"I WOULD rather see the Philippines sunk to the bottom of the sea than have them remain in permanent dependence upon any nation." These words were uttered in a political speech last year by Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippine Senate and leader of the Nationalista party, the party that demands immediate and unqualified independence for the Islands. Does Mr. Quezon represent the opinion of the majority of the people of the Islands? Or rather, does he represent the opinion of the majority of the politically-minded people of the Islands, -- for it cannot be assumed that the common Tao understands the import of the problem any more than, let us say, the ignorant peasant of Poland understands the import of the Polish Corridor or the ignorant peasant of Rumania the meaning of the Bessarabian problem? The opponents of independence say he does not. They hold that the solid Filipinos do not believe in independence but are coerced into professing it for fear of what might happen to them or their property if they openly opposed it and it were nevertheless to come. But it is significant that the old Federal party which stood for the American connection has totally disappeared, and that the other Filipino party, the Democrata, also has an emphatic plank for independence. In this connection it must be remembered that Filipino elections are not like Mexican in which a very small minority of the qualified voters participate. On the contrary, a larger percentage of qualified voters appears at the polls than in the United States, and the voting is by secret ballot. Due to the literacy and other tests for voting, the percentage of qualified voters to the total population is less than in the United States. Incidentally, it should be mentioned that there is apparently a growing independence in voting. Finally, the present writer, who met eminent and solid Filipinos in almost all vocations found few who did not favor independence. Sometimes it was a slightly qualified approval, favoring a little longer delay before the connection should be severed, sometimes the approval was for something less than complete independence, e.g. to allow the United States to retain control over foreign relations and military affairs. But generally it was for complete independence at the earliest possible time.

Who are those in the Islands opposed to independence and why are they opposed?

In the first place, our own military men are opposed for strategic reasons. They maintain that were we to get out of the Islands, we should soon be replaced by some one else -- generally Japan is suggested -- and that the Filipinos would have a much harsher master. Moreover, they believe that the control of the Islands is necessary to the United States, if it is to be protected in its position as one of the great commercial nations trading with the Far East.

In the second place, the Church is opposed to it. The Church cannot forget what took place in the Revolution of 1896, the expropriation of lands, the expulsion of the friars, the destruction of churches and convents. The Church has prospered greatly under the American régime and believes its prosperity to be inseparably bound up with the continuation of the American occupation.

In the third place, American business interests are opposed to independence. There are some business men in the Philippines who are not only intelligent and well read but who have a sufficient knowledge of the history of political development not to be impatient with the progress already made by the Filipinos in the direction of self-government. But the majority of the business men one meets in the Philippines frankly have no faith in the capacity of the Malay for democratic self-government. They believe he is incapable of conducting a sound business administration of public affairs and is only interested in the political control of the country. They believe he is ignorant of its economic welfare and indifferent to it, whereas they themselves are convinced that this economic development is, at present, the great need of the Islands.

In the fourth place, the foreigners in the Philippines, the thousands of Chinese who control retail trade, the British, the Spaniards and others, are naturally cautious about expressing an opinion on a domestic problem, but there can hardly be any doubt that they are nearly all opposed to independence. The great majority are engaged in business and hold the same view on the independence question as the American business men. In fact, with the exception of a few of the Protestant missionaries, practically everybody in the Philippines, save the Filipinos, is against independence.


Before considering these and other objections more fully, let us ask whether the Filipino, as is sometimes maintained, is ungrateful for what America has done for the Islands and whether he is justified on the grounds of American promises and Filipino accomplishment in demanding independence. Certainly, had the desire for independence never existed in the Philippines previous to the American Occupation, it would have been stimulated by that event. Practically from the day of the Battle of Manila Bay down to the accession of General Wood as Governor-General, every American President and most Americans of high official position in the Philippines have made pronouncements looking forward to the self-government and eventual independence of the Islands. The most important statement with reference to the subject is the preamble to the Jones Law, passed by Congress in 1916, which is practically the Constitution for the government of the Philippines. The preamble reads:

Whereas it is, as it has always been, the purpose of the people of the United States to withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognize their independence as soon as a stable government can be established therein; and . . .

