The Philippines

The Philippines

Bibliographic Details

Indianapolis: Bobbs, Merrill Company. 1917

Book Review

After the smoke from the guns of the American fleet at Manila had vanished, revealing the deadly blow dealt to the Spanish flotilla, the last page of the closing chapter of the history of the Spanish rule in the Philippine Islands was written, and with the dawn of the new day a new era began in the history of the United States and of the Islands of the Far East. And so the world assumed it. Columbia, to quote the words of the author, “was then full grown, and Dewey's battle in Manila Bay was regarded as a sort of a national comingout party. Henceforth she was to be considered in society.” In coming out, however, Columbia did not adopt the usual attitude of the blushing and timid debutante, but rather that of the fully developed matron, ready to bear a self-imposed burden and to take up the responsibility of a national policy from which a majority of the thoughtful men ofthe country instinctively shrank because it seemed so remote from anything in her past history: the policy of expansion. But those who thought so failed to observe that “virile nations are and have always been colonizing nations.”

Introduction to The Philippines

As said by the writer of an interesting article in the Spectator (Jan. 14, 1899), “The great races, when the hour of opportunity arrives, expand greatly -that is all we really know; and what, when the momentum is on them, they have to care about is to see that their actions, for which they are only half responsible, benefit the world.” President McKinley, than whom no American statesman had a keener sense for detecting the currents and drifts of public opinion, after availing himself of every means of information, reached the conclusion that a large majority of the people favored retaining the Philippines, and so, to the suggestion that, after reserving suitable naval stations, the Islands should be left in possession of Spain, he replied that the American people who had gone to war for the emancipation of Cuba would not, after Dewey's victory in Manila, consent to leave the Filipinos any longer under the dominion of Spain, and that if Spain were driven out and American sovereignty not set up, the peace of the world would be endangered.

Context of The Philippines

For a comparatively short time the question whether it was wise or unwise for the United States to take title to the Philippine Islands and assume the burden of government there was made the subject of serious debates in the press, in Congress, and between private individuals and organizations, and even went so far as being made a party issue in the presidential elections of 1900. But this question, as suggested by the Hon. Elihu Root in the prefatory note, no longer calls for consideration.

Thesis Statement

The United States took the Philippines, acquired the rights, and took the duties of sovereignty. “Self-respect requires that we should discharge the obligations we have assumed.” And these obligations are the resultant of the policy this country has adopted in the management of the Philippines. From, the time the United States took possession of the Islands of the Far East, she accepted as an axiomatic principle that the good of the native people is the primary object of the metropolitan state.

More about The Philippines

“Her policy is distinctive in that it places stress upon the political as well as the economic development of the natives and on education as the primary means by which such development is to be effected.” And, going farther than the heretofore most liberal colonizing nations, clearly announced that complete self-government and ultimately an independent statewas to be not only the incidental and possible result of her policy, but the direct object of its activities, and that the Philippines would be managed solely in the interest of the natives with the deliberate purpose of preparing them for the management of their own affairs.

Analysis of the Text

This was a departure in the history and methods of colonization, to the great astonishment of even Great Britain, whiose principles and practices may be said to have been the pattern upon which America devised her policy in the Philippines. Time has shown the wisdom of her policy. No British, Dutch, German, or French colony has made more progress materially than have the Philippines during the last fifteen years, or enjoyed a higher degree of order and justice during the past decade. “It has been said that the Englishman's sense of justice and the Frenchman's sense of humor are their chief assets as successful colonizers and rulers of alien people, and that the German, possessing neither of these invaluable attributes, is heavily handicapped. Americans possess the sense of justice and of humor and possibly something more.” And this something more is what has made America accomplish what neither country has: America has controlled the Philippines for seventeen years, nearly a third of which were years of war and organization. In that short time she has demonstrated not only that her people possess the Englishman's capacity for governing dependencies, but that they have a certain quality of enthusiasm for high ideals which British colonial history has not always disclosed and to the lack of which friendly foreign critics attribute her present difficulties in India and Egypt. Law, order, and justice prevail in the Philippines as in all the British colonies.

