The United States in the Philippines



[Mr. Ireland has been known to readers of the Atlantic since 1898 as an authority upon colonial affairs. In 1902 he went to the Far East as a special commissioner of the University of Chicago to collect material for an elaborate report on colonial administration in that part of the world. The present paper embodies some of the more important results of more than two years spent in the study of comparative colonization in the English, French, Dutch, and American colonies in the Far East. It is, perhaps, the first competent and wholly non-partisan treatment of American administration in the Philippines from the comparative point of view. — THE EDITORS.]


To the student of comparative colonization the entrance of the United States upon a career of over-sea expansion presents none of the elements of abnormality which chain the attention of those who, while attributing to the institutions of the American government and to the character of the American people peculiar qualities which invalidate every argument based upon the universal experience of other nations, approach the subject from the standpoint of an American history isolated from the general progress of mankind. It is a matter of plain fact that in the whole of recorded history there cannot be found a single instance of a nation which, having reached a certain stage of economic development, has not embarked upon enterprises of territorial expansion, that this phenomenon in the growth of nations has persisted in all climates and under every form of government, that it is common to all races, and that it has been associated with every form of religion, heathen or Christian, of which we have any knowledge. It is not too much to say that no single element in the human character has done more to mould the destinies of mankind than this intimate relation between intellectual and physical vigor and territorial expansion.

With these facts in view the impartial observer finds it more natural to link the over-sea expansion of the United States with the continuous chain of human evolution than to regard it as an abnormal sequel to a hundred years of local history.

In order to understand the course of American policy and administration in the Philippines it is necessary to emphasize the perfectly normal character of the undertaking, and to insist that, in so far as the problem of the Philippines concerns the Philippine people, it has presented at no stage a single important feature for which the experience of other nations does not afford a parallel. Those questions which relate to the constitutionality or otherwise of the whole relation between the United States and the Philippine Islands, or of any particular administrative measure, concern the American people alone, and are of no interest whatever to the Philippine natives; and throughout this article the estimate of American action in the Islands is based not upon any adjustment to an American standard of political principle or conduct, in regard to which there appears to be no small conflict of opinion in the United States, but upon its relation to the economic, social, and political welfare of the Philippine Islands.

When Philippine affairs are thus severed from their unnatural connection with American home politics, and are approached as a problem in which the end sought is simply the achievement of the greatest good for the Philippine people, the inquiry is raised from the plane of political bickering to that of national statesmanship, and the discussion loses that quality of acerbity which invariably obscures the point at issue, and, in administrative matters, usually paralyzes the constructive forces of the authority finally left in control.


Under the terms of the Peace Protocol of August 12, 1898, the United States was authorized to “occupy and hold the city, bay, and harbor of Manila, pending the conclusion of a Treaty of Peace which shall determine the control, disposition and government of the Philippines;” and under the terms of that Treaty, concluded on December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands. But in the interval which elapsed between the battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, and the signing of the Peace Protocol on August 12, American action in the Philippines assumed definite shape, and the occurrences of that period have exerted the most profound influence upon the whole Philippine situation.

I should be content to pass over the events which preceded the Treaty of Peace as faits accomplis were it not that the policy pursued by the United States under its rights as a belligerent, and later under the status established by the Peace Protocol, is marked by those very characteristics which are so strikingly apparent in the conduct of affairs after the Treaty of Peace had given the United States full power to proceed in all respects as her statesmen might deem proper. Almost every act of the United States in the Philippines, except those of a purely military nature, from the date of the battle of Manila Bay down to the present time, has been characterized by what may be called from one standpoint independence and originality, or, from another standpoint, blindness to local conditions and contempt for universal experience.

This attitude of detachment, alike from the insular environment and from the historical example of three centuries of the failures and successes of others in a similar field, has been the most influential factor in American relations with the Islands; and in order to make the point clear, and to show the continuity of this element in American policy from the very commencement of the Philippine affair, it is necessary to deal briefly with the earlier phases of the Philippine problem.

At the beginning of the year 1898 it was a matter of common knowledge in the Far East that Aguinaldo and his principal adherents, who had left the Philippines in 1897 under the terms of the Treaty of Biac-na-Bató, had decided that the promises of reform, which constituted the Spanish obligation under the treaty, had not been performed, and that the Philippine Junta had decided to commence another revolution at the earliest favorable moment. Aguinaldo himself never made the slightest attempt to conceal the motive of the proposed revolution, namely, the achievement of political independence for the Philippine Islands; and it is impossible to suppose that the American consuls in Singapore and Hongkong were not fully aware of his intentions in this respect at the time when the former (Mr. Spencer Pratt) “sought him out ... as the man for the occasion,” and sent him to Admiral Dewey, and the latter (Mr. Rounsevelle Wildman) accepted the post of Honorary Treasurer of the Philippine Patriotic League and drafted the Proclamation which Aguinaldo issued on his arrival at Cavite.

Aguinaldo was taken in an American transport to Manila, was given arms by the American authorities, was allowed to seize Spanish arms in Cavite, and was encouraged in every way to start his insurrection ; and these things were done after he had publicly issued a proclamation declaring his intention of establishing an independent Philippine Republic. Even if we accept General Anderson’s statement (North American Review, February, 1900) that as late as July, 1898, Admiral Dewey was not aware that the Americans would hold the Philippines if they were captured, and assume that up to that time the admiral believed that the policy of the United States would be to grant independence to the Philippines, the early treatment of Aguinaldo was a deplorable mistake.

What Admiral Dewey’s action amounted to was this, that without any definite information as to what the policy of the United States would be if the war with Spain involved the capture of the Philippines, he conveyed to the Islands, under circumstances which implied an official recognition of the purposes of the insurgents, the one man who could most seriously compromise the situation, and whose declared aim, if successfully carried out, could only have one of two results, either the recognition of Philippine independence or a war between the United States and the new republic.

