Tutoring the Philippines

By Charles H. Brent

[The Yale Review, July 1917]

In the course of a recent discussion of the Philippine problem, I was asked by one of our most eminent educators of the senior generation, whether any instance in history could be cited where one nation had successfully tutored another in self-government. My answer took the form of a counter-question—Can an instance be adduced where the full experiment has been tried, except so far as our own nation has done so during the last two decades? No reply was made.

By tutoring in self-government was understood the effort of a country to develop to the uttermost the latent capacity of a backward dependency, with a view to bringing it to nationhood and launching it with all the responsibilities and prerogatives of a new unit of government in the world of men. I believe that this can be successfully done and that the result of our labors in the Philippines testifies to the fact.

Great Britain, whatever her deficiencies, has been the most just friend of weak and backward people that history has known. The part she has played in their development and protection has been replete with noble elements, especially during the last half-century. She has consistently put her dependencies and colonies to school, carrying them from the kindergarten to the higher grades, but she has always stopped short of graduating them into independent statehood. In every instance, her frankly declared objective has been not their independence but their continued and, in a sense, increased dependence. Her whole viewpoint has been imperial: her first concern has been the well-being of the empire, and her second, the individual aspirations and desires of the dependency. Of course, her statesmen would claim that what was good for the empire was good for the dependencies, and that it was more profitable all the way round to develop a strong dependency within the empire than a weak nation outside of it. That, however, is not to the point. Even if it be true that the British Empire came into existence through a fit of absent-mindedness, it represents, with its famous pax Britannica and its network of colonies all over the world, one of the noble monuments of history, quite capable of justifying its principles and its main methods. But the question at stake is not whether Great Britain is a structure of magnificent proportions and beneficent influence. It is whether she or any other European power has ever set as the goal of a dependency ultimate self-government and used all her wisdom and resources to compass that end. I am aware of no such instance.

The outstanding example of the British government's educational and philanthropic ventures among alien peoples is its administration, for more than a quarter of a century, of Egyptian affairs. It was doubtless for Egypt's sake that the country was occupied, but it was stall more for the benefit of the empire. An effete and bankrupt nation, under Great Britain's firm discipline and beneficent schooling, renewed its youth and credit in a remarkably short period. But the moment Egyptian nationalism reared its head, it was, to use mild language, discouraged. That is to say, the educational terminus ad quem came short of the ideal of independence, and the child was kept in the schoolroom. The late Lord Cromer, Egypt's greatest friend and servant, a man whom history cannot fail to place high on the roll of statesmen and administrators, was of the opinion that there was lack of capacity among the Egyptians to come up to the requirements of a modern independent state. In 1905 in reply to my categorical question—Will Egypt ever be able to govern herself?—he gave an unqualified negative. Recently Great Britain has found it necessary to denude Egypt of even the semblance of independence.

Again in India, wherever the results of education have taken the form of nationalism, they have met with the same imperial frown as they did in Egypt. The largest concession granted has been increased local autonomy. Nor, according to the prevailing imperial idea, could it be otherwise. The whole scheme of empire is to create a web in which every part of the fabric is wrought into the whole. It was so with the Roman Empire, and it is even more so with the British. Hitherto every new thread that could be shot by the political shuttle from the centre to the circumference and back again from the circumference to the centre, has been utilized. On the part of Great Britain, there has been no attempt to weave separate fabrics of independent patterns. Where, within her jurisdiction, local looms have been set up, they have been quickly dismantled, except in her Anglo-Saxon overseas, dominions.

There are indications that imperialism has not yet crystallized into an idée fixe. A change is coming without doubt. An eminent Englishman recently made a public statement in my hearing to the effect that Great Britain was fast learning to speak in subdued tones regarding her own relation to other units of empire; that she would eventually move down from supremacy to primacy; that every unit would have equal voice and vote in matters imperial; that in the empire of the future the champion of the rights of small nations would not deny full self-government to competent dependencies demanding it.

