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ENTERING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
THE SPANISH WAR AND THE PHILIPPINES
The Spanish War of 1898 and the consequent subjugation of the Philippine Islands were, in the opinion of a great many people in our country, prompted by an unworthy desire to extend our markets and an unholy zeal to depart from the principles of the Declaration of Independence and ape imperialistic Britain in dominating the "inferior races" of the Orient. In an editorial entitled "At the Bar of History," the Nation of July 4, 1901, maintained that President McKinley had weakly allowed Congress to bully him into an unjust war.
After keeping us for more than three years in the dark, the Administration has at last deigned to publish the diplomatic correspondence leading up to the war with Spain.1 This was at first promised in connection with the President's war message of April 11, 1898; but on second thought, it was stated, Mr. McKinley determined that it would not be "prudent" to give out the documents at that time. As we read them now, it is easy to agree that it would have been a piece of terrible imprudence to give them to the world then, since they prove that the war was needless. This tardy publication of the dispatches makes it impossible to deny what, in fact, Minister Woodford, Senator Hoar, and Hon. George S. Boutwell openly asserted in 1898, that there would have been no war but for the violence of Congress and the weakness of the President.
1 House Documents, 55th Congress, 3d session, Vol. I, No. 1, President's Message and Foreign Relations, 1898, pp. 558-1085.
From the official correspondence we learn the truth of the statement made by Mr. Boutelle in explanation of his vote against the war—namely, that "Spain had conceded nearly every one of our demands, and seemed plainly disposed to meet them all," so that, but for the insane fury of Congress, before which Mr. McKinley fell terrorized, we should, as Minister Woodford said publicly in Boston in October, 1898, have seen the Spanish flag leave Cuba " without the firing of a shot or the loss of a life.” The proof is very simple. It lies on the face of the dispatches. Passing by all the preliminaries, we find Secretary [of State] Day, on March 27, 1898, telegraphing instructions to Minister Woodford [at Madrid] to make three demands:
First, Armistice until Oct. 1. Negotiations meantime looking for peace between Spain and insurgents through friendly offices of President United States.
Second, Immediate revocation of reconcentrado order.1 Add, if possible,
Third, If terms of peace not satisfactorily settled by October I, President of the United States to be final arbiter between Spain and insurgents. . . .
Now, what followed? On March 31 the reconcentrado order was revoked and a special credit of 3,000,000 pesetas put at the disposal of Governor-General Blanco to care for the homeless Cubans. There was our demand number two promptly complied with. The offer to concede demand number one was cabled by
1 This famous order, converting a large part of Cuba into a camp, was issued by General Valeriano Weyler, from Havana, February 16, 1896.
ARTICLE I. All inhabitants of the district of... and the provinces of ... will have to concentrate in places which are the headquarters of a division ... within eight days of the publication of this proclamation in the municipalities.
ARTICLE II. To travel in the country in the radius covered by the columns in operation, it is absolutely indispensable to have a pass. Any one lacking this will be detained and sent to headquarters of divisions or brigades, and thence to Havana, at my disposition, by the first possible means.
ARTICLE III. All owners of commercial establishments in the country districts will vacate them....
ARTICLE IV. All passes hitherto issued become null and void. - Senate Documents, Vol. XXV, 56th Congress, 2d session, Part VII, p. 883.
2 House Documents, 55th Congress, 3d session, Vol. I, No. 1, pp. 711-712,
Minister Woodford on April 5. It is the critical dispatch of the whole volume, and its suppression till now certainly shows an extraordinary degree of "prudence," and possibly something else, in the President. We publish it in full, and we ask for it the careful attention of those clergymen and church people who were driving Congress on to war.
"Should the Queen proclaim the following before 12 o'clock noon of Wednesday, April 6, will you sustain the Queen, and can you prevent hostile action by Congress?
At the request of the Holy Father, in this Passion Week, and in the name of Christ, I proclaim immediate and unconditional suspension of hostilities in the Island of Cuba. This suspension is to become immediately effective, so soon as accepted by the insurgents in that island, and is to continue for the space of six months, to the 5th day of October, 1898. I do this to give time for passions to cease, and in the sincere hope and belief that, during this suspension, permanent and honorable peace may be obtained between the Insular Government of Cuba and those of my subjects in that island who are now in rebellion against the authority of Spain....
