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The Philippine Question
Washington, D.C., January 9, 1900
Albert J. Beveridge

Mr. President, I address the Senate at this time because senators and members of the House on both sides have asked that I give to Congress and the country my observations in the Philippines and the Far East, and the conclusions which those observations compel; and because of hurtful resolutions introduced [condemning the American occupation] and utterances made in the Senate, every word of which will cost and is costing the lives of American soldiers.

Mr. President, the times call for candor.  The Philippines are ours forever, "territory belonging to the United States," as the Constitution calls them.  And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets.  We will not retreat from either.  We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient.  We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world.  And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength and Thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world. 

This island empire is the last land left in all the oceans.  If it should prove a mistake to abandon it, the blunder once made would be irretrievable.  If it proves a mistake to hold it, the error can be corrected when we will.  Every other progressive nation stands ready to relieve us. 

But to hold it will be no mistake..The Philippines give us a base at the door of all the East.  Lines of navigation from our ports to the Orient and Australia, from the Isthmian Canal to Asia, from all Oriental ports to Australia converge at and separate from the Philippines.  They are a self-supporting, dividend-paying fleet, permanently anchored at a spot selected by the strategy of Providence, commanding the Pacific.  And the Pacific is the ocean of the commerce of the future.  Most future wars will be conflicts for commerce. The power that rules the Pacific, therefore, is the power that rules the world. And, with the Philippines, that power is and will forever be the American Republic.

I have cruised more than 2,000 miles through the archipelago, every moment a surprise at its loveliness and wealth.  I have ridden hundreds of miles on the islands, every foot of the way a revelation of vegetable and mineral riches.

No land in America surpasses in fertility the plains and valleys of Luzon.  Rice and coffee, sugar and coconuts, hemp and tobacco, and many products of the temperate as well as the tropic grow in various sections of the archipelago.  I have seen hundred of bushels of Indian corn lying in the road fringed with banana trees.  The forests of Negroes, Mindanao, Mindora, Paluan and parts of Luzon are invaluable and intact.  The wood of the Philippines can supply the furniture of the world for a century to come.  At Cebu the best informed man in the island told me that 40 miles of Cebu's mountain chain are practically mountains of coal..I have a nugget of gold picked up in its present form on the banks of a Philippine creek. [Beveridge holds up a rock.] ..And this wealth is but a small fraction.

..If we are willing to go to war rather than let England have a few feet of frozen Alaska, which affords no market and commands none, what should we not do rather than let England, Germany, Russia, or Japan have all the Philippines? And no man on the spot can fail to see that this would be their fate if we retired.

..It will be hard for Americans who have not studied them to understand the people.  They are a barbarous race, modified by three centuries of contact with a decadent race.  The Filipino is the South Sea Malay, put through a process of three hundred years of superstition in religion, dishonesty in dealing, disorder in habits of industry, and cruelty, caprice, and corruption in government.  It is barely possible that 1,000 men in all the archipelago are capable of self government in the Anglo-Saxon sense.. 

But, Senators, it would be better to abandon this combined garden and Gibraltar of the Pacific, and count our blood and treasure already spent a profitable loss than to apply any academic arrangement of self-government to these children.  They are not capable of self-government.  How could they be? They are Orientals, Malays, instructed by Spaniards in the latter's worst estate.  They know nothing of practical government except as they have witnessed the weak, corrupt, cruel, and capricious rule of Spain.  What magic will anyone employ to dissolve in their minds and characters those impressions of governors and governed which three centuries of misrule has created? What alchemy will change the oriental quality of their blood and set the self-governing currents of the American pouring through their Malay veins? How shall they, in the twinkling of an eye, be exalted to the heights of self-governing peoples which required a thousand years for us to reach, Anglo-Saxon though we are?

..Self-government is no base and common thing to be bestowed on the merely audacious.  It is the degree which crowns the graduate of liberty, not the name of liberty's infant class, who have not yet mastered the alphabet of freedom.. We must act on the situation as it exists, not as we would wish it.

..Example for decades will be necessary to instruct them in American ideas and methods of administration.  Example, example, always example--this alone will teach them..

We cannot adopt the Dutch method in Java, nor the English method in the Malay states, because both of these systems rest on and operate through the existing governments of hereditary princes, with Dutch and English as advisers.  But in the Philippines there are no such hereditary rulers, no such established governments.  There is no native machinery of administration except that of the villages.  The people have been deprived of the advantages of hereditary native princes, and yet not instructed in any form of regular, just, and orderly government.

The men we send to administer civilized government in the Philippines must be themselves the highest examples of our civilization.  I use the word "examples," for examples they must be in that word's most absolute sense.  They must be men of the world and of worldly affairs, students of their fellowmen, not theorists nor dreamers.  They must be brave men, physically as well as morally.  They must be as incorruptible as honor, as stainless as purity, men whom no force can frighten, no influence coerce, no money buy..

Better abandon this priceless possession, admit ourselves incompetent to do our part in the world-redeeming work of our imperial race; better now haul down the flag of arduous deeds for civilization and run up the flag of reaction and decay than to apply academic notions of self-government to these children or attempt their government by any but the most perfect administrators our country can produce.

It is not true that charity begins at home. Selfishness begins there; but charity begins abroad and ends in its full glory in the home. England's miracle is in Egypt, surpassing the ancient ones of turning rods in serpents because the modern miracles turn serpents into men, desserts into gardens, famine into plenty--England's work in the land of the sphinx has solved its profound riddle, exalted not England only, but all the world by its noble example, and thrilled to the soul every citizen of Great Britain with civic pride in the achievements of the greatest civilizing empire of the world.  "Cast thy bread upon the waters and after many days it shall return to you!" "With what measure ye meet, it shall be meeted to you again."