The first halt in the record of promises for eventual independence was made by President Harding in 1922, when in answer to a memorial presented by a mission of Filipinos, he stated that he was not ready to recommend to Congress the concession of independence but that "no backward step is contemplated, no diminution of your domestic control is to be sought." But it is difficult in these days of rapid change merely to maintain a status quo and there are few instances in history where a dependent people once given increased control of their own affairs have been willing to revert to a former condition of greater dependence. Especially is this true where the rising generation have been taught in school to look forward to and to prepare for independence. In view of all that has been said and done, can the Filipino be blamed for expecting independence?

The question remains then, has their accomplishment justified their request? The accomplishment in the Philippines since the American Occupation has been amazing. Under the Spaniards the Islands were constantly rent by uprisings, and brigandage flourished in most of the provinces. Today the excellently organized Philippine constabulary maintain a security for life and property equal to that found anywhere in the United States. Under the Spaniards individual rights were constantly suppressed and the judicial administration, like the administration generally, was corrupt. Today there are constitutional guarantees of individual rights guarded by a competent and honest Supreme Court. The Spaniards left Manila a dirty, fever-ridden port. It is today one of the finest cities of the Orient in practically every respect. In 1898 public health and sanitation were unknown in the Islands and personal hygiene not generally practiced. Today the splendid system of medical inspection, the drainage system and the artesian wells that have been so widely installed have practically put an end to the plague, small pox, cholera and other scourges that formerly swept the Islands. The excellent roads, the railways, the irrigation systems, the means of interisland communication, are all material evidence of this remarkable transformation. So are the stable system of currency on a gold basis, and the figures showing the impressive increase in trade and industry.

Better still is the record in things spiritual. No one knows just how many pupils there were in the schools of the Islands when the Spaniards left, but the highest estimate would not place the number as high as 50,000. Today there exists a system of elementary and secondary schools leading to the University of the Philippines and forming an educational ladder up which 1,300,000 Filipino children are climbing. The Filipino people are devoted to the public schools, and 271/2 percent of the Insular revenues are spent upon them. They have brought a new hope to a formerly suppressed people. An entirely different spirit animates the people of the Philippines today from that which prevailed when the Spaniards withdrew.

What part of all this accomplishment is due to the initiative and creative capacity of the Americans and how much may be ascribed to the Filipinos themselves? No finer and more inspiring chapter in American governmental administration will probably ever be written than that which narrates the work of the group of devoted men that surrounded Mr. Taft and his early successors. They and most of the teachers and subordinate officials who accompanied them were filled with a true missionary spirit, a determination to do a great work that would redound to the credit of America and the welfare of the Filipino people. There is little of value today the foundations of which were not laid by those pioneers. Now the twenty-four years that have elapsed since civil government was established in the Islands are divided into two equal parts by the year 1913, when Burton C. Harrison became Governor-General and introduced what the Filipinos refer to as the New Era, i.e., the period of rapid Filipinization of the administration in all its branches. Up to the year 1913 the Americans commanded the situation and in that year numbered approximately twenty-five percent of the government officials and held most of the positions of influence and importance. Today they hardly number three percent of the personnel of the government. Yet, on the whole, the favorable condition of things described in the previous paragraph remains. Whether as the Filipinos contend it is proof of their capacity to administer their own affairs efficiently, or whether as opponents of independence maintain it is due to the few hundred Americans, some of whom still retain places of influence, and particularly to the capacity of Governor-General Wood and the vigilance of Luke I. Wright, the Auditor of the Islands, is a question.


The most serious indictment which the opponents of independence cite is that the Filipino leaders are only desirous of political control, partly because economic considerations are alien to them, partly because they are not interested in the welfare of the mass of the people, the common Taos. It is true that nowhere has a Malay people shown sufficient business capacity to compete with foreigners even in its own house. In the Philippines, as in the Dutch East Indies and the British Straits Settlements, the Chinese have a practical monopoly of retail trade, and they and other foreigners control the commerce and banking of that country. But the Philippines is a young country with comparatively little native capital. Under the tutelage of the Spaniard nothing was done to encourage habits of thrift. Savings banks were unknown and little incentive existed to save. The natives were not encouraged to enter business enterprises. It is unquestionably true that up to the present the great majority of high school graduates seek white-collar positions, especially in the government service, but within recent years several schools of business and commerce have been established because of the growth of the interest shown in these pursuits. Their graduates will, no doubt, at first fill only the humbler places in business life, but it may reasonably be expected that in time they will control an increasing share of the country's business.

