Shall We Part With the Philippines?

U. S. High Commissioner to the Philippines

THUNDER and lightning in the Far East are forcing America’s attention to her adolescent ward, the Philippines. In 1898 it seemed simple to take up the white man’s burden and bring to an ‘oppressed ‘ people freedom and democracy. Today, in a twentieth-century world of Blitzkriegs and ruthless power politics, our confidence is shaken. America stands uncertain at the crossroads; our leaders, sensing the coming issues, are expressing various and quite conflicting opinions as to our future course of action, and our newspapers are reflecting the puzzled reactions of the country.

One of the complexities of the problem of the Philippines is that it cannot be divorced from the more extended problem of American foreign policy in the Orient. If the United States is to surrender its sovereignty in the Philippines in 1946, according to the program laid down in the Independence Act, what is to become of our Open Door policy in China? And, beyond that, what is to become of future American trade and business interests in the Far East?

These are questions of momentous import, whose ultimate solutions will have to depend upon the gradual unfolding of the Far Eastern drama. There can, indeed, be no solution of the Philippine problem except as against the background of this larger problem of American foreign policy in the Orient. We do not yet know what will be the outcome of the present hostilities in China. Nevertheless, so far as the Philippines themselves are concerned, there are certain objective facts upon which any realistic approach to the problem must be based and which to some extent must condition the ultimate solution of the problem of Philippine independence.


In the first place, there is the fact that from the earliest days of the American occupation we have consistently and repeatedly promised self-government to the Filipino people. Whatever may have been the original imperialist designs in 1898 on the part of various individuals and groups, it soon became evident to both major political parties that it would outrage the genuine idealism of the American people to present the military occupation of the Philippines as a war of conquest, and both parties became loud in their declarations that the American nation clearly intended in the fullness of time to give to the Filipino people complete self-government.

From the time when Mr. Taft, the first Governor General of the Philippines, inaugurated the policy of ‘the Philippines for the Filipinos’ and introduced an ‘ era of good feeling,’ the American administration has been liberal and constructive, definitely directed toward eventual independence. In 1900, legislative power over the Islands was transferred from the Military Governor to the newly created ‘Philippine Commission’; and in the following year Governor Taft appointed three Filipinos as members of this commission. In 1907 a Philippine Assembly was inaugurated as the lower house of the Legislature. The appointive Philippine Commission, which after 1907 served as the upper house of the Legislature, up to 1913 possessed an American majority. In 1913 President Wilson, pressing forward upon the policy of educating the Filipinos in the art of self-government, appointed to the Commission a majority of Filipinos and proceeded to Filipinize the administration of the Islands as rapidly as possible. ‘We must hold steadily in view their ultimate independence,’ declared President Wilson in his Annual Message of December 2, 1913, ‘and we must move toward the time of that independence as steadily as the way can be cleared and the foundations thoughtfully and permanently laid.’

The Jones Act, approved on August 29, 1916, still further increased the sphere of Philippine autonomy by abolishing the Philippine Commission and creating in its place an elective Philippine Senate, thus placing legislative functions in the hands of Filipino representatives. ‘It is, as it has always been, the purpose of the people of the United States,’ recites the preamble of this Act, ‘to withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognize their independence as soon as a stable government can be established therein.'


A second factor in the problem of Philippine independence is the unfortunate conflict between the political and economic policies which we have been steadily pursuing in the Philippines since 1909. While the United States was, on the one hand, promising political independence and taking steps toward the attainment of that objective by legislative enactments and by training the Filipinos in the ideals of self-government, it was, on the other hand, pursuing a trade policy which was bound to make the Filipinos more and more dependent upon the United States economically. In 1909 we inaugurated a policy of reciprocal free trade between the Philippines and the United States through tariff acts passed in Washington; and these free-trade enactments of 1909, modified only slightly by the United States Tariff Act of 1913, remained substantially the basis of Philippine-American trade relations until 1934.

Reciprocal free trade between the United States and the Philippines could have only one result: the growing dependence of Filipinos upon American markets and the gradual monopolization of Philippine markets by Americans. While this free-trade policy was of decided advantage to the Filipinos, it nevertheless inescapably increased their economic dependence upon the United States.

