Published Articles - William Jennings Bryan The Issue in the Presidential Campaign
by William Jennings Bryan
North American Review 170 (June 1900).
The issue presented in the campaign of 1900 is the issue between plutocracy and democracy. All the questions under discussion will, in their last analysis, disclose the conflict between the dollar and the man -- a conflict as old as the human race, and one which will continue as long as the human race endures.
The struggle for American independence was a culmination of the protest of the people living in America against measures which subordinated their rights to the interests of English traders. The correspondence between Lord Howe and Benjamin Franklin, about the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, shows that the main object of England's colonial policy was to control American trade.
In June, 1776, the former addressed a letter to Franklin, from which the following extract is taken:
"But if the deep-rooted prejudices of America and the necessity of preventing her trade from passing into foreign channels must keep us still a divided people, I shall, from every public, as well as private, motive, most heartily lament that this Is not the moment wherein those great objects of my ambition are to be attained, and that I am to be longer deprived of an opportunity to assure you, personally, of the regard with which I am, etc."
To this letter Franklin immediately replied:
"The well-founded esteem and, permit me to say, affection, which I shall always have for your Lordship make it painful to me to see you engaged in conducting a war, the great ground of which (as described in your letter) is 'the necessity of preventing the American trade from passing into foreign channels.' To me it seems that neither the obtaining nor retaining any trade, how valuable soever, is an object for which men may justly spill each other's blood; that the true and Sine means of extending and securing commerce are the goodness and cheapness of commodities; and that the profits of no trade can ever be equal to the expense of compelling it and holding it by fleets and armies. I consider this war against us, therefore, as both unjust and unwise; and I am persuaded that cool and dispassionate posterity will condemn to infamy those who advised it; and that even success will not save from some degree of dishonor those who voluntarily engaged to conduct it."
The Declaration of Independence set before the world four great truths which were declared to be self-evident: first, that all men are created equal; second, that they are endowed with inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; third, that governments are instituted among men to secure these rights; fourth, that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Upon these four pillars, quarried from the mountain of eternal truth, all free government must forever rest.
Then followed the War of the Revolution, with its sacrifices and its sacred memories, with its trials and its triumphs, establishing a government dedicated to liberty.
But before a generation had passed, wealth, represented by Hamilton, began to assert itself, and contempt for the rights of man and distrust of the people themselves began to be manifest. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, undertook the task of arousing the friends of human rights and civil liberty, and he led them to victory in 1800. The impetus given to American Democracy by its first success in the forum of politics carried it through several Presidential terms.
During Jackson's administration another battle was fought between the capitalistic classes and the people at large. The National Bank marshaled an almost irresistible army of financiers, business men, newspapers and politicians in defense of a gigantic monopoly.
Jackson sounded the alarm, rallied the hosts of Democracy, and, in a contest seldom, if ever, equaled in bitterness, won the second peaceful victory for human rights against inhuman greed.
Jackson is generally spoken of as a warrior rather than as a political philosopher. His courage and perseverance have been praised more than his logic or his rhetoric; and yet what orator or statesman has more clearly defined the purpose and scope of government than he?
In the message which accompanied his veto of the National Bank Act he said:
"It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth, cannot be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the law undertakes to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers -- who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rain, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing."
Benton, in estimating the work of Jackson, said that in overthrowing the bank conspiracy he saved America, as Cicero saved Rome by overthrowing the conspiracy of Catiline. No one can read the history of the country from 1845 to 1860 without recognizing the impending struggle between slavery, as an institution, and the abolition of slavery. Every important measure brought before Congress was scrutinized, and its possible bearing on the slavery question was considered, by both friends and opponents.
In 1858 Abraham Lincoln made a speech which attracted public attention to him as the leader of the anti-slavery sentiment. Taking from the Bible one of its strongest passages, he applied it to the question then paramount:
"'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."