The most frequently cited illustration of incapacity properly to evaluate economic considerations is the probable loss of the American market in case of the severance of the political tie between the United States and the Philippines. When the Islands were annexed to the United States, the commerce between the two countries was negligible. As the result of the passage of the tariff act of 1909 providing for reciprocal free trade between the United States and the Philippines, the commerce between the two increased by leaps and bounds. Today two-thirds of the entire commerce of the Philippines is with the United States. Fifty-five percent of the hemp, seventy-five percent of the sugar, practically all the tobacco and cocoanut oil raised in the Islands are exported to the United States. With the exception of hemp, of which the Islands have a monopoly, the other products would have to compete upon equal terms with the same products from countries nearer to the United States. Free trade with the United States has induced capitalists to invest millions of dollars in these products, thus giving secure labor to thousands of men and women. Certainly the loss of such a trade and of the income resulting from it is a serious problem to face. But when did any people permit such a consideration to be an obstacle to the realization of its national aspirations?


It would occupy too much space to consider all the illustrations that the opponents of independence cite as evidence of the incapacity of the Filipino to conduct a sound business administration of public affairs. A few must suffice. The war gave a boom to Philippine industry as it did to the industry of all neutral countries. The price of nearly all its products, especially sugar, rose to hitherto unknown heights. But when the United States went into the war and allocated assistance in finance and shipping primarily to essential industries, the Philippines were hard hit. Mr. Quezon went to the United States to secure the necessary help to keep the sugar centrals going and to move their crops. He was unsuccessful. The Philippine Government then established the Philippine National Bank, placing its own funds in it and guaranteeing its securities. The Bank certainly saved the sugar situation but later developments showed that this was done at fearful cost. Money was loaned without proper security; it was loaned to directors of the Bank in direct contravention of its charter; it was loaned to friends of the directors without any security at all. And, of course, the Bank went under. Its president and several of its directors were sent to prison. It is a sordid tale and there is no extenuation for the conduct of those concerned. It happened during the boom days of the war when money was easy and things were done in a hurry and without proper governmental supervision.

During the prosperous days of the war the Government organized and engaged in a number of business enterprises which it claimed were of national importance. It bought the Manila railroad from an English company, it chartered and supplied the capital of the National Coal Company, the National Cement Company and the National Development Company, the last to finance isolated commercial and industrial enterprises that the Government thought desirable for the general welfare. Every one of these enterprises has been run at a deficit and has been a burden upon the treasury.

One of the causes of conflict between Governor-General Wood and the Philippine legislature is his insistence that "the Government get out of business" and put business principles into administration. The Philippine Government is not the only one that has found difficulty in administering government enterprises with profit. But that a people who up to twenty-five years ago were utterly devoid of any business experience should think themselves capable suddenly to conduct intricate banking and industrial operations, displays considerable naïveté, to say the least. The most charitable view is that men were led astray by the excitement and loose thinking and acting which characterized the period of the war in nearly all countries.

The opponents of independence make unfavorable comparisons between the action of the Government in the cases mentioned above and its attitude toward the Rural Credit Associations. Ninety percent of the people of the Islands are engaged in agriculture. Many of them are too poor to carry on their farming throughout the year without assistance and they must usually secure this from the cacique of the neighborhood. The cacique is the local boss who sometimes because of his power can control the destinies of his district. His power is based upon his ability to lend money to the farmer to enable him to tide over from crop to crop. He charges usurious rates and sometimes is able to retain a family in economic slavery for a long period of time. Caciquism is not unique to the Philippines but is found in practically all Malay countries. About the time the Government was "going into business" in the manner already described, the Rural Credit law was passed, October 19, 1916. Its purpose is to encourage small farmers to coöperate and furnish their own capital by the organization of a local association. The Government does not furnish any financial help except that the organizing staff is paid and maintained by it. Moreover, the municipal treasurer acts as treasurer ex officio and government auditors audit the books of the association. Now the trouble with this procedure is that so many of the farmers, especially those who need help most, have no capital with which to coöperate and little or no security.