Furthermore, the resulting preferential privileges accorded to each in the markets of the other have inevitably had their influence upon the character and amounts of crops and industrial products produced in the Philippines. Naturally Philippine effort has been directed toward those crops and industrial products which could be sold in a highly protected United States market, such as sugar, coconut oil, tobacco products, cordage, embroidery, and pearl buttons. The resulting increase in the production of such commodities has naturally tended to discourage the production of export commodities not enjoying such protection and of products for domestic consumption. Thus to a certain extent the Philippine economy has become moulded into one dependent upon the American market. The abrupt cutting off of such protected markets could not but mean grave disruption and injury to the whole Philippine economy.


A third objective fact is the Philippine Independence Act, passed by Congress in 1934. Toward the latter part of the Hoover administration it became increasingly clear that the movement toward Philippine political independence was approaching a climax. Some sort of compromise was necessitated by the underlying conflict of policies already pointed out. Were political independence to be granted forthwith, the Filipinos, dependent upon American markets for approximately 80 per cent of their export trade, must through the sudden substantial reduction or loss of their export markets face economic disaster. Even the most ardent proponents of political independence had to bow to this fact. Accordingly, the Independence Act of 1934, which followed the same general lines as the earlier HarcHawes-Cutting Act which had been rejected by the Philippine Legislature, was based upon a program granting political independence at the end of a ten-year period and providing in effect for a progressive decrease during that period of Philippine dependence upon preferences in the American market. This was to be effected in the form of increasing Philippine export taxes. The problem of Philippine independence today hinges upon the provisions of this important act.

The political provisions of the act were based upon the creation for an interim ten-year period of an autonomous Philippine government, known as the ‘government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands.’ The act began by authorizing the Philippine Legislature to call together a Filipino constitutional convention to adopt and frame a Philippine constitution along certain specified lines. This constitution, after its approval by the President of the United States, was then to be submitted to the Filipino people for their ratification or rejection; if a majority of the votes thus cast favored the adoption of the constitution, the act provided that ‘such vote shall be deemed an expression of the will of the people of the Philippine Islands in favor of Philippine independence,’ and the act goes on to provide for the election of officers of the Commonwealth Government to be thereupon created and for the transfer to that government of the property and rights in the Islands belonging to the United States. The Commonwealth Government thus created is endowed by the act with extensive autonomous powers, including control over most domestic matters but excluding control over foreign affairs. The act requires the approval of the President of the United States of acts of the Philippine Assembly ‘affecting currency coinage, imports, exports, and immigration,’ and it also gives to the President the power to suspend any Philippine law, contract, or executive order which may impair the Commonwealth’s financial integrity or which ‘in his judgment will violate international obligations of the United States.’ The act also provides for the appointment by the President of a United States High Commissioner, who ‘shall be the representative of the President of the United States in the Philippine Islands and shall be recognized as such by the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands.’

On July 4, ten years after the date of the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government, ‘ the President of the United States shall by proclamation withdraw and surrender all right of possession, supervision, jurisdiction, control or sovereignty’ over the territory and people of the Philippine Islands and ‘shall recognize the independence of the Philippine Islands as a separate and self-governing nation.’ The new Commonwealth Government was inaugurated on November 15, 1935. The date for the transfer of sovereignty and recognition of independence is therefore fixed under the Independence Act as July 4, 1946. The act also contains provisions of a somewhat contradictory nature for the neutralization of the Philippines and for the retention of ‘naval reservations and fueling stations.’ The present state of international affairs, however, makes it impossible to determine now the far-reaching issues raised by these provisions.

The economic provisions of the act were based upon a recognition of the fact that too abrupt a cutting off of Philippine preferences in the American market would spell disaster. The imposition of full American duties upon Philippine products was therefore postponed until the end of the ten-year interim period. During the ten-year period, however, moderate economic restrictions were imposed upon Philippine exports to the United States. In the all-important case of sugar, the amount of duty-free Philippine shipments to the United States was limited during the Commonwealth period to 850,000 long tons each year; beyond this amount Philippine sugar must pay full United States duties. Similarly shipments of duty-free Philippine coconut oil into the United States were limited to 200,000 long tons a year, and of duty-free cordage to 3,000,000 pounds annually.1 The act also restricted Philippine shipments to the United States by requiring the imposition of a Philippine export tax.

This is a progressive tax to be imposed by the Commonwealth Government during the second half of the ten-year period upon all Philippine exports to the United States or products on the American tariff list. During the sixth year of the Commonwealth period, beginning on November 15, 1940, the Commonwealth Government is to levy an export tax equal to 5 per cent of the American duty, during the seventh year 10 per cent, and an additional 5 per cent for each succeeding year until it reaches 25 per cent of the American duty. After the date of independence, July 4, 1946, Philippine export taxes will no longer be required, but all Philippine products shipped to the United States will be subject to 100 per cent of the American duties. The proceeds of these export taxes are to be paid into the United States Treasury to be held as a sinking fund for the payment of Philippine bonded indebtedness.

