An Address by Hon. WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, exPresident of the United States, before the Empire Club of Canada, January 29, 1914.
Mr. President, Your Honour,--I am getting used to these titles, you see--(Laughter)--and Gentlemen of the Empire Club: My political experience on an issue that the title of your club suggests, makes me a little doubtful-or would if I were in politics-a little doubtful of my present association with you. (Laughter.) It is now fourteen years since a good many of us were charged with being something awful, i.e., with being Imperialists. It is fourteen years this month that I was walking up and down the conference room of the Circuit Court of the United States in Cincinnati trying to reach a just conclusion, when I had my mind diverted to a telegram handed me from William McKinley, "If you can arrange your engagements I would like to have you come to Washington to confer with me." Well, there wasn't any vacancy on the Supreme Court,--(Laughter)--his cabinet was full, and I didn't see where I was coming in in that conference. (Laughter.) Nevertheless, when the President of the United States beckons, one responds. Well, I knew that we had had a war with Spain; I knew that we began it with the idea of helping out the Cubans, and without any thought that we would go anywhere else but to Cuba, and I knew that, as is the case with all wars, when you begin at one place on the globe you never know to what other part you may be led in the necessity for finding your enemy to fight; and so we had landed in the Philippines, and Dewey's guns had put upon us a burden we never anticipated. I knew all that, but I did not connect myself with that subject when the President's message came. I had a life position, I was in a place where I enjoyed the work. The people of four states, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee I was trying out; I was testing their patience by my legal decisions(Laughter)-but when I reached Washington and went in to see Mr. McKinley and he told me what he wanted me for, I would not have been more surprised if he had asked me to go up in an aeroplane, and then the science of flying was not fully developed. (Laughter.) He said, "I want you to go to the Philippines." "But," I said, "Mr. President, I do not want to be in the Philippines; I do not want our people to be in the Philippines." "Well," said he, "neither do I, but we are there"--(Laughter and applause)--"and," said he, "you are an Ohio man, and I am, and I want you to go." And Elihu Root came in and he said, "You have had a pretty fair time; you have held office ever since you were twenty-one; you have had your plate turned up the right side whenever good places fell from the trees, and now the time has come when you can do something for your country." He said, "I don't mean to say that you have not done your duty where you are, but this takes some sacrifice, you are going to pioneer, so far as our national policy in the past is concerned, and you are the parting of the ways. You may reach the Supreme Court if you go on, and you may not, and you will have to give up for the time being your judicial work, and you have to take chances, but this is your duty before you, and now the question is whether you are man enough to see it." Well, that method of approaching a man rather stirs him up, and so I went out. There were four others appointed in the Commission, and we reached Manila Bay one hot June morning; oh, how hot it can be there under an awning on a ship! Three or four intelligent, high-minded Filipinos came aboard, and I think they were the only people in the Islands that were glad to have us come. There were some sixty or seventy thousand American soldiers, and I know they did not want us. The general commanding told us, that while of course he was under orders to give us a proper reception, he thought it was a great departure from proper policy for us to be sent out there; and the welcome we got from the native Filipinos was shown by the fact that we did not see any as we went up in solemn procession between two lines of soldiers to the Ayuntamiento where the general commanding had his headquarters. But the very opposition of the military to our policy of conciliation which we were instructed to carry out, put us in a better position with the Filipinos, though we did not know it at that time and we were very angry about it; but one never knows when he is well off. The Lord arranges these things better than oneself. (Applause.) The army did wonderful work out there, and I am going to speak a moment about that. They did wonderful work, but they had to do work with their guns and with the military discipline, and when we got there, or shortly after, certainly, the time had come when the Filipino people began to see that it was to their interest to have a civil government, and so, as we gave them hearings and went on and established the laws for civil government, they began to see hope through us and so they accepted us after a while with open arms, and in that way it was made possible, by the very contrast that we bore to the military, for us to go on and establish civil government on principles that have been maintained ever since. (Applause.) I feel as if in talking of colonial experiments I were bringing coals to Newcastle to men who have lived under the British flag and studied British history, and yet you naturally have an interest in a sister country that is struggling now with problems that you have had for more than a century. (Applause.)