In the light of history, I do not think it extravagant to claim that Great Britain has proved, within the boundaries of her empire, that dependencies can be advantageously put to school, and that they do not offer much more rebellion in the case of compulsory education than does the average pupil in our public school system. Without discussing the merits of her policy, it is equally clear that Great Britain has never encouraged among her possessions a university course in self-government. Her history and her genius have forbidden it. Much more have Spain and Germany and Holland and France feared the logical consequences in their colonies of complete education, and, accordingly, they have shied away from it.

It is quite different in the case of the United States of America. When it comes to the question of our administration of the governmental affairs of alien peoples outside of our traditional territory, but one of two courses is possible without radical change in the Constitution—either the incorporation into our federal system of the people-concerned, with their consent and approval, or else the adoption of such a method of schooling as will make for their self-government and nationhood. Our policy being determined for us beforehand, when Cuba, the Philippines, and other insular possessions became our responsibility, there was no room for hesitation. If it has been Great Britain's vocation to dovetail the most diverse peoples into her empire, it has been reserved for America to blaze a new trail, and, where admission into our voluntary empire is not possible or expedient, to train dependencies for a place among independent nations. Great Britain has proved that lower education in self-government is effective. We are experimenting, not unsuccessfully, in the higher.

The stubborn refusal of some of our fellow citizens to recognize concrete facts because they disturb their cherished theory that one nation cannot successfully tutor another in self-government, or, that a poor indigenous government is always preferable to a good alien one, is pathetic where it is not puerile, and amusing where it is not exasperating. Their attitude is similar to that of a certain German scientist. He went to Australia to study the aborigines. His method was accurately scientific, and true to approved theory. He measured innumerable brain pans; he contemplated skulls with an earnestness far surpassing that of Hamlet over the skull of poor Yorick; there was no cranial eccentricity overlooked. So when he had completed his laborious study, he tabulated his findings with a certainty that would have been wholly admirable had it not been wholly wrong. His verdict was that the Australian aborigines were incapable of civilization and education. It was suggested to him that it might be wise to visit the native schools and see just what these people were capable of intellectually and industrially. He refused. It would be useless, he said, for did not his anthropometrical researches prove that they were without hope of development? Then he went home and wrote a learned book proving his conclusion beyond peradventure. Truly a little pragmatism is occasionally of value!

In the case of Cuba, America's occupation was too brief to be immediately effective. Nevertheless, however short it was, it represented a period of administrative education without which Cuba could not have so soon become a tolerable neighbor. Between the moment when the American flag went up on Morro Castle and the Cuban flag took its place, a period of four years, America was tutoring Cuba in self-government. Popular education was begun, departments of government planned, and standards of political integrity set. Cuba, because of her history, her proximity to the American continent, her comparative freedom from heterogeneous elements of population, her territorial compactness, was at once put into an advanced class and given her degree of independent statehood early. A short post-graduate course was administered later. Now the new republic seems to have settled down to sober business and bears perpetual witness to America's purpose to promote the interests of small or weak nations and her aptitude as a teacher in self-government. Her case stands alone in history.

The Philippines presented a vastly different proposition. Situated ten thousand miles away; composed of the broken territory of an archipelago; with a diversified population widely scattered excepting in an occasional congested district such as Cebu; with no common language, save among a small percentage where there is a babel of dialects; devoid of a native literature; disturbed by internal troubles; with a stubborn fragment of the people wild and unorganized, and a Mohammedan tertium quid traditionally hostile to the Christian population—with all this to face, the problem presented by the pupil to the teacher was baffling.