What the opponents of independence maintain is that a sound economic instinct would have dictated loans to the farmers through the Rural Credit Associations rather than to the industrial associations mentioned above. The security in the one case was as good as in the other. The showing of the Rural Credit Association on paper is certainly good. There are over six hundred in existence with a membership of nearly 100,000. The present writer did not have the time properly to investigate their real status. But in some instances reliable information would seem to indicate that they did not function efficiently and that they rendered but little help to the farmers of the neighborhoods in which they existed. The opponent of independence maintains that they are not intended to function efficiently, for to do so would sound the death-knell of caciquism. He insists that because of his control of the debtor class in his neighborhood the cacique can determine who shall represent the neighborhood in the legislature. It is certainly true that large numbers of farmers in the Philippines could not carry on from year to year without the assistance of the cacique. It is also true that since the war nearly every government including our own has experienced difficulty in discovering the best way to help the farmer recover from the depression following the war. The Philippines were particularly hard hit by this depression. It is nevertheless true that sound statesmanship would indicate that the Philippine Government should give preference to measures designed to hasten the development of the chief source of national wealth, agriculture.


The question of national unity is fundamental to independence. Is it true that the Filipinos are divided into irreconcilable groups by differences of language and religion which prevent the organization of a national state? There can be no doubt of their racial unity. They are all Malays with big strains of Chinese and Spanish blood in them. There exist several large dialect groups: the Tagalogs in and around Manila, the Ilocanos in the northwest of Luzon, the Bicols in the southeast, the Visayans occupying the central cluster of islands and the Moros of the southernmost islands, as well as other smaller dialect groups. The people of one dialect group do not understand those of another and no dialect has a literature. There is no native national language and under the Spaniards there could have developed no national state. But this is not so today. English is the language of communication in the Islands. All instruction is given in English from the primary school through the University. Business in the large towns is conducted in English. It is still permitted to address the legislature and the courts in either Spanish or English but the latter is rapidly superseding the former in both places. The influence of the public schools in the extension of the use of English is not merely due to its being the language of instruction. The twenty-eight thousand teachers come from all provinces and dialect groups. Promotion may mean transfer to a region of different dialect than that spoken by the teacher. Not only does he teach in English there but he must use it in all his life activities. Already, after but twenty-five years of occupation, twice as many people speak English as speak Spanish. Only last year, one of the last strongholds of Spanish influence, the University of Santo Tomas, decided to give all instruction in English. The best newspapers are in English and most of the Spanish journals have English editions.

No advocate of independence desires to supplant English by either Spanish or a dialect as the language of the State. It will probably take a very long time before English will become the language of the home throughout the Philippines, if it ever does. But because the common people of one region do not understand those of another is no obstacle to the formation of a national state. France was a national state under Louis XIV but a Breton could not at that time understand a Gascon. Certainly when Italy attained unity in 1870, a Venetian could not converse with a Sicilian. And to this very day there are language groups in Russia wholly unintelligible to one another, a fact which has not prevented the formation of an independent state. But a democratic state, which is the kind of government we have promised the Filipino people, is based upon public opinion. Hardly anyone would maintain that a people half of which is still illiterate, only one-eighth of which understands the language of the government, and which numbers less than two hundred thousand newspaper readers out of a population of eleven millions, can have developed the public opinion necessary for the existence of a really democratic government.

Of the eleven million inhabitants of the Philippines, more than ten million are Christians. The less than a half million Moros of Mindanao and Sulu are Mohammedans, and the similar number of people of the mountain tribes of northern Luzon and some of the other islands are still pagans. The problem of the latter can be dismissed with a few words. With American penetration into their regions have followed all the agencies of modern civilization, especially schools, and the children of the mountain tribes rapidly assimilate the new ideas. Catholic and Protestant missions have been established among them, and it can hardly be doubted that within a reasonable time these people will become assimilated to the mass of the Filipinos in religion as in other things.

The problem of the Moro is far more difficult. He is a fanatical Mohammedan who down into the nineteenth century was a pirate, ravaging the coasts of his Christian neighbors and enslaving his captives. The Spaniards never conquered the Moros. The Americans did so with difficulty but soon won their friendship and confidence. Because of their confidence in the Americans they have been willing to surrender all their arms. They have always regarded the Christian Filipinos as their inferiors. They are opposed to American withdrawal from the Islands and threaten to revolt were that to happen and were they to come under the sole control of the Christian Filipinos. The opponent of independence insists that our withdrawal would be a betrayal of the Moros' confidence. He says, moreover, that a native Philippine Government would welcome a revolt of the Moros as a pretext for their extermination. The Philippine Government at the present time is trying to deal with the Moro problem tactfully, and it has in recent years adopted a policy which in course of time will go far to help solve the problem. The island of Mindanao, the second largest of the archipelago and inhabited chiefly by Moros, has immense areas of fertile unoccupied lands. Some of the other islands on the contrary have congested populations. The Government has transplanted colonies of settlers from the latter places to Mindanao and the colonies which the writer visited looked very prosperous. There are almost as many Christian Filipinos in Mindanao today as Moros. The Moro, because of his religion and customs, assimilates western methods of living slowly, though even upon him the public school is beginning to have a great influence. Increased contact with the Christian settlers, who are peaceable and industrious, will probably modify his unfriendly attitude. He will learn to live on terms of friendship with those whom he formerly despised, as have the Mohammedans of Bosnia since 1878.