The Philippine Islands are a tropic country with settlements dotted all over the various islands, a country where guerrilla warfare offers a kind of free picnic and makes great attraction for the natives. It is easier to retire to the mountains or the "bosque." i.e., the woods, and live on your neighbours, those who have rice and have cultivated it, than it is to cultivate the rice yourself; and the consequence is there is every inducement to guerrilla warfare, and the only way you can suppress it is by garrisoning every town and every settlement with a small detachment, which makes the war you carry on nothing but a captains' and lieutenants' and sergeants' war, and each one of these officers is expected to carry on an individual campaign against the neighbouring knot of guerrillas. Now, that means a very hard campaign; it means a very costly campaign, and you have finally got to train your soldiers to run faster than the Filipinos can run in getting to their lairs. And the fear of such another campaign is the reason we do not want to go into Mexico. (Applause.) A cannot tell you what the solution will be in Mexico; I must say that the other powers are very considerate and that they are waiting for the United States to act. They are very considerate and kindly on the one hand, and they are on the other quite willing that we should do the work. (Laughter and applause.) Now, what is going to happen I do not know. The condition of Mexico is very distressing, but if intervention has to come it means the raising of a great army of two or three or perhaps four hundred thousand men, and the garrisoning of all the towns with a view to bringing about tranquility, because that country with its fifteen millions and its vast expanses and forests and mountain recesses offers an even more serious problem than the Philippines in its tranquilization; and therefore we are praying in our country that we may be spared the necessity of undertaking for the world that most burdensome work. (Applause.)
The first thing we had to do in the Philippines was to bring about peace, and that we did. We followed the example of England in other countries, and we organized a constabulary of Filipinos, and they made an excellent constabulary. They were officered by regular officers of our army. At first they were viewed with hostility by the people, but after they went through two or three famines, after they went through two or three epidemics of cholera and plague and black smallpox, after the laws of health were explained to the people and properly, but in a conciliatory way, were enforced, then they began to appreciate the value of the constabulary, and that body became the most popular institution organized in the Philippines, and it is today. Then after struggling for ten years to give them free trade so that we might give them the benefits of the markets of the United States, we got that, and in 7909 and since that time their business interests have leaped forward in a way that surprised even those of us that were certain it would do great good.
Then we have educated them. We introduced a thousand American teachers. We thought that English was the language they ought to learn. (Applause.) It is the language of free institutions, it is the business language of the Orient. Of nearly eight million Filipinos, only from seven to ten percent of them speak Spanish, and that is because they had not been encouraged to learn that language by the controlling authorities, and so it was they had sixteen different dialects. Go north from Manila for 125 miles and you go through six layers of people, each one of which speaks a different dialect, and if a man knows only that dialect he is unable to make himself understood or to understand any of the other dialects. So far as civilizing them is concerned, if a man knows only one of these dialects with its very small literature and its very small vocabulary, he might just as well be at the bottom of a well and expect to know what is going on at the surface, as to be confined to that medium of communication and keep up with modern civilization. So it was that we first began with this thousand American teachers, and then they taught and have now made capable, Filipino teachers eight thousand in number. (Applause.) We have organized an educational system in which we are educating 400,000 pupils in daily enrolment throughout the Islands. Now, that is only about five-twelfths of the school population, but the trouble about government is--you have found it so in Canada I doubt not; you have found it so in all your Crown Colonies and elsewhere-that government is very expensive, and while there are a great many things that government could do that would be useful to the people, you have to cut your suit according to your cloth. Now, one of the impressions that has gone abroad-I don't say that our Anti-Imperialist friends have spread it, but the impression prevails that we are spending a great deal of money for the maintenance of civil government in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, except three million dollars that Congress voted to relieve a famine, and the killing of all the cattle by the rinderpest, we have not had a dollar to expend out of the Treasury of the United States in the maintenance of that civil government for fourteen years. (Applause.) It is true we have about fifteen thousand troops there, and it costs to maintain those troops about $250 a man more than it would to maintain them at home. Of course, people say, "Well, you could dispense with those troops if we did not have the Philippines." That is not true; we need them. We need them at home, and if we did not have the Philippines we would still have the troops, so that the limitation of expenses is what you can yourself calculate.
