NEARLY a generation has now passed since the occupation of the Philippines by our army and navy first brought those Islands to the responsible attention of the people of the United States. Not only are trans-Pacific affairs now receiving greater attention in America than formerly but our own experiments in government in the Islands have continued long enough to enable us to get a better grasp and perspective of the controlling facts. With the aid of this information we should be able now to forecast more accurately than hitherto the line which our governmental policy in the Philippines should follow. This article is an attempt to briefly sketch such controlling facts and conditions and the outlines of the policy they would seem to dictate. Obviously within the limitations of space imposed by a magazine article they must be presented almost dogmatically and without argument or detail.


The following conditions of geography, population and race fundamentally control the situation:

1. The Philippines are a group of very rich, tropical islands occupied by a relatively scanty population. Over eighty percent of their area is undeveloped public land. They are surrounded on three sides by countries containing the most dense population in the world and composed mainly of more warlike and industrially competent races than the Filipinos. Within a brief period prior to their occupation by Spain they were successively overrun by conquerors from Java, China and Japan. I believe it to be a fair statement that at present the Philippines are protected from foreign submersion either in the form of gradual penetration or military conquest solely by the exclusion laws and military power of the United States.

2. Under Spanish and subsequent American supervision the Malay tribes occupying the Philippines have made marked progress towards the development of a common Christian civilization and a common national consciousness. Yet while the original tribal and lingual differences are being thus obliterated, there is in the Islands today a marked difference in political and business capacity between the pure-blooded Malays who constitute over ninety percent of the population and the small minority of more competent Mestizos, or mixed-blooded descendants from Chinese and Spanish immigrants, who have inter-married with the Malays. There is today a very strong probability that if American supervision were withdrawn the Malay would be ruled and exploited by this more competent minority.

3. The Malay race is generally characterized by a lack of the power of cooperation in governmental functions and by a lack of initiative. Our own experience in the Philippines has shown him to be capable of a very hopeful progress while under our supervision but has also revealed a strong tendency to backslide when that supervision was removed There is in the Islands today no organized critical public opinion ready to act as a corrective of these tendencies. The circulation of its daily press is less than one and one-half percent of the population. There are practically no voluntary organizations of citizens to examine and criticize the actions of their public officials.

4. American capital has been discouraged by both us and the Filipinos from entering the Islands, and consequently business and commercial development have been slow. There has been very little accumulation of capital. One result of this is that the revenues possible from taxation at present are quite insufficient to support an independent government with even the most moderate expenditures for military and diplomatic purposes. Another result is that there is practically no middle class or bourgeoisie between the educated ilustrado and the ignorant tao, or peasant, which might serve, as it does in other countries, as the backbone of self-government. Nor has there been any development of commercial or business questions out of which party issues might naturally arise.

5. As a result there is no well grounded system of party government now existing in the Islands. There are indeed several parties in name but they are mainly devoted to the fortunes of this or that leader and constantly show a tendency to coalesce or redivide according to the behests of such leaders. Political arguments as revealed by the press and the speeches of the leaders rarely relate to concrete political questions of the day but instead are apt to concern themselves either with personalities or be merely sonorous statements of general principles of government.


We took over from Spain this small group of Malay tribes occupying this extremely favored but extremely precarious situation and undertook to turn them into a self-governing people according to our western standards. What we proposed to do was stated with wisdom and foresight by our Senate in its resolution of February 14, 1899, when we ratified the treaty with Spain and took over the Islands:

"RESOLVED that by the ratification of the treaty of peace with Spain it is not intended to incorporate the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands into citizenship of the United States, nor is it intended to permanently annex said islands as an integral part of the territory of the United States; but it is the intention of the United States to establish on said islands a government suitable to the wants and conditions of the inhabitants of said islands, to prepare them for local self-government and in due time to make such disposition of said islands as will best promote the interests of the citizens of the United States and the inhabitants of said islands."

Note that this resolution made no promise of independence but rather of progressive local self-government and non-incorporation into the integral territory of the United States. This was a promise which pointed more clearly in the direction of the development of a self-governing colony than anything else, and its final clause recognized the dual interest of the people of the United States and the people of the Islands, and assumed that those two interests were consistent and not antagonistic.

Our governmental efforts in the Islands, except during one interlude, have conformed to the policy thus laid out. Even during that interlude the different purpose indicated itself more by an excessive speed in the attempted rate of development rather than by radical change of method.

