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Other matters of critical importance have engrossed the interest of the people of the United States in recent years to such a degree that we have been losing rather than gaining in our knowledge of affairs in the Philippine Islands. When the dramatic incidents of war had ceased to furnish material for striking news items and new issues had superseded the political and Anti-Imperialist controversies of our early occupation we ceased to hear or to think very much about what was going on in that distant part of the world. That is not strange in view of the preoccupation of our domestic politics, of Mexican affairs, and of the great war in the Old World; but it is a condition which ought not to continue.
The question whether it was wise or unwise for the United States to take title to the Philippines and assume the burden of government there no longer calls for consideration. We did take the Philippines. We acquired the rights and undertook the duties of sovereignty. We declared a trust for the benefit of the people of the Islands. We are committed to the undertaking. Self-respect requires that we should discharge the obligations that we have assumed. We can not relieve ourselves from them except in one way, and that is by carrying our performance to such a point that our cestuis que trustent will be competent to take care of themselves. When that point is reached we can resign the trust with credit; but not until then. This is not a new view. It is the view with which we began. We took a position at the very outset removed as far as possible from the old ideas of colonial exploitation of which Java has been the most long continued and conspicuous illustration. We declared our adherence to the most advanced modern view of colonial relations--the view that the good of the colony is to be the primary consideration in all administration. We did what is rather a remarkable thing for any people to do. We took the same view
of rights and duties when we became sovereign and the Filipinos colonists that we did in the time of the American Revolution when we were colonists and Great Britain was sovereign. We did not stop there. We undertook to go a little farther than other countries had gone and to make the first consideration in our government of the Islands the training of the inhabitants in the difficult art of self-government so that they would as soon
being governed by us. Accordingly one of the first things that we did was to send over teachers by the shipload—thousands of them-and to establish schools all over the Islands. And then we provided a form of government under which the Philippines should receive what may be called clinical instruction in administration and in the application of the principles which we consider vital to free self-government, and we provided that, step by step, just as rapidly as they became familiar with the institutions of free government and capable of continuing them, the powers of government should be placed in their hands. I am sure that this view of suitable treatment of the Philippines so long as we are to be in the Islands at all commends itself to the best intelligence and the practical idealism of the American people. If we carry it through successfully it will result in great credit to our country throughout the world; but we can not fail in it, whether by our own misconduct or by weak abandonment of the duty we have undertaken, without being greatly discred
affairs to deal with in these times is that the country which exercises control over a colony is always itself on trial in the public opinion of mankind. The people of a country can make a thousand mistakes about their own internal affairs and recover from them as best they may, and very few people outside the country know or think anything about it. The treatment of a colony, however; success or failure in establishing good government there; in producing peace and prosperity and human progress
ure constitute a simple, concrete whole of which the world takes notice and upon which the ruling country is judged. More important still probably is the effect upon national self-respect and patriotism of doing such a piece of work well or making a discreditable failure in it.
As I look back over American administration in the Philippines from the Treaty of Washington in the spring of 1899 down to the close of the Taft Administration in the spring of 1913, I think the American people are entitled to say to themselves that their work was well done. We maintained in the Islands a very able and honest government which constantly and effectively kept in view the very high standard of purpose with which we began. By limiting this statement to the end of the Taft Administration I do not mean to imply that I think any differently of our administration since that time. I simply do not know enough about it since then to make an assertion one way or the other. The time during which I knew about the Philippine government covers the first fourteen years, and as to that time I say that the people of the United States ought to be proud of their government in the Philippines and grateful to the men and women who reflected credit on their country by giving their strength and lives to that public service.
It is idle, however, to expect that kind of service to continue indefinitely if nobody at home cares or knows anything about it. The service will inevitably deteriorate and become a source of painful discredit if the people of the United States do not keep themselves sufficiently informed about what is being done in the Philippines and sufficiently interested in it to make service there the basis of reputation here. The standard of service will inevitably be lowered and the best men will refuse it if the people in the United States become so ignorant and indifferent that there is no way of discriminating between just criticism upon a bad officer and that detraction to which faithful service is always subject, or between just condemnation and the fulsome praise which is dictated by policy and a desire to curry favor. Corrup
tion and abuse will creep into any official service that is not subject to be inspected and called to account. If the people of the United States wish to have good government carried on in the Philippines and to have their duties there discharged in a creditable way they must take an interest in that government and watch it.
Moreover, there are serious questions about the Philippines to be determined, not by the Filipinos or the local government, but by the people of the United States. The question to what extent the natives are showing themselves competent to carry on government; when we ought to consider that our task has been so far performed that we are at liberty to turn the Islands over to the control of the natives; what measure of protection we shall accord to them thereafter, if any; what reservations, if any, will be necessary to make any such protection to them consistent with our own safety, such, for instance, as the provisions of the Platt Amendment regarding Cuba. All these questions are of great importance to the people of the United States as well as to the people of the Philippine Islands. We ought not to decide them without knowledge and that knowledge to be really useful must be acquired not at the moment when the questions have to be decided, but through keeping up a familiarity with the government of the Islands as we go along from year to year. The American people have had some very serious lessons to teach them the truth that self-government is an art to be acquired and that it is a terrible evil for a people to have imposed on them a form of government which it is beyond their capacity to carry on. We gave the ballot to the Blacks of the South at the close of the Civil War upon the theory that if they had an opportunity to vote they would be self-governing; and we made a ghastly failure of the experiment and inflicted great injury upon the Blacks themselves because our theory was wrong. We have now a distressing illustration in Mexico of the evils which can befall the people who are relieved from the restrictions of one form of government before they have become competent to establish another. In the Caribbean we have been proceeding upon an entirely different theory as illustrated by the Platt Amendment with Cuba and the San Domingo treaty. This theory is that the best service we can render to the peoples whom we wish to benefit is to help them to acquire the art of self-gov. ernment. This is the theory upon which we are proceeding in the Philippines, but the application of such a theory requires knowledge and genuine interest and sympathy, and these qualities ought to characterize the relations of the people of this country to the people of the Philippine Islands.
I think that the book by Judge Elliott to which this is a prefatory note will be very useful in making the people of the United States better acquainted with the Filipinos and with our government there. The Judge's long service upon the Bench of the Supreme Court of the Islands and as a member of the Philippine Commission and Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Police gave him special facilities for observation and sound judgment regarding men and affairs in the Islands, and it seems to me that he has availed himself of that opportunity with the impartiality and thoughtfulness which have characterized his previous valuable work.
ELIHU Root. August 8th, 1916,