On the other hand, the Commonwealth Government has no power during the Commonwealth period to restrict by means of either tariffs or quotas imports of United States goods.

In accordance with the provisions of the Independence Act thus passed by Congress in 1934, a Philippine constitutional convention, called together by the Philippine Legislature, drafted a Philippine constitution following the terms prescribed in the Independence Act. This constitution, after receiving the approval of the President of the United States, was then submitted to the Filipino people and ratified by them. On November 15, 1935, the new Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was inaugurated under authority of the Independence Act, and on the same date the new Philippine Constitution came into full effect. The former American Governor General of the Philippines became the ‘United States High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands.’ The Commonwealth Government thus inaugurated has since that time been successfully functioning under the able leadership of Manuel L. Quezon, the first President of the Commonwealth Government.


As a result of the compromises contained in the Independence Act, it was natural that there should be dissatisfied groups both in the United States and in the Philippines. President Roosevelt, in his message to Congress recommending the approval of the independence bill, stated, ‘Where imperfections or inequalities exist, I am confident that they can be corrected after proper hearing and in fairness to both peoples.’ Reference to this statement was embodied in the Joint Resolution of the Philippine Legislature accepting the provisions of the act.

As a result of conferences held in Washington in 1937 between President Quezon and Mr. Sayre, then serving as Assistant Secretary of State, a Joint Committee, composed of competent and experienced American and Filipino officials, was appointed by President Roosevelt and President Quezon ‘to study trade relations between the United States and the Philippines and to recommend a program for the adjustment of Philippine national economy.’ As a basis for this study it was agreed that ‘preferential trade relations between the United States and the Philippines are to be terminated at the earliest practicable date consistent with affording the Philippines a reasonable opportunity to adjust their national economy.’

This Joint Committee, after a year’s work and study, reached unanimous conclusions, which they embodied in a formal report making concrete recommendations. These were based upon the Committee’s belief that certain basic Philippine industries would be dangerously disrupted or wiped out if export taxes should be imposed upon them as required under the Independence Act. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that the Philippine export taxes required by the Independence Act should not be imposed upon shipments of coconut, oil, cigars, scrap and filler tobacco, and pearl buttons, but that in their stead a quota should be imposed restricting the duty-free shipments of each of these commodities to the United States to a progressively diminishing amount. Furthermore, the Committee felt that ‘with the loss of preferential treatment for its products in the United States, the Philippines will be obliged to fashion an economy which will be much more self-sufficient than the present one,’ and that as an inevitable consequence of the abrupt elimination of all Philippine preferences in the American market on July 4,1946, as provided by the Independence Act, ‘a number of important enterprises in the Philippines will be forced to liquidate much more rapidly than new enterprises can probably be developed to replace them.’ Accordingly, the Joint Committee recommended that instead of the abrupt imposition of full American duties upon all Philippine products beginning on July 4, 1946, American duties should be progressively increased by 5 per cent a year, beginning at 25 per cent of the full American duties in 1946 and reaching 100 per cent in 1961. These two major recommendations of the Joint Committee, together with a number of other minor recommendations, were embodied in a bill introduced in Congress early in 1939.

Various members of the Senate, however, felt that it would be premature at that time to enact trade provisions for the period following 1946. Accordingly, the post-independence provisions were dropped from the bill; and provision was made for the calling of a joint trade conference at least two years prior to 1946 ‘for the purpose of formulating recommendations as to future trade relations between the United States and the independent Philippine Republic,’ ‘but nothing in this proviso shall be construed to modify or affect in any way any provision of this Act relating to the procedure leading up to Philippine independence or the date upon which the Philippine Islands shall become independent.’

As thus modified, the bill substantially embodying the various recommendations of the Joint Committee with respect to the Commonwealth period was passed by Congress and approved by President Roosevelt on August 7, 1939.

In consequence of this enactment, large numbers of Philippine workers, engaged in the production of cigars, scrap tobacco, coconut oil, pearl buttons, and embroideries, have been saved, at least for the present, from being suddenly thrown out of work. Thus a breathing spell is provided, and during the Commonwealth period drastic and unnecessary economic upheaval has been made unlikely. For the post-independence period we may anticipate that wise economic arrangements to cushion the shock to the Filipinos of lost American markets will be made at the joint conference to be called at least two years prior to 1946.


