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26 June, 2013
Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
I. The Issue of the Campaign
by North American Review, The


In each of the Presidential contests which have occurred within the last half-century the result has hinged, in large measure, upon a single issue. The campaign of 1852 resulted in the almost unanimous election of Pierce upon the supposed settlement of the slavery question by the compromise measures of the preceding Congress. Four years later, the salient question was the power of Congress over slavery in the Territories. Upon this issue the Democrats succeeded by a slender margin in electing Buchanan to the Presidency. In the exciting contest of 1860, every phase of the slavery question was, for months, the subject of heated discussion. In fact, that contest - intensified by the Dred Scott decision - was but the renewal of the struggle upon the burning question which had so evenly divided parties at the preceding Presidential election. The vigorous prosecution of the war was the slogan of the victors in the campaign four years later. And Reconstruction, in its various phases, was the overshadowing issue upon which General Grant was triumphant in the two Presidential contests immediately succeeding the second election of Mr. Lincoln.

In 1876, old things had passed away and a new issue was to the forefront. Reform was the watchword of the Democracy. With this good word, with all that it implied, as the symbol of the paramount issue, the friends of Mr. Tilden waged an almost successful battle. The result, long in doubt, and finally reached by the decision of an extra-Constitutional tribunal, was adverse to the Democratic candidate by a single electoral vote.

In the three contests immediately succeeding the historic struggle last mentioned, the pivotal question in debate and the decisive one - affected in some degree by the personality of the candidates - was Tariff Reform. Special prominence was given to this issue by the passage of the McKinley bill, and denunciation of high protection as robbery by the Democratic Convention of 1892. In the first contest between the now opposing candidates for the Presidency, the question of Tariff Reform was held in abeyance, and Silver became the one vital issue of the struggle.

It is by no means asserted that, in these political contests of the past, no questions were discussed other than those I have mentioned. On the contrary, the entire pathway of the history of parties is luminous with debate along all lines of political thought. In the early days of the Republic, and before party organizations had attained to anything approximating their present discipline and authority, the "Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Theories of Government," the Line of Demarcation between State and Federal Authority," "Internal Improvements," "the United States Bank," "the Resolutions of 98," "Strict Construction," "The Compromises of the Constitution," etc., were subjects of endless debate for months preceding every Presidential election.

The contention is that, while there were many questions of minor importance, and much expenditure of oratory upon mere abstract questions of government, yet, in the main, a single question was the storm-centre of controversy, and was decisive.

History has but repeated itself in the contest for political supremacy upon us now. One living question is to the forefront. It is in very truth the pivotal issue of the campaign. Political platforms may ignore it, yet it will not down. It is in the thoughts of men. It is with us to stay until it shall have been determined by the American peoplethe final arbiters, from whose judgment there is no appeal.

Imperialism is a new word in American politics. It had no place in the platform or the political controversies of the past. There had been no forecast of its possible existence as an issue in this campaign. It is a new question. How did it originate? Why is it here?

Events have followed upon each other so rapidly that we seem to have forgotten the avowed purpose of the late war with Spain. Our solemn declaration, before breaking the peace of the world in behalf of Cuba, was: The United States hereby disclaims any disposition to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination when that is accomplished to leave the government and control of the island to its people.

This disclaimer alone justified the declaration of war to our own conscience. It was believed by the American people to be a war waged solely in the interest of humanity, and in no sense for commercial or territorial gain. An eminent Republican Senator, while the joint resolution was pending, voiced the sentiments of his countrymen when he declared: It is a war in which there does not enter the slightest thought or desire of foreign conquest or of material gain or advantage. No one doubted at the time that this disclaimer upon our part applied not only to Cuba, but to all Spanish dependencies.

The pacification of the Island of Cuba - the avowed purpose of the war - has been achieved. Spain has sustained crushing and retributive defeat, and her flag, the hated emblem of tyranny to Cuban and Filipino alike, has disappeared forever from our hemisphere. Spain is at peace, well rid of colonial possessions that had been for centuries an obstacle to her material progress. But our Government is still engaged in war; not with our ancient foe, but against our former allies in the war with Spain. It has been prosecuted at a fearful cost of treasure and of blood; little less than two hundred millions in money and many thousand valuable lives. Sixty thousand American soldiers are now in the Philippine Islands - and the end is not yet.

What is the justification for all this? Is it a war of self- defense, a war in the interest of humanity, or does it but add another to the long list of wars of subjugation and of conquest? These questions must give us pause. It is not strange that one whose love of liberty is inherited should have declared: Uneasy consciences are multiplying in the Republican party.

