NEW HAVEN, CONN., March 30, 1900.--Harvard this evening defeated Yale in one of the closest of intercollegiate debates. The question for debate was: "Resolved, That Porto Rico be included in the customs' boundary of the United States." Harvard supported the negative. The teams were made up as follows: Harvard--E. Mayer' 00, H. A. Yeomans '00, and W. Morse '00; Yale--M. Trowbridge '02, A. D. Leavitt '00, and F. Q. Blanchard, Dv.
The popularity of the subject brought out an unusually large audience, every seat being taken and many being obliged to stand. Among the crowd were about a dozen Harvard men as well as Hill and Scott of Princeton, who came to study the tactics of the Yale speakers. The rebuttal work of both teams was far above the average. President Hadley, who presided, said it stood unrivalled. In the main speeches the Harvard men took occasion to rebut more than did the Yale representatives. But the Yale men in the regular rebuttal speeches had a slight advantage. This was the first debate in which Yale has departed from her policy of having three set opening speeches. The forms of the Harvard speeches showed a certain emotional quality, not overdone, which made the argument persuasive. The Yale speakers had an entirely different style lacking perhaps in fervor of voice, but making up for this in a give and take direct manner. It was simply a question which style of speaking was preferred for representing different types.
Looking at the debate, as a whole, the point that told most for Harvard was that the scheme of a separate tariff would not work in practice, for Congress would favor the United States on account of the pressure that could be brought to bear by American manufacturers. It can safely be said that Yale did not prove clearly that the Dingley tariff would increase the price of necessaries. Yale proved that if these necessaries came from foreign countries they would have to pay a higher duty than they do now, but Harvard showed effectively that the necessaries could be supplied by the United States. In this connection the price and use of rice was bandied back and forth by all the speakers.
The one point that stood out for Yale was that the revenue law would be a hardship for Porto Rico and this Harvard did not successfully meet. Likewise, through clever rebuttal, the Harvard argument that, through Americanization of the island a permanent policy would be secured, was weakened. Leavitt argued that Hawaii was Americanized without free trade and Porto Rico would be. Morse said in Hawaii the fact of the existence of reciprocity made the case different. In his rebuttal speech Leavitt showed that reciprocity was possible under the Yale plan.
The opening and rebuttal speeches of Yeomans were on the whole the best speeches of the evening. Mayer's closing speech was marked by a grip and drive that must have done much to turn a close case. Trowbridge of Yale had a clearness of expressing himself which was remarkable. Leavitt's rebuttal work, especially in turning the Harvard argument, was extremely clever.
E. Mayer '00 opened the debate, and said: "We are met this evening to discuss a question of the hour. Not for years has the country been so stirred over a matter of pure legislation as over the status which Congress shall decide upon for Porto Rico. This is a live, practical question, one that invites the sober consideration of every American. The decision of the American people on this question will decide whether we are to continue along that line of development which we have successfully followed since the beginning of our national existence."
He then went on to show that Porto Rico is in a distressing condition and needs a remedy for her ills.
"Any policy which the United States adopts for Porto Rico must have three qualities: first, it must cure the immediate economic needs of Porto Rico by supplying cheap food and ready employment; second, it must assure the permanent development of Porto Rico industrially and socially. Finally, it must fulfill our moral obligation and must be politically wise."
He then examined in detail the first proposition of the affirmative, that to include Porto Rico within the customs boundary of the United States meant relief for the immediate economic needs of the island. "The United States has furnished foodstuffs cheaper than any country in the world, and can continue to do so, and we propose that the suffering, helpless Porto Ricans shall have them free of duty. But our plan means also cheap wearing apparel, cheap building material and cheap manufacturing material. To levy a duty upon these essentials of economic and social development would mean suffering to the already impoverished island more than commensurate with any revenue received.
"A people on the verge of starvation needs cheap food and ready employment. We see that cheap food will be afforded; will our plan give employment? The tobacco and sugar growers are idle because they lack markets. The coffee planters are without capital to make good the losses of the recent disastrous hurricane. Porto Rico lacks markets as a direct result of American acquisition. There is a solemn obligation upon the United States to furnish a substitute for those lost markets. The highest considerations of justice demand that we open our markets to the Porto Ricans. American markets are ample for Porto Rican Products." He then went on to show that the United States furnished more than sufficient markets, and that in every instance the Porto Rican products formed no serious competitive force against American produce.
"But to include Porto Rico within the customs boundary of the United States means, moreover, the inflowing of American capital to develop the latent possibilities of the island. Uncertainty, always a foe to industrial development, now prevails. Once make it known that the interests of Porto Rico are to be the interests of the United States, that Porto Rico is a part of us, and American capital will flow to the island. But until that time comes the rehabilitation of Porto Rico along American lines is impossible. When Americans can feel that their investments in Porto Rico are to be regarded as favorably as those in New York, then, and not till then, will American capital develop the island.
"With Porto Rico included within our customs boundary, her industrial development will be assured; with industrial development will come employment; with employment the means to buy food and the opportunity of self-support. Porto Rico will flourish and prosper, only when you assure relief for the suffering, capital for the crippled industries and a stability of government. There is one way, and only one, of securing these benefits to Porto Rico; include Porto Rico within the customs boundary of the United States."
Mason Trowbridge, the first speaker for Yale, said in brief:
"The inclusion of Porto Rico within our customs boundaries involves, first, the enforcement there of our tarriff laws; and second, free importation into Porto Rico of American goods and free markets here for Porto Rican products. The negative are opposed to this policy, because it makes the former a condition precedent to the attainment of the latter. In framing a tariff for this country which was to apply there also, it would not be possible to give any amount of consideration to the needs of that one comparatively small island. The only, therefore, in which we can give her customs laws that shall meet her wants, is to allow Congress to enact special rates for her, as it has a right to do. That is the proposition of the negative.
"We cannot meet our obligations to Porto Rico in any other way. We must enact duties which shall secure prosperity to the islanders. Our own customs laws will not accomplish this. They were devised to protect a manufacturing country that presents an almost complete contrast to Porto Rico, a purely agricultural island. In the parts of our country where the economic conditions approach those of Porto Rico, in the southern plantation states, the opposition to our tariff has been increasing for seventy-five years."