It is quite clear that the Filipinos cannot achieve their independence without severe economic strains and grave industrial dislocation. The risks of internal breakdown or external aggression are great and manifest. The assumption of the responsibilities that must go with independence almost inevitably means paying an unpredictable cost. The decisions by the Filipino people to ask for independence and by the United States to grant them independence were crucial and bold ones. But these decisions have already been made. The die was cast when Congress passed the Independence Act in 1934 and the Filipino people voted to accept the program embodied in that act. The independence program has already been adopted and accepted by both peoples. The issue today is, not the wisdom of the original decisions, but whether the program already launched and entered upon is likely to be or should be reversed.

The answer hinges upon two objective realities. In the first place, when the Filipino people by plebiscite adopted the constitution prescribed by Congress in the Independence Act and thus in effect accepted the offer of independence made to them by the United States, the latter became morally bound not to alter materially that independence program except upon the request of the Filipino people. In the second place, under our law, the program cannot be altered or independence postponed except by an affirmative vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate changing the present law.

In other words, the independence program should not, and apparently will not, be altered without, first, a request from the Philippine Assembly, presumably backed by a plebiscite, and second, an affirmative vote by a majority of both Houses of Congress.

So far as concerns the situation in the Philippines, it seems somewhat unlikely that the Philippine Assembly or the Filipino people will be willing to take affirmative action denying the hopes and aspirations to which they have tenaciously clung and for which they have consistently struggled for generations. The movement toward independence is like the flow of a great river which has swept both peoples along in its current. Independence is not yet a fact, but commitments on both sides have been made, and Filipinos and Americans alike have been carried along to a point from which it would be difficult now to turn back.

Unquestionably the most outstanding and influential leader of the Filipino people today is President Quezon. His words carry weight not only because he, better than any other, knows how to interpret and express the feelings of his people, but because among Filipino leaders he wields a power in the Islands second to none. In his message to the Philippine Assembly, in January 1940, he declared: ‘I am unalterably opposed to the prolongation of the present political setup beyond 1946.’ In his speech on March 30, 1940, before the students of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, he went even further, when he declared: —

There is one thing in the fight of the Filipino people for freedom which we may never renounce, and that is the substance of freedom. The Filipino people must be free. We would be untrue to our people, we would be disloyal to our ancestors, those who have fought and died for their country, if we accepted a solution to the Philippine question that does not recognize the right and permit the exercise of full freedom on the part of the Filipino people. . . . The government that we establish must have full powers not only over our political but also over our economic life. ... I want to say to the Filipinos who are desirous of continuing the Filipino-American relationship for a few more years after 1946 on economic grounds that they are badly mistaken in their stand.

Dominion status has been proposed as a possible compromise solution of the problem. But considerable confusion results from the failure to define precisely what is meant by ‘dominion status.’ President Quezon is one of the few Filipinos who have thought the problem through and given clear expression to their views. ‘We cannot consider permanent political relationship with America,’ he declared this year before the National Assembly, ‘except on the basis that the Philippines would at least have full and complete power over immigration, imports, exports, currency and related financial subjects, as well as the right to conclude commercial treaties with other nations without being subjected to the supervision and control of the United States.’ On the other hand, those in the United States who talk about postponing Philippine independence beyond 1946 assume almost without question that the American Government would continue in control, not only over all Philippine foreign affairs, but also over tariffs, immigration, currency, and the public debt. ‘The Filipinos cannot have their cake and eat it, too.’ Responsible American opinion recognizes that power must be coupled with responsibility, that if the American people are to continue responsible for the defense of the Philippines they must have the power of complete control over such Philippine activities as might affect their relations with other nations, and these reach directly into the economic and financial fields. President Quezon himself recognizes the soundness of this position. In short, the tide has carried both the Filipino and the American people to a point where the only kind of dominion status the Filipinos would probably be willing to accept would be one that the United States could not grant.

Whether or not Congress will see fit before 1946 to pass new legislation changing the existing law is one of those imponderables which no one can answer. Certain factors, however, will probably be of continuing influence. In 1934 the passage by Congress of the Independence Act was powerfully aided by heavy pressures brought to bear by American sugar producers anxious to eliminate the competition of Philippine sugar. Its enactment was not solely the result of a sugar lobby. Dairy groups similarly sought the exclusion of Philippine coconut oil. Other persistent groups — some sincerely interested in the welfare of the Philippines — also exerted powerful pressures in various directions.

