The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, July 05, 1901, Image 1

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    The Commoner.
Vol. i. No. 24.
Lincoln, Nebraska, July 5, 1901.
$1.00 a Year
Justice Brown in delivering the majority
opinion in the Downcs case clearly shows that
he was willing to make "largo concessions" in
order to sustain the administration. Ho con
cludes his argument, or rather his explanation,
by presenting the expediency excuse in all its
"baldness. He says:
A falso step at this timo might bo fatal to the
development of what Chief Justice Marshall called
the American empire Choice in somo cases, the
natural gravitation of small bodies toward large ones
in othors, tho rosult of a successful war in still others,
may bring about conditions which would render tho
annexation of distant possessions desirable. If those
possessions are inhabited by alien races, differing
from us in religion, customs, laws, methods of tax
ation and modes of thought, tho administration of
goTornmont and justice, according to Anglo-Saxon
principles, may for a timo bo impossible; and tho
question at once arises whether largo concessions
ought not to bo made for a time, that, ultimately our
own theories may bo carried out and the blessings
of a free government under tho constitution extend
ed to them. We decline to hold that there is any
thing in the constitution to forbid such action.
The inference is clear that ho would have
joined the minority but for tho fear that "a
false step," as he called it, "might be fatal to
the development" of tho administration's plan.
Ho assumes that conditions might make "tho
annexation of distant possessions desirable,"
and recognizing that such lands might be "in
habited by alien races, differing from us in re
ligion, customs, laws, methods of! taxation and
modes of thought," he surrenders the principles
of constitutional government in order to vest
in Congress power to administer a different
kind of government from that contemplated by
our forefathers. Of course, he does not expect
to suspend the constitution forever, but in order
to justify a temporary suspension of the con
stitution he employs arguments which destroy
the foundations of constitutional liberty. It is
the. old story as old as history. It is yielding
to temptation; it is the conscious departure
from the right path with lame and halting
apologies therefor. It is the ancient argument
that tho end justifies the means an argument
that has been used to bolster up every thing
bad and to excuse all villainy. When a person
starts to "making concessions" whether from
moral principles or from constitutional provis
ions, he always increases the concessions until
they become as large as tho case requires. Jus
tice Brown makes the mistake of weighing desire
against duty. Nothing can be desirable which
requires a surrender of our ideas of govern
ment. That ought to be a starting point. If
the truths set forth in tho Declaration of Inde
pendence are self-evident truths; if tho rights
enumerated are inalienable rights; if tho peoplo
aro the only source from which a just govern
ment can derive its powers if these things aro
true, then nothing can bo desirable which re
quires a repudiation of them. Tho very fact
that Justico Brown discusses tho question, or
entcrtaius the thought of comparing the desir
ableness of distant possessions with the duty of
maintaining tho principles of free government
shows that his heart has wandered from tho
paths trod by tho revolutionary patriots. He
may delude himself with tho idea that ho can
ultimately extend the blessings of "free gov
ernment" by denying tho principles of free
government now. But it is a vain hope. To
justify a temporary surrender we must relax
our hold upon American doctrines and when .
that hold is once relaxed it is not apt to bo re
gained. Power is fascinating. It flatters our"
vanity to bo told that we are "a superior
people" and owo it to "inferior people" to tain
care of them. As wo never can convince them
that wo are disinterested or make them satisfied
with our sovereignty, it is not safe to givo
them a voice in their own government.
If our subjects protest against carpet bag
officials, it is proof positive that they lack tho
intelligence to govern themselves. When a su
perior race is dealing with an inferior one, lack
of appreciation is a hcinious offense; and when
did the subject ever appreciate an "effort to de
prive him of his liberty?
Progress, civilization, capacity for self gov
ernment all these aic relative terms. Indi
viduals differ from each other, races differ, na
tions differ. Let us suppose that ten repre
sents the capacity of the Filipinos for self gov
ernment while one hundred represents the ca
pacity of the American people; how can they
come nearer together unless the Filipinos make
more rapid progress than the American? Is it
probable or even possible that the Filipinos, de
nied the experience which self-government
gives, would improve as fast as we so long as
wo are in the full enjoyment of self-government?
Justice Brown referred with evident pride
to England's methods of dealing with her col
onies, and yet England is making no progress
toward self-government. The Indian peoplo
are complaining that Englishmen are sent out
to fill the important offices at high salaries; the
native papers of influence do not attempt to de
fend the policy of the English government and
the educated classes arc especially hostile to
British rule.
Japan has made moro progress in tho last
forty years than India has made in a hundred
and fifty. Mexico, half Spanish and half In
dian, has made greater strides in tho last quar
ter of a century than India has made in a cen
tury and a half. When the Mexican war was
ended our flag was hauled down from the
heights of Chatapultepcc and both tho United
States and Mexico have prospered more as sis
ter republics than either would havo prospered
had wo adopted an imperialistic policy.
The "destiny" argument obliterates all dis
tinction between right and wrong; it assumes
that there is somewhere an irresistible force
which impels the American peoplo to do what
they do not want to do and ought not to do,
whereas the only force behind imperialism is
tho commercial argument that the constitution
and all moral principled must give way to the
almighty dollar. The'"do8tiny?' argument justi
fies grand larceny and wholesale slaughter, pro
viSctl ihatiihey will pay, and then imperialists,
conscious that tho means employed cannot bo
defended by argument, throw the blame upon
Providence. There is no more reason to be
lieve that God commands a big nation to de
stroy, subjugate or rob a weaker nation than
there is to believe that God commands a
strong man to kill or rob a cripple, and yet tho
imperialists invoke the law to punish the indi
vidual as a criminal while they extol a war of
conquest as patriotic.
If concessions are made they ought to bo
made -for the support and maintainance of re
publican government, not for its overthrow,
but Justice Brown made all the concession
away from liberty rather than toward it. Hia
policy would send this nation out upon the high
ways of the world as a bully and a braggart. Un
less he knows that moral principles will be sus
pended for tho protection of our nation, he
must know that this nation cannot exercise the
powers conferred by the supreme court with
out destroying its moral prestige among the
nations and inviting a terrible retribution.
The victims of arbitrary power may survive,
but those who exercise arbitrary power bo
come' hardened and calloused until they lose
respect for liberty and then lose liberty itself.
The concessions made by the court are so
. large that no material advantage however great
could compensate the nation for them. What
shall we say, then, when these concessions aro
made to secure advantages which are seeming
rather than real advantages which but a few
can enjoy?
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