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Nicholas Roosevelt '14, journalist and author, has just returned from a study of the conditions in the Philippines and has written a book on the islands entitled "The Philippines, a Treasure and a Problem." He served as an infantry captain during the war, has been special representative for the United States in Austria and Hungary, and is at present a member of the editorial staff of the New York Times. The following article by Mr. Roosevelt was written especially for the Crimson.
"Better a government run like hell by the Filipinos than one run like heaven by the Americans" is the saying attributed to Manuel Quezon. President of the Philippine Senate and leader of the independence movement in those islands.
In this sentiment are epitomized the conflicting points of view of Filipinos and Americans about the Philippine problem. When we went into the Islands twenty-eight years ago, we promised to establish law and order, to eliminate disease, to break the dense wall of illiteracy, and to prepare the many conflicting tribes for unification and ultimate self-government. This program we have not yet completed. In spite of this the Filipino politicians cry for "complete, immediate and absolute independence." They would prefer (so they tell us in their speeches) a government by their own people, no matter how had, to one in which we have any control.
Motive Is Selfish One
This statement, however natural it may sound to us, is somewhat disingenuous. In the first place, the independence sentiment has been artificially stimulated by the Filipino politicians for their own selfish ends. In the second place, nearly every one of the leaders who have advocated it in public admit that in private that they do not believe the time has yet come for the Americans to withdraw completely from the Islands. Their secret ideal is for complete independence under the protecting arm of the United States, with the right to call on us for unlimited funds to experiment with government and business, and with the expectation that in the event of danger of external aggression our might will protect them.
To judge from the cries of the politicos the Filipinos are downtrodden and all but enslaved by the brutal and rapacious Uncle Sam. The facts are that they enjoy as much or more independence than any people in Eastern Asia. Less than four per cent of the officials in the Philippines are Americans. These have been so shorn of their power that they are little more than figureheads in all matters of local government the Filipinos are in complete control. As a matter of fact the Filipino legislature has usurped a large measure of the powers assigned by law to the American executive. Lord Northcliffe pointed out that the Filipinos enjoy a greater measure of liberty than even the various American states.
Problem Truly Economic
The real Philippine problem is not political but economic. It ever the Filipinos are to be able to stand by themselves, they must develop their enormous potential wealth. Only about 12 per cent, of the area of the islands is under cultivation. Agricultural methods are very primitive. Little has been done to improve them. The soil and climate of the Islands, however, is as good as the best in the fabulously rich Indies. All manner of tropical products can be grown there--rubber, camphor, coffee, tea, cocoa, gutta-percha, cocoanuts. Of these we import each year enormous quantities, but only a very small percentage comes from the Philippines. If, therefore, Americans would help the Filipinos to develop their great resources, the benefit would be mutual. We need their products. The need our financing and technical skill.
Promises Still Unfulfilled
We have not yet completed our task in the Philippines. We have not yet fulfilled our promises. We hold the Islands in trust, not for the politicians alone, or for one race or group, but for all the people of all the Islands. Nearly two thirds of the people are still illiterate, in spite of our splendid educational work there. How can we expect a lot of different tribes scattered over 3000 islands speaking 87 different languages and dialects, and torn by tribal and religious jealousies, to exercise a form of government devised by northern peoples for a northern climate, and resting on the consent of an enlightened electorate?
It behooves us, therefore, to go ahead with the work of preparing them for ultimate nationhood. This means to govern the Islands efficiently, to create a colonial service which will enlist competent men in the lower positions--men of the type who went to the Islands in the days of Cameron Forbes, ready to sacrifice their lives, if need be, in order to serve the Filipinos. It means giving future governors the power to administer constructively. It means investing money, establishing farm schools, and inaugurating a campaign to introduce modern agricultural methods. It means developing roads and inter-island communications to such a point that the peoples of the remote islands can ship their produce with regularity. It means clearing virgin lands and establishing plantations. It means perfecting the school system and making an earnest drive to prepare the people--all of the people, and not only a small class of Chinese and Spanish half-castes--for self-government.
To withdraw from the Philippines before our task is done would be a betrayal of the great mass of Filipino peoples. Furthermore, it would upset the balance of power in the Pacific and might well be followed by serious revolutionary uprisings throughout Eastern Asia. The Philippine problem is more than a domestic issue concerning only the Filipinos and ourselves. It is an international problem
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