There is no doubt that many members of Congress would be seriously swayed by the wishes and desires of the Filipino people. Yet at the same time there seems to be no lessening in the strength of those groups which in 1934 pressed for the passage of the Independence Act. Some of them are even stronger today than they were then. So far as one can see ahead, there seems little likelihood that their influence and their power will be less in 1946 than they were in 1934. And one must remember that it takes an affirmative vote in both the House and the Senate to effect a change in the present program.

The really controlling considerations likely to influence future Congresses, however, lie in the enormous and increasing costs of undertaking the defense of far-outlying territories. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries far-flung empires were in order. They were practicable. The military cost of defending them was not prohibitive. In those days there were no submarines, no airplanes, no modern high-powered artillery. Since that day the world has been revolutionized. Ocean steamships, telegraphic communication, automobiles, the radio, and the spread of general knowledge have changed the face of the globe. Aircraft and submarines have completely transformed modern warfare. The defense of far-flung empires today cannot rest upon battleships alone; the cost of defensive warfare and adequate fortification has grown to staggering proportions.

The completely changed conditions of the twenty-first century will mean a completely changed world. Many of the old policies and practices of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will have to go. Unless we learn to supplant war by effective methods of international coöperation, there is serious question whether it will be practicable in the twenty-first century for nations to maintain and defend the kind of far-flung military empires which developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the long view one suspects that the Independence Act is but one of the inevitable incidents in the unfolding of a stupendous drama in which we are participants and in which the nineteenth-century world is being reshaped by twentieth-century conditions.

It is sometimes assumed that the fulfillment of our promises to grant to the Filipinos their independence will spell the end of our Open Door policy in China. Present events show that the successful maintenance of this policy and the protection of American trade in the Orient involve considerations more far-reaching than that of Philippine independence. The future of the Open Door in China depends on the outcome of the present Sino-Japanese hostilities and on our future relationships with Japan and with China.


There is also the problem of future trade arrangements with an independent Filipino republic. If we are to give to the Filipinos their independence, surely we must give it to them under such conditions as will offer reasonable promise of their surviving economically. The present economic dependence of the Philippines upon the United States is largely the result of our own making. It would be profoundly out of accord with American ideas of justice and fair play to cut the Filipinos off from the American markets upon which we have taught them to depend in a manner so abrupt as to endanger their whole economy. Furthermore, it is strongly against our own interest to do so. The Philippines today are our fifth best customer. In 1939 the United States sold to the Philippines over $100,000,000 of our goods. We cannot afford to bankrupt such excellent customers.

It does not follow, however, that we should extend to an independent Philippine nation preferences in American markets permanently and for all time. From the viewpoint of the Philippines, to build their economy upon the quicksand of economic favoritism and preference would be to court disaster. No true friend of the Filipinos could wish the independent Philippine nation to be permanently dependent for its most vital needs upon the caprice of the American Congress or upon such gratuitous favors as the American people care to extend to them. Any such arrangement upon a permanent and continuing basis would be quite inconsistent with real independence.

From the American viewpoint, farreaching considerations come into play. The cornerstone of American foreign commercial policy is equality of treatment to every nation not itself discriminating against American trade. There are two alternative policies upon which a nation may base its international trade. One policy is to trade on the basis of equality, treating all nations alike which do not discriminate against it. The other possible policy is preferential treatment. Under such a policy, a nation seeks to secure preferences in the markets of other nations for its goods and offers in return preferences for their goods in its own markets.

The second of these two policies seems at first blush perhaps the more appealing one. It would mean that, if success attended our efforts, American goods would secure preferential treatment in foreign markets and that we would accord preferential treatment to our friends. But the difficulty is that any such policy would strip American export trade of the protection which it now enjoys in other countries and expose it to widespread discrimination. One cannot escape the fact that every exclusive preference granted to one nation constitutes in its very essence discrimination against all other nations. Each time that a nation gives an exclusive preference to another country every other country interested in that particular trade will be likely to retaliate with counter discrimination, since nations whose income and whose economies are dependent upon the sale abroad of their surplus products cannot remain passive if these sales are menaced or prevented by preferences granted to their competitors or by discriminations directed against them. The policy of granting and receiving exclusive preferences therefore can have but one result. It leads inescapably to unceasing economic warfare — your hand against every other nation and every other nation’s hand against you. Such a policy eventually would stifle export trade; and the United States is vitally dependent upon export trade.

George Washington in his Farewell Address warned against a commercial policy of discrimination. The United States in general has followed the practice of equality of tariff treatment since its earliest days.

