusetts to be so little Yankee (in the best
sense still) that she could bear all this without murmur or objec-
tion : — is it to be imagined that she can lift other States in this
generation to her altruistic level? How would Kansas for ex-
ample enjoy being balanced in the Senate, and nearly balanced
in the House, on questions relating to the irrigation of her arid
plains, or the protection of her beet-root industry, or on any
others affecting the great central regions of this continent by
these voices from the watery waste of the ocean? Or how
would West Virginia or Oregon or Connecticut, or half a dozen
others of similar population, regard it, to be actually outvoted
in their own home, on their own continent, by this Spanish and
negro waif from the mid- Atlantic ?

All this, in itself, may seem to some unimportant, negligible,
even trivial. At any rate it would be inevitable; since no one
is wild enough to believe that Puerto Rico can be turned
back to Spam, or bartered away, or abandoned by the gene-
ration that took it. But make its people citizens now, and you
have already made it, potentially, a State. Then behind
Puerto Rico stands Cuba, and behind Cuba, in time, stand
the whole of the West Indies, on whom that law of political
gravitation which John Quincy Adams described, will be per-
petually acting with redoubled force. And behind them,—
no, far ahead of them,— abreast of Puerto Rico itself, stand
the Philippines! The Constitution which our Fathers rever-
ently ordained for the United States of America is thus tortured
by its professed friends into a crazy quilt, under whose dirty folds



must huddle the United States of America, of the West Indies,
of the East Indies, and of Polynesia ; and Pandemonium is
upon us.

The degrada- I implore you, as thinking men, pause long enough to realize
n° n °u,- he tne degradation of the Republic thus calmly contemplated by
those who proclaim this to be our Constitutional duty toward
our possessions. The Republican institutions I have been trained
to believe in were institutions founded, like those of New Eng-
land, on the Church and the School House. They constitute a
system only likely to endure among a people of high virtue and
high intelligence. The Republican Government built up on this
continent, while the most successful in the history of the world,
is also the most complicated, the most expensive and often the
slowest. Such are its complications and checks and balances
and interdependencies, which tax the intelligence, the patience
and the virtue of the highest Caucasian development, that it is
a system absolutely unworkable by a group of Oriental and
tropical races, more or less hostile to each other, whose highest
type is a Chinese and Malay half breed, and among whom millions,
a majority possibly, are far below the level of the pure Malay.

What holds a nation together, unless it be community of in-
terests, character and language, and contiguous territory?
What would more thoroughly insure its speedily flying to pieces
than the lack of every one of these requisites ? Over and over
the clearest-eyed students of history have predicted our own
downfall even as a continental Republic, in spite of our measura-
ble enjoyment of all of them. How near we all believed we
came to it once or twice ! How manifestly under the incon-
gruous hodge-podge of additions to the Union thus proposed,
we should be organizing with Satanic skill the exact conditions
which have invariably led to such downfalls elsewhere !

Before the advent of the United States, the history of the
world's efforts at Republicanism was a monotonous record of
failure. Your very schoolboys are taught the reason. It was
because the average of intelligence and morality was too low ;
because they lacked the self -restrained, self-governing quality,
developed in the Anglo-Saxon bone and fibre through all the
centuries since Runnymede ; because they grew unwieldy and
lost cohesion by reason of unrelated territory, alien races and
languages, and inevitable territorial and climatic conflicts of

On questions vitally affecting the welfare of this Continent it


is inconceivable, unthinkable, that even altruistic Massachu-
setts should tolerate having two Senators and thirteen Repre-
sentatives neutralized by as many from Mindanao. Yet Mindanao
has a greater population than Massachusetts, and its Mahome-
tan Malays are as keen for the conduct of public affairs, can talk
as much — and look as shrewdly for the profit of it !

There are cheerful, happy-go-lucky public men, who assure
us that the National digestion has been proved equal to any-
thing. Has it ! Are we content, for example, with the way we
have dealt with the negro problem in the Southern States?
Do we think the suffrage question there is now on a permanent
basis, which either we, or our Southern friends can be proud of,
while we lack the courage either honestly to enforce the rule of
the majority, or honestly to sanction a limitation of suffrage
within lines of intelligence and thrift? How well would our
famous National digestion probably advance, if we filled up our
Senate with twelve or fourteen more Senators, representing
conditions incomparably worse?

Is it said this danger is imaginary ? At this moment some of
the purest and most patriotic men in Massachusetts, along with
a great many of the very worst in the whole country, are vehe-
mently declaring that our new possessions are already a part of
the United States, that in spite of the treaty which reserved the
question of citizenship and political status for Congress, their
people are already citizens of the United States, and that no
part of the United States can be arbitrarily and permanently
excluded from Statehood.