It is true that neither Admiral Dewey nor any other responsible agent of the American government ever gave Aguinaldo an explicit assurance that the United States would recognize Philippine independence; but in the absence of any declaration of an opposite intention, and in view of the circumstances under which the war with Spain had been undertaken, and having regard to the support and encouragement given to Aguinaldo by high American officials after he had declared in unmistakable terms, and in the most public manner possible, his opinion that the Americans had come to give the Philippines an independent government, it is impossible to accuse Aguinaldo of having put a strained construction upon the attitude of the American officials, or of importing into their acts a significance which could not be fairly attributed to them.

Up to the middle of June, 1898, there appears to have been no official declaration, public or private, of the policy which the United States intended to pursue toward the Philippines; but on June 16, Mr. Day, the Secretary of State in Mr. McKinley’s Cabinet, wrote a dispatch to the United States consul in Singapore which contained a definite statement of the views of the administration on the subject of Philippine independence. In the course of this communication Mr. Day said: “This Government has known the Philippine insurgents only as discontented and rebellious subjects of Spain, and is not acquainted with their purposes. . . . The United States in entering upon the occupation of the islands . . . will expect from the inhabitants, without regard to their former attitude towards the Spanish Government, that obedience which will be lawfully due from them. If, in the course of your conferences with General Aguinaldo, you acted upon the assumption that this Government would coöperate with him for the furtherance of any plan of his own, or that, in accepting his coöperation, it would consider itself pledged to recognize any political claims which he may put forward, your action was unauthorized and cannot be approved.”

The first question which naturally arises in regard to this declaration is, was the policy here outlined communicated to the American naval and military commanders in the Philippines or to Aguinaldo himself ? I have been unable to find any evidence that Mr. Day’s statement received any greater publicity than was afforded by the correspondence files of the American consulate in Singapore; indeed, there is strong presumptive evidence that it never reached the Philippines through any official channel, for throughout the latter part of 1898 Aguinaldo repeatedly sought to obtain a declaration of American policy in regard to independence, and as late as September 8 General Otis informed him, “I have not been instructed as to what policy the United States intends to pursue. . .

The relations between Aguinaldo and the American commanders prior to June 16 fall into an entirely different category from those which existed after that date, for the former represented the personal judgment of individual officers acting largely on their own responsibility, whereas the latter rest on the responsibility of the authorities in Washington, who had formulated a definite policy and were in a position to control the action of their local representatives in conformity with it. It is most difficult, therefore, to reconcile the actions of the military commanders in the Philippines after June 16 with the declaration contained in Mr. Day’s dispatch to the effect that no recognition of any kind would be given to the political ambitions of Aguinaldo. I have space only to give two instances of the extraordinary nature of the attitude of the military authorities toward an insurgent general whom the United States had decided not to recognize.

On August 8, 1898, General Anderson wrote, “General Emilio Aguinaldo, Commanding Filipino Forces: Will Your Excellency consent to my occupation of the intrenchments facing Blockhouse No. 14 ? ” . . . On October 14 General Otis wrote, “ General Emilio Aguinaldo, Commanding Filipino Revolutionary Forces: General, it is my desire to place it [a convalescent camp] at a locality which would not inconvenience any organization connected with your forces . . . and to the emergency of this anticipated proceeding I respectfully invite your consideration and ask your assistance should execution become necessary.”

The Philippine situation developed rapidly during the latter half of 1898, and in February of the following year the political aspect of affairs, which had been marked by steadfast progress on the part of Aguinaldo in strengthening his military position and in extending his government in Luzon and in several other islands, and by a constant repetition on the part of the Americans of vague assurances that the intentions of the United States were highly benevolent, and a careful avoidance of any act or declaration definitely favorable or adverse to the specific question of Philippine independence, was completely changed by the outbreak of war between the two armies. This eventuality had been foreseen for some weeks by each side, and the most ingenious devices were resorted to by the Filipinos to throw the responsibility of the first act of hostility on the shoulders of the Americans. As a matter of fact the war was commenced by the Filipinos, but only after the American soldiers had submitted, with a self-restraint that cannot be too highly praised, to every indignity and insult which could be expected to provoke an attack on their part, and it had consequently become clear that if the Filipinos were to get the war started before large reinforcements arrived from the United States, they themselves would have to assume the offensive.

The determination of Aguinaldo to fight the Americans was perfectly natural in view of what had taken place since the battle of Manila Bay. The confidence which he had at first reposed in the Americans had given way, as months passed without any recognition of his republic, to suspicion and distrust; and by the beginning of 1899 it was realized by the Filipino leaders that whatever the intentions of the Americans were, they were not such as to encourage the hope for an independent native government. The only thing lacking to establish completely this view was a definite statement from the United States, and this was forthcoming on January 4, 1899, in the form of a proclamation from General Otis (his amended version of the President’s instructions to the Secretary of War) which finally disposed of Aguinaldo’s government by announcing the assumption of the governing power by the United States. After the publication of this proclamation war was inevitable; and the fact that the Filipinos commenced the fighting has no special significance.

The salient feature of American policy up to this point is the apparent neglect of the government to regard Aguinaldo and his revolutionary programme from the only point of view which could promise any guidance in the circumstances. In dealing with Aguinaldo, after his arrival in the Islands had placed him in touch with his supporters, the question which should have presented itself to the American authorities was not whether his actions justified a belief that he was incapable of maintaining an independent government, not whether his political mistakes or inefficient administration would afford a good argument ex post facto for the American assumption of the government, but whether, in view of the determination arrived at on June 16, as set forth in Mr. Day’s dispatch, that the insurrectionary movement was not to be recognized, Aguinaldo was or was not capable of offering substantial resistance to the American plans. But notwithstanding the frequent reports forwarded to Washington by the military commanders to the effect that Aguinaldo was actually in control of practically the whole of the Islands, and that he had not only placed himself in a strong military position, but had established a civil government which was in fact administering the affairs of the Islands, there is no evidence in the material thus far made public that any attempt was made to negotiate with the insurgents or to discover whether an arrangement could not be arrived at which would yield to each party so large a proportion of its extreme objects as to afford a basis for common action.