If we are to secure equality of treatment for American exports in foreign markets throughout the world, therefore, we must in general avoid the policy of extending permanent preferences to other nations; and, once the Philippines attain their independence, our Philippine-American trade policy must undergo substantial change.

This does not mean, however, that the United States will or should eliminate Philippine preferences overnight. Existing Philippine-American trade stands in a unique position. In the main, it has been developed to its present proportions, not by diverting the trade of other nations, but by the creative upbuilding of a new Philippine economy intermeshed into the American one. It would not necessarily be of advantage to the cause of liberal trade principles in the world to divert Philippine trade from the United States into the hands of nations following illiberal and bilateralistic trade policies whose primary effort would doubtless be to exclude American goods through preferential policies. The situation is one which manifestly requires some exceptional kind of adjustment.

To cut the existing Philippine preferences in American markets and American preferences in Philippine markets abruptly at a single stroke, in accordance with the program of the Independence Act, would entail in the Philippines widespread, disastrous, and quite unnecessary economic dislocation, and would mean serious losses to those who in good faith have invested their capital and built up their businesses during American rule. Some kind of special trade arrangement will have to be worked out. It is for the purpose of solving exactly such problems that the Act of 1939 provides for a trade conference to be held not later than 1944. Until we know the outcome of the European war and of the present hostilities in China it is too early to determine exactly what kind of trade arrangement should be adopted.

Various possibilities will have to be considered. Presumably the new trade arrangement should provide that neither party should discriminate against the goods of the other in favor of any third nation. Some have suggested that our forty years’ close historical association with the Philippines justifies making in their case an exception to our general commercial policies, exactly as in the case of Cuba. Others have suggested legislation progressively reducing Philippine preferences in American markets until they reach the levels of existing Cuban preferences, and retaining such Philippine preferences as long as we retain equivalent Cuban preferences. The Joint Preparatory Committee, as already pointed out, recommended that although Philippine preferences in the United States and United States preferences in the Philippines should be ultimately eliminated, nevertheless this elimination should be achieved only gradually and progressively, at the rate of 5 per cent a year for twenty years. The object of that recommendation was to give to business and industry an opportunity for gradual adjustment so that each might have the chance to make necessary changes little by little, perhaps by discovering methods to cheapen the cost of production or by finding ways for the marketing of byproducts or by making gradual shifts into other forms of industry or other fields of production. It was hoped that in this way those engaged in each industry could gradually accommodate themselves to the changed conditions. Progress depends upon change; change is the very life of industry and trade. Every new invention, every technological advance, means change. What works disaster in business and commerce is the kind of change so sudden and abrupt that it cannot be successfully met.

It seems a reasonable hope and expectation that at the 1944 conference these problems will be carefully considered and discussed, and that as a result of common agreement Congress will provide for such a trade arrangement following 1946 as will prevent the abrupt termination of existing preferences and will deal fairly with all interests concerned.


Are the Filipinos ready for independence? That is a question about which one can theorize endlessly. There is only one practical way in which it can be truly answered. That is through the actual experiment. Was the United States ready for independence in 1776? There were many people at that time who would have answered no. By actual experiment we proved that we were. That does not mean that we were not guilty of grave mistakes and even at times of glaring incompetence. We had to learn by experience. We are still doing so. That is the only way the indescribably difficult art of self-government ever can be learned.

If, because of present-day fear of foreign aggression, some Philippine voices are now heard counseling postponement of independence, we must not be deceived into believing that the popular aspirations for independence are dying. For forty years we have sought to teach the Filipinos our ideas of liberty and democracy and self-government. If they remain true to our own teachings, if they remain human, they will never cease to aspire for independence; and until these aspirations are satisfied there will not be rest or equilibrium. This I believe to be an objective reality which we cannot afford to blink.

Finally, we must not forget that when we assumed sovereignty over the Filipino people in 1898 we assumed a high responsibility. Because of that responsibility the American nation is under a strong moral obligation, when we give them independence, to give it under conditions favorable to its success. So far as we can we must deal them the cards with which to win; so far as possible we must help them to succeed, as we succeeded in 1776. For we ourselves have a stake in their success. In them we have implanted our own ideals; and their success means our success in furthering American ideas and ideals in the Far East.

  1. The provision in the Independence Act with regard to cordage was superseded by the Cordage Act of 1935, which enlarged the cordage quota to 6,000,000 pounds annually, but contains an absolute prohibition against the shipment of any excess. — AUTHOR