In 1859 Lincoln wrote a letter to the Republicans of Boston, who were celebrating the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. (Think of it, Republicans celebrating the birthday of Jefferson!) In that letter he paid to Jefferson a high tribute. In the same letter, Lincoln, in discussing the relation which should exist between the man and the dollar, said that the Republicans were "both for the man and the dollar, but, in case of conflict, the man before the dollar." Man, the handiwork of God, comes first; the dollar, the handiwork of man, comes afterwards.
During his first administration Lincoln pointed out the attempt, then in its beginning, to place money, the thing accumulated, above the individual by whose toil it was accumulated, and warned his countrymen that the exaltation of matter and the degradation of man threatened the very existence of the Republic. Here are his words:
"Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people. In my present position, I could scarcely be Justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism. It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor In the structure of government."
I have quoted at length from these eminent authorities in order to convince the reader that those who, at this time, speak out against the methods and purposes of plutocracy are not sounding new and groundless alarms, but are merely reiterating the warnings which have been necessary during each successive generation.
For many years after the close of the Civil War the Republicans held undisputed control of the federal government, and an appeal to the prejudices and passions aroused by that great conflict was sufficient answer to any criticism or complaint coming from the party out of power. During this period class legislation became the order of the day, and wealth not only sought favors from the government, but secured exemption from just burdens. When war taxes were to be reduced, the taxes bearing upon the rich were taken off first. When the income tax was repealed, Senator Sherman, of Ohio, placed his protest on record in the following language:
"I hope that, after full discussion, nobody will vote for striking out the income tax. It seems to me to be one of the plainest propositions in the world. Put before the people of the United States the question whether the property of this country cannot stand a tax of $20,000,000, when the consumption of the people stands a tax of $300,000,000, and I think they will quickly answer it. The property-holders of the country came here and demanded the repeal of the only tax that bears upon their property, when we have to tax everything, the food of the poor, the clothing of the poor, and all classes of our people $300,000,000."
High duties were placed upon the necessities of life on the ground that infant industries required assistance, with the result that the owners of the aided industries grew rich, while home-owning decreased and tenancy increased among the consumers.
Railroads were constructed upon a plan which permitted watered stock, fictitious capitalization and the over issue of bonds, with the result that the patrons of the roads became the victims of extortionate rates and the manipulators of the roads became suddenly and enormously rich.
Under the euphonious plea that public credit would be strengthened thereby, the terms of government contracts were altered in the interest of the bondholders. Then, in 1873, a change was made in the standard money, a change so indefensible that nearly every public man denied any knowledge of the purpose of the act. For twenty-three years following the passage of that act every party pledged itself to restore the double standard, but the financiers succeeded in controlling the dominant party and thus maintained the gold standard in spite of popular protest.
In 1896 the Democrats refused to be any longer parties to the duplicity, and took an open and unequivocal position in favor of the immediate restoration of bimetallism by the independent action of this country at the present legal ratio. This positive and definite platform was necessary because of the cunningly devised evasions and ambiguities which had been written into the platforms of the two leading parties. The Republican leaders, on the other hand, continued their policy of deception, and held out to the Republican bimetallists of the West the delusive hope of an international agreement, while they openly promised the Eastern believers in monometallism that the gold standard would be maintained until an international agreement could be secured, and secretly assured them that that meant forever.
After the election the administration adopted a double standard method of dealing with the subject. A commission was sent to Europe to plead for international bimetallism, while a gold standard Secretary of the Treasury was openly at work in this country defending monometallism. In 1896 the money question occupied by far the greater portion of public attention. Since 1896 the same sordid doctrine that manifested itself in the gold standard has manifested itself in several new ways, and today three questions contest for primacy -- the money question, the trust question, and imperialism. There are several other questions of scarcely less importance, but the lines of division upon these run practically parallel with the lines which separate the people upon the three greater ones. If a man opposes the gold standard, trusts and imperialism -- all three -- the chances are a hundred to one that he is in favor of arbitration, the income tax and the election of United States Senators by a direct vote of the people, and is opposed to government by injunction and the black-list. If a man favors the gold standard, the trusts and imperialism -- all three -- the chances are equally great that he regards the demand for arbitration as an impertinence, defends government by injunction and the black-list, views the income tax as "a discouragement to thrift," and will oppose the election of Senators by the people as soon as he learns that it will lessen the influence of corporations in the Senate. When a person is with the Democrats on one or two of these questions, but not on all, his position on the subordinate questions is not so easily calculated.