It is known now, and might easily have been known at the time, that there was a conservative element amongst Aguinaldo’s advisers sufficiently powerful to have counteracted the influence of the war party if the United States had given it any sort of encouragement prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Nothing of the kind was done, and the policy which was pursued was to disregard the obvious facts in regard to Aguinaldo’s ability to offer a serious resistance to the American assumption of the government, to take an entirely independent course of action, and to allow a similar privilege to the revolutionary government.

That the war in the Philippines could have been avoided by the exercise of the most ordinary prudence, that it could have been avoided if the advice of any British, French, or Dutch colonial governor in the Far East had been asked and acted upon, there can be no possible doubt; and it is not less certain that if the Philippine Commission which arrived in Manila shortly after the commencement of the war had been given the power to act, instead of only the power to talk, the war need not have lasted three months. Considerations of space prevent me from dealing with the conduct of the war; and I must dismiss the subject by saying that if in its political aspects it was little but a long succession of errors, in its practical operations it disclosed a devotion and heroism on the part of the American officers and troops which place the campaign on a level with the most striking achievements of the white races in tropical warfare.


The American government in the Philippine Islands was wholly military until September 1, 1900, when the military Governor was relieved of the legislative power, which was transferred to the Philippine Commission of which the Hon. William H. Taft was president. On September 1, 1901, the civil executive power was also transferred to the Commission, and that body was enlarged by the addition to it of three Filipino members.

As it is obviously impossible in the present article to go over the whole field of the administrative policy of the Philippine Commission, I select for treatment two of the more important questions which have arisen in regard to the control and development of the Islands,— the structure and working of the government, and the economic condition of the Islands.

But before passing to a consideration of these questions I wish to make clear a point which is of some importance in relation to any adverse criticism of the American Philippine administration.

During the time I was in the Islands in the early part of this year I met a great number of American officials, and in my intercourse with them, an intercourse which was marked throughout by the greatest courtesy and frankness on their part, I was constantly brought face to face with two facts, — one, that with very few exceptions the members of the civil service were animated by an honest and sincere desire to do the best thing for the general welfare of the Islands; the other, that side by side with this excellent intention there existed an ignorance of the broad established facts in relation to tropical administration, and an absence of information as to the work of the European nations in the neighboring colonies, which could scarcely fail to impair most seriously the usefulness of the most conscientious and hard-working official.

The effect of this mental condition of practically a whole government has been twofold. On the one hand it has involved a groping about for satisfactory solutions of the most elementary problems of administration, which have finally been solved, after great waste of time and energy, along lines already laid down by other nations; and on the other hand, and this is a far more serious matter, it has deprived the government of any standard of comparison for its work. To give a single example: I was shown in the Philippines some of the most wretched roads I have seen in fifteen years of colonial travel, and was asked with pride whether the English had ever done anything like that for the benefit of their colonial subjects; and when I replied that you could travel a thousand miles in an automobile in the Federated Malay States on roads as good as the Massachusetts state roads, my statement was met, if not with absolute incredulity, at least with the last degree of surprise. It was the same thing in a hundred matters. Had any nation except the United States ever given the natives of a colony any voice in their own government, or given them an honest judiciary, or a good water-supply, or an efficient police force, or ever governed a colony with any other object than deriving revenue from it ? And so on through the whole range of colonial administration! It is obvious that if a body of men, from lack of comparative knowledge, honestly believe that the work they are doing is better than that of all others in the same field, the prospect of improvement originating within the administrative hierarchy is reduced to a minimum.

The evil is one which could easily be removed in the case of men as intelligent and quick-witted as the average American in the Philippines. If, instead of going straight from San Francisco to Manila, the higher officials were ordered to go out by way of Suez, taking a trip through Egypt, Ceylon, and the Malay Peninsula on the way, they would arrive in the Philippines better equipped for useful work than they now are even after some years of residence in the Islands. The experience would not only help toward that breadth of view which is so essential in approaching questions of administration in the tropics, but would give them a sufficient knowledge of the conditions of other colonies to serve as a standard of comparison for their own work. Nearly all the faults of administration in the Philippines are due to one of two causes, — either the pernicious influence of American home politics on Philippine legislation, or the narrow vision of the local officials. It is perhaps too much to hope that the former can be removed, but with the elimination of the latter element the evil effects of the former would be greatly lessened.


The present structure of the Philippine government differs in some material respects from that of any other tropical dependency of either of the great Powers. Although at first sight it appears to afford a larger measure of participation to the people of the Islands than can be found elsewhere, the local conditions under which the government operates, which are inflexible to a degree that can scarcely be appreciated by any one who has not visited the Islands, give the practical working of the administration a fairly close resemblance to that of a British crown colony government shorn of some of its most important advantages.

The Philippines belong to a clearly defined type of tropical countries. They have a high mean annual temperature and a low social and economic development; their internal trade is insignificant; they depend for their economic welfare on an export trade resting on agricultural industries; nearly all the manufactured articles used in the Islands are imported; the native labor is entirely inadequate for the development of the natural resources of the country; the great majority of the people are of the usual lazy, indolent, and thriftless character which distinguishes the native of the tropics; there is a small educated class, but ninety per cent of the population can neither read nor write.

As the industry of a people bears a very close relation to their political condition — effective political institutions of an advanced type being found only in countries of advanced industrial development: a low economic condition being invariably accompanied by a low political status— the following figures supply a rough standard by which to measure directly the economic position and indirectly the present political capacity of the Philippines in relation to countries possessing a climate, commerce, and population sufficiently similar in a general way to afford a fair basis for comparison.

It must be borne in mind that in tropical countries, where the internal trade is always insignificant, the value of exports gives a very accurate index to the industry of the people. Basing my calculations on the latest available statistics, the following figures are approximately correct: Value of exports per annum per capita of population in the Philippines $5, in Ceylon $8.50, in Porto Rico $12, in Sierra Leone $19, in the British West Indies $20, in Mauritius $24, in Java $25, in British Guiana $30, in the Federated Malay States $44.

