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George Ade: The dubious rights granted a people “liberated” through war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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George Ade
Two Rebellions (1899)

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“I just wanted to ask you about a certain passage in the school history,” said Mr. Kakyak, the Tagalo, addressing the American missionary.

Washington Conner – “Yes?”

Kakyak – “Here it is. (Reads) ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it – ‘”

Conner – “I remember the passage perfectly. You are reading from the second paragraph of the declaration of independence. What of it?”

Kakyak – “Well, do the people of your country still indorse the sentiments contained in that declaration?”

Conner – “I don’t suppose we are legally bound by anything contained in the declaration of independence. In a general way, however, we still agree with what it says there.”

Kakyak – “Do you still maintain that ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’?”

Conner – “Nothing in that declaration of independence applies to the Malay division of the human race. That declaration was prepared by white men.”

Kakyak – “Then it should read: ‘All men (except Malay) are created equal’ or perhaps ‘all white men are created equal’?”

Conner – “For a great many years that passage was supposed to mean ‘all white men,’ just as you suggest. Stephen A. Douglas, an eminent statesman, maintained that the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the privileges of self-government belonged to the white race alone. Abraham Lincoln claimed that the word ‘men’ had a more general application and included negroes as well. We had a very bitter and destructive civil war in America, and after it was all over we reached the conclusion that the negro has the same unalienable rights as the white man. But we would never admit that the Tagalo has these rights, if that’s what you’re driving at.”

Kakyak – “I am simply seeking information – trying to find the exact status of my countrymen. You see the Filipino insur – rebels, I mean – have set up the claim that they have the same rights as the Americans claimed in 1776. They have organized a provisional government, just as the colonies did. They are fighting for – well, what they conceive to be their rights. In what respect are they different from the thirteen colonies that rebelled against Great Britain?”

Conner – “The situation is entirely different. Our forefathers in America threw off the British yoke because they had been made the victims of a long train of abuses which you will find set forth in the declaration of independence in front of you – two whole pages. The Tagalos, on the other hand, are resisting a government which is wise, humane and just, with charity for all.”

Kakyak – “How do we know this?”

Conner – “Because we tell you so.”

Kakyak – “You say the thirteen colonies resisted British authority because they had been persecuted and unjustly taxed. Suppose that after they had issued this declaration of independence and founded a provisional government of their own, Great Britain had relented and promised to correct all the abuses of which there had been complaint. Do you think the colonists would have been willing to go back and accept British rule?”

Conner – “Perhaps not, but -”

Kakyak – “Another question. I read in here that France helped the colonies in their war against Great Britain, just as the Americans last year helped us in our revolt against the Spanish, here in this island. Now, suppose that before the British had been driven from the colonies, Great Britain and France had made a treaty in which Great Britain, in consideration of a large sum of money, had transferred the colonies to France. Do you think the colonists would have accepted French rule simply because the French had been their friends during the war?”

Conner – “Your questions are preposterous, Mr. Kakyak. It is evident that you are trying to demonstrate that the present rebellion in this island bears some resemblance to the revolutionary uprising in America in 1776. You seem to forget that the colonial fathers were an intelligent, high-minded body of patriots while the Tagalos are simple islanders who have a vague longing to govern themselves and mistake this longing for genuine patriotism.”

Kakyak – “Whether it is patriotism or not, a great many of them have been willing to die for it. Your colonial fathers could not do more than that.”

Conner – “Look here, Mr. Kakyak, do you realize that your conversation to-day borders very closely on treason?”

Kakyak – “Perhaps so. I have become rather inflamed from reading the declaration of independence.”

Conner – “I can see that you still cling to the idea that the Tagalos ought to have a government of their own.”

Kakyak – “I think they ought to be given a chance to govern themselves.”

Conner – “But the Tagalos are only one tribe.”

Kakyak – “We number one and a half millions. There were only three million colonists.”

Conner – “But they were a different kind of people.”

Kakyak – “They held slaves. We are too civilized to do that.”

Conner – “Don’t you see that it would be impossible, under prevailing conditions, to give you Tagalos a separate and independent government? You are only one of many tribes. Why, there are tribes right on this island who are ready and willing to accept American rule.”