The human mind is consistent, but time is required for the application of fundamental principles to all these questions.
Since these secondary questions must, therefore, be settled by the same persons and along the same lines as the primary ones, I shall confine this article to the three questions which I have already described as being most important at this time.
The Republicans have dealt with all three questions during the present administration in a manner which they would not have been willing to outline in 1896. This refusal to take the people into their confidence is in itself an evidence that they are either conscious that their policies are not good for the people, or that they distrust the capacity of the people for self-government. If they believed their policies to be good, and if they also believed the people capable of understanding their own interests, they would not hesitate to set forth their plan of action on each subject.
Having taken another step toward the gold standard, and having provided for the substitution of bank notes for greenbacks, they now declare the money question settled; but they have in reserve the withdrawal of the legal tender function from the silver dollar and the establishment of the branch bank, neither of which they now discuss, but both of which they will attempt as soon as they think it safe to do so.
The contest between monometallism and bimetallism is a world-wide contest -- a contest which must go on until silver is once more a money metal equal with gold, or until the gold standard becomes universal. He takes a very narrow view of the subject who considers merely the present volume of money in this country. It is true that we have largely increased our supply of gold in the last three years (the Republicans neither promised nor expected the increase), but the action of England in placing India upon the gold standard is likely to cause a drain on the gold supply of the United States and of European countries. The gold blanket must now be stretched to cover nearly three hundred million people in Southern Asia, and China has yet to be considered. After six thousand years of search and saving, the total volume of gold and silver money is about eight billions, nearly equally divided between the two metals.
Upon this basis of metallic money rests a large volume of paper money, and upon the various forms of money rests the world's indebtedness.
Those advocates of the gold standard who know the real purpose and scope of the gold standard scheme desire to contract the basic money to one-half its present volume. This would enormously enhance the value of each dollar, represented by money, notes and bonds, and would enormously oppress the producers of wealth. We cannot afford to throw the influence of this nation upon the side of the gold standard, unless we are prepared to accept universal gold monometallism with all that that means. The increased production of gold during the last few years will act as a parachute to retard the fall in prices, but there is no assurance that it will be sufficient to enable us to dispense with silver as a standard money.
If any one is tempted to listen to the new arguments in favor of the gold standard -- presented by men who advocated that standard for twenty-five years before the new gold fields were discovered -- let him take a pencil and paper and estimate, first, the annual product, then subtract from that sum the amount annually used in the arts, the amount necessary to cover the shrinkage in volume of gold coin from loss and abrasion, and the amount necessary to keep pace with the annual increase in population and business, and then see how much he has left to apply to the retirement of the uncovered paper and the four billions of silver coin. Only a few years ago Prof. Edward Suess, of the Vienna University, issued a pamphlet giving his reasons for believing that, at that time, nearly the entire annual output of the gold mines was consumed in the arts.
Those who say that bimetallism may be necessary one year and the gold standard defensible the next year are either very ignorant of the subject themselves or they underestimate the intelligence of those to whom they address the argument.
In March, 1896, the English Parliament by a unanimous vote pledged the English government to aid in restoring the par of exchange between gold and silver.
If the Republican platform was honest in 1896, bimetallism was desirable at that time, because 13,500,000 voters supported candidates pledged to bimetallism, differing only as to the means of securing it.