We have given them railroads; we have increased ray miles of railroad to about 600, and it will soon be a thousand miles in construction. We did not have any roads there of any kind; we have now upwards of five thousand miles of automobile roads, so that you can go in an automobile all over the Province of Luzon, which is the largest province. When I went there you could not go anywhere in the Philippines except on horseback, or in a two-wheeled arrangement that had to be bomb-proof or it would break down in the first ten miles of the journey. Then in the matter of health we have taught the Filipinos some principles of hygiene. We have established a medical school, we have reduced the dreadful inroads of cholera, we have driven plague out of the Islands, we have reduced the black smallpox, which was a scourge. We have vaccinated ten million people, although there are only seven million five hundred thousand in the Islands--(Laughter)--but we vaccinated many twice, and the result is marvellous. I know there are some who do not believe in vaccination; well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and vaccination has been a blessing in those Islands as it has been the world round, and it can be proven--as a good many other things that are true cannot be proven--by statistics.
Now, what is going to be done in the Islands? I cannot tell you; I am not responsible now. (Laughter.) But after one has been labouring for fourteen years, first as Governor, and then as Secretary of War, and then as President, to do something out there for the elevating and betterment of the Philipinos and for the credit of the United States, one hates to see a job given up that is only partly done--(Hear, hear, and applause)--and I am very hopeful; although the Democratic Party made some very radical statements as to what they were going to do, I am hopeful that they will continue our policy. As I said to a member of the Administration, "If you follow the Republican policy, the Republicans cannot do anything else except to make a joke about it, they are estopped to blame you for following them; and the Anti-Imperialists are really not enough to fill a good-sized street car." I am hoping they are coming to that conclusion. It is a great work, this helping other people. (Applause.) It is expensive, but we have reached a time in this world when nations and peoples are neighbours--(Hear, hear)--and a great powerful nation with a surplus, who is thrust by circumstances into a position of trusteeship for another people, owes it to that other people, whether that other people realizes the necessity or not, to put an arm under its arm and help it on.
Now, we do not expect to stay in the Philippines forever. We are going to give those people the right to cut themselves off if they desire, when they can be safely trusted to set out on the thorny path of self-government. (Applause.) I think when they get sense enough for that they will have sense enough to realize the value of the bond between the Philippines and the United States, and the value of our markets and the value of the association. But to leave the Island as our Anti-Imperialist friends suggest, after making a Treaty of Neutralization with all the powers, under which we shall guarantee to the Powers that the peace and good order of the country in the Philippines will be maintained, and the rights of all foreigners will be looked after, and we withdraw, is a proposition that is lacking in sanity. By leaving we surrender the only means that we have of enforcing the guaranty. We would not be out of the Islands two years before the peculiar methods of politics that were pursued when we went in there, by Aguinaldo, would be resumed, and then we would have to go in and do the work all over again. We ought to stay a generation or two generations until we shall educate the whale people and give them a language which will enable them to understand what popular self-government is,--(Applause)--when we shall give them intelligence enough to know their rights under a government that preserves civil liberty. Then we can afford to let them go, and then as I say they will not wish to be let go, except to preserve an autonomous government under a friendly union with us, in which we exercise only an advising and not a guiding hand. (Applause.) But so much remains to be done before the people are fitted for independence and self-government that I shall deem it a great failure of duty on the part of our country if it lets that archipelago go before the broad plans for its advance have had at least two generations of time to bring them to fruition.