It is seen from the above figures, which disclose the economic efficiency of nine tropical areas dependent on one or another of the great Powers, that the Philippines are in a very low stage of economic development. The inference might naturally be drawn that the Philippine people are less able to direct their political and administrative affairs than are the inhabitants of any of the colonies included in the comparison; and such an inference would, in fact, be correct. But this view has not commended itself to the United States; and in a country which is poorer, chiefly from lack of industry in the people, than almost any other tropical country not under purely native rule, inhabited by people certainly not more intelligent than those of the other tropical dependencies referred to above, there has been established a government more expensive than any other colonial government in the tropics, and much more dependent for its efficiency on the coöperation of the natives.

Broadly speaking, the American policy in regard to the control and development of the Philippines is the exact opposite of that adopted by every other nation, in that political development has been taken as the standard of attainment instead of industrial development, in opposition to the universal experience of mankind, that the latter has always preceded the former.

It may be true that it has been advisable from the standpoint of American home politics to place the cart before the horse in this manner, but the consequences will be disastrous to the welfare of the Islands. Lord Curzon, in a recent speech on Indian affairs, has put the matter in a nutshell: “I do not think,” he said, “that the salvation of India is to be sought on the field of politics at the present stage of her development; and it is not my conception of statesmanship to earn a cheap applause by offering socalled boons for which the country is not ready, and for which my successors, and not I, would have to pay the price.”

I propose now to compare the structure of the Philippine government with that of some of the British colonies and dependencies in the Far East. The government of the Philippine Islands rests with the following bodies, — the Municipal Councils, the Provincial Governments, the Philippine Commission, and the Congress of the United States. The Philippine Municipality corresponds to the New England township, and there are in the Islands 623 municipalities, and in connection with them about 3600 presidents, secretaries, treasurers, and clerks, and about 8000 councilors. All the municipal officials are elected by the people; and any male person of twentythree years or over, having six months’ residence in the municipality, may vote, provided he held prior to August 13, 1898, any one of certain offices under the Spaniards, or owns five hundred pesos’ worth of real estate, or pays thirty pesos or more in taxes, or speaks, reads, and writes English or Spanish.

The Philippine Municipality is simply an advanced type of the village government in Burma, Indo-China, and other Eastern countries, and represents an adjustment to the new conditions of the old Spanish municipal organization. These municipalities would be admirably suited to the needs of the country if the people possessed any political capacity, for, in theory, they raise and disburse money locally for local purposes connected with the daily life of the natives. But the account given of their work in the Philippine Commission’s Report for 1903 is most discouraging. The Hon. William H. Taft, writing as Civil Governor, says: “By law the council of a municipality is obliged to devote a certain part of the income of the towns to schools, but in too many instances it has developed that, in the anxiety to secure his own salary, the president has induced the council and the municipal treasurer to appropriate from what are properly school funds to pay the salaries of municipal officials. The truth is that the municipal governments have not been as satisfactory in their operations as could be wished. By the misuse of the school funds, already referred to, the native school teachers have been compelled to go without their salaries. The municipal police have also gone unpaid, and in many instances had not been made efficient because they were used as the personal servants of the municipal presidents.”

It is when we turn to the provincial governments in the Philippines that we find the first radical and important difference between American methods and those of other countries. Under the Provincial Government Act provision is made for the formation of provincial boards consisting of a provincial governor, elected for a two years’ term by the municipal councilors of the province in joint convention, and the provincial supervisor, and the provincial treasurer, appointed by the Philippine Commission. At the present time there are forty provincial governments in the Islands. The principal duties of these governments are to levy taxes within certain limitations, to collect all taxes due in the province, whether on account of municipal, provincial, or insular levy, to direct the provincial public works, and to supervise the municipal administration.

It is clear that the provincial government affords no real representation of the people, since two out of the three members of the provincial board are appointed by the Commission; and in this respect the provincial government embodies the central principle of crown colony government, namely, that the control of affairs rests with appointed, and not with elected officials. But while the system, owing to its non-representative character, does nothing toward educating the people in self-government, it sacrifices the two great advantages of crown colony government, for the element of personal influence is lost where a biennial election regulates the office of governor, and the administrative authority is weakened when it resides in an official trinity instead of in the person of one man. There is thus change where permanence is most needed, and division of power where efficiency is best promoted by its concentration.

The existence of the provincial governments cannot be defended on political grounds, for they possess no political attributes; and in so far as they are administrative machines they perform functions which could be more efficiently and more economically discharged by a single government official with powers similar to those of a deputy - commissioner in Burma. The difference between the duties performed by that official and those of the provincial boards in the Philippines lies in two points only. The deputycommissioner is vested with judicial and magisterial powers, neither of which pertain to the provincial boards; and in regard to public works, he is relieved by the Public Works Department of the general government of such duties as fall in that matter to the provincial boards. In each respect the advantage lies with the Burmese system.

In a country in a stage of development as low as that of the Philippines or Burma, where the political and administrative capacity of the people, if it can ever reach a useful proportion, must take many generations to develop, the addition of magisterial and judicial powers to the authority of the administrator facilitates the work of government by simplifying the settlement of small civil disputes and the punishment of lesser crime, and serves a most useful purpose by bringing the chief official in charge of each district into close touch with the daily affairs of the people. As all the judicial and magisterial acts of the deputy-commissioner are subject to the review of his administrative superiors, and may be made the subject of appeal to the higher courts, there is little danger of an abuse of power. In the matter of public works it is obvious that the central government, from its wider knowledge of the general plans for the opening up of the country and from the greater resources at its command, is better able than a provincial board to control and direct public works in conformity with some scheme of development laid down by a body of experts which the provincial governments could not afford to employ.