Even before the process of restoring public order was well under way, the symbol of democracy, the schoolhouse, made its appearance. In 1901, the year in which civil government was established, a veritable army of American schoolteachers was drafted into the Philippine service. The training of Filipino teachers was begun at the earliest possible moment. In 1913 there were in the Department of Public Instruction some 9,500 teachers of whom 658 were American, the balance, of course, being Filipino. This is noteworthy for it indicates that the purpose of the United States was sincere. There can be no successful experiment in democracy where free education for all does not prevail. And the converse is true—where there is a strong public school system, democracy will surely take root. The progress of education marks the progress of democratic ideals and principles, that is to say, of self-government. There never yet was a republic in more than name that had not an instructed commonalty, either in Central or in South America. And where the franchise outruns the intelligence of the voters, you have bureaucracy among office-holders, manipulation of voters by corrupt and self-seeking politicians, and a debased governmental system from top to bottom. You cannot teach men how to vote merely by extending the franchise, as we know to our sorrow in our own country without looking further. It is not merely that efficient public schools promote literacy, valuable as the function is. The Philippine public school is the direct application of democracy to the life of the child. "Definite training for citizenship," says the Report of the Philippine Commission for 1914, "is given in the primary, intermediate, and secondary courses. Various literary societies afford pupils practice in conducting meetings-at which questions of interest to all citizens are discussed."

Admitting shortcomings in the Philippine Department of Public Instruction, which was organized in 1901, it represents the high-water mark of popular education in an Oriental dependency. "The intellectual awakening of the Philippines''—to quote again from the Commission's Report—"which followed the American occupation and the establishment of a modern school system is one of the most gratifying results of American control in the Islands. Everywhere there is the keenest desire for education.... It is because of this intellectual awakening and desire for growth and development that the American teachers have an opportunity of doing so important a work in introducing Western methods and ideals, and in keeping the schools in close touch with Western culture. Through the introduction of English, the people of the Philippine Islands have had access to a literature undreamed of by them, and, not only in the schools, but in the public libraries, works of history, travel, biography, and science are greatly sought, not only by the coming generation, but by many of the older generation who learned English because they found that their horizon was immeasurably widened through the reading of English prose and verse."

I attach supreme importance to the place of public education and the preservation of its standards in our school of Philippine self-government. Education outranks all else although its fruits ripen slowly. It is the mightiest engine of democracy; and where it is weak, citizenship is weak. In the case of Mexico, no group of men have more nearly analyzed her need, or intimated the solution of her problem, than the group of college professors who have been giving careful consideration to her educational poverty and how to remedy it.

In the Philippines, the great mass of the adult population is illiterate, and their horizon is more circumscribed than can be easily realized by those personally unfamiliar with the country at large. Though the terms for qualifying as a voter were from the first set at the bottom notch, only some 200,000 out of a population of approximately 9,000,000 have up to this time claimed the franchise. Voters are now those comprised within one of the following classes: men who under existing law are legal voters and have exercised the right of suffrage; men who own real property to the value of five hundred pesos, or who annually pay thirty pesos or more of the established taxes; men who are able to read and write Spanish, English, or a native language. It was the Jones Bill which added the ability to read and write a native language as an alternative. The provision is theoretically just. Unfortunately, however, it is premature, as it will not only increase the present number of poorly informed voters but also tend to check the bilingual movement which is going to be so valuable an asset in the unifying of the Archipelago and in the international relations of the Philippines of the future. It would be the part of wisdom, even at the cost of hurting the feelings of the adult generation of the day, to restrict the electorate until the present school-children shall have reached their majority. In advocating this, I am only applying to the Philippines a principle which I should like to see operative in the United States, where the emphasis is rather on the extension of democratic privilege than on the exactions of democratic responsibility and the preservation of its purity.

Next in importance to the Philippine Department of Public Instruction, I would place the co-operative method of actual government which has characterized our procedure in the Philippines. With a consistency that has been more rapid than opportune, we have "moved from a government of Americans aided by Filipinos to a government of Filipinos aided by Americans." From the beginning, an honest effort was made to fill every possible office with Filipinos as they manifested ability. A minority of the first Commission were Filipinos; likewise the chief justice, an increasing number of the associate justices, and so on through every department and bureau of government to the personnel of the most obscure municipality. There can be no possible objection to this course provided the appointees are chosen with strict regard for fitness and training which has not always been the case. