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26 June, 2013
Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
II. Causes of Southern Opposition to Imperialism.
by North American Review, The


In a few brief weeks, one of the grandest spectacles in the history of the world will take place. Fifteen million American freemen will march to the polls and record their choice for President. The Chief Magistrate of a great nation, one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations of the earth, will be chosen by the ballots of the individual citizens.

The stupendous power vested in the President of the United States is second only to that of the Czar of Russia, and the amount of patronage at his disposal is far greater than that of any potentate on earth. The President is in effect a King - uncrowned, it is true, but with far greater power than most kings are allowed to exercise. It is small wonder, then, that a Presidential election convulses our country from one end to the other; and that, as a Presidential election approaches, men of all classes cease to give attention to other matters, and the one all-absorbing topic of conversation and thought is this election. The struggle for the mastery between the great parties, and the policies and principles they represent, dwarfs every other interest, and political activity permeates the entire country. The crowded city and the rural hamlet are alike moved. The issues involved are so important, and the interests at stake are so great, that nothing else is thought of and talked about. The newspapers teem with editorials presenting the claims of the opposing candidates. The mails are flooded with literature intended to educate the voters and rouse them to enthusiasm. Thousands of speakers, by day and by night, urge the claims of the parties they represent, and beg votes for the candidates of their choice. We are in the midst of such a convulsion now, and at no time in the past has there been more feeling and more intense interest.

The approaching election, in far-reaching consequences, overshadows any similar event in our history since the momentous canvass of 1860. The citizens of our great Republic are face to face with a crisis that does not come twice in the life of a generation. Indeed, the questions at issue in the present Presidential campaign are so momentous that the future historian may declare they outweigh those which convulsed the country at the outbreak of the Civil War. Then the issue was whether slavery should be extended into the Territories, and the country remain half slave and half free. Now, the paramount issue, as proclaimed in the Democratic platform and as admitted by President McKinley's letter of acceptance, is whether the country shall remain a republic in fact and in name, or whether our government shall undergo a change, and an Empire, resting on force and military power, shall take its place. That party which sneers at and tramples under foot the doctrine of the consent of tbe governed in the Philippines will soon sneer at that doctrine in the United States. Tyranny never advances openly and boldly to its goal. It approaches by indirection, and ever makes the fairest professions and promises.

There are other questions presented to the people for consideration, and they will, no doubt, have some weight in influencing votes; but they all dwindle into insignificance and can only claim a passing thought, while the great question of Republic or Empire fires the imagination and excites the eloquence of every man who writes or speaks on the subject. The questions of the currency and banks, gold and silver, of the income tax, and government by injunction, of trusts and how to check and control them - none of these can be discussed with any satisfaction, because the people, as a whole, are not interested in them, and these questions will cut a small figure in determining the result. And it is small wonder that this is the case. Republican orators may appeal for the maintenance of the national honor, and they may urge upon the voters the claims of the party which, they say, has given the working-man the "full dinner pail." They may urge upon the people the necessity of guarding against the fifty cents silver dollar; but the thoughtful, intelligent American cannot escape from the nightmare which haunts his dreams - the vision of the Empire and of the large standing army which the Empire would involve. This question is ever before him, and he considers the others of little moment just now. lie reasons that the "full dinner pail" may or may not be the result of McKinleys election four years ago. Common sense teaches that there was an inevitable reaction from the depressed condition of the country following the panic of 1893, that enforced economy, and the closing down of manufacturing plants reduced the stock of goods, thus stimulating a demand, and under these influences, accompanied by the failure of the European wheat crop and the increase of the gold output, there was an inevitable revival of business and consequently re-employment for the idle workmen. The prosperity of the last four years is by no means general, even in the United States, and Republican policies following McKinleys election cannot have affected the prosperity of Europe, which has enjoyed a similar revival of business. Therefore the thoughtful working man will carefully consider whether or not he owes McKinley a vote this year, even if he is fortunate enough not to be idle and to have plenty to eat.

Then, along with the question of the "full dinner pail", will arise the suggestion of doubt as to whether there will not be a return of hard times, even though McKinley is elected. This thought will continue to haunt him: "What good will the 'full dinner pail' do me and my children, even though it should remain full for all future time - and I know that cannot be - if, by my vote, I assist in overthrowing the Republic which our fathers founded, and I become a party to the repeal and repudiation of the Declaration of Independence ?" Of what use is a "full dinner pail" to the American who is no longer a freeman? Of what stuff is the American made who sells his birthright for a "full dinner pail?" This thought must come to every intelligent man who listens to the frantic pleas and arguments of the Republican orators.