Mr. President, self-government and internal development have been the dominant notes of our first century; administration and the development of other lands will be the dominant notes of our second century.  And administration is as high and holy a function as self-government, just as the care of a trust estate is as sacred an obligation as the management of our own concerns.  Cain was the first to violate the divine law of human society which makes of us our brother's keeper.  And administration of good government is the first lesson in self-government, that exalted estate toward which all civilization tends. 

Administration of good government is not denial of liberty.  For what is liberty? It is not savagery.  It is not the exercise of individual will.  It is not dictatorship.  It involves government, but not necessarily self-government.  It means law.  First of all, it is a common rule of action, applying equally to all within its limits.  Liberty means protection of property and life without price, free speech without intimidation, justice without purchase or delay, government without favor or favorites.  What will best give all this to the people of the Philippines--American administration, developing them gradually toward self-government, or self-government by a people before they know what self-government means?

..The Constitution declares that "Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory belonging to the United States." Not the Northwest Territory only; not Louisiana or Florida only; not territory on this continent only but any territory anywhere belonging to the nation.

..[The] power to administer government anywhere and in any manner the situation demands would have ben in Congress if the Constitution had been silent; not merely because it is a power not reserved to the States or people; not merely because it is a power inherent in and an attribute of nationality; not even because it might be inferred from other specific provision of the Constitution; but because it is the power most necessary for the ruling provisions of our race--the tendency to explore, expand, and grow, to sail new seas and seek new lands, subdue the wilderness, revitalize decaying peoples, and plant civilized and civilizing governments all over the globe..

Mr. President, this question is deeper than any question of party politics; deeper than any question of the isolated policy of our country even; deeper even than any question of constitutional power.  It is elemental.  It is racial.  God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration.  No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns.  He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth.  He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples.  Were it not for such a force as this the world would relapse into barbarism and night.  And of all our race.  He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world.  This is the divine mission of America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man.  We are trustees of the world's progress, guardians of its righteous peace.  The judgment of the Master is upon us: "Ye have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things."

What shall history say of us? Shall it say that we renounced that holy trust, left the savage to his base condition, the wilderness to the reign of waste, deserted duty, abandoned glory, forget our sordid profit even, because we feared our strength and read the charter of our powers with the doubter's eye and the quibbler's mind? Shall it say that, called by events to captain and command the proudest, ablest, purest race of history in history's noblest work, we declined that great commission? Our fathers would not have had it so.  No! They founded no paralytic government, incapable of the simplest acts of administration.  They planted no sluggard people, passive while the world's work calls them.  They established no reactionary nation.  They unfurled no retreating flag.

That flag has never paused in its onward march.  Who dares halt it now--now, when history's largest events are carrying it forward; now, when we are at last one people, strong enough for any task, great enough for any glory destiny can bestow?. Blind indeed is he who sees not the hand of God in events so vast, so harmonious, so benign.  Reactionary indeed is the mind that perceives not that this vital people is the strongest of the saving forces of the world; that our place, therefore, is at the head of the constructing and redeeming nations of the earth; and that to stand aside while events march on is a surrender of our interests, a betrayal of our duty as blind as it is base.  Craven indeed is the heart that fears to perform a work so golden and so noble; that dares not win a glory so immortal. 

Do you tell me that it will cost us money? When did Americans ever measure duty by financial standards? Do you tell me of the tremendous toil required to overcome the vast difficulties of our task? What mighty work for the world, for humanity, even for ourselves has ever been done with ease? ..Do you remind me of the precious blood that must be shed, the lives that must be given, the broken hearts of loved ones for their slain? And this is indeed a heavier price than all combined.  And, yet, as a nation, every historic duty we have done, every achievement we have accomplished has been by the sacrifice of our noblest sons.  Every holy memory that glorifies the flag is of those heroes who have died that its onward march might not be stayed..That flag is woven of heroism and grief, of the bravery of men and women's tears, of righteousness and battle, of sacrifice and anguish, of triumph and of glory.  It is these which make our flag a holy thing.  Who would tear from that sacred banner the glorious legends of a single battle where it has waved on land or sea?

..In the cause of civilization, in the service of the republic anywhere on earth, Americans consider wounds the noblest decorations man can win, and count the giving of their lives a glad and precious duty. 

Pray God that spirit never falls.  Pray God the time may never come when Mammon and the love of ease shall so debase our blood that we will fear to shed it for the flag and its imperial destiny.  Pray God the time may never come when American heroism is but a legend like the story of the Cid.  American faith in our mission and our might a dream dissolved, and the glory of our mighty race departed. 

And that time will never come.  We will renew our youth at the fountain of new and glorious deeds.  We will exalt our reverence for the flag by carrying it to a noble future as well as by remembering its ineffable past.  Its immortality will not pass, because everywhere and always we will acknowledge and discharge the solemn responsibilities our sacred flag, in its deepest meaning, puts upon us.  And so, Senators, with reverent hearts, where dwells the fear of God, the American people move forward to the future of their hope and the doing of His work. 

Mr. President and Senators, adopt the resolution offered that peace may quickly come and that we may begin our saving, regenerating, and uplifting work.  Adopt it, and this bloodshed will cease when these deluded children of our islands learn that this is the final word of the representatives of the American people in Congress assembled.  Reject it, and the world, history and the American people will know where to forever fix the awful responsibility for the consequences that will surely follow such failure to do our manifest duty. 

How dare we delay when our soldiers' blood is flowing?