The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, June 14, 1901, Image 1
PPWPPWJ mmmwmmmwm The Commoner. Vol. i. No. 21. Lincoln, Nebraska, June 14, 1901. $1.00 a Year PERHAPS! Justice Brown would bo happier if lie had contented himself with a decision without at- tempting to give any reasons for it. There are many vulnerable passages in the opinion which he delivered, but there is one passage which shows the uncertainty produced by the court's decision. Heretofore, the people have regarded liberty as an inalienable right, and freedom of speech and freedom of the press have been considered absolutely necessary to its defense. Those who prize liberty and regard freedom of speech as above price will not take kindly to the word "perhaps," used by Justice Brown in discussing this subject. He said: "To sustain the judgment in the case under consideration it by no means becomes necessary to show that none of the articles of the consti tution applies to the island of Porto Rico. There is a clear distinction between such prohibitions as go to the very root of the power of congress to act at all, irrespective of time or place, and such as are operative only 'throughout the United States' or among the several states. "Thus, when the constitution declares that 'no bill of attainder cr ex post facto law shall be passed and that 'no title of nobility shall be granted b" the United States it goes to the com petency of congress to pass a bill of that descrip tion. Perhaps, the same remark may apply to the first amendment, that 'congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of griev ances.' We do not wish, however, to be under stood as expressing an opinion how far the bill of rights contained in the first eight amendments is of general and how far of local application." He is not willing to go at once to the full extent of his logic. Ho seemB to have faith in congress; he does not doubt that it will deal fairly with subject races, and yet he shrinks from the thought of annihilating, at one blow, the whole bill of rights. He boldly declares that "there is a clear distinction between such prohibitions as go to the very root of the power of congress to act at all, irrespective of time or place, and such as are operative only 'through out the United States,' or among the several states" not merely a distinction, but a "clear distinction." And yet he becomes perplexed as soon as he begins to draw the "clear distinc tion." He is quite sure that congress is en tirely prohibited from passing a " bill of attain der or qx-post facto law," or from granting "a title of nobility." He thinks that "perhaps, the same remark may apply" to laws respecting the establishment of religion to laws pro hibiting free speech, to laws abridging tho freedom of the press, and limiting tho right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition or redress. Perhaps! Perhaps!! PERHAPS!!! How soon ho becomes entangled in his own web! And this is constitutional law! Justice Brown wants it distinctly understood that tho court is not at this time "expressing an opinion how far the bill of rights contained in tho first eight amendments is of general and how far of local application." It will be interesting to American patriots to learn that rights for more than a century considered inalienable are now divided into "general" rights and "local" rights; that some belong to everyone, while others bo long only to some, and that the some who en joy all rights are to decide what rights are safo in the keeping of others. The Boston Herald very properly says that imperialism "does not consist in having an emperor, but in governing a country on the well established basis that all men are not free and equal." It is not the form but the essence which controls; it is not the name, emperor, but the thing, emperor, that is hateful. The Herald adds: "It does not matter whether the form of rule is that of a czar, or that of an imperial parliament "which rules over subject people in the name of a conquering and governing nation. The government of England is just as Imperialistic as the govern ment of Russia. The Inhabitants of Somali Coast Protectorate, an English colony, have no more political rights accorded to them by the British parliament, representing the English people, than the czar accords to the inhabitants of the Crimea. The government of England is Imperial, because, while arrogating to themselves the right to do what they please, the English people control tho industrial and political existence of hundreds of millions of people, and settle these in such man ner as they see fit. The government of the czar is imperialistic because, while arrogating to him self the right to do as he pleases, the czar dictates the political and industrial development of scores of millions of people. But in each instance there is a denial of the democratic theory of government, that, the people of a country have a right to reg ulate their own affairs." The decision of the Supreme Court in tho Downcs case places tho inhabitants of Porto Rico at the mercy of Congress and the execu tive. There is not a vital right that they can claim as theirs. They must bow before the American flag; they must swear allegiance to it; they must follow where it leads; their prop erty and their lives may be demanded for its maintenance and defense, and yet what is there in that flag which represents right or hope for them? Herotoforo, a territory has looked for ward to tho time and condition of statehood; its embarrassments have been considered tempo rary and during its period of waiting its peo plo have been protected in the enjoyment of all the rights guaranteed to citizens by the consti tution. If its delegate in congress has had no vote its pcoplo have been reasonably safe from harm because tho general laws made for the territories were also operative in the states. Now comes a now order of things; tho nation has caught the spirit of conquest; it has stained its hands with the blood of subject races. Tho people of Porto Rico are notified that they are to be with us, but not of us. They are to have neither our government nor their own govern ment, but such a government as wo think erood for them. Wo shall buy of them what, wo please upon our owntcms:i";'wc', -' shall make their laws Jof them; we shall tax thcm; -wo" 'shall. -govern them, and if they dare to quote our declaration of inde pendence against us we shall shoot them. "Per haps," we shall allow them freedom of religion five Judges in a court of nine, speaking for us, say that we are not sure about this. "Per haps," we may allow them freedom of speech tho question is not settled; "perhaps," their newspapers may be allowed to criticise carpet bag officials but it is not yet determined whether this is a general right to be enjoyed by the Porto Ricans or a local one to be en joyed only by the people of the United States. "Perhaps," they may be allowed to- peaceably assemble this is a matter for future consider ation; "perhaps," they will be permitted to pe tition for redress of grievances we shall see about this later. The Porto Ricans had heard of our revo lutionary war; they had read our state papers; they had been inspired by our patriotic songs, and so, when General Miles landed upon the Island, the people of Porto Rico met him with music and spread flowers in his path. Theirs is a rude awakening! While they dreamed of American liberty the republican leaders were calculating the trade value ot eight hundred thousand Porto Ricans. "Perhaps," Justice Brown's opinion will convince tho rank and file of the republican party that our institutions are in danger and that tho republican party should be repudiated. If liberty becomes a "perhaps" in Porto Rico how long will it be a certainty in the United States?