Let us consider briefly whether the claim of the Democratic party, that the present election will settle the question whether or not we are to remain a Republic or become an Empire, is true. The action of Congress in regard to Porto Rico leaves no doubt as to the purpose of the Republican party or its future policy, if again entrusted with power. It was avowed, in the debates in the House and Senate, that the reason Porto Rico was not given a territorial government similar to that of Arizona or New Mexico was that to give it such a government would be setting a precedent, entailing the necessity of treating the Philippines in the same way; and this the Republican leaders considered sufficient reason for refusing to do our "plain duty," as set forth in President McKinleys message. It is not contended by any Republican leader that there is any purpose to do more than govern the Philippines, after they have been subjugated, in accordance with the absolute will of Congress. They declare that the Constitution does not follow the flag, and the time-honored doctrine, aye, the sacred doctrine, that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," is sneered at as an academic proposition, and any and every kind of argument is brought forward to show that it is puerile and has never had any binding force. The latest illustration, and one that is likely to become popular with Republican orators, is afforded by the Southern States, and the Republican speakers are even now ringing the changes on the inconsistency and absurdity of Southern white men proclaiming their belief in the doctrine that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," while they deny the negroes of the South any place in governmental affairs. I will treat this subject more at length presently; but just now I want to put this question to my readers: Can the American Republic remain a republic, except in name, when the bed-rock upon which it rests is taken from beneath it? Can we, as a people, maintain our institutions in their full vigor, and enjoy the blessings which we have inherited from our fathers, when we wantonly destroy and cast away as rubbish the great charter of our liberties? Rome remained a republic in form a century after it had ceased to be a republic in fact, and the lessons of all history teach us that, if, under the starry banner of our country, a despotism is established in the Philippines and in Porto Rico, we will ere long see the establishment of a despotism in the United States. The Republic, to paraphrase Lincolns words, cannot remain half subject and half free.

Now, in regard to the alleged hypocrisy of Southern Democrats - that hypocrisy which gives such unction to Republican orators - I would call attention to certain facts. The disfranchisement of the ignorant Southern negroes in some of the States within Constitutional limits, does not in any way involve or destroy the truth of the declaration that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." Jefferson, who penned those immortal words, was himself a slaveholder, and the Constitution which our fathers gave us recognized slavery, yet the apparent inconsistency with which Jefferson might he charged, and with which the founders of the Constitution might be charged, did not prevent the idea from becoming a religion to the people who enjoy the blessing of living under this Republic. The only legitimate and honest interpretation of the words is that in any Commonwealth the power to govern must emanate from within, and be by consent of the people governed. It was in contradiction of the doctrine of the divine right of Kings or of force from without, and any other form of government would be despotic. Hence, our use of the term "Imperialism," which Jefferson and Lincoln would indorse if alive.

The mysterious influence of race antagonism and caste feeling cannot be discussed here. It has always existed; it is ineradicable; and it will continue as a governing factor wherever the races come into contact. The condition in the South, instead of offering an argument against the claim of the Democratic party that the Republic is in danger, and that we are threatened with Empire if Republican policies prevail, offers the very strongest object lesson, going to prove the truth of that contention. There are about nine million blacks in this country; and the race riots in New York City, and the bloody tragedy in Akron, Ohio, should silence for all time any charges against the Southern whites of being more cruel in their treatment of the negro than Northern men are. The difference between the treatment of negroes by Southern mobs and the treatment of the negroes in the North is that Northern white men vent their anger upon the blacks indiscriminately, and that their race hatred is so intense that the innocent and unoffending are made to suffer. In the South, on the other hand, the mob hunts down the man who is guilty or supposed to be guilty, and innocent negroes are not molested. The Anglo-Saxon is pretty much the same wherever you find him, and he walks on the necks of every colored race he comes into contact with. Resistance to his will or interests means destruction to the weaker race. Confronted, as we are, within our own borders with this perplexing problem, why do we seek to incorporate nine millions more of brown men under the flag? Republican leaders do not longer dare to call into question the justice and the necessity of limiting the negro suffrage in the South. They only propose selfishly to take advantage of the provision of the Fourteenth Amendment, which gives Congress the right to cut down representation in the Electoral College of any State which has denied suffrage to any of its citizens. The negro is to be sacrificed, provided the South shall thereby be stripped of political power. The Republican party is anxious to see this purpose consummated.