Other Aspects

The Filipinos have their national aspirations, their agitators, sedition mongers, irresponsible politicos and objectionable newspapers. They are as eager for selfgovernment as the Indians and the Egyptians, but it is a noticeable fact that these conquered, irritable, and excitable people have not thrown a bomb or attempted to murder an American official. America's policy has not been repressive; it has not presented a stone wall of opposition to native aspirations, and it gives every indication of being successful. In fact, it has been successful; and before the year 1916 was very much advanced the Filipinos found that America had fulfilled the promises which from the beginning had been made to them. With the passage of the Jones Bill in the summer of 1916 an autonomous government has been established in the Philippines.

More on this Book Review

America, who by the lips of ex-President Taft, the first Civil Governor sent there, fostered a national feeling and awakened in the Filipinos the truesense of patriotism by the maxim of “Filipinas para los Filipinos” (The Philippines for the Filipinos), sees with pride today that her efforts have been rewarded with the most crowning success, and the people she undertook to educate and prepare to take a direct part in the concert of nations have responded so well that her work from now on will be only that of a guide, more than that of an instructor.

More Aspects of the Book

After the passage of the Jones Bill, all feelings of distrust which might have existed have disappeared from the heart of the Filipinos, and today the ties are closer between this country and the Islands. It is because of this fact that the publication by Mr. Charles B. Elliott of his work on the Philippines is peculiarly valuable. It is to be regretted that such a work should not have come out sooner, or that Judge Elliott should not have started earlier, at least the first volume, in which the author, in the comparatively brief space of 527 pages, covers the history of the Philippines from the time of their discovery in 1520 until the end of the military regime and the turning over of the government of the Islands to the Philippine Commission appointed by President McKinley. Its early publication would have better acquainted the people of this country with conditions in the Philippine Islands and awakened more general interest in them than has been taken heretofore.


This does not mean, however, that Judge Elliott's work is not immensely valuable at present, when the fulfillment of America's promises to the Filipinos have brought closer ties between the two countries. The first volume of Mr. Elliott's work on The Philippines contains eighteen chapters, of which the first, on “The Theory and Practice of Colonization,” is introductory; but the comparative study he makes of all the systems of colonization and their respective results from the time of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, up to the present, constitutes an important monograph, the separate publication of which would have made of itself an interesting addition to any library.

Last Remarks

The next three chapters, “The Philippine Archipelago,” “The Native Peoples,” and “The Moros” are expository of the land and of the character of its inhabitants. As regards the latter, the author does well to say that few of the works which have been written have been carefully and conscientiously prepared, but the greater number “are apparently the work of the impressionist or cubic schools”; and “some of the books are not entirely honest. The Filipinos painted by these writers are not recognized by Americans or Europeans who have dealtwith and worked among the real people.” The general outline which the author makes is remarkably accurate, takihig into consideration, however, that “in speaking of the characteristics and habits of the Filipinos, the reader must constantly bear in mind that no characterization applies to all individuals or even to all classes.

“The historical work begins with Chapter V and covers Parts II, III, and IV.The Discovery and Conquest,” “Two and One-half Centuries of Stagnation” in the system of government, “The Awakening and Revolt,” the exposition of the Spanish colonial system with “The Governmental Organization,” “The Legislation, Codes and Courts,” “Taxation and Revenue,” and “Personal Status” and “Trade Restrictions,” are subjects which are masterly treated and in which the author is fully documented.

