Title Thumbnail

Yesterdays in the Philippines

208 pages
Library of Alexandria
By the victory of our fleet at Manila Bay, one more of the world’s side-tracked capitals has been pulled from obscurity into main lines of prominence and the average citizen is no longer left, as in days gone by, to suppose that Manila is spelt with two l’s and is floating around in the South Sea somewhere between Fiji and Patagonia. The Philippines have been discovered, and the daily journals with their cheap maps have at last located Spain’s Havana in the Far East. It is indeed curious that a city of a third of a million people—capital of a group of islands as large as New England, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, which have long furnished the whole world with its entire supply of Manila hemp, which have exported some 160,000 tons of sugar in a single year and which to-day produce as excellent tobacco as that coming from the West Indies—it is curious, I say, that a city of this size should have gone so long unnoticed and misspelt. But such has been the case, and until Admiral Dewey fired the shots that made Manila heard round the world, the people of these United States—with but few exceptions—lived and died without knowing where the stuff in their clothes-lines came from. Now that the Philippines are ours, do we want them? Can we run them? Are they the long-looked-for El Dorado which those who have never been there suppose? To all of which questions—even at the risk of being called unpatriotic—I am inclined to answer, No. Do we want them? Do we want a group of 1,400 islands, nearly 8,000 miles from our Western shores, sweltering in the tropics, swept with typhoons and shaken with earthquakes? Do we want to undertake the responsibility of protecting those islands from the powers in Europe or the East, and of standing sponsor for the nearly 8,000,000 native inhabitants that speak a score of different tongues and live on anything from rice to stewed grasshoppers? Do we want the task of civilizing this race, of opening up the jungle, of setting up officials in frontier, out-of-the-way towns who won’t have been there a month before they will wish to return? Do we want them? No. Why? Because we have got enough to look after at home. Because—unlike the Englishman or the German who, early realizing that his country is too small to support him, grows up with the feeling that he must relieve the burden by going to the uttermost parts of the sea—our young men have room enough at home in which to exert their best energies without going eight or eleven thousand miles across land and water to tropic islands in the Far East. Can we run them? The Philippines are hard material with which to make our first colonial experiment, and seem to demand a different sort of treatment from that which our national policy favors or has had experience in giving. Besides the peaceable natives occupying the accessible towns, the interiors of many of the islands are filled with aboriginal savages who have never even recognized the rule of Spain—who have never even heard of Spain, and who still think they are possessors of the soil. Even on the coast itself are tribes of savages who are almost as ignorant as their brethren in the interior, and only thirty miles from Manila are races of dwarfs that go without clothes, wear knee-bracelets of horsehair, and respect nothing save the jungle in which they live. To the north are the Igorrotes, to the south the Moros, and in between, scores of wild tribes that are ready to dispute possession. And is the United States prepared to maintain the forces and carry on the military operations in the fever-stricken jungles necessary in the march of progress to exterminate or civilize such races? Have we, like England for instance, the class of troops who could undertake that sort of work, and do we feel called upon to do it, when the same expenditure at home would go so much further?