In November, 1898, two years after the last Presidential election, and two weeks after the last Congressional election, Secretary of State Hay wrote a letter to Lord Aldenham, for many years a director of the Bank of England, saying that the President and a majority of his Cabinet still believed in the great desirability of an international agreement.
A still later argument in favor of bimetallism can be found in Section 14 of the Currency Law recently enacted. It specifically declares that the law is not intended to place an obstacle in the way of international bimetallism. The only way to destroy the force of the bimetallic argument contained in the Republican platform, in Secretary Hay's letter and in Section 14 of the Currency Law, is to say that they were all intended to deceive the public. But, while such a defense would strengthen the gold standard argument, it would place the Republican leaders in a position which they would scarcely desire to occupy.
It is needless to discuss the ratio, since there is no division of sentiment among those who are actually trying to secure bimetallism. There is a positive, earnest and active force behind the present legal ratio of sixteen to one; there is no positive, earnest or active force behind any other ratio. Neither is it any longer necessary to discuss international bimetallism. The contest upon this question must be between those who believe in the gold standard on the one side and, on the other side, those who believe in a financial policy made by the American people for themselves.
Mr. Carlisle, in his speech in 1878, divided the people into two classes. In one class he placed those described by him as "the idle holders of idle capital," and in the other "the struggling masses."
When the money question is fully understood, the struggling masses and those who sympathize with them will support the double standard, and the money-owning and bond-holding classes and those who sympathize with them will favor the gold standard.
Those who favor the gold standard, as a rule favor national bank notes as against greenbacks, while those who oppose the gold standard, as a rule, believe that the issue of paper money is a function of government and should not be delegated to national banks. A currency issued and controlled by banks, and secured by government bonds, creates a paper-money trust and must, if it is to be permanent, rest upon a perpetual and increasing national debt.
The trust question is more easily understood than the money question. The appreciation of money is slow, while the rise in the price of trust-made articles is sufficiently rapid to attract attention.
When prices fall a little each year, the friends of a rising dollar talk about over-production, improved machinery, etc.; but when prices rise rapidly and the trusts declare large dividends, the connection between cause and effect is so direct and obvious that only those blinded by partisanship can fail to see it.
The trust question was in the campaign of 1896, and the menace of the trust was then pointed out, but the warning was unheeded. Now the heavy hand of monopoly is laid upon so many that there is a growing protest against a system which permits a few men to control each branch of industry, fix the rate of wages, the price of raw materials and the price of the finished product. Until four years ago no Republican of prominence defended the trusts; now, the Republican leaders speak of the trusts in guarded terms. The Ohio platform recently adopted demands that "so-called trusts shall be so regulated from time to time and so restricted as to guarantee immunity from hurtful monopoly." The word "hurtful" is as broad as charity, and enables the trust defender to shield every trust behind the plea that it is not hurtful.
A monopoly is not hurtful to those who operate it, and, if they can control the government, they will be sure to decide that it is not hurtful to any one.
The recent action of the barb wire trust illustrates several phases of this question. It shows that a monopoly can raise prices when it desires to do so; and it also shows that a monopoly will raise prices when it can. It shows how an artificial rise in price will lessen consumption and thus decrease the demand for labor; it shows how a monopoly can shut down factories to work off the stock, throwing upon the laborer the burden of maintaining prices (in this case twelve factories were shut down and six thousand two hundred men thrown out of employment); it shows how even the stockholders may be victimized if the manager desires to speculate in stock; and it further shows how those in charge of a great monopoly may, in the future, bring great wealth to political friends by disclosing intended raids on the stock market and thus earn legislative favors. The ordinary forms of bribery sink into insignificance when compared with this new and more dangerous method. That this is no idle fear is evident from the testimony taken by the Senate committee which investigated official speculation in sugar stock. That monopolies contribute to campaign funds is also shown by the testimony taken by another Senate committee. A few great monopolies could without loss to themselves make on the stock market enough to supply a campaign fund as enormous as that used by the Republican party in 1896.
On the trust question, as on the money question, the line is drawn between those who believe that money is the only thing to be considered and those who believe that the people have rights which should be respected.
If one asks for the annihilation of private monopolies, he is confronted with the statement that they are a part of our industrial system and have come to stay. If one suggests restrictions upon corporations, he will be told that the government cannot interfere with the way a man uses his money. The difference between the natural man of flesh and blood and the corporate man created by law is overlooked by those who can see nothing higher than the dollar argument.
The God-made men do not differ greatly in size or strength, they labor under similar conditions as to life and health, and they are subject to the same moral restraints. Competition between them, therefore, is reasonably equal and fair. But corporations differ in size, in strength and in longevity; and, having no life beyond the grave, have neither the fear of future punishment nor the hope of future reward to restrain them. Competition, therefore, between the natural man and the great corporation may be grossly unequal and unfair.
The line must he drawn at the point where the corporation seeks to establish a monopoly and deprive individuals or smaller corporations of the right to compete. In other words, the legislation necessary at this time must be directed against private monopoly in whatever form it appears. Those who desire to protect society from the evil results of the trust must take the position that a private monopoly is indefensible and intolerable. The power to control the price of anything which the people need cannot safely be intrusted to any private individual or association of individuals, because selfishness is universal and the temptation to use such a power for personal advantage is too great.
As soon as any private monopoly is admitted to be good, the question degenerates into a comparison of the character and conduct of those who stand at the head of the monopolies. To defend a private monopoly on the ground that the monopolist in charge is a benevolent and well-meaning man, kind to his employees and generous with his earnings, is like defending a despotism on the ground that the despot is occasionally kind-hearted and sometimes uses his unlimited power for the benefit of his subjects.
The Republican party cannot be relied upon to deal with the trust question. The sympathies of those who control the policies of the Republican party are entirely with organized wealth in its contest against the masses. An evidence of this is to be found in the fact that the trusts have grown more rapidly under the present administration than in all the previous history of the country. This remarkable growth shows that, at this time, the trust magnates neither fear the enforcement of the present law nor the enactment of new and more stringent laws.
Another evidence that the Republican party will not deal effectively with the trust question is to be found in the fact that the leaders of that party have no plan of action. When they are called upon to say anything on the subject they confine themselves to generalities and protest that it is not a political question. If ambiguity is proof of either lack of knowledge or lack of sincerity, the Republicans can be convicted either of not knowing what to do or of not desiring to do it.
While the inspiring cause of monopoly is to be found in a selfish desire to enjoy the fruits of monopoly, several things have contributed to its growth and success. First, a constant fall in prices has led people who have invested money in plants to seek in combination a protection against loss upon their investments. The Republicans do not propose to take away this incentive to the organization of trusts. Second, railroad discriminations have sometimes given to a favored corporation an immense advantage over less fortunate competitors. The Republican party is making no effort to remedy this evil.
The high tariff has been a bulwark to the trusts. Foreign competition was first excluded and then domestic competition was destroyed by combination, but the Republican party is not only not trying to reform the tariff in the interest of the people, but it boasts of the Dingley law as a panacea for all economic ills.
While State legislatures can do much, Congressional action is necessary to complete the destruction of the trusts. A State can prevent the creation of a monopoly within its borders and can also exclude a foreign monopoly. But this remedy is not sufficient; for, if a monopoly really exists and is prevented from doing business in any State, the people of that State will be deprived of the use of that particular article until it can be produced within the State. Instead of shutting a monopoly out of one Si ate and leaving it forty-four States to do business in, we should shut it up in the State of its origin and take the other forty-four away from it. This can be done by an act of Congress making it necessary for a corporation, organized in any State, to take out a license from the federal government before doing business outside of that State, the license not to interfere, however, with regulations imposed by other States. Such a license, granted only upon evidence that there is no water in the stock of the corporation, and that it has not attempted and is not attempting to monopolize any branch of business or the production of any article of merchandise, would compel the dissolution of existing monopolies and prevent the creation of new ones.
The Democratic party is better able to undertake this work now than it was a few years ago, because all the trust magnates have left the party. The Republican party is less able than ever before to make a successful war against the trusts, because it numbers among its membership all the trust magnates it ever had, and in addition to them it has all the Democratic party formerly had.
The Philippine question is even plainer than the trust question, and those who will be benefitted by an imperial policy are even less in number than those who may be led to believe that they would share in the benefits of a gold standard or of a private monopoly. Here again the Republicans dare not outline their policy. When the present Congress was elected, in 1898, the treaty of peace had not yet been signed. No definite issue was before the country, and the people could not sit in judgment upon the purposes of the administration.
When the treaty was ratified, in February following, it was expressly declared by several Republican Senators that the ratification of the treaty did not determine the policy of the government, but merely concluded the war with Spain. The McEnery resolution, adopted by the votes of Republican Senators, declared that it was the sense of the Senate that the Philippine Islands should never become an integral part of the United States, but left the policy open for future consideration. The resolution was as follows:
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That by the ratification of the treaty of peace with Spain, it is not intended to incorporate the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands into citizenship of the United States, nor is it intended to permanently annex said islands as an integral part of the territory of the United States; but it is the intention of the United States to establish on said Islands a government suitable to the wants and conditions of the inhabitants of said islands, to prepare them for local self-government, and in due time to make such disposition of said islands as will best promote the interests of citizens of the United States and the inhabitants of said islands."
The nearest approach to a plan which has received any considerable support among the Republicans is that outlined in the Spooner Bill, which provides that: "When all insurrection against the sovereignty and authority of the United States in the Philippine Islands, acquired from Spain by the treaty concluded at Paris on the tenth day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, shall have been completely suppressed by the military and naval forces of the United States, all military, civil and judicial powers necessary to govern the said islands shall, until otherwise provided by Congress, be vested in such person and persons, and shall be exercised in such manner as the President of the United States shall direct for maintaining and protecting the inhabitants of said islands in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and religion."
But this is far from definite. It means that, when the war is over (no one knows when that will be), the President is to do something (no one knows what), and is to keep at it (no one knows how long); and that then Congress is to take some action (the nature of which no one can guess). Why this evasion? There can be but one reason for it, that the Republican leaders have decided upon a policy which they are not willing to outline, because they dare not risk the judgment of the American people in an open contest between the doctrine that governments rest upon force and the doctrine that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
If the Filipino is to be under our domination, he must be either citizen or subject. If he is to be a citizen, it must be with a view to participating ultimately in our government and in the making of our laws. Not only is this idea negatived by the McEnery resolution, but it is openly repudiated by every Republican leader who has discussed the subject. If the Filipino is to be a subject, our form of government must be entirely changed. A republic can have no subjects. The doctrine that a people can be kept in a state of perpetual vassalage, owing allegiance to the flag, but having no voice in the government, is entirely at variance with the principles upon which this government has been founded. An imperial policy nullifies every principle set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
The Puerto Rican tariff law illustrates this new doctrine. The flag is separated from the Constitution, and the Puerto Ricans are notified that they must obey the laws made for them and pay the taxes levied upon them, and yet have no share in our Bill of Rights or in the guarantees of our Constitution. No monarch or tyrant in all history exercised more despotic power than the Republicans now claim for the President and Congress. The theory that our race is divinely appointed to seize by force or purchase at auction groups of "inferior people," and govern them, with benevolent purposes avowed and with trade advantages on the side, carries us back to the creed of kings and to the gospel of force.
Lincoln condemned this doctrine with characteristic vigor in a speech made in 1858. He said that it was the old argument employed to defend kingcraft from the beginning of history; that "kings always bestride the necks of the people, not because they desire to do so, but because the people are better off for being ridden."