Please read this in the light of all my previous telegrams and letters. I believe that this means peace, which the sober judgment of our people will approve long before next November, and which must be approved at the bar of final history. . . . I dare not reject this last chance for peace. I will show your reply to the Queen in person, and I believe that you will approve this last conscientious effort for peace.'
What could be more moving, more pathetic, more like an unexpected messenger of peace to be greeted with devout thankfulness by all Christian hearts? But how did McKinley greet it? Why, he telegraphed Minister Woodford that he "highly appreciated the Queen's desire for peace," but that he could not assume to influence the action of the American Congress." Yet, if an armistice were offered, he would "communicate that fact to Congress.' Yes, but how did he communicate it? Did he cite a syllable of the pious and exalted language of the Queen? 2 Ibid. p. 735.
1 House Documents, loc. cit. p. 734.
Did he explain how the venerable head of the Catholic Church had exerted himself to prevent a wicked war? No, he simply added a couple of vague and cold paragraphs at the very end
of his message.
Yesterday, and since the preparation of the foregoing message, official information was received by me that the latest decree of the Queen Regent of Spain directs Gen. Blanco, in order to prepare and facilitate peace, to proclaim a suspension of hostilities, the duration and details of which have not yet been communicated to me.
This fact, with every other pertinent consideration, will, I am sure, have your just and careful attention in the solemn deliberations upon which you are about to enter. If this measure attains a successful result, then our aspirations as a Christian, peace-loving people will be realized. If it fails, it will be only another justification for our contemplated action.1
Congress, of course, paid not the slightest attention to this perfunctory tail-end of a message, all the previous trend and argument of which made for war. What the President should have done was to throw away the message which he had prepared, face the altered situation with an altered policy, and go boldly to Congress and the country with Woodford's dispatch, including the Queen's elevated proclamation.... He could have made peace certain. But, alas, the "stop-watch" of Congress was held on him, he had promised his alarmed and excited fellow-partisans to send in a war message and not let the Democrats win an advantage, and so "this last conscientious effort for peace," as Minister Woodford called it, this grandest opportunity that ever came to a Christian President, was miserably neglected, and the war ensued. . . .
Dewey's splendid victory in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, and the occupation of Manila by the American troops on August 13, put an end to Spain's power in the Philippines. Dewey telegraphed to the Secretary of the Navy, October 14, 1898, as follows:
1 J. D. Richardson, ed. Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. X, p. 150.
It is important that the disposition of the Philippine Islands should be decided as soon as possible and a strong government established. ... General anarchy prevails without the limits of the city and bay of Manila. Strongly probable that islands to the South will fall into the same state soon. . . . The natives appear unable to govern. Dewey1
Secretary Hay communicated this telegram to the five American peace commissioners at Paris. On October 25 the commissioners telegraphed to Secretary Hay their opinions concerning the retention of the Philippines. Three of the commissioners were for holding all the islands; the chairman, Mr. Day, would hold Luzon alone; and Senator Gray of Delaware was opposed to holding any of the islands. Senator Gray said:
The undersigned cannot agree that it is wise to take Philippines in whole or in part. To do so would be to reverse accepted continental policy of country, declared and acted upon throughout our history. Propinquity governs case of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Policy proposed introduces us into European politics and the entangling alliances against which Washington and all American statesmen have protested. It will make necessary a navy equal to the largest of powers, a greatly increased military establishment, immense sums for fortifications and harbors, multiplied occasions for dangerous complications with foreign nations, and increase burdens of taxation. Will receive in compensation no outlet for American labor in labor market already overcrowded and cheap, no area for homes for American citizens— climate and social conditions demoralizing to character of American youth. New and disturbing questions introduced into our politics, church question menacing. On the whole, instead of indemnity-injury. Undersigned cannot agree that any obligation incurred to insurgents is paramount to our manifest interests. Attacked Manila as part of legitimate war against Spain. If we had captured Cadiz and Carlists had helped us,
1 House Documents, 55th Congress, 3d session, Vol. I, No. 1, p. 928.