But it is in the higher branches of the administration that the structure of the Philippine Government exhibits its greatest weakness and its sharpest contrast to other dependent tropical governments. It is a universally recognized trait of tropical peoples that they yield their truest loyalty and their best aid in governmental matters when there is at the head of affairs one man in supreme power, whether he be King, Sultan, or Governor. This characteristic, so far from being due to the growth of white domination, is the product of uncounted centuries of native development, before white men ever came into contact with the native governments; and in attempting to build a tropical government on the theory that socalled “popular ” institutions can ever recommend themselves as an ideal to the natives of a tropical country, the fact is overlooked or ignored that, in the thousands of years during which the natives of the tropics were left to themselves, to develop whatever political institutions appeared best suited to them, there was never established a single government which was not purely autocratic in character.

When we attempt to force democratic institutions or corporate government upon tropical peoples we simply assume, without any warrant whatever, that we know better than they do what form of government is best for them. Now not only does the government of the Philippines by a Commission violate the very first principle of successful administration in the tropics by dividing into seven parts the prestige and authority which the natives expect and desire to find in one man; but, owing to the dependence of the Commission upon a Legislature thousands of miles away, already overburdened with its own affairs, and composed of men who, however able they may be, have neither the time nor the opportunity of gaining any first-hand information in regard to problems of tropical administration, that confidence which should exist between a people and their government is noticeably lacking in the Philippines, where it is perfectly well understood by all intelligent people that the Commission governs the Islands only in so far as it is allowed to do so by Congress.

Shorn of any real authority to determine independently the measures best suited to the needs of the Islands, compelled to legislate with one eye on the American public and the other on Congress, driven to adopt an apologetic tone in regard to all measures which are likely to arouse public sentiment in the States, the Philippine Commission can neither command the respect of the people nor carry on its own work according to the plain needs of the situation. It has been stated very frequently that as a matter of fact Congress has sanctioned every Act submitted to it by the Philippine Commission. This is perfectly true; but it is not due to Congress adjusting its mind to Philippine legislation, but to the Philippine Commission adjusting its legislation to the mind of Congress.

It is not easy to discern the motives which led to the adoption of a Commission as the governing power in the Philippines. In Cuba General Leonard Wood, as a one-man government, had achieved one of the most brilliant administrative feats of which the history of white rule in the tropics bears record. It was a piece of work which can only be appreciated at its true value by those who are familiar with the extraordinary difficulties with which General Wood was confronted — difficulties immeasurably greater than those which have been encountered in the Philippines — and with the statesmanlike manner in which they were met and overcome.

With this striking success before it, it is difficult to understand why the Government of the United States should have afflicted the Philippine Islands with a government which, in its structure, violates every principle that led to such excellent results in Cuba.

The Reports of the Philippine Commission show very clearly the evil effects which result from the Congressional control over Philippine affairs. I select two typical instances, — one affecting the relations between the Islands and the United States, the other referring to a question of local internal policy. In the Commission’s Report for 1901 occurs the following passage: “If Congress reduce by fifty per cent the United States duty on tobacco, hemp, and sugar . . . such generosity would much strengthen the bonds between the Filipino and American people, and it is earnestly recommended.” In their Report dated November 20, 1902, the Commissioners say: “We respectfully urge the reduction of at least seventy-five per cent of the Dingley rate of duties upon goods imported into the United States from the Philippine Islands.” Finally, on December 23, 1903, the Commission recommends that Congress enact “legislation which shall reduce the tariff on sugar and tobacco imported from the Philippine Islands to not more than twenty-five per cent of the present Dingley rates on tobacco and sugar imported from foreign countries.” Notwithstanding these repeated appeals on a matter of the most vital importance to the Islands, Congress has neglected to relieve Philippine commerce of its most oppressive burden.

One of the most serious obstacles to the development of the Philippine Islands is the law passed by Congress in 1902 limiting the area of public land which may be sold to a corporation to 2500 acres. With a limit of this kind it is impossible to attract capital for investment in agricultural enterprises, for, with the disadvantages of the country in the matter of transportation facilities and labor supply, it is only by operating on a large scale that any one can hope to secure a fair interest on his investment. The Commission has clearly recognized the necessity of greatly increasing the area of land that may be sold to corporations; and in their Report of November, 1902, and again in their Report of 1903, the Commissioners urge that the maximum be raised to 25,000 acres. This has not been done, and the facts represent a pernicious interference in a matter which is of purely local interest, which should be left to the discretion of those on the spot who are familiar with the local conditions.

The question of the authority of Congress to control the affairs of the Philippine Islands, and the use to which that authority is put, bring me to the last point I am able to discuss in this article in regard to the structure of the Philippine Government. The reference of every Act of the Commission back to Congress is in itself a serious defect in the Philippine Government, for it hampers the Commission in its legislative work by introducing considerations other than those which relate to the simple need or efficacy of any particular measure; but the fact that Congress directs legislation affecting many of the internal affairs of the Islands is a much greater evil.

The practice of other nations is radically different in this respect from that of the United States. I may take a British tropical colony as a typical instance. In the Straits Settlements, for example, all measures for the government and administration of the Colony are passed by the Governor and his Council, and become law when approved by the Crown. This approval of the Crown is, in fact, a reference to the Colonial Office in London, the Crown always acting on the advice of its Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is evident that the reference of Colonial laws to a Colonial Office rests on a principle exactly opposite to that on which they are referred to Congress, for the Colonial Office staff is made up of men who are specialists in matters of Colonial administration, and the law is thus passed upon, not by men who have no knowledge of or interest in Colonial affairs, but by men who have devoted themselves for years to the study of the very questions with which Colonial legislation is concerned. Not only does this system insure a consideration of the law from the standpoint of Colonial interests alone, but it enables the Governor to frame his laws in full security that they will be passed upon without any reference to home politics in the sovereign State.


An examination of the present economic condition of the Philippines discloses a number of facts of the highest importance in relation to the general questions of government and development of the Islands.

The value of merchandise exported from the Islands in the calendar year 1903 was $32,000,000, gold, as compared with an average during the five-year period 1892-96 of $22,000,000. These figures represent a substantial increase, and, if allowed to stand without analysis, they constitute a very effective reply to the widespread complaints that the Islands are in a deplorable state of commercial depression.

