by G. J. Younghusband
Germany, with an assumption which it is difficult on any grounds to justify, has played her cards so awkwardly, or intentionally so openly, that she has without even the veil of a decent pretext given it to be understood that she would like to annex a portion or the whole of the Philippine Islands herself. How such an intention came to he pushed to the front with a disregard almost of common international decency is a secret known only to the Kaiser and his advisers; but it is possible that the unfavourable effect which German action in the Philippine Archipelago produced on the representatives of all nations there present was due more to a spirit of indiscreet filibustering on the part of the naval officers on the spot, than to deliberate policy on the part of the German Govemment. lt will be remembered that shortly before and unconnected with the Spanish-American war, a squadron of German warships, under command of the Emperor's brother, had set sail for the East under a blast of German trumpets. But the expedition thus ostentatiously depatched wended its slow way eastward through a string of British coaling stations and dockyards, to the undisguised merriment of the nations, which merriment reached a climax when the "mailed fist" fell heavily, not on the united squadrons, but on a small and benighted bay in an obscure portion of the coast of China. Whilst still smarting from the effects of the afterchaff, to which this incident gave rise, the war between Spain and America broke out, and the German squadron, perhaps too eager to efface the recollection of the recent contretemps, sailed for Manila to watch events. Its action there was, however, so indiscreet, so opposed to the recognised attitude of neutral Powers, so unwarrantably meddlesome, that the German admiral was within an ace of not only feeling the weight of Admiral Dewey's guns, but of setting light to a European conflagration in Manila Bay, the effects of which might have deluged half the world in blood. Whether this attitude was merely local or inspired from Germany, the effects were, from a German point of view, equally deplorable. She made of her good friend America a deadly enemy, and she ranged against herself the judgment of all rightly constituted public opinion. The German policy thus indecently exposed clearly aimed at gaining cheaply the gratitude of the Spaniards, that gratitude to be later more substantially marked by the cession of one or more of the principal islands of the group. The one contingency which Germany had not counted upon, unfortunately for her, happened to be the one contingency which has occurred. That America would forsake the tenets of the Monroe doctrine, as hitherto maintained, and embark on the dubious and stormy seas of foreign politics appeared the most unlikely of alternatives, yet this was the one taken, and German Eastern aspirations received a telling blow.
Russia, in pursuance of the policy which the unfortunate rivalry in Asia between herself and England begets, naturally raises a protest, though mild and distant in this instance, against any such change of status as may directly or indirectly strengthen the British position in the East. She notes that though England neither aims at nor desires territorial aggrandisement in this direction, yet that so cordial a feeling exists between the two great Anglo-Saxon races that indirect benefit may, as time goes on, accrue to her to the detriment of Russian interests. In the interests of peace and progress it is a matter for the gravest regret that the rivalry between Russia and England cannot be replaced by a spirit of mutual concession and of reciprocal affection, leading as it would to a peaceful territorial expansion of equal advantage to both. A combined English and Russian policy on the continent of Asia would, it is estimated, in a few years do more for the expansion of civilisation and the promotion of mercantile enterprise than can be accomplished in decades of a senseless and injurious rivalry. That, however, is a matter for the future; at present Russian interests would best be served by the exclusion of the Philippines from the Asiatic arena, which end would be ensured by their retention by a negligible quantity like the Spanish sovereignty. Further, the rude shock which the Czar's Peace Manifesto gave to French susceptibilities would indine the Russian Government, even if itself uninterested, to give such renewed colour to a Russo-French entente cordiale as might be convenient and politic. France and Russia, therefore, in this question appear side by side, neither of them more than remotely interested in the matter, but France peevishly ready to quarrel with any arrangement in which England has, or is supposed to have, an interest, and Russia good-naturedly backing her up, but only to a certain point. We next come to England's connection with the Philippine imbroglio. We may perhaps, put down bluntly the British view, which plainly is that though she has no desire for territorial expansion in this direction, having her hands full to overflowing with the development of new possessions in other parts of the world, yet in view of the immense stake she holds in the Far East, she could not view with equanimity a transfer of islands so commandingly placed as are the Philippines, to an unfriendly or hostile Power. Whether Spain holds the archipelago or whether America holds it, is to England