For fourteen years after the Senate resolution the development was entirely consistent. Under the letter of instruction of President McKinley drawn by Secretary of War Root, and subsequently under the statutes of the Taft Commission, local self-government among the Filipinos was gradually but steadily developed, first in the municipalities and barrios, then in the provinces or states, and finally in the insular government. While the American Commission exercised as it were "parental" supervision and control at the top, a well chosen force of American civil servants interspersed in key positions throughout the service performed what might be called the function of "big brothers" lower down. Admirable progress was made in sanitation. The tropical diseases which prior to our advent had scourged and kept down the population were one after another attacked and conquered by the efforts of the Medical Corps of our army and our Health Service. The economic development and welfare of the Islands was assured by the grant to them of free trade with this country in 1909. Somewhat prematurely, as appears now in the light of after events, an elective assembly was established in 1907. But although this fostered an agitation for independence among the professional politicians, it also accelerated political education among the larger masses. This agitation for independence produced repercussions in the United States and American leaders occasionally made statements to the effect that if after the development of the Filipinos in self-government was complete, they deliberately and maturely desired a severance of their ties with this country, such a desire could not be denied. Yet these utterances were usually coupled with the expectation and hope that when that time came the advantages of the connection would be so manifest that it would become permanent. So far as I know during that period none of the American administrators having knowledge of the Filipino situation expressed any other anticipation than that the process of development in self-government would require a very long, indeed an almost indefinitely long time.

Furthermore, although at the beginning of the Philippine experiment there had been a sharp division of party lines in America on the subject of "expansion" or "imperialism," the actual administration of the Islands was conducted on nonpartisan lines. Of the five Governor Generals who held office during those fourteen years, two were Republicans, two were Democrats and one an independent, and each one when chosen for that position, excepting necessarily the first, Mr. Taft, had had preliminary administrative experience in the Islands.

In 1913 what may be termed the "Harrison interlude" began. Governor Harrison came to his post without any previous Philippine administrative experience. The same thing was true I believe of most if not all the associates sent with him. Nor had the American President who sent him any experience in Far Eastern matters. Under the theory that the Filipinos were almost ready for independence and should be granted it in the near future, and that the best method of preparing them for that eventuality was an increase of responsibility in government, a policy of rapid "Filipinization" was put into effect. The American Commission was transformed into one in which the majority of votes and balance of power were held by Filipinos. The American "big brothers" in the civil service were rapidly disposed of by dismissal and bonuses for retirement. The supervisory and veto powers of the Governor General were left unused. Filipino policy and Filipino administration were dominant throughout the insular government.

The Malay tendency to backslide promptly made itself felt with disastrous consequences. The sanitary service became disorganized with resulting epidemics of smallpox and cholera, which within a single period of two years carried off over sixty thousand people. The Philippine government was allowed to invest its funds in a national bank, a railroad, cement factory, sugar centrals and other business enterprises substantially all of which were failures. The bank nearly became insolvent, the insular currency dropped to fifteen percent below par and the insular government was wholly unable to live within its revenue.

Such was the condition in 1921 found by the investigation of the Wood-Forbes Commission and which Leonard Wood was then appointed Governor to rehabilitate. For nearly six years that work has been in process and is substantially accomplished. Inasmuch as the American personnel in the civil service had been dismissed and under existing law there was no way to restore it without the assent of the Philippine Senate which has not been given, the work has fallen upon the practically unaided shoulders of the Governor General. It has necessarily aroused temporary antagonism. Political supervision once abandoned is with difficulty restored over any people. But today the sanitation is again restored, the bank has been saved, the currency is at par and the government is living within its income. Taxes are low and collected without difficulty.

Under the present system of government the material condition of the individual Filipino is better than that of any other person in the Orient. He is protected by our army, navy and diplomatic service and yet he pays no American income tax or other taxation. He is protected by our Oriental Exclusion Laws and yet himself can migrate freely to the United States. He has autonomy in framing his own tariff against foreign countries while at the same time he has free access to the American market. His standard of life is more Occidental than any of his Asiatic neighbors. His daily wage, if he be a laborer, is higher. Due to the American market, the price which he secures for his products is far higher. If the connection with America were withdrawn he at once would be presented with the alternative of reducing his standard of life or complete bankruptcy.


While the reality of this contrast in individual condition between the Filipino and his Asiatic neighbor was never more apparent to the visitor to the Orient than it is today, yet quite a contrary impression has been given to the people of America by a continuance of the agitation for independence. As to this the following observations I believe to be accurate and conservative.

The agitation takes its origin entirely among the comparatively small element of Mestizo politicians who dominate the central insular government. The Malay farmer who constitutes over ninety percent of the population is comparatively prosperous and entirely content. He takes no part in originating the movement. He will obediently follow his political leaders in any ordinary expression of opinion at the polls but would not either originate or understand the significance of such a movement.

For several years the movement was artificially stimulated by an annual "independence fund" of one million pesos appropriated by the legislature for that purpose, but which was declared illegal and stopped in 1924. The main center of the agitation in the Islands is confined to the neighborhood of Manila and perhaps two or three other cities where there have accumulated bodies of young Filipinos who have during recent years received a kind of education for which the development of the Islands does not yet afford a sufficient outlet in practical application. The system of education which we have introduced has in some respects been faulty and these faults have been accentuated by Filipino tastes. We have educated young men too freely for "white collar jobs" which do not exist among this purely agricultural people. For example the press reported that over eleven hundred young men endeavored to register as applicants for the annual bar examination last summer -- a number which would excite comment in New York, let alone Manila. As a result it is a quite prevalent idea among the young men that a diploma should entitle them to a place in the government or some other easy livelihood and that independence will create such jobs for them. A comparatively small and radical element of the population centered about Manila and recruited from this younger student class furnishes the main response to the agitation for immediate independence. On the other hand, men who have acquired substantial property or business express themselves emphatically against it. This is usually done in confidence for fear of political reprisal.

One of the reasons for the continuance of the agitation among the politicos is of course the friction growing out of the restoration of American supervision by Governor Wood, particularly in respect to the functions of the legislature where Wood has exercised freely the veto power which Harrison almost abandoned. Again, the effort of Wood to free the government from the unwise business ventures in which the preceding administration had embarked it has brought him into direct conflict with legislative leaders who, contrary to the law as now laid down in the opinion of the Attorney-General of the United States, were conducting that business. Such friction will normally cease with the elimination of the causes thereof, and personal observation on a visit to the Islands last summer led me to believe that with Wood's tact and patience it was already dying down. Similar observation on a fairly extended trip through the Islands produced the very strong impression that the supervision of the American Governor-General over the ordinary operations of local government throughout the Islands not only produced no friction but was attended with every evidence of good will and cooperation on the part of the Filipino local officials.

It must always be remembered that in the absence of other political issues independence is used as an easy slogan to catch unthinking votes for local purposes. When we remember how easy it is for American politicians to keep themselves in office by arousing agricultural animus against a distant money trust or Wall Street, we cannot be surprised or over-critical at these efforts to make political capital among a brown constituency against a distant white America. My real surprise on visiting the Islands was that, due to the general content and the amiable characteristics of the Malay farmer, the reaction to it was so slight.


Yet the final impression left upon the visitor is that much might be done by Americans to improve the present situation in the Islands and to pave the way towards a future constructive growth of the governmental system. The first and principal step would be the public avowal of a stable American policy towards the Islands, even of the most general character. This of course is not easy, because it depends finally upon the cultivation of an intelligent public opinion in America and cannot be accomplished by any single statutory enactment. The road to it would be by the abandonment of all planks for "prompt Philippine independence" in party platforms; by repeated manifestations of a consistent policy on the part of our executives and our Congresses of both parties backed up by similar consistent expressions of opinion by our press and other leaders of opinion. The reply of President Coolidge in 1923 to the demand of the Roxas Mission for the recall of Governor Wood is an instance of a clear and satisfactory expression of American policy and produced an excellent effect in the Islands.

If in that way it were made entirely clear that America had decided to carry out patiently to its distant conclusion the experiment undertaken in 1899 and that in the meanwhile it would not consider any abandonment thereof or experiment with any short cuts, the effect upon the ultimate solution of this problem would be great. The thoughtful Filipino politicians would then discuss in public what they now discuss in private with the visitor, namely the necessary steps to be taken along that path of self-government which our Senate mentioned in its resolution twenty-eight years ago.

When the subject is examined with even the most moderate care, the general course which we must follow, assuming that we intend to carry out our trust and not abandon it, seems plain. It lies between the extremes of annexation on the one side and immediate independence on the other, neither of which I believe would be supported after such study by any considerable body of American opinion. The course proposed by our Senate in 1899 of holding the Islands indefinitely and training them in the mean-while in local self-government has been pronounced constitutional by our Supreme Court, which has thus ruled that there is nothing in our American constitution inconsistent with the purpose of developing self-governing possessions or colonies whose citizens did not participate in our citizenship and were not represented by votes in our Congress.