It is obvious from what has just been said why the Filipino leader sees little real justification for the suggestion that in the event of the Philippines becoming independent, American control should be retained over Mindanao, Sulu, and the smaller southern islands inhabited chiefly by Moros. He maintains that the suggestion has but one explanation -- rubber. The United States uses more rubber than all the rest of the world together. It must pay an enormous annual tribute to Great Britain and the Netherlands in whose dominions in the East Indies most of the rubber is raised. In those dominions the production of rubber is restricted in order to maintain the price, and the United States is the principal sufferer. Experiment has shown that the soil and climate of Mindanao are peculiarly well adapted to the growth of the rubber tree and some fine rubber plantations already exist. In order to save the public lands of the Philippines for the Filipino people, the United States Government, when it turned them over to the Philippine Government, made provision against their exploitation by concession hunters. An individual may not buy more than two hundred and seven acres and a corporation more than two thousand five hundred and thirty acres. Leases run for twenty-five years, but may be renewed for another period not to exceed twenty-five years.

It is maintained that rubber cannot be raised on the scale necessary to compete with the Anglo-Dutch combine, if a corporation is confined to leasing two thousand five hundred and thirty acres. The Filipino legislators profess to fear that larger plantations would result in corporation interference in Filipino politics and in the importation of foreign laborers. The opponents of independence maintain that the legislators really fear that such plantations would be additional ties binding the Islands to the United States. But there ought to be little difficulty in securing a proper modification of the law which will permit rubber to be planted upon an adequate scale and at the same time will safeguard the interests of the Filipino people in their lands. Moreover, the dearth of labor in Mindanao can be made good by immigration from the more congested islands as has already been done.


The American in the Philippines considers that the Filipino takes the matter of his military security altogether too lightly. His is a small nation of eleven millions which could not possibly defend itself against a predatory power were the Americans to withdraw. It is the American army and navy which permits him to live and prosper in peace. It must be remembered that the treaties that resulted from the Washington Conference guaranteed the signatory powers in their possessions in the Pacific. Were the United States to withdraw from the Philippines and grant them absolute independence, the Washington treaties would no longer guarantee their security. At any time some incident might happen to serve as an excuse for intervention. No American in the Philippines believes that the Filipinos would be permitted peacefully to go their way were the tie severed that binds the islands to the United States. The archipelago is one of the richest on the earth and is too great a prize to be left unmolested. When pressed for an answer as to the Power that would take the place of the United States, he usually replies that it might be the Dutch or the English but that it would probably be the Japanese.

The Filipino is wholly unaffected by these arguments. He does not believe that the Dutch or the English would attempt to seize the Islands for fear of offending American sentiment. He does not believe that the Japanese would dare to seize them for fear of the Dutch and the English. Japanese possessions are already strung out along the entire Pacific coast of Asia, which they command. Even as things are now the British are building the Singapore base with an eye to possible trouble with Japan. Were the Japanese to obtain the Philippines, not only would they command the coast of Asia but they would threaten the route from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, the route to India. The Filipino insists that the British would never stand for such a threat. Moreover, the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese would bring them a long distance nearer Australia, and the Australians have made a bogey of them as it is. The Dutch hold their rich East Indian possession by sufferance. They would no more be able to protect them against a first class power than would the Filipinos be able to defend their country. The Dutch would unquestionably unite with the English to prevent Japanese occupation of the Philippines, for they know that their turn would come next. Such is the position of the Filipino leaders on the question of security. But they do not stop there. They insist that there would be little difficulty in obtaining an agreement among the Pacific powers guaranteeing the neutrality of the Philippine Islands. Moreover, were the Philippines to become independent, there would be hardly any question that they would join the League of Nations and secure the added protection accruing from such membership.


The crisis in Philippine affairs came with the appointment of General Leonard Wood as Governor-General in 1921. Unquestionably the intent of the Jones Law was to organize the government of the Philippines upon the model of the federal and state governments of the United States based upon the doctrine of the separation of powers with its accompanying system of checks and balances. As a matter of fact, the executive was granted some powers in addition to the usual American executive powers which placed him in a strong position vis-à-vis the Philippine legislature. The Filipino leaders, on the other hand, have deliberately aimed at supplanting the American presidential system of government by the European parliamentary system wherein the executive is subordinate to the legislature in which all power is lodged. This would make the Governor-General a mere figurehead. The skill shown by the Filipino leaders in realizing this aim was quite astonishing. The most important step in the process was the establishment of the Council of State consisting of the Governor-General, the heads of the six executive departments and the presiding officers of the two legislative bodies who really controlled those bodies. As the theory had been tacitly accepted under Governor-General Harrison that the heads of the departments were responsible to the legislature, it is obvious how little influence would be exerted in the Council by the Governor-General. The next step was so to enact legislation as to entangle the entire routine of administration with the existence of the Council of State, so that to abolish the Council would be to bring government to a standstill. It is to be noted that no place for a Council of State exists in the Organic Act, the Jones Law, and that it has resulted in the formation of a government not contemplated by that law. The Council could not have been established except with the acquiescence of the Governor-General. That was granted. Mr. Harrison, from the moment he arrived in the Philippines as Governor-General in 1913, acted upon the assumption that the way to teach the Filipinos self-government, was to let them govern. By the time the Jones Law was passed in 1916, he had already displaced most Americans who occupied places of power and influence by Filipinos. After the passage of the law, the movement to turn over the Government of the Philippines to the Filipinos was accelerated. In his last message to Congress, December 2, 1920, President Wilson, upon the advice of Mr. Harrison, recommended to Congress that the Philippines be granted independence.

It is obvious why President Harding's promise that "no backward step is contemplated" should have been interpreted in entirely different ways by the new Governor-General and the Philippine legislature. To the latter it meant that legislative control of the Government organized under the Council of State was to be continued. To the former it meant that the system of government formulated in the Jones Law was to be enforced. Either the parliamentary or the presidential system of government was to prevail. The anger of the Filipino leaders as they saw General Wood gradually resuming the powers abdicated by his predecessor may well be understood. It culminated in the resignation of the Council of State in 1923. Since that time, the Governor-General has administered the Government in the spirit of the Jones Law and within the limitations imposed by legislation passed under the Council of State.

No impartial observer can blame the Filipino leaders for their attitude upon the political problem. They were doing only what every dependent people has done throughout history -- to use whatever powers it possessed to secure more at the expense of the sovereign state. Moreover, the Filipinos did this with the approval of the representative of the sovereign state. At the same time, no one can condemn General Wood for using the powers granted to him by the Organic Act in attempting to secure good government for the Islands. If the American Occupation is to be continued, the conflict between legislature and executive can be solved only by a greater spirit of coöperation between the two organs of government or by a modification of the Jones Law increasing the powers of the one or of the other.


The writer of this article has scant sympathy with the view that the possibility of a people leading an orderly, self-controlled existence is almost entirely a matter of race. He believes that while race is a factor, geographic environment, historical development, and the institutions which arise as the result of their interplay are also factors, and he believes that time is the greatest factor. He has had the opportunity of visiting a large number of countries in various stages of independent self-government and he believes that the Filipinos are already better qualified for independent nationhood than some of the others. He has a real liking for the Filipino people and an admiration for their achievement in the short time of their opportunity. It is because of this sympathy that he should like to add his own view of the situation to what he has attempted objectively to portray as the points of view of the adherents and opponents of Philippine independence. He does not believe in immediate independence, but not for the reasons usually put forward which have been recorded in the foregoing paragraphs.

