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."
H. A. Yeomans '00, the second speaker for the affirmative, after calling attention to the advantages of the affirmative policy as an emergency measure, declared that the more important question is one of permanent policy. "Consul Hanna, in his report for last year, declared that the time will not come for American business men to develop the island until it has American government and until the laws of the United States are enforced.
"In like manner we are supported by the reports of the insular commission and of Special Commissioner Carrol, which declare that the future prosperity of Porto Rico is absolutely dependent on its being treated as an integral part of our country. We are supported, moreover, by the military governors, Generals Brooke, Henry and Davis, who have urged upon our government, that, as we value the welfare of this people, we must grant them the privileges and immunities the rest of our territory enjoys. We are supported, finally, by the published and uncontradicted utterances of our secretary of War and our President.
"The great industrial need of Porto Rico is capital. Any policy by which we expect to solve the Porto Rican question must provide for the introduction of capital and the resulting commercial development. To place Porto Rico within our customs boundary is the very policy which meets this requirement. It is the only measure which guarantees permanent economic conditions, without which capitalists will never invest. Second, it provides that the capital attracted to the island shall be American, and that Porto Rico shall be developed along American lines.
"Ours is the measure of permanence, for it is the only measure that contemplates equal treatment for Porto Rico and for us. Congress can never follow a permanent, consistent policy when asked to provide separate and distinct tariff legislation for two peoples, to one of which it is responsible and to the other not. The only permanent tariff measure for Porto Rico is the one which gives the island the privileges and responsibilities we enjoy and bear. No more and no less.
"Finally, we must not forget that the island of Porto Rico is to be Americanized, or its possession will prove a source of weakness. If we place it within our customs boundary the capital which will flow there is sure to be American, and every commercial influence will make for assimilation. Not until this policy is carried out shall we see an Americanized Porto Rico."
Ashley D.Leavitt, Yale's second speaker, said: "In legislating for Porto Rico, Congress is not limited by constitutional provision for uniformity of duties, etc. This we maintain on the ground that Porto Rico is not a part of the United States as regards the constitution, and that Congress has the power to legislate for it in this condition. That conquest did not make Porto Rico a part of the United States is clear from the decision of the court in Fleming vs. Page (9 Howard). The court said in regard to Tampica, a conquest by the United States: 'It was undoubtedly under the sovereign dominion of the United States.' But yet it was not a part of the Union. That the treaty of cession did not bring Porto Rico within our boundaries is clear from the wording of the treaty itself, and secondly, from the uniform construction put upon such treaties by Congress, and thirdly, from the decision of the court in the case of Cross vs. Harrison (16 Howard) referring to California which had been ceded to the United States as has Porto Rico. From this decision it is clear that California had not in consequence of the treaty become a part of the United States to which the statutes applied. This case is parallel to Porto Rico.
'Congress has power to legislate outside our boundaries where the constitutional limitations do not apply. The main question is, how long may we legislate for Porto Rico in its present political status? This, like the question as to how long we may hold New Mexico and Alaska as territories must be settled on the ground of pure legislative expediency. Considering the best interest of Porto Rico it is inexpedient to make the island a part of the United States."
W. Morse '00, after summing up the case as thus far stated, proceeded to say that the question involves a moral obligation incumbent on the United States: "Just before our occupation of Porto Rico the Spanish government granted the island more beneficent privileges than any other Spanish colony enjoyed. Yet the people accepted American occupation willingly, relying on the promise of General Miles that they should enjoy the same privileges and immunities as the people of the United States. One of those privileges was equal trade rights with every other part of the United States.
"Back of this promise was the sentiment of the American people as expressed by the public press all over the country. Back of it was our constant declaration to the world that American expansion meant the carrying to less fortunate people of those principles of liberty, equality and justice for which this republic has stood since its foundation.
"The policy advocated by the affirmative, moreover, is politically wise. It is a measure of conciliation, inasmuch as it is what the Porto Ricans themselves earnestly desire and expect. Leaving out the question of legal right to deny our new subjects these things, is it politically wise to do so? 'I am not declaring,' says Edmund Burke, 'whether you have the right to make your people miserable, but whether it is not to your interest to make them happy.'
"Finally, the policy of including Porto Rico within our customs boundary is politically wise, because it follows a line of successful precedent and is in keeping with the spirit of American governmental ideals. The policy of a territorial government with equal treatment for all has met the varying conditions in Louisiana, Florida and Hawali. Now we are asked to break faith with the Porto Ricans and abandon these principles.
"To include Porto Rico within our customs boundary is economically advantageous to the island; it fulfills our national moral obligations, and it is politically wise in that it upholds the highest spirit of American institutions, of American civilization, and of American governmental ideals."
F. Q. Blanchard completed the negative case.
"The power to hold and govern territory without making it a part of the United States is given by necessary implication in the treaty and war-making power. In the Constitution the states delegated to the national government the power to make war and treaties. Did they at the same time delegate the right to hold territory without bringing it under the organic laws? The states do not possess this right today, and clearly they must have given it to the federal government with the treaty and war-making power. The affirmative contention is to make the United States a cripple among nations. If the United States cannot immediately dispose of territory which has come as a result of war, then, however unwise the course may be, it must make that territory a part of itself. It assuredly was not the intention of the Constitution's makers thus to render the United States unable to exercise the ordinary incidents of the power to make treaties and declare war. If we assert this principle in the face of our present problems we put a construction upon the Constitution not only fallacious but certain to work the most disastrous results in the future. We might thus argue from the point of view of the United States, but we prefer to lay special stress on the evils inclusion would bring to Porto Rico.
"The revenue laws of this country would raise, on the statement of the Porto Ricans, nearly three times as much as is necessary for the expenses of the government. Furthermore, it would place the burden of taxation on those least able to bear it, while the wealthy producers would escape comparatively free. For the sake of obtaining free markets by inclusion within our customs boundaries we must face unjust taxation.
"The negative position secures every advantage of the affirmative and we do not injure the prosperity of the island while we attempt to upbuild it. We furthermore argue for the right of Congress to deal with the island as needs demand.