Along that general path the other great group of English speaking peoples known as the British Empire is already travelling. In the ideal of the "Association of Free Nations" it has found what satisfies the desire for independence among its members at the same time that it secures the strength of mutual association. While it has not yet realized in full measure that ideal in the case of any dependency composed entirely of a brown race, the course which it is following as to the others logically and ultimately commits it in respect to all. Under the terrible test which came at the outbreak of the late war the strength and loyalty of the bonds between the different elements of that empire were almost as marked among the brown peoples as among the white.


The present Organic Law of the Philippine Islands is the statute enacted by our Congress in 1916 commonly called the Jones Act. Except for its preamble, which in its statement of the historical policy of this country towards Philippine independence quite misrepresents the historic facts, the Act is in most respects a careful and well-considered piece of legislation. It contains a bill of rights substantially similar to that in our Federal constitution. It conveys general legislative power to a Philippine legislature consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives, the members of the former being elected for six and the latter for three years from senatorial and representative districts respectively. Beside these elective representatives the Governor-General has the right to appoint senators and representatives for certain districts containing the Moro and other non-Christian tribes. In a few respects the general powers of the Legislature are restricted. Acts relating to the disposition of the public land, foreign tariffs, immigration and the currency must receive the approval of the President of the United States before becoming a law, and the trade relations between the Islands and the United States are governed solely by the acts of the American Congress.

Executive power is vested in the Governor-General, appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate and holding his office at the pleasure of the President. He has a veto power over legislation similar to that of our State executives, except that if his veto is over-ridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Philippine Legislature the statute then goes to the President of the United States for approval or disapproval. The Governor-General appoints, subject to the consent of the Philippine Senate, all civil officers of the Insular Government, including the heads of the executive departments and the governors of certain provinces inhabited by non-Christian tribes. He also appoints the judges of the Courts of First Instance, the judges of the Supreme Court being appointed by the President of the United States. There is an express provision "that all executive functions of the government must be directly under the Governor General or within one of the Executive Departments under the supervision and control of the Governor General." Unlike most of our State Constitutions, there is no provision of law which prohibits a member of one of the houses of the Legislature from serving as the head of an Executive Department. In addition to these powers over the insular government the Governor General has been vested by Philippine statutes with power to investigate and remove delinquent local officials of the various provinces and municipalities similar to the statutes which exist in many of our States.

Thus it will be seen that we have sought to transfer to the Philippine Islands the general form of government with which we are familiar in this country, with two important changes material to our present discussion. The first is that the general power of executive appointment and executive supervision and control is vested in a governor not chosen by the local electorate but chosen by the American President and Senate. While by this provision we have tended to exaggerate the separation between the executive and legislative powers even beyond the separation which exists in our own governments, we have by a second change left open the door to a possible cure of the evils which would thus arise. By the omission of the customary bar which in this country prevents members of the Legislature from serving in executive positions, we have created an opportunity for the development of a responsible cabinet system. We have also given to the Governor-General in very explicit form the power of supervision and control over the workings of the insular government and this has been extended by other legislation to a supervision over the workings of local government.

I believe that, taking these points into consideration, we may find in the Jones Act ready to our hands an adequate instrument for the ultimate development of an autonomous government in the Philippines, while at the same time it provides for adequate training and supervision during the intervening period of political immaturity. We have created a Governor-General with the duty and power not only of performing the ordinary executive functions, as we understand them at home, but also of representing the American viewpoint in those far distant Islands and of exercising visitorial functions over government which the entire absence of critical public opinion now makes necessary. It would be a complete misapprehension of the Philippine situation to think that we can soon appoint or permit the Filipinos to elect a Filipino Governor-General. So long as a connection remains between us and them, the Governor-General's office should be the channel by which our views and our influence and help can be transmitted to our wards in that far-distant region.

Today it is the work of the office of the Governor-General which stands between the material welfare of the Islands and that racial tendency towards backsliding which produced disaster ten years ago. The present Governor, a man of indefatigable energy, by his veto checks the development of unwise general policies at Manila but by means of constant visits extends a fatherly guiding influence to the uttermost Islands of the Archipelago. Until the Filipinos have created a live and critical public opinion; until they become general readers of a public spirited press; until their men and women of leisure organize themselves into active charity associations, prison aid associations and school boards to watch and criticize the functions of government; in other words, until the Malay population of these Islands develop those basic foundations of self-government which we have developed during the past six or eight hundred years, either this visitorial American power must continue or progress in the Philippines cease.