Those who advocate an imperial policy usually assert that the Filipinos are incapable of self-government. It might be a sufficient answer to quote the resolution of Congress declaring that "the Cubans are and of right ought to be free," and the report made by Admiral Dewey declaring that the Filipinos are far more capable of self-government than the Cubans. But there is even a broader answer that may be made. Clay, in his defense of the people of South America, said:
"It is the doctrine of thrones, that man is too ignorant to govern himself. Their partisans assert his incapacity, in reference to all nations; if they cannot command universal assent to the proposition, it is then demanded to particular nations; and our pride and our presumption too often make converts of us. I contend that it is to arraign the dispositions of Providence Himself to suppose that He has created beings incapable of governing themselves, and to be trampled on by kings."
There are degrees of intelligence; some people can and do govern themselves better than others, and it is possible that the people living near the equator will never, owing to climatic conditions, reach the governmental standards of the temperate zone. But it is absurd to say that God would create the Filipinos and then leave them for thousands of years helpless, until Spain found them and threw her protecting arms around them; and it is equally absurd to say that Spain could sell to us the right to act as guardians of a people whom she governed by force.
The purpose behind the imperial policy is the extension of trade. Franklin, in the letter above quoted, denies that the securing or holding of trade is a cause for which men may justly spill each other's blood. The man who says that an imperial policy will pay must be prepared to place a pecuniary value upon the soldiers who have already lost their lives in the Philippines or have become insane from the effects of the climate, and upon the soldiers who will be sacrificed in future wars of conquest. The Republican party, which boasts that it sprang into existence in the defense of human rights, now coolly calculates the value of human life measured by Oriental trade.
Abraham Lincoln wrote the following letter to Mrs. Bixby, of Boston:
"Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21st, 1864.
"Dear Madam --
"I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation which may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and the lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
No more beautiful expression of sympathy can be found in literature. Compare it with the sordid consolation which an imperialist would extend to a sorrowing mother, assuring her that the trade purchased by her son's blood would be worth all that it cost!
It will be noticed that Franklin also denied that trade could be profitably purchased and held by fleets and armies. History supports his contention. A nation never makes a profit out of a forcible extension of trade. Such a policy is defended by the few who make a great deal out of the trade, while the expenses of the war are borne by the taxpayers. There is no doubt that an imperial policy will be advantageous to army contractors, and to owners of ships who rent their vessels to the United States to carry live soldiers to the Philippine Islands and to bring dead soldiers back; and it may be advantageous to carpet-bag governors and to those who can secure good paying positions in the army, but it will be a constant drain upon the wealth producers. The amount already spent upon a war of conquest in a single year would almost construct the Nicaragua Canal; or, if used for the reclamation of arid lands in the West, it would furnish homes for more American citizens than would go to the Philippine Islands in a thousand years.
If an imperial policy is indorsed by the people, a large standing army will always be necessary. The same influences which lead to a war of conquest in the Philippines will lead to wars of conquest elsewhere, and an immense military establishment will not only become a permanent burden upon the people, but will prove a menace to the Republic.
One of the great objections to imperialism is that it destroys our proud pre-eminence among the nations. When the doctrine of self-government is abandoned, the United States will cease to be a moral factor in the world's progress. We cannot preach the doctrine that governments come up from the people, and, at the same time, practice the doctrine that governments rest upon brute force. We cannot set a high and honorable example for the emulation of mankind while we roam the world like beasts of prey seeking whom we may devour.
John Quincy Adams asks the question, "What has America done for mankind?" and he answers it thus:
"America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, equal justice, and equal rights."
Not only does she give to the world an example of enlightened self-government, but, according to Adams, "wherever the standard of independence or freedom has been or shall be unfurled there will her heart, her benediction and her prayers be."
But how can she pray for those who unfurl the banner of liberty in Europe or in South Africa if she wars against those who unfurl the banner of liberty in the Orient?