If, however, these figures are subjected to a close scrutiny their significance is entirely changed. With an export trade of $32,000,000 the Philippine Islands are called upon to pay $12,500,000 for the expenses of the insular government: in other words, for every $100 worth of produce exported from the Islands the general government costs $39. If to this we add $2,500,000 collected in the Islands for municipal and provincial government, the ratio of expenditure on government account to value of exports is raised to forty-six per cent.

That a country should have to pay forty-six per cent of the value of its total industrial product for the privilege of being governed is obviously absurd; and although a dependent tropical government is always expensive, from the fact that the administration is very much better than could arise naturally as a product of native activity, that of the Philippines is much more expensive than it should be.

Comparing the cost of government, on the basis adopted above, with that of five British dependencies in various parts of the tropics — Ceylon, Barbados, British Guiana, Trinidad, and the Federated Malay States — the average is twentyseven per cent as against forty-six per cent in the Philippines.

But this does not close the comparison. In the British dependencies every charge connected with the government, whether of a civil or a military nature, is paid by the local government; in the Philippines all military expenses are paid by the United States; and the Islands do not even pay for their own police, for the 5000 scouts who do police work, as a body supplementary to the Philippine Constabulary, are on the Army pay roll. The fact is that if we add together the sums paid by the people of the Philippines and by the people of the United States in connection with the control and administration of the Philippine Islands, the total reaches a sum greater than that of the whole value of the export trade of the Islands.

The $32,000,000 worth of exports from the Philippine Islands in 1903 was made up of $22,000,000 worth of hemp, $4,000,000 worth of copra, $3,000,000 worth of sugar, and $2,000,000 worth of tobacco and cigars, leaving only $1,000,000 to cover the value of all other exports. Hemp and copra show a great increase during the past few years; tobacco and sugar a decrease, the exports of the latter having fallen from an average of 493,000,000 pounds for the five - year period 1891-95 to 188,000,000 pounds for 1903. Hemp and copra are crude products which do not require high cultivation or steady labor for their production, while sugar and tobacco need constant attention during their cultivation and the most careful treatment during their manufacture.

The growth of the Philippine export trade during the past few years is thus seen to have rested entirely on those products which are least dependent on labor conditions, and it is clear that the falling off in sugar and tobacco production, though due to some extent to other causes, is attributable chiefly to the unsatisfactory state of native labor.

The whole future of the Islands lies in the solution of the labor problem; and the outlook is not encouraging. A great deal has been written about the Filipino as a laborer, and the widest divergence of views exists as to whether he is a tolerably good workman, as tropical labor goes, or is an utterly unreliable and worthless creature as far as any development of the Islands is to rest on his efforts.

An examination of these conflicting opinions shows that, with very few exceptions, all favorable comments on Philippine labor come from the towns, the unfavorable ones from the country; and the fact is of great importance, for it lies at the root of the whole labor question in the Islands. In the towns, Philippine labor is chiefly employed by the Government, the Army, and transportation concerns, that is to say, by persons who are not engaged in producing anything for sale; and in the country districts the employment is agricultural. It is clear that the former class of employers is placed in an entirely different relation to Philippine labor from the latter class. The Government and the Army can afford to pay an absurdly high rate of wages because the money wherewith to pay the laborers is the product of taxation and not of the labor itself; the transportation concerns, like the ManilaDagupen Railway and the transfer companies, can pay very high wages because they can adjust their rates to meet their expenses.

But the agriculturalist is in a very different position. He is producing something for sale in the European or American market in competition with other producers of similar commodities; and any considerable rise in the rate of wages makes it impossible for him to conduct his business at a profit, for the price obtained for his product is not regulated by the labor rates of the Philippines, but by the general rate of wages in all countries producing the same class of commodities. It is clearly impossible for a sugar or tobacco grower in the Philippines, who must pay from thirty to fifty cents as daily wages for his labor, to compete successfully with the planter of Java or Sumatra, who pays from fifteen to twenty-five cents a day. The effect of the high wages paid by the non-producing employers in the Philippines has not only raised the rate for agricultural labor to an impossible figure, but it has absolutely drained the country districts of their best labor, for in the Philippines, as elsewhere, the average laborer would rather work in or near a town than in the country for the same rate of pay.

The present labor position is this, that of the total population of the Islands there may be found, perhaps, five per cent who are fairly good laborers; but these laborers have been drawn into the service of the non-producing employers by the attraction of high wages and town life, leaving in the country districts only a very small number of very poor laborers who demand a higher rate of wages than could have been obtained a few years ago by the best labor in the Islands.

The suggestion that unskilled Chinese labor should be introduced into the Islands has met with violent opposition in the United States; and native opinion in the Philippines is divided on the question. It is quite useless in this place to go into the subject on its merits, for there is no evidence in any of the documents issued by those people in the States who are opposed to the measure, that any knowledge of Chinese labor or of the Philippine Islands is considered an essentiall to the formulation and expression of very decided opinions on the subject.

Although the Philippine Commission officially declares against the importation of unskilled Chinese labor, two native members of the Commission and one American member assured me that they were convinced that Chinese immigration was the only hope for any development of the Islands; that they were in favor of it; but that the utter futility of expressing an official view in an opposite sense was so well appreciated that they made no stand in the matter.

That the natural resources of the Philippine Islands can never be made accessible for the use of mankind without the aid of imported labor is a simple fact which rests on the universal experience of centuries of work in the tropics; the contrary view, in so far as it rests on anything that has any bearing whatever on the welfare of the Philippine Islands, is based on a fantastic estimate of what a Filipino could do if he were something which he is not, but which, it is hoped without a shred of reason, he may some day become, — a steady - working, industrious citizen.