The United States has conducted an experiment in the Philippines in some respects under almost ideal conditions. The area of the Islands is comparatively small, about the size of the combined areas of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The population is somewhat larger than that of New York State or Argentina or Canada. The Americans, therefore, did not have to cope with a problem of such magnitude as that which confronts the British in India. The people of the Philippines form an islet of Christianity in a sea of non-Christians, of millions of Buddhists, Mohammedans and pagans. The Americans did not have to struggle with customs and institutions repugnant to the ideals of western civilization such as the British have met in the religions of India. They did not have to combat the degraded position of women and unsanitary and superstitious religious observances. Moreover, after the initial struggle with Aguinaldo and because of the obviously honorable intentions of the Americans, they became popular with the Filipino people who wished to learn their ways and views. Today, despite the intensity of the independence propaganda, there is practically no anti-American feeling in the Islands.

There were, therefore, favorable elements in the situation when the Americans undertook to develop the principles and practices of representative self-government among a people wholly ignorant of them. But there were also unfavorable elements resulting from the evil heritage of the Spanish régime. It is unnecessary to accept the entire picture of society in the Philippines in 1896 portrayed by the Filipino patriot and martyr, José Rizal, in his Noli Me Tangere and Il Filibusterismo, in order to appreciate its vile nature. The facts of history suffice. It was an eighteenth century tyranny in which there was a denial of all freedom of speech, of the press, of worship; in which men were condemned without being heard; in which violation of domicile and correspondence on mere secret denunciation was an everyday occurrence. The administration of government was inefficient and corrupt. Bribery and peculation prevailed in every part of it. The poor man had small chance even in the courts of justice. It was the spiritual degradation that was the worst feature. Men did not lose social position for accepting bribes, for peculation, for corrupt practice. Particularly unfortunate for future development was the attitude of the Spaniards toward the natives, an attitude of utter contempt. The natives were practically excluded from all participation in the administration of their own affairs. A few of them rose to positions of influence in the community by force of character.

It is a truism to those familiar with life in the Orient that a dependent people adopts the standards and practices of the people of the western nation which is its sovereign. It could not be expected that the Spaniards should have been three hundred and fifty years in the Philippines without influencing the Filipino people with their attitude towards life. The Revolution of 1896 disclosed that some splendid figures had escaped the contagion. The writer shall never forget, however, the statement made to him by a prominent Filipino that the Filipinos in the early days of the American Occupation were very much surprised when an American official was sentenced to imprisonment for misuse of funds. It takes time for a changed point of view to extend throughout a governmental administration, let alone a nation. Is twenty-five years sufficient time? It would seem that a generation brought up under the influences just mentioned must pass off the scene before the belief that government is really organized for the welfare of the common man and not for the governing class can take hold. Much as the present writer believes that the administration of the Government of the Islands must be turned over to the Filipino people, he thinks Mr. Harrison pushed the Filipinization of the Government too rapidly in 1913. At that time the public schools had been in existence little more than a decade, certainly not a sufficiently long time to train a new generation imbued with the ideas of the true meaning of the public welfare and with adequate experience in administering those ideas even in local government. Unquestionably, that fact explains some of the instances of inefficient administration since 1913 cited by the opponents of independence as evidence of the inherent incapacity of the Filipino for self-government. The present writer is very much in favor of the principle of the bill introduced by Congressman Fairfield in the last session of Congress. The bill provided that at the end of a period of twenty years, the people of the Philippines should vote whether they wish to retain or to sever their connection with the United States. It is a question, of course, whether twenty years would be the proper period.

The problem of our connection with the Philippines ought to receive an early solution. The uncertainty of the future is not conducive to the progress of the Islands. Economic development is retarded because of the unwillingness of capital to invest until it knows what is going to happen. Political development is retarded because the political parties will not divide upon the real issues that confront the people until the independence question is settled. If Congress were to make known its intention progressively to increase the amount of self-government granted to the Filipinos until a status approaching that of Dominion rule were attained, the agitation for immediate independence would probably cease and the Filipino political parties could turn their attention to the pressing problems that confront the Islands. The solutions they would attempt for these problems would be evidence of their fitness or unfitness for independent self-government.

When the time for the final decision arrives another generation will have taken charge of public affairs, a generation more in sympathy with the real objects of democracy, a generation with more experience in administering public affairs in such a way as to attain those objects. In addition, the American Government, which has now awakened to the importance of the problem, will have had the opportunity to work out alternative plans of action according to the nature of the decision. For whatever the final decision may be, momentous consequences will flow from it.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • STEPHEN P. DUGGAN, Director of the Institute of International Education; member of the Educational Mission to the Philippines
  • More By Stephen P. Duggan