Every milestone in the history of the Spanish regime has been carefully marked out. It shows with impartiality the good and bad points of that system and proves that its failure was not due to intrinsical defects, but to the jealousy which naturally existed between two Powers each of whom considered itself supreme and with equal right to be at the steering wheel of the governmental ship, and prone, therefore, to hinder each other at every important step: the civil and the ecclesiastical. The history of the American rule in the Philippines covers the second half of the first volume and the whole of the second; beginning with “The Capture of Manila” and ending with the passage of the Jones Bill and the organization of the Philippine Legislature, composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate, both elective and composed exclusively of natives, and of a Cabinet formed by the heads of the several departments of the government, who are also Filipinos in their majority. “The Capture of Manila,” “The Treaty of Paris,” “The Military Occupation,” and “The Filipino Rebellion” are four very interesting chapters, in which the respective subjects are treated with so much detail and the incidents told in such a vivid and pleasant strain of language that their reading is as fascinating as a fiction book.

The chapter on the “Policy of Expansion” refers to the time when there was a serious debate as to whether or not the Philippines should be retained by the United States, and gives a r6sum6 of the arguments then adduced pro and con. In the chapter on “The Diplomacy of the Consulates” the author gives us some inside history of the relations between Admiral Dewey and Aguinaldo and his staff immediately prior to and after the battle of Manila Bay until the surrendeof Manila.

The implication that there was an implied and express promise on the part of Dewey to assist Aguinaldo in establishing an independent state in the Philippines, which has been repeatedly made, is shown by the author to be, on the authority of the records of the American and Filipino Governments and armies, now accessible, wholly unfounded, and that the imputation made by Carl Schurz to the effect that America's early relations with the Filipino insurgents make “a story of deceit, false pretense, and brutal treachery to friends without parallel in the history of republics” is utterly false. The second volume contains an account of the origin, institution, and nature of the Philippine Government, the manner in which it has been administered, and a summary and analysis of what has been accomplished by the Americans and Filipinos in the last sixteen years. “The Organization of the New Civil Government,” the disentangling of the somewhat complicated affairs of the church and the state, the establishment of provincial and municipal governments, the splendid results achieved in the sanitation and health of the islands, and the almost unbelievable progress made in the material development and the opening of ways of transportation and communication are only a few chapters in which the author shows how the United States has discharged her duty toward the Philippines and their people.

But its crowning success has been in the education of the Filipinos; in this task, to which the Filipinos have responded, America has spared no efforts and no expense. The popular idea was that the Filipinos were to be transmuted into Americans of the most approved type; but according to the author, “our ambition should be to make good and efficient Filipinos out of all the inhabitants of the Islands. It is not necessary to try to make Yankees out, of them.” Judge Elliott has written of the American administration in a sympathetic spirit, but has not hesitated to criticize as well as to commend. In fact, in the opinion of the undersigned, the last chapter of his work contains too severe a criticism and too harsh a judgment on both American and Filipino officials under the administration of the last few years, which, the undersigned is sorry to say, does not harmonize with the rest of the work.

There is a touch of the personal in his statements, and some facts and incidents are referred to and judgment passed on them when it is yet too early to do so, and still more when the results are in a way proving the contrary. Events have succeeded each other in the last three years with suchrapidity that the Philippine Government is now under the immediate control of the Filipinos, and the ultimate success of America's experiment in nation culture depends upon the wisdom and ability of the Filipinos, instead of the Americans.

If they succeed, “it will justify the faith in the inherent capacity of the natives upon which our Philippine policy is based, and redound to the honor of the United States and to the credit of the men who laid the foundation upon which the present structure rests.” I shall close this review by quoting the following paragraph from the preface of the author to the second volume: I believe that the assumption of control over the Philippines could not honorably have been avoided without a shrinking from responsibility which would have been unworthy of a great and self-respecting nation. Its responsibilities have been borne without reward or hope of reward, other than that which comes from the faithful performance of gratuitous service for others. The United States is a greater and a nobler nation for having lifted the Filipinos out of the slough in which they were floundering and placed them well on the road toward nationality

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 12, No. 2 (Apr., 1918), pp. 427-433

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