The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, June 14, 1901, Image 1

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The Commoner.
Vol. i. No. 21.
Lincoln, Nebraska, June 14, 1901.
$1.00 a Year
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