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Questions of the Day
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NEW ELEMENTS IN THE NATIONAL POLITICAL SITUATION.
By O. F. PAXTON.
As a result with the war with Spain, the United States has acquired Porto Rico and the adjacent islands in the West Indies, the Philippine group and the island of Guam in the Pacific. The questions of governmental power and national policy that have arisen with reference to these possessions and their government are the principal new elements in the present national political situation.
Two classes of questions have arisen. The first class may broadly be said to include two questions (1) Has the United States power to acquire. hold and govern the islands, and, (2) conceding that power, Does the Constitution, of its own force extend over them
that its limitations and restrictions apply to them without congressional action? or does Congress possess the power to govern the islands at will and provide different regulations. for each, according to their peculiar conditions and needs? These are questions of governmental power.
Questions of policy constitute the second class. How shall the new possessions be best governed? To what extent are their inhabitants qualified to participate in their local governmental affairs? How shall revenues be raised necessary for the support of their municipal governments, for the establishment and maintenance of schools and for the construction of highways and other necessary public works? The questions of power being determined, these are questions of policy only.
Although the subject of fresh debate at the present time, the power of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to acquire by conquest or treaty and hold and govern new territory, is really not a new question; nor can that power, in the light of our national history, be successfully denied. That power has been assumed and exercised by the United States from an early period. Louisiana was acquired by the United States from France by treaty in 1803. Florida was ceded to us in 1819 by Spain. The Texas territory was annexed in 1845. California was acquired in 1848, by treaty, the fruit, like the treaty of Paris, of successful war. In 1853 the Gadsden purchase was made. Alaska was acquired from Russia in 1867, and in 1898 the Hawaiian islands were annexed. The government of these new territories was provided for by Congress as they were in turn acquired. In the light of these historical precedents, the power of the United States to acquire and govern the islands cannot be denied.
It is contended upon the part of some that the Constitution, by its own force, extends over all of the territory that we acquire, without any congressional action, just as Calhoun contended that slavery extended to all the territories by virtue of the provision in the constitution protecting slavery. This question as to whether the provisions of the Constitution ex proprio vigore extend to all territory acquired by the United States has never been directly decided by the Supreme Court,
but the practical exposition of the Constitution has ever been against that contention. "The Constitution follows the flag," is a fine-sounding phrase, but such has never been the construction given to the Constitution, and such does not seem to have been the intention of its framers, for they provided, in Section 3, of Article IV, that "The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the United States." Congress and the people have always understood that the restrictions and limitations of the Constitution do not apply to newly-acquired territory until they are extended over it by appropriate congressional action. Such was the view in the case of Louisiana. The government of that newly-acquired territory was provided for by Congress, according to the peculiar needs of the territory, and irrespective of the Constitution. This course has been followed in other cases. Taking the expressed declaration of the Constitution and the construction given it for nearly a hundred years, it would seem to be well settled that the United States may govern the newly-acquired islands in such manner as the wisdom of Congress shall determine, and without regard to restrictions contained in the Constitution, until such time as Congress shall extend the provisions of the Constitution to these territories.
The conditions which surround these last-acquired possessions are different from the conditions which surrounded any territory previously acquired by the United States. It is out of these different conditions that the questions of National policy, which are the really new questions confronting us, arise.
The case of Porto Rico well illustrates the peculiar conditions and the difficulties which surround the establishment of governments in the islands. Porto Rico has a population of about one million people, of whom three-fourths or more are unable to read or write and own no property. They are without experience in self-government and unacquainted with the spirit of our institutions. The cost of governing the islands under
Spanish rule exceeded $6,000,000 per annum, and nothing was done for schools, roads, or public improvements. It is estimated that the government of the islands will cost, under American sovreignty, $3,000,000 annually, and an additional $1,000,000 per annum should be provided to establish schools and construct highways and necessary public works.
The raising of these funds is a problem of much difficulty. The total value of the property of the islands is about $150,000,000. Two-thirds of this actual value, or $100,000,000, is a fair valuation for the purpose of taxation. To raise the the $4,000,000 per annum necessary for the proper government of the islands by direct taxation upon their property would necessitate a tax of four per cent per annum, a rate which no community could bear, and which Porto Ricans are unable to pay. In all territories previously acquired by the United States funds for their local government were raised by direct taxes upon the property of the territories, and, in addition, those territories paid all of the internal revenue taxes and tariff duties paid in other parts of the United States. In Porto Rico this is out of the question. Some other method had to be devised.
Congress has lately passed an act for the government of Porto Rico. It has been the subject of much discussion, and I think that neither the difficulties surrounding the case nor the provisions of the act have been well understood. It was first proposed that tariff full rates should be collected on all imports into Porto Rico from countries other than the United States, and that full internal revenue taxes should be collected within the islands, but that all these tariff duties and internal revenue SO collected should be paid into the local treasury of Porto Rico to be employed in defraying the expenses of the government of the island, so as to relieve the people of the island from direct taxation upon their property. It was found, however, that not exceeding $2,000,000 per annum could be raised in this way, and that it is but half enough. To provide the addition
all taxes upon their property, but to relieve them as well from all tariff duties and internal revenue taxes, and, in addition, pay the expenses of the insular government and of establishing and maintaining its schools and constructing its public works out of the treasury of the United States. Requiring the Porto Ricans to pay a small percentum of the ordinary tariff duties upon imports into their island as a contribution towards the expenses of maintaining their government, while exempting them entirely from direct taxes upon their property, and turning over to the insular treasury all the internal revenue taxes collected within the island, would seem to be a very liberal and generous arrangement, and quite beneficial to the people of Porto Rico. Under this arrangement they bear but a small portion. of the expenses of their local govern
Such were the conditions surrounding the establishment of government in Porto Rico, and such is the method adopted by Congress for the present, of providing for the expenses of that gov
In the Philippines the insurrection must be quelled and order established before we are called upon to decide questions concerning their local government. When quiet is restored, suitable civil government will be established, and in the local government the Filipinos will share according to their capacity. To what extent they may be fitted for local self-government trial only can determine. Upon this question much difference of opinion exists. A supreme court with a majority of native judges has already been created at Manila. There are some who assert that the United States should establish order in the Philippines. and then turn them over to the native tribes, but that the United States should maintain there a military and naval force sufficient to preserve order and protect the islands from European encroachment or seizure. There are, too, some who liken Aguinaldo to Washington! I have no sympathy with such vagaries. The American people can and will govern the islands better than the native tribes. The Filipinos will have security, liberty and happiness under the sovereignty of the United States, which they never had under the dominion of Spain, and would not have under native rule.
Whatever individual views we may hold as to how the various newlyacquired islands should be governed, one fact is clear and certain. The new possessions are ours. They will remain ours. The American people will no more surrender or abandon the islands than they will retrocede the Louisiana purchase to France, surrender California to Mexico, or restore Florida to Spain. The Stars and Stripes wave over the islands and will wave there forever. Expansion is our national policy, and new territory has ever added to our dignity and power. Possession of these islands will enlarge our markets, increase our commerce, and add to our wealth. The United States has dealt justly with the inhabitants of every new territory acquired in the past. I have confidence in the justice and wisdom of my countrymen. I believe they will deal justly and wisely with the inhabitants of the islands, and extend to them the
blessings of civilization and free govern
All of these are political questions, and it is important to note the attitude of the political parties toward them. The Republican party proposes to retain the new territories, to govern them justly, accorrding to their needs, to give their inhabitants at all times the largest share of local self-government of which they are capable, to educate and teach them the morals, arts and industries of Christianity and civilization, and to develop the resources and commerce of the islands for the general good. The Democratic party may be fairly said to have no policy regarding the new possessions. It merely opposes whatever the Republican party advocates or does. Democratic platforms and orators declaim
Measure by Calms and Gales.
Is success the measure true
If a field of ripening grain
It is not a measure true Measuring you.
Is success the only weight
He who faithful is today
Think not they are never great
If a gallant vessel sails In the gales,
Though by seamen bold 'tis manned, Guided by a skillful hand,
It may yield before the stress
Ah, success. Measure by the calms and gales He who fails.
against imperialism, but there is no imperialism. No imperial policy is proposed. They grow eloquent in denouncing the enslaving of the natives, as though extending our civilization and liberty to the Filipinos were to enslave them! A curious thing about the Democratic position is that they do not seem to question the power to acquire and do not oppose the retention of Porto Rico. They oppose the retention of the Philippines, but offer no alternative. Whether they propose to withdraw our forces and leave the islands to be plundered by the native tribes or turn them over to some European power seeking to rival us in the commerce of the East, I do not know. I am certain, however, that neither will be done.
Had my spirit birth in some mystic clime,
Ah, have I not in days before,
Oft heard those melting strains sung o'er
Why should I tremble? should my pulses thrill
With vague regret, as cho' in days,
And oft I hear when sad and lone,
That stirs my heart, as tho' I'd known,
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