With what right, then, can the party of Lincoln, or the party which has claimed to stand for all of Lincolns ideals and aspirations, twit Southern men with inconsistency and insincerity? We have inherited our race problem and the question is not one that can be thrust aside voluntarily. The "White Mans Burden" is upon us, and, like Sindbad's Old Man of the Sea, will be upon us for all time. Is that any reason why we should lose our liberties at home and become a part of an Empire, holding in subjugation nine millions of Malays, with the probability and almost certainty of further expansion if Republican policies prevail, and of having ere long fifty or a hundred million Chinese in addition? Was Lincoln a dreamer when he said that "the Republic cannot endure half slave and half free?" Because the Southern whites have felt constrained to deprive some of the negroes of a share in the Government, thus denying to them the recognition embodied in the declaration that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed," is that any reason why this great Republic should seek to subjugate more men of the colored race, and deny them that great blessing?

Those who criticise the Southern white people in their dealings with the suffrage question may well be asked: "Has not the Republican party silently acquiesced in all that has been done in recent years in this matter? Who has heard any protest from Mr. McKinley or his advisers?"

If the South has applied drastic remedies to a deadly disease, which it inherited, it cannot be said that any one of her citizens has advocated or indorsed the maintenance of slavery anywhere within the jurisdiction of the United States, as Mr. McKinley has done in his Sulu agreement.

We of the South have never acknowledged that the negroes were our equals, or that they were fitted for or entitled to participate in government; therefore, we are not inconsistent or hypocritical when we protest against the subjugation of the Filipinos, and the establishment of a military government over them by force. Conscious of the wrongs which exist in the South, and seeking anxiously for a just and fair solution of the Race Question, we strenuously oppose incorporating any more colored men into the body politic. We dread the reflex action, the example, the familiarizing of our people with despotic methods. We do not want to add to the perplexities involved in the Race Question in the South the greater danger involved in the conquest and government of the Philippine Islands, outside of and contrary to the Constitution. All other issues are dwarfed, therefore, by this issue, in our minds. The South to-day affords the purest and best type of American citizenship. What I mean is that the people who inhabit the States south of the Potomac and Ohio rivers are the descendants of men who founded the Government. They are "native and to the manner born," to the second, third and fourth generation. They are lacking in some of the elements of progressiveness which characterize Northern communities, but they possess civic virtues which were the boast and glory of the American citizen of fifty years ago, in a much larger proportion than exists in any other section of the country. And in the future, if not in the coming election, the people of that section will be the conservative force which will preserve our institutions if they are to be preserved. We are nearly all Americans and cling to American traditions. We have the genuine, original seed-corn of liberty.

The Republican party cannot, with any degree of self-respect or decency, ask the American people for leave to subjugate the Filipinos for the purpose of governing them as Southern negroes are governed. This cannot be done, in the first place, because the conditions are different. In the South, the races are commingled in every community, and material for intelligent, honest officials exists everywhere. Nothing of the kind can be found in the Philippines. In the second place, the Republican party will belie all its boasted past if it is allowed to consummate its scheme of conquest and to set up a military despotism in the East. Mr. Hoar protests that the Republican party is the party of liberty and can be trusted, and he does this in the face of the Presidents declaration that the Filipinos will be given only such share in the government as we consider them "capable of exercising." How can Mr. Hoar defend the abandonment of the negroes by the Republican party at home, and defend the Presidents policy of subjugating the Filipinos with a view to governing them with greater hardships than Southern negroes have ever had to endure? Mr. Hoar is opposed to conquering and retaining the Philippines, but Mr. Hoar supports Mr. McKinley, and Mr. McKinley is committed to that policy irrevocably; and no Republican leader, not even Governor Roosevelt, will now dare to wave the bloody shirt and preach a crusade against the South's treatment of the negro. The North has a bloody shirt of its own. Many thousands of them have been made into shrouds for murdered Filipinos, done to death because they were fighting for liberty. There is no parallel in history for such a somersault. The two parties have swapped places since 1860. The Democratic party now stands for liberty and true American principles. It still believes in the Declaration as written and understood by the author and his compatriots of 1776. The Republicans repudiate the Declaration and are as besotted in pursuing the scheme of conquest and robbery in the East, as the slave oligarchy of 1860 was in supporting the institution of human slavery in the South. The people are thinking as they have never thought before, and every patriot awaits with bated breath the verdict which will be rendered in November.

B. R. TILLMAN.

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