While the Republican party has been evading a direct issue and trying to unload its mistakes upon Providence, the Democrats have urged a plain and simple remedy, viz., that we treat the Filipinos as we have promised to treat the Cubans. The Bacon resolution, which was defeated by the vote of the Vice-President just after the treaty was ratified, was supported by nearly every Democrat in the Senate, and was indorsed by a Democratic caucus in the House. It read as follows:
"Resolved, further, that the United States hereby disclaim any disposition or intention to exercise permanent sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said islands, and assert their determination, when a stable and independent government shall have been erected therein, entitled in the judgment of the government of the United States to recognition as such, to transfer to said government, upon terms which shall be reasonable and just, all rights secured under the cession by Spain, and to thereupon leave the government and control of the islands to their people."
Had this resolution been accepted by the Republicans at the time it was introduced, and acted upon by the administration, not a drop of blood would have been shed at Manila. Hostilities can be terminated at any moment by a declaration of this nation's purpose: first, to establish a stable government; second, to give the Filipinos their independence; third, to give them protection from outside interference while they work out their destiny. Such a declaration would be in harmony with American principles, American traditions and American interests. Such protection would be valuable to the Filipinos and inexpensive to us, just as protection to the South American republics has been of vital importance to them, while it has imposed no burden upon us.
The Bates treaty, negotiated by the administration last summer, provides that the United States shall protect the Sultan of Sulu from foreign interference. It ought to be as easy to protect a republic as to stand sponsor for a despot.
Surely, the rapid development of plutocracy during the last few years will arouse the people to the dangers which threaten our Republic. The warning voice of history cannot longer be disregarded. No nation has ever traveled so far, in the same space of time, from democracy to plutocracy as has this nation during the last ten years. Foreign influence, described by Washington as "one of the most baneful foes of republican government," has been felt as never before. Fortunes have been made more suddenly than ever before. Wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a few more rapidly than ever before. Corporate capital exerts an influence over government more potent than ever before. Money is more freely used than ever before to corrupt elections.
What is to be the end? Can any thoughtful person believe that these conditions promise well for a republic? Are we not following in the footsteps of Rome, as described by Froude?
"To make money, money by any means, lawful or unlawful, became the universal passion. Money! The cry was still money! Money was the one thought, from the highest Senator to the poorest wretch who sold his vote in the Comitia."
Again, he says:
"The proud privilege of Roman citizenship was still jealously reserved to Rome itself, and to a few favored towns and colonies; and a mere subject could maintain no rights against a member of the haughty oligarchy which controlled the civilized world. Such, generally, the Roman republic had become, or was tending to become, in the years which followed the fall of Carthage, B. C., 146. Public spirit in the masses was dead, or sleeping; the commonwealth was a plutocracy."
If it is said that we are prosperous and that we live under the reign of law, let the reader review the lecture delivered by Dr. John Lord, a Connecticut scholar, on Rome in the days of Marcus Aurelius. After describing the conditions which existed when "about two thousand people owned the whole civilized world," he says:
"But I cannot enumerate the evils which co-existed with all the boasted prosperity of the empire, and which were preparing the way for ruin -- evils so disgraceful and universal that Christianity made no impression at all on society at large and did not modify a law or remove a single object of scandal."
"Is there nothing to be considered but external glories which appeal to the senses alone? Shall our eyes be diverted from the operation of moral law and the inevitable consequences of its violation? Shall we blind ourselves to the future condition of our families and our country in our estimate of happiness? Shall we ignore, in the dazzling life of a few favored extortioners, monopolists and successful gamblers, all that Christianity points out as the hope and solace and glory of mankind?"
Instead of regarding the recent assault upon constitutional government -- the attempted overthrow of American principles -- as a matter of destiny, we may rather consider it as the last plague, the slaying of the first-born, which will end the bondage of the American people, and bring deliverance from the Pharaohs who are enthroning Mammon and debasing mankind.