practically immaterial, but she would naturally find the value of her positions at Singapore, Hong Kong, and further east diminished if a French, or German, or Russian occupation of the Philippine Islands became an accomplished fact. Amidst, however, the deep-voiced growlings of the great Powers, the twitterings of some of the small birds must not be lost. Thus Holland, who had arrived at a state of permanent rest in her splendid East Indian possessions, would see no objection to the neighbourhood of a non-aggressive power like America, but would view with mixed feelings the consolidation at her doors of the German power, whose shadow, as it is, hangs threateningly over the little corner of Europe ruled over by the gin Queen. Japan, that enterprising and rising kingdom, has not yet forgotten how, after the Chinese war, the fruits of victory were torn from her by the big bullies of the West, and she has certainly no desire to see their powers of interference augmented. To England, however, she is warmly attached, partly from admiration, for to be the Great Britain of the East is her highest ambition, but chiefly because policy, combined with British love of fair play, prevented England from joining the coercionists after the Chinese war. The same cordial relations are, in some degree, extended also to America, and therefore we may assume that the American advent to Eastern waters will not be distasteful to Japan. Of China it is difficult to speak, a country without unity, without government, an unwieldy and inert mass barred from enlightenment and progress by the dictates of a crazy harridan. If China is able to see so far beyond the garden wall of the Pekin Palace, she will perhaps recognise in the arrival of the American Eagle one more factor in the chain of events which is slowly, but inevitably, leading to the disintegration of China and the opening of a new era, in which China might well figure as one of the most opulent and progressive countries in the world.
There remain to be considered the two belligerents in the late war. As for Spain, we may conclude that her sun has for ever set in the East, Set in blood, but blood without honour. She passes out of the arena of a misspent and criminal old age to continue her quiet decay at home. In her place we see planted the youngest of nations preparing to face fresh obligations and ready to start on the new road which destiny appears to have pointed out to her. That America should hesitate before making so new and momentous a departure is not to be wondered at. The whole policy of the nation, since it has become a nation, has been to avoid all foreign complications and all foreign obligations, to live self-contained and self-supported, aiming at no man's property abroad and pledged to resist interference from without. The annexation of the Philippines marks the parting of the ways; the ancient milestones no longer guide the national policy, and the whole character and aspirations of the people must change to meet the new conditions. lt would be impossible to state the case against annexation more strongly than has already been done by American and English writers of standing and influence, amongst whom may be mentioned Mr. Andrew Carnegie, Mr. Carl Schurz, the Editor of the Yale Review, and Mr. Bryce.
Mr. Carnegie's contention is that the American nation has still a continent of its own to populate and develop, for whilst England has a population of 370, Belgium 571, and Germany 250 to the square mile, the United States has only 23 persons to populate the same area. A tithe of the cost of maintaining American sway over the Philippines would cover the expense of an immense number of important public works in America which now await funds. Her internal water communications could be improved, her harbours deepened and protected, a waterway from the great lakes to the sea could be constructed, a Nicaragua canal built, a canal constructed across Florida, saving a distance of 800 miles between New York and New Orleans, and many other useful but costly works completed. Mr. Carnegie will not even allow that annexation will benefit trade. Even loyal Canada, he says, trades more with America than with Great Britain. She buys her Union Jacks in New York. Trade does not follow the flag in our day - it scents the lowest price current. There is no patriotism in exchanges. And he winds up with a powerful appeal to his countrymen, in which he dedares that from every pomt of view we must come to the conclusion that the past policy of the Republic is her true policy in the future, for safety, for peace, for happiness, for progress, for wealth, for power - for all that makes a nation blessed.
Mr. Carl Schurz takes up the question of political rights accorded to all American citizens. Annexations bring on the problem of determining the status in the Republic of large masses of tropical people who are utterly different from the Americans in origin, language, traditions, and habits, with no hope of assimilation. Either they must be admitted to Congress or be despotically governed, thus overriding the Republican principle that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Finally, he considers that American divergence from her past policy will be the old tale of a free people seduced by false ambitions, and running headlong after riches, luxuries, and military glory, till they lead down the fatal slopes to vice, corruption, decay, and disgrace.