Kakyak – “Those are the bow men who live in the remote jungles. They do not have schools and churches and printing presses as we do, and so they have not been educated to a desire for liberty. I read in this history that when the colonists rebelled against the British the Indians who lived on the British possessions that surrounded the colonies did not join in the rebellion or the revolution, but continued to be friendly with the British. If I am not mistaken, they helped the British on more than one occasion, and massacred whole villages of the rebels – I mean the colonists. So, you see, the colonists did not have the sympathy of the savage tribes any more than we have. I’ll admit that the Tagalos do not hold all the territory in Luzon, but they occupy all that part of the island which is civilized and under cultivation. As far as that’s concerned, the thirteen colonies were only a little patch of North America. They occupied less than one-forth of the British holdings in North America, yet they presumed to found a government of their own without the consent or co-operation of the inhabitants of the Indian country and the province acquired from the French.”

Conner – “I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by all these parallels. Suppose you do satisfy yourself that your countrymen are real liberty-loving patriots, the same as our forefathers in America were. What are you going to do about it?”

Kakyak – “I don’t know, I’m sure.”

Conner – “Did you expect us to come over here and destroy the Spanish fleet and afterwards pay out $20,000,000 for the mere satisfaction of permitting you people to govern yourselves?”

Kakyak – “That’s what we thought.”

Conner – “Then you have very elementary notions of business.”

Kakyak – “Let me begin at the beginning and tell how and why we have been deceived.”

Conner – “Mistaken, you mean.”

Kakyak – “Perhaps that would be a better word. When your fleet under Admiral Dewey came to Manila we were under the impression that the Americans had come to help us drive out the Spanish and set up a government of our own. That’s what my people have been fighting for and praying for ever since I can remember. Some of my neighbors said: ‘If the Americans come in here and defeat the Spanish they will take the island for themselves instead of letting us have a republic of our own.’ Then Aguinaldo and other leaders who had talked with the Americans assured us that the war against Spain was a war of humanity, that the Americans had gone into it because they believed in the rights of men and could no longer endure the spectacle of Spanish cruelties in Cuba. We were told that the Americans were willing to spend any amount of money to enforce justice and confer the blessings of liberty on a struggling people. We know that your countrymen were pledged to drive the Spanish out of Cuba and help the Cubans to establish a stable government of their own. We thought you would treat us the same as you treated the Cubans.”

Conner – “We didn’t promise you a stable government of your own. We have never conceded that you had a right to govern yourselves. Evidently you have jumped at conclusions.”

Kakyak – “But we hear such favorable reports of you that we believed you would give us a chance at self-government, even though you had made no specific promises. We thought that your conscience might help you to a conclusion.”

Conner – “Do you realize that we have paid $20,000,000 for these islands? Do you expect a business nation to go to work and throw away any such sum of money? You may rest assured that we will keep these islands. especially since President Schuman has reported so favorably on the good qualities of the Tagalos. I notice that he says in an interview that in two generations you Tagalos will be as far advanced, in all respects, as the Japanese.”

Kakyak – “When we are as far advanced as the Japanese do you still think we will consent to be governed by a foreign power?”

Conner – “I don’t like the terms you use. You talk of ‘government’ and ‘foreign power’ as if the United States intended to oppress you, instead of making you highly civilized through the workings of benevolent assimilation.”

Kakyak – “Well, I wish I knew just what going to become of us. After this war is over, Mr. Conner, after all the fighting rebels have been killed and peace has been restored, don’t you think your countrymen will relent somewhat and decide to give us a chance to govern ourselves?”

Conner – “I shouldn’t like to hold out false hopes, Mr. Kakyak. I think I can best answer your question by reading a newspaper clipping which I just received from the United States. It is an extract from a speech delivered by President McKinley at the Ocean Grove camp meeting. Here it is:”

(Reads)

“‘The flag does not mean one thing in the United States and another in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. There has been some doubt expressed in some quarters as to the purpose of the government in respect to the Philippines. I can see no harm in stating this in this presence. Peace first, then, with charity for all, an established government of law and order, protecting life, property and occupation, for the well being of the people in which they will participate under the stars and stripes.'”

Kakyak – “What does it mean?”

Conner – “Well, a true statesman is always indefinite, but as nearly as I can figure it out means, ‘You don’t get it.’ Note the word ‘occupation.’ That means that we are going to remain.”

Kakyak – “How about the word ‘participation’?”

Conner – “Participation is a beautifully copious word. That’s why McKinley used it. But it satisfied the people at the camp meeting, so you ought not to kick.”

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