The immediate contention, to be sure, is only about Puerto
Rico, and it is only a very little island. But who believes he
can stop the avalanche ? What wise man at least will take the
risk of starting it ? Who imagines that we can take in Puerto
Rico and keep out nearer islands when they come ? Powerful
elements are already pushing Cuba. Practically everybody rec-
ognizes now that we must retain control of Cuba's foreign rela-
tions. But beyond that, the same influences that came so near
hurrying us into a recognition of the Cuban Republic and the
Cuban debt are now sure that Cuba will very shortly be so
" Americanized " (that is, overrun with American speculators)
that it cannot be denied admission — that in fact it will be as
American as Florida ! And, after Cuba, the deluge ! Who
fancies that we could then keep Santo Domingo and Hayti out ;
or any West India island that applied ; or our friends, the Kan-
akas ? Or who fancies that after the baser sort have once tasted


blood iu the form of such rotten-borough States, and have learned
to form their larger combinations with them, we shall still be able
to admit as a matter of right a part of the territory exacted
from Spain, and yet deny admission as a matter of right to the

The Nation has lately been renewing its affectionate memories
of a man who died in his effort to hold on, with or without their
consent, to the States we already have on this continent, but
who never dreamed of casting a dragnet over the world's archi-
pelagoes for more. Do we remember his birthday and forget
his words 1 " This Government, (meaning that under the Con-
stitution ordained for the United States of America,) this
Government cannot permanently endure, half slave, half free."
Who disputes it now ? Well, then, can it endure half civilized
and enlightened, half barbarous and pagan ; half white, half
black, brown, yellow and mixed; half northern and western, half
tropical and Oriental ; one half a homogeneous Continent, the
other half in myriads of islands, scattered halfway around the
globe, but all eager to participate in ruling this Continent which
our fathers with fire and sword redeemed from barbarism and
subdued to the uses of the highest civilization.

Clamor that I will not insult your intelligence or your patriotism by iniag-
need not i n ing it possible that in view of such considerations you could
consent to the madman's policy of taking these islands we con-
trol into full partnership with the States of this Union. Nor
need you be much disturbed by the interested outcries as to the
injustice you do by refusing to admit them.

When it is said you are denying the natural rights Mr. Jeffer-
son proclaimed, you can answer that you are giving these peo-
ple, in their distant islands, the identical form of government
Mr. Jefferson himself gave to the territories on this continent
which he bought. When it is said you are denying our own
cardinal doctrine of self-government, you can point to the ar-
rangements for establishing every particle of self-government
with which these widely different tribes can be safely trusted,
consistently with your responsibility for the preservation of
order and the protection of life and property in that archipel-
ago; and the pledge of more, the moment they are found capa-
ble of it. When you are asked, as a leading champion asked
the other night at Philadelphia, " Does your liberation of one
people give you the right to subjugate another?" you can an-
swer him: "No, nor to allow and aid Aguinaldo to subjugate



them either, as you proposed." When the idle quibble that
after Dewey's victory Spain had no sovereignty to cede is re-
peated, it may be asked why acknowledge then that she did cede
it in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and deny that she could cede it in
the Philippines ? Finally, when they tell you in mock heroics,
appropriated from the great days of the anti-slavery struggle for
the cause now of a pinchbeck Washington, that no results of the
irrevocable past two years are settled, that not even the title to
our new possessions is settled, and never will be until it is set-
tled according to their notions, you can answer that then the
title to Massachusetts is not settled, nor the title to a square
mile of land in most of the States from ocean to ocean. Over
practically none of it did we assume sovereignty by the consent
of the inhabitants.

Quite possibly these controversies may embarrass the Govern- Where is your
ment and threaten the security of the party in power. New real interest?
and perplexing responsibilities often do that. But is it to the in-
terest of the sincere and patriotic among the discontented to
produce either result ? The one thing sure is that no party in
power in this country will dare abandon these new possessions.
That being so, do those of you who regret it prefer to lose all
influence over the outcome ? While you are repining over what
is beyond recall, events are moving on. If you do not help
shape them, others, without your high principle and purity of
motive, may. Can you wonder if, while you are harassing the
Administration with impracticable demands for an abandon-
ment of territory which the American people will not let go, less
unselfish influences are busy presenting candidates for all the
offices in its organization? If the friends of a proper Civil
Service persist in chasing the ignis fatuus of persuading
Americans to throw away territory, while the politicians are
busy crowding their favorites into the territorial offices, who
will feel free from self-reproach at the results ? Grant that the
situation is bad. Can there be a doubt of the duty to make the
best of it ? Do you ask how ? By being an active patriot, not
a passive one. By exerting, and exerting now, when it is needed,
every form of influence, personal, social, political, moral — the
influence of the Clubs, the Chambers of Commerce, the manu-
factories, the Colleges and the Churches, in favor of the purest,
the ablest, the most scientific, the most disinterested — in a word
the best possible Civil Service for the new possessions that
the conscience and the capacity of America can produce, with


the most liberal use of all the material available from native

I have done. I have no wish to argue, to defend or to attack.
I have sought only to point out what I conceive to be the pres-
ent danger and the present duty. It is not to be doubted that
all such considerations will summon you to the high resolve
that you will neither shame the Republic by shirking the duty
its own victory entails, nor despoil the Republic by abandoning
its rightful possessions, nor degrade the Republic by admissions
of unfit elements to its Union ; but that you will honor it, en-
rich it, ennoble it, by doing your utmost to make the adminis-
tration of these possessions worthy of the Nation that Washing-
ton founded and Lincoln preserved. My last word is an appeal
to stand firm and stand all together for the Continental Union


Online LibraryWhitelaw ReidContinental union, Civil service for the Islands; An address at the Massachusetts Club, Boston, March 3, 1900 → online text (page 1 of 2)