The Yale Review objects to annexation on the grounds that America is unprepared for a colonial policy, having, unlike England, no trained Indian and colonial civil services; whilst Mr. Bryce not only agrees with this view, but, together with Mr. Carnegie, points out that America is herself so thinly populated as to require all her sons.
Supporting these opinions it was interesting to find that American army officers at the seat of war appeared to be almost unanimous in deprecating the annexation of the Philippines on military grounds. It was their opinion that such military strength as the nation possesses should be concentrated at home, and not frittered away in foreign stations. Finally, they pointed out that to garrison the Philippines the American standing army must at once be raised to twice its present strength, for it would be hopeless to rely on volunteer regiments to supply the deficiency, and that once the novelty had worn off the American people would resent the increased taxation involved. That the opinion of these officers was more than disinterested is demonstrated by the fact that annexation and the consequent inerease of the army means promotion to one and all, no mean boon in an army where subalterns have to serve twenty-five years and captains thirty-five years before earning promotion.
On the other hand, we have naval opinion, with Admiral Dewey at its head, strongly in favour of annexation on the grounds that American commerce in Eastern Asia has now reached sufficiently important dimensions to require, not perhaps so much the protection which is afforded by a naval base close at hand, but more the fostering influence on trade which the display of power in any quarter is supposed to bring. They are, in fact, believers in the old principle that trade follows the flag, which is discountenanced by the other party. But the war of words is now over; the annexation party, though probably the weaker of the two, has gained the day, and the Philippine Islands have become an American colony. The annexation was, irrespective of what was written or said on either side, practically forced on the American people, for America was placed in awkward position of having no option but to remain where she had planted her flag. It was quite possible, on the grounds of humanity, for her to hand back the country to the cruelty, rapacity, and, perhaps, vengeance of the Spaniards, and it was equally impossible for her to make a present of the islands to any one European Power without raising the hostility, active or passive, of at least three others. She therefore bowed to the inevitable, and annexed the islands in the hope that in the course of a few years the political atmosphere will dear and give her a chance of carefully reviewing her position.
It may, perhaps, with some confidence be prophesied that when the cold fit, which will in due course follow the warmth of the present enthusiasm, falls on the nation, America will discover that the true parting of the ways was not in the actual act of annexation, for that had become inevitable, but in having allowed Admiral Dewey to do more than defeat the Spanish fleet and exact a heavy indemnity from the city of Manila before sailing away, thus leaving the Philippine problem for the Spaniards and their friends to solve. The new masters of the islands have, in fact, been faced by two separate and distinct problems, the one connected with the external bearings of annexation and the other with the internal. The former problem has for the present, at any rate, been settled, but the latter still faces the American authorities, and will require the most careful handling, bound up as it indissolubly is with the attitude of the Philippine Islanders towards the new masters of their territory. In the glamour of victory and in the excitement of the larger issues which the more prominent problem entailed, the less prominent but equally important matter has been thrust into the shadow. To an observer on the spot, it was apparent that not only were the authorities in the distance hardly alive to the complications which existed, but those in actual touch with them took what appears to be a very sanguine view of the situation, which briefly was this: The American troops had been materially aided in the capture of Manila by the Filipino troops then under Aguinaldo in a state of insurrection against the Spaniards. The Spaniards successfully defeated, Aguinaldo had without protest from the Americans proclaimed himself First President of the Philippine Republic, appointed the great officers of State, formed a National Assembly, and levied a poll tax on the whole population throughout the island. Further, his troops, which were officially declared to number 50,000, hemmed in Manila on every side with a cham of offensive outposts. The Americans, on the other hand, held only Manila and Cavité with 21,000 men, and were, except in name, practically shut up in those places. Now in spite of their volunteer organisation and lack of training and experience, there is little doubt that 21,000 Ameerican troops could, in a set battle, defeat 50,000 Filipinos; and if the latter would in case of difficulty submit to such an ordeal, the whole problem would no doubt be satisfactorily solved; but what apparently had not occurred to the Americans was that the ordeal of a set battle was the last form of suicidal mania which Aguinaldo would be likely to indulge in. In any other class of warfare, judging from the natural and physical features of the country, it would take the Americans several years of systematic campaigning to subdue the country by force of arms. Having allowed Aguinaldo to proclaim himself President, the Americans have now either to acknowledge his title or disown it. By acknowledging it is introduced a system of dual control, which is entirely incompatible with the intelligent development of the islands; to disown it is to risk a long and harassing war with the islanders - a war which will not only cost America heavily both in man and money, but at once place her in the light of an oppressor rather than a deliverer.