The probable effects of the introduction of unskilled Chinese labor are concisely presented in Professor Jenks’s admirable Report to the Secretary of War, dated 1902: “It is believed that such a measure would result, with here and there an individual exception, not at all to the disadvantage of the Filipino, but in the long run decidedly to his benefit through improved business conditions in the Islands, which would furnish to him not merely a better market for his produce, but also a better opportunity for engaging in the kind of work for which he is best fitted and which most closely accords with his tastes.”

In regard to the admission of skilled Chinese labor, the Philippine Commission has placed itself on record as being in favor of its admission under proper restrictions. It is perhaps needless to add that Congress has not given the Commission the authority which it asked for in this matter.

I may illustrate the effect of Chinese exclusion in the Philippines by relating an occurrence which was described to me by one of the Philippine Commissioners. A capitalist came some time ago to Manila and approached the Commission under the following circumstances: he wished to establish at Manila a great shipbuilding and repairing industry. He wanted to build a dry dock capable of taking the largest ship afloat , and to erect an extensive plant for all kinds of marine engineering. As there are very few skilled workmen in the Philippines capable of doing the work which this man required, he asked permission to bring in several thousand Chinamen, giving a bond that he would take them out of the country after a certain time. He promised to employ a Filipino to work with each Chinaman, and to dismiss the latter and take him out of the country as soon as the Filipino was able to do the Chinaman’s work.

He pointed out that at the end of a few years a great industry would have been established and some thousands of Filipinos trained as skilled mechanics.

He was informed that the law would not allow him to bring in his Chinamen; and he accordingly betook himself and his capital elsewhere.

Incredible as this appears to be, if one is asked to believe that the United States has the welfare of the Philippines at heart, it is only in keeping with the whole attitude of the Government in regard to the development of the Islands.

Since the American occupation many hundreds of people have been to the Philippines, anxious to invest capital there in mining, timber, or other industries. Today there are not half-a-dozen such persons to be found in the Islands. They have been driven away either by the existence of laws which, to use the expression of the Philippine Commission itself, are “practically prohibitory upon such enterprises,” or else by the cry that in seeking to invest capital in the Islands and give employment to such Filipinos as care to work they are trying to exploit the Islands.

The question is a very much wider one than the mere development of the Islands. It amounts practically to this, that unless foreign capital is encouraged to come to the country to build up industries, one of two things must happen: either the whole scale of government expenditure must be cut down until the cost of administration is somewhere near the capacity of the natives in their present state of industry to pay, or else a considerable proportion of the cost of government must be borne by the United States, for it is impossible for the country to continue to bear the rate of taxation which it is now called on to support unless a great increase takes place in the industrial output of the Islands.

One may argue round and round a situation of this kind and predict all manner of evil from the introduction of a thrifty and hard-working population, and all manner of good from the imminent translation of the Filipino, through education, into a sturdy, industrious person, but nothing can obscure the fact that if the Filipino is to be given good government some one must pay for it, and that there are no indications whatever that under the present policy the Islands can find the money under any system of taxation which stops short of extortion.

From the standpoint of an investigator who desires to inform himself accurately of the condition of the Philippines and of their government the Reports of the Philippine Commission, on which he must depend for much of his information, are in some respects most unsatisfactory. The Report for 1903 covers about 3000 pages. It does not contain any general itemized statement of the whole cost of the government, showing the amounts spent on Public Works, and other important items of expenditure. There is, indeed, a “Recapitulation of Disbursements,” but even after one has reduced its various items to a common currency (some being given in United States currency, some in Mexican), and added together the disbursements on account of the fiscal year 1903 and those on account of previous fiscal years (which are given separately), very little is disclosed as to the real nature of the expenditure.

If one refers back to the original tables on which the Recapitulation is based, it is only to be confronted with a four-column statement in two currencies, and to find that an unexplained item, “Contingent Expenses,”conceals everything which the student is most anxious to discover. For instance, under the heading “U. S. Philippine Commission” (Report for 1903, part 3, page 431), it is seen that $21,067 United States currency and $189,924 Mexican currency were disbursed in 1903 on account of the fiscal year 1903, and $26,184 United States currency and $156 Mexican currency on account of prior fiscal years, or a total of $47,251 United States currency and $190,080 Mexican currency. But of these sums no less than $24,096 United States currency and $60,022 Mexican currency are lumped under the heading “Contingent Expenses.”

On the following page of the Report, under the heading “Bureau of the Insular Treasurer,” the total expenditure appears as $26,338 United States currency and $229,795 Mexican currency, and of these sums $25,253 United States currency and $103,623 Mexican currency have no other explanation than “Contingent Expenses.” This continues through the whole of the financial statement, and reduces the Report in this matter to a mere burlesque of an account of the government expenditures.

I cannot go into the character of the Reports at greater length at present; suffice it to say that in a long familiarity with the Reports of many governments I have never seen one which says so much and tells so little as that of the Auditor of the Philippine Islands.


Before passing to the concluding section of this article I wish to say a word about the excellent work which is being done in the Philippines by the scientific departments of the administration.

No colonial government of which I have any knowledge is better served than that of the Philippine Islands in the matter of the public health; and the greatest credit is due to Major E. C. Carter, the Commissioner of Public Health, and to his subordinates, for the admirable work they have carried out in the face of the almost incredible difficulties placed in their way by the ingrained objection of the natives to all sanitary measures.

It is true that much remains to be done before the Islands can be considered as even moderately equipped in the matter of hospitals, water-supply, and a staff of district medical officers; and it seems a pity that some of the lavish expenditure on education should not have been diverted to those most essential needs of a tropical country; but with the means at its disposal the Public Health Department has done excellent work.

The same may be said of the Bureaus of Mining, Forestry, Agriculture, Government Laboratories, and of the Ethnological Survey, which are performing excellent service in their several spheres of activity.

The only criticism which can be made of these Bureaus is that their efforts can be of little practical use to the Islands unless the policy of the Government in regard to the development of the Islands is radically changed, and an industrial activity arises which will be fostered and aided by their work.