When the ten million people of these twelve hundred islands are to abandon all hope of independence; when they are to lay down their arms and become our peaceable subjects; when the drain upon our blood and treasure is to cease - are questions no man is wise enough to answer. But granted that such, in the near or the remote future, is to be the termination of the struggle, what then? How are these people to be held and governed? What is to be their status? Are they to be citizens or subjects? If, as is claimed, they are incapable of self-government, are they to be vested by us with the dignity and the privileges of American citizenship, and entitled to representation in our National Legislature and in the Electoral College? No sane man can believe it. The only alternative, then, is government by force, by the power of the army and of the navy.

It need hardly be said that such government is wholly without Constitutional authority. Ours is a government of citizens, not of subjects. It is a government of limited powers, and its founders made no provision for holding conquered provinces or alien peoples. The government of this far-away people, then, can only be by methods outside of the Constitution. In other words, there must be engrafted upon our body politic European methods of colonial governmenta government that, in spirit, if not in form, pertains to the Empire and not to the Republic.

The justification for all this by Imperialists is that we can give these islanders a better government than they are capable of creating for themselves. What, then, becomes of the doctrine, so dear to our fathers, that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed ? What of the words of Lincoln: "No man is good enough to govern another man without that others consent; when he governs himself and also governs another man, then that is more than self-government - that is despotism."

It is claimed that we have outgrown the doctrines of the founders of the Government, and that we are henceforth to be a World Power. This is, indeed, a high-sounding phrase, but it is well to know its real meaning. As a model to the builders of republics - and an inspiration to all peoples who desire a larger measure of freedom - our Republic has, from its beginning, been "a World Power." But in the sense used by Imperialists, the term is one of terrible significance. To become a World Power is to break with the past ; to abandon the traditions and dis- regard the warnings of the patriots and the sages of the Revolution. It implies, of necessity, the equipments of the World Powers of Europe. It means an immense standing army, with its continuing and ever increasing burdens of taxation. The picture is not pleasing, but at no less cost can we hold place as a World Power.

Our colonial possessions will, of necessity, be governed by methods that are despotic. The lessons of history are full of warnings. Creasy, the historian, in his "Decisive Battles of the World," says: "There has never been a republic yet in history that acquired dominion over another nation that did not rule it selfishly and oppressively. There is no single exception to this rule, either in ancient or modern times. Carthage, Rome, Ven- ice, Genoa, Florence, Holland and republican France, all tyran- nized over every province and subject state where they gained authority."

In the event of the defeat which is inevitable to the islanders, in their conflict with the great Power, what is to be our compensation for the fearful sacrifice of life and of treasure? "Commercial gain." To whom? Surely not to the plain people. It is only theirs to bear the additional taxation the new policy imposes. It can only be to the "syndicated wealth" described in a recent letter of an eminent statesman of New England. Trade - "the calm health of nations" - is profitable only with peoples with whom we are at peace. Trade knows no sentiment. It goes only where it is profitable. Ninety per cent. of our exports reach European markets, for "only the civilized man is the consumer. Is commercial gain the low plane upon which we stand? Is this our justification for abandoning the pathway marked out by the fathers, and along which we have found contentment and safety? Commercial gain to a class as the end of a war of con- quest! Are there no higher motives to which appeal can be made? The words of Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention may be recalled: "You are not to consider how your trade is to be increased, but how justice may be done, and how your liberties may be preserved."

The lust of empire is the plague that has come upon us in these closing hours of the century. Against it we are warned by the wrecks that lie along the entire pathway of history.

The new policy of Imperialism finds its inspiration in "corporate greed." This influence is potent as never before, in all the channels of authority. It has touched the springs of political power. Against it are the warnings of those whom we have been accustomed to revere. No statesman of the last generation discerned more clearly its appalling danger to republican government than did Mr. Lincoln. It is well now, when the attempt is made to enthrone commercial gain as the supreme good, to recall his prophetic words. In a letter written in 1864, he said: "But I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed."

Authoritative declaration should be made at once to the people of the Philippine Islands that it is not our purpose to conquer or to subjugate them. Under existing conditions, they should be protected against the cupidity and aggression of foreign nations. All this, upon our part, to the end that the Filipinos may have the full enjoyment of liberty, and stable government fashioned by their own hands.

In view of all that has occurred, and of what must inevitably follow, in the event of the Republican Administration receiving a vote of confidence at the polls, are not Democrats justified in declaring Imperialism the paramount issue of the campaign? Other questions will be discussed. In terse words, the Democratic platform calls attention to the enormous growth of the Trust evil, and justly characterizes it as a menace to our free institutions. The Hay-Pauncefote treaty is condemned, as a surrender of rights not to be tolerated by the American people. But, in the presence of the overshadowing issue, even these are questions of secondary importance. Imperialism is the paramount issue. Around this, the battle will be most fiercely waged. Is it too much to say that its determination will be for the weal or the woe of the Republic? ADLAI E. STEVENSON.

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