In the work which was new to an American, my attention was naturally directed to the colonial system of Great Britain and the marvellous accomplishment of your Imperial Government in spreading the civilization of the world and promoting the happiness of four hundred and twenty millions of people. (Applause.) I do not wish to make invidious comparisons, but I think history so plainly shows the fact that it may be asserted without fear of contradiction, that but for English enterprise, English courage, English sense of responsibility in governing other races, in taking over and improving the countries the world round, the civilization of the world would have been greatly retarded. (Applause.) When I think of what England has done in India for the happiness of those people there, how she found those many millions torn with internecine strife, disrupted with constant wars, unable to continue agriculture or the arts of peace, with inferior roads, with tyranny and oppression that can hardly be over-stated, and think now of the government that she is giving to those alien races and the peace she is maintaining between naturally hostile peoples, divided in religion and in ideals, the debt the people of the world owe to England ought to be acknowledged in no grudging tone. (Applause.) Of course, British statesmen have had a long experience in colonial government. They have made some mistakes. (Laughter and applause.) They made one in the case of her American colonies, but they have profited by that mistake. (Hear, hear.) They had to let the United States go to become a great nation to reflect credit on her origin and her mother country, and to retain a bond of affection that a proper appreciation of the institutions inherited from England must always sustain. (Applause.) But when one studies the wise restraint which England has since exercised through her colonial administration in dealing with differing peoples, the liberality that she has developed in giving complete independence of trade to all her colonies, the exaltation of the administration of justice among peoples who admire justice highly but are utterly incapable of administering it, one cannot wonder at the pride British subjects take in that honourable record. I am not speaking of something of which I have merely general knowledge. My study of her history for thirteen years has revealed to me the difficulties through which England has had to go, the sacrifices she has had to make of her best blood, and the treasure she has had to expend to assert an authority that was essential to the welfare of those whose resistance she was overcoming. Think of the marvellous development in Egypt under Cromer and Milner and Kitchener, and this within the present generation. Of course you are all familiar with that beautiful figure of Webster which came to his mind sitting on the battlements of Quebec. He spoke of Great Britain as "a power with which Rome in the height of her glory is not to be compared, a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe her possessions and military posts whose morning drumbeat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England." (Applause,) He was then looking at your Empire from the standpoint of military conquest and power. Today the impartial historian must look at it from the standpoint of benevolent, useful and elevating government. (Applause.) It must be regarded from the paint of view of benefit to the human race. No one can encircle the globe, no one can live in the Orient, no one can go into the tropics, without seeing the standard of England floating over the soil of her Empire, and without having it brought home to him what a factor in the progress of mankind she has been. (Applause.) Of course what I have spoken of relates largely to what you call your Crown Colonies, or at least those which are not self-governing. But not only has your Imperial function had to do with the government of other races and the helping them on to peace and the arts and comforts of civilization, but the enterprise of the English, the Scotch and the Irish has carried them into far distant lands, there to establish settlements of white subjects of the Empire, and in the last generation we have seen flower into federated unions great governments, in one case called a Dominion, in another case a Commonwealth, and in the third case a Union, with every reasonable prospect that in a century the wealth and population will approximate those of the Mother Country. (Applause.) It is most interesting to study the history of the constitutions of these new self-governing branches of the Empire, to note in their formation the manifestation of the singular capacity of the race for popular self-government, to trace parallelisms and differences between these three constitutions and the constitution of the eldest daughter of Great Britain, that of the United States. Such governments are unique in the political world. No other nation has them. Other nations have colonies in which reside many of their own subjects or citizens, but no other nation except Great Britain has self-governing Dominions of her own people tied to her Empire with a loyalty and affection that seem to grow as the actual control of the Mother Country diminishes and lightens. (Applause.) The history of the expansion of these Dominions, their maintenance of civil liberty and popular representative government, and the application of the federative principle in each of them, reveals the same spirit that worked out the institutions of Anglo-Saxon freedom at home. (Applause.)
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by Hon. R. A. Pyne, seconded by Mr. justice Ridden, and enthusiastically received.