Although the departmental heads on the Commission are grossly overburdened with work, owing to the faulty structure of the Government, the office of the Executive Secretary is perhaps more deplorably rushed than that of any other official of the administration, and I cannot withhold the expression of my appreciation of the abilities of the Executive Secretary, Mr. A. W. Fergusson, without whose extraordinary energy and complete mastery of the Spanish language it is difficult to see how the administration could have carried on its work during the early stages of its existence.


If a disinterested critic of political and administrative measures confines himself to a destructive analysis of his material, he lays himself open to the charge of having accomplished an easy, useless, and offensive task; if, on the other hand, he proceeds to a constructive review of his facts he may scarcely hope to avoid the appearance of assuming an unwarrantable authority in affairs which concern him only as an observer.

It appears to me that it is the duty of the critic to accept the latter alternative; for, although no purely destructive criticism, however well founded, however well expressed, can serve any useful purpose, constructive criticism possesses this pleasing characteristic, that, even in its most mediocre form, it may contain the germ of improvement.

Whilst claiming no greater authority for my opinion than is commonly accorded to any one who has spent a number of years in the close study of any subject, I venture to add the following paragraphs as a proper sequel to what has gone before.

With the destruction of the Spanish authority in the Philippine Islands the responsibility for the protection of the Islands and for the establishment of a stable internal government devolved upon the United States.

That neither of these responsibilities could have been discharged by handing over the Islands to Aguinaldo and his masters is perfectly clear to almost everybody who has the most ordinary familiarity with Far Eastern affairs in general, and with the conditions of the Philippines in particular.

The only kind of government which Aguinaldo could have established would have been a military despotism masquerading under the guise of a republic; and for a large proportion of the population it would have been as much a foreign domination as the government of the Islands by the United States. That such a government would have been corrupt and inefficient, notwithstanding the presence of a small number of brilliant and well-educated men, can scarcely be doubted in view of what is now known of the political capacity of the Philippine people.

The significance of this lies not in the disorder and suffering which would have followed the establishment of a purely native government, but in the fact that the certain failure to protect foreign interests in the Islands would have involved the Government in disputes with the great Powers, which would have made it impossible to maintain the territorial integrity of the republic.

It has been suggested that this danger could have been overcome by the assumption by the United States of a protectorate over the Islands. But if the protectorate was to mean anything beyond an impossible guarantee of irresponsibility for the acts of the republic, whether or not they involved serious breaches of international law, it would have to mean that the United States should enjoy, in return for its own assumption of the responsibility, so large a measure of control as would assure the avoidance of international complications; but this would raise the protectorate as a mere guarantee of territorial integrity into a protectorate of internal control, and the object of giving the Filipinos the effective management of their own affairs would be defeated.

The demand which has been made in some quarters in the United States for immediate Philippine independence is based upon several serious misconceptions, easily accounted for in the case of persons who are prepared to decide the fate of a country without any first-hand knowledge of it or of its inhabitants.

It has been assumed that the people of the Philippine Islands, as a whole, desired independence at the time of Aguinaldo’s insurrection, and that they still desire it. This is not the case. Ninety-five per cent of the people of the Islands have never had the smallest wish for independence, and the fact that they fought under leaders who used “ Independence ” for their battle cry simply means that the small body of men who engineered the revolution exercised over the mass of the people that control which in the circumstances led to the creation of an army, and would have led in the event of success to the establishment of a despotic rule based upon the immemorial habit of the tropical native to do what he is told by his own native bosses.

The cry of “ Independence ” which was raised in the Islands after Aguinaldo landed in 1898 was largely of American manufacture, and it rests to-day on an American propaganda. I was unable to find that it had any hold whatever upon the people at large, and it appears to be confined to a small number of persons who are as representative of the Filipino people at large as the occasional man who would make the United States a monarchy, or the United Kingdom a republic, is representative of American and British sentiment.

In regard to the fitness of the Filipinos for self-government there appears to be an opinion in some quarters, if I may judge from the mass of material which has passed under my hand, that because the Islands have produced, entirely through foreign influence and education, a few men of high intellectual capacity, and because many of the native employees of the Insular Government show themselves capable of good work under American direction, the element thus known to exist could carry on a government if left to itself.

Nothing could be farther from a true interpretation of the facts. Efficient government does not rest upon intellect but upon character, and it is in the high qualities of responsibility, unselfish devotion to the common interest, and executive ability that the Filipino is most lamentably deficient.

Writing without any reference to the attitude of political parties in the United States, the measures which appear to me to be immediately necessary to insure the welfare of the Philippines are these: —

1. The free entry of all Philippine products into the United States.

2. The importation into the Islands, under proper restrictions and safeguards, of such numbers of Chinese and Japanese skilled and unskilled laborers as may be desired by the Government or by responsible private parties.

3. The opening up of the country by means of good roads.

4. The encouragement of American capital by granting liberal terms to miners, planters, and others willing to invest their money in industrial enterprises.

5. The abolition of the Philippine Commission and the Provincial Governments, and the substitution in their place of a Governor-General, who, with the aid of an appointed council composed of Americans and Filipinos, should be empowered to legislate for all the internal affairs of the Islands, subject to the veto of some authority in the United States.

6. The creation of an Insular Office in Washington, which should be run on non-political lines similar to those of the Army and Navy Departments.

7. The transference of the control of all public works, except such as fall to the municipalities, to the Insular Government.

Nature has done all she can to make the Philippine Islands one of the most fertile spots in the world, one full of the richest possibilities. Until their natural resources are developed, until a healthy activity takes the place of the prevailing lethargy of their people, the Islands can never hope to have any political growth.

It is impossible to confer independence on a people as one would present them with a public library or a drinking fountain. If the ground is not prepared, if the people are not fit for self-government, the gift of independence simply means the handing over of the country to the despotic rule of a small coterie of picked men, who, from their foreign education and training and their race identity with the natives, would find it easy to establish an ascendency over the masses, which would keep them in a state of political and economic slavery.

Whatever the future may hold for the Filipinos, it is certain that to - day they have scarcely taken the first step on that long road of industry and self-discipline which alone leads to a sane and wholesome national life.