This, however, does not mean that we must retain in our hands all executive power or keep the Filipinos from the exercise of the vital and educational function of administration. Even today the heads of the Executive Departments are all Filipinos, though appointed by the Governor-General with the consent of the Senate and removable by him. Today, in the absence of any system of responsible party government with clear cut party issues represented by distinct alignment in the Legislature, these department heads are the mere individual selections of the Governor-General and perform their work solely in responsibility to him. But with the development of responsible majority and opposition parties in the Legislature such department heads could be selected by the Governor from the dominant party as shown by the general election and could be held to party responsibility in their conduct of administration. In that way responsible cabinet government could be gradually evolved, including, in time, representation of the cabinet on the floor of the houses. When that is accomplished, the work of administration would be carried on by executive heads of Departments politically responsible to the dominant majority of the Legislature, but performing their work not only under the scrutiny of the opposition party but also under the constant inspection of an American Governor who possesses the ultimate power (not to be used, however, except in case of serious dereliction) of removal. Furthermore, the development of political responsibility would thus be subject to control; it need not be carried to the point of subjecting cabinet tenure to casual fluctuating majorities in the houses; nominations made in accordance with the result of one general election may normally carry over to the next election. Fickle tenure may thus be avoided, yet a hitherto unknown sense of party responsibility may be introduced.

I believe that in this way the Jones Act can be made a bridge by which we can pass gradually from a rigidly supervised system of government to one depending more and more upon responsibility to political parties and public opinion, and I believe further that the system thus developed under it would be safer and more efficient in execution than the suggested methods of an American "Resident Commissioner" or "Adviser," supposedly guiding a Filipino Governor. Also, there is the inestimable advantage that this system is founded on an already existing law, and one which in general structure is consistent with American tradition.

It is an interesting and hopeful sign that the minds of the Filipino political leaders themselves have already turned to such a development as the solution of their problem. It has long been urged by Sergio Osmeña, for many years the speaker of the House of Representatives and a thoughtful student of politics. Such a development was also apparently in the mind of Governor Harrison during his administration, though he made the grave mistake of attempting it prematurely and of failing at the same time to exercise the vital visitorial functions of the American Governor-General. For it is manifest that the very attempt to introduce party responsibility and thus to permit Filipino political control over administration will, particularly during the formative period, tend to result in a lowered efficiency in administration which must be guarded against by special vigilance on the part of the American Governor. For a long time the two functions must continue side by side; on the one hand, gradual transfer of administrative responsibility to Filipino representatives; on the other hand, special vigilance in watching, investigating and checking their work by the American representative. In order to prevent such a slump as took place under Mr. Harrison, the Governor must be provided with an adequate American force of inspectors responsible to him alone and comprising experts in the important lines of government, such as sanitation, agriculture (including mines, forests and fisheries) and law. Today he has no such force, and provision for it is a crying need even under present conditions.

To carry out such a development as I have outlined, no change in the present Organic Law is necessary -- nothing but patience and steadfastness in adhering to a definite line of policy in spite of inevitable discouragements. That is the principal and most difficult requirement. Certain minor changes in that law might obviate dangers and make the task easier. For example, the condition of the Moro and other Pagan provinces presents a specific problem. The historic antipathy between the Moros and the Christian Filipinos renders satisfactory government of the Moros by Filipinos a difficult if not impossible task. For a long time impartial American governors of demonstrated character and efficiency will be required in the Moro provinces. Under the Jones Act the governors of those provinces are appointed by the Governor-General with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Filipino senate has refused to confirm any other than Filipino governors. That provision should be amended and to that extent the Moro provinces should be relieved from Filipino domination. Until the Filipinos have learned better to govern themselves, it is not safe to trust them to govern the Moros. Other minor changes may also be suggested.

But when all is said, such changes are of slight importance in the light of the workability of the statute as a whole. The primary thing is the creation of a stable and intelligent American opinion in regard to the Islands, and its application in a patient, consistent and steadfast colonial policy.

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  • HENRY L. STIMSON, Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Taft, recently returned from a tour of observation in the Philippine Islands
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