There remains apparently only the golden bridge which the abyss may be crossed. Aguinaldo has been bought off before, and there is little doubt that if the bribe is large enough he can be bought off again. He was reported to have offered to abandon all pretensions in consideration of a sum $15,000,000, afterwards it was said reduced to $5,000,000, and there is a well-defined feeling in Manila that the President has his price, but whether the Americans will care to pay it is another matter, though probably settlement by purchase will in the long run be the cheaper course. Aguinaldo and his officials once disposed of, his army would melt away, the more promising elements being secured for the local corps which the Americans propose raising. Initial difficulties thus removed, the new rulers could with free hands commence the regeneration of the land. Starting under the favouring features of a national deliverance, the task would to a nation and to officials accustomed to the responsibilities of territorial expansion be one offering no special difficulties, but it is only reasonable to anticipate that the inborn traditions of a Republican nation will at first, at any rate, make the exercise of despotic or semi-despotic power somewhat uncongenial. And yet any other system of government would not only be unsuitable, but subversive to the general welfare and prosperity of the people, for to introduce without many years of preparation the free institutions of the United States, would be on a par with granting political freedom to an infant school. Compared with the European or American standard of intelligence and civilisation, the inhabitants of all those islands which form the great Malayan Archipelago are but as infants alongside a grown man, and to treat them otherwise than as infants is contrary to common sense, contrary to experience, and contrary to the best interests of the subject race.
We have seen it stated that the Americans intend to model the constitution of the Philippines on the lines of a British protectorate, but before hastily deciding to do so it might be of advantage of American statesmen were to glance at any rate at the Dutch system of colonisation as exemplified by Java. There is much in this system which would be repugnant to American ideas, entailing as it does forced labour and Government monopolies; but America is a purely commercial nation and will probably expect the Philippines to pay their way, in which case the study of the methods by which this result can reasonably be anticipated may be of value.
It is dangerous to indulge in prophecy, but without entering on ground of too speculative a nature, it is possible to foresee that the day will come, and that before many years have run, when American statesmen and the American people will by the light of actual experience judge whether a departure in the direction of colonial acquisition has been a wise departure or not. The experiment must entail, not only a vast initial expenditure in developing the colonies, but, as an integral portion of the scheme, necessitates a considerable and costly increase to both the American army and navy. Flushed with success and infected with the flattering fascination of dominion, colonial expansion appears even to men born and bred to the tenets of the Monroe doctrine at leat a pleasurable excitement; but when the cool business habits of a business nation some years hence call for a plain statement of accounts, it will probably depend greatly on the state of those accounts whether America still holds on to the policy of to-day or retraces her steps to the dividing of the ways and sets forth again on the old road which she has hitherto followed. Should this statement of accounts be hastily called for, and by hastily may be understood a period short of ten years, the experiment will in all probability be found to have been a very costly one, for colonial enterprises often take generations and sometimes centuries to mature into valuable assets. It will then be open to the present force their arguments against the new policy, and by appealing to the pockets of the tax-payer turn the tide of popular feeling. Should such a reaction occur, the first instinct, from a purely commercial point of view, will be to look around for the most profitable manner of disposing of their unwelcome possessions. It will, in such an eventuality, be the duty of Great Britain to weigh carefully the new development in so far as she and her position in the Far East is concerned, and to consider whether, rather than allow the Philippines to fall into the hands of a possibly unfriendly Power, it would not be more favourbale to the combined strength of the Empire to acquire these islands either by purchase or by ceding a territorial equivalent from amongst our West Indian possessions. The question may arise before long, it may not arise for years, and it may never arise, but the contingency should nevertheless not be lost sight of by those who look steadfastly ahead at the vast proplems of semi-universal dominion which appear to face the already dominant factor of the Anglo-Saxon races.
updated: March 18, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger