The New York Times/“Our Future Policy”

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Mr. John G. Carlisle, as a distinguished representative of the Democratic Party, has joined Mr. Edmunds, an equally honored member of the Republican Party, and Mr. Schurz, the recognized leader of the Independents, in protest against “a career of conquest and annexation,” and a plea for “the peaceful continental policy which has heretofore characterized our National course.” In an article in the October number of Harper's Magazine he presents with his usual admirable lucidity the arguments already presented by Mr. Schurz, and, we may add, by that most impartial and thorough of friendly foreign observers, Mr. James Bryce of England. It must be admitted, we think, by candid men, that, with the exception of Mr. Olney, no advocate of equal force and authority has appeared on the other side. And to those of us who cannot find in the counsel of these eminent men any sure and sufficient indication of the course which the United States should adopt in pursuance of the strong considerations they submit, there is a disagreeable contrast between what they have to say and the vague, rather pompous rhetoric of many of the champions of expansion. Nevertheless, it remains true that things have actually happened never foreseen by the framers of our “continental policy”; things of great, perhaps controlling, importance; things that cannot be ignored or dealt with by non-action. These actual events, we regret profoundly to say, do not receive the careful attention and study that they require from the statesmen who discuss the future of the United States.

Mr. Carlisle lays great stress on the declaration of the Congress regarding Cuba. He asserts, as did Mr. Schurz even more emphatically, that “honesty” requires that the United States shall strictly observe the pledge therein involved, and he appears to be convinced that we are violating the pledge. Let us see. The resolution reads: “The United States hereby disclaims any disposition to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island, except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.” Up to the present time we certainly have not broken that pledge in letter or in spirit. What does it require of us in the future? First, the “pacification of the island,” for which purpose we avow our intention to “exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, and control.” Obviously, pacification implies the maintenance of peace, of order, of respect for the common rights of property and person. With a view to the future government of the island, it implies a condition in which the people of Cuba, not the former insurgents alone or the sympathizers with them, nor the Spanish alone, but all the people, can have a free and fair opportunity to act in regard to the Government they may elect to form. To secure these conditions the United States must maintain an actual administration, under the direction of the President and in accordance with such legislation as may be provided. When pacification of this reasonable and practical character is assured, if the people of Cuba ask for admission to the Union they may be admitted without any violation of our pledge. And if, while this process of pacification is going on, a considerable number of Americans emigrate to Cuba and take part in its political action, the pledge will still be observed. There is not necessarily anything “dishonest” in such a course. Puerto Rico may become a State in the Union ultimately by a like process. The result may be good or bad, but it is not dishonest.

Mr. Carlisle, like the other opponents of what they call imperialism, is sure that the result will be very bad. We are not. Unquestionably there are risks, but we do not see that they are greater than were assumed and overcome in the extension of our territory over the vast domain added since the formation of the Constitution. We should say, considering all conditions, that the incorporation of the present population of the Antilles and of the population they are likely to have within a few years, would be an easier and more promising task than was the incorporation of the territory acquired from Spain, France, and Mexico on this continent. In the light of history the “policy of conquest and annexation,” so far as the islands of the Caribbean are concerned, is not a new one and is not proven to be a bad one. Take, now, the only alternative presenting itself — leaving Cuba unguided and uncontrolled to the immediate and full management of its own affairs. That clearly means civil war at present and chronic anarchy for the future, absolutely compelling the interference of the United States under conditions far less favorable than those now existing. We should then interfere, not to aid a people in a reasonable and safe exercise of their rights, but to force them to abandon a hopeless choice, and follow, without regard to their rights, our own dictation.

The question of the Philippines is different and much less clear. It is undoubtedly a question of accepting the responsibilities, trials, and complications of far-distant foreign possessions in the nature of colonies. An American State in the Philippines is now impracticable, and will perhaps always be so. The islands we take we must administer and develop, and we must defend them against internal disorder or foreign aggression. For this task — or these tasks — our civil service and our military and naval service are at present inadequate. They must be largely increased, and in some radical regards reformed. Nor can it be denied that such foreign possessions may involve us in the quarrels of Europe. If they be attacked, allies will be useful, perhaps necessary. Allies may be sought to prevent attack, and alliances are mutual and involve obligations such as the United States has always, partly by choice, largely by luck, avoided. No prudent man can look with unmixed satisfaction on the prospect of peace and war intrusted to an American administration of the Philippines under the guidance of an Aldridge or an Alger.

But while these things are facts, they are not all the facts. They are not the whole case on which our Government is required to act. We have by the fortunes of war and the terms of the peace protocol taken possession of the chief city, port, and province of the Philippines and have, in fact, if not in theory, assumed the decision of the disposition and government of the entire group. What shall we do in this situation? Surrender everything to Spain, with its established record of incapacity to govern decently? Dispose of our rights to some foreign power as yet not known to want them? Declare their independence and leave them to the Filipinos, who have given no evidence of ability to manage their own affairs? Establish a temporary protectorate, to be withdrawn when possible? These are urgent and practical questions. They are not met by shouting that the American flag, once floating over any land, shall never be lowered; they are not met by inveighing against imperialism. We believe that we have as clear a perception of the perils of the future as our friends who see nothing else. We have a profound appreciation of the vast opportunities existing for the material and moral development of the Nation within its present continental borders. We see and value the precious advantages our relative isolation has secured for us in the past, and should be deeply rejoiced if they could be continued. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that great changes have taken place, and that the duty of the Nation is to be decided with reference to the actual present and the probable future, not with reference to a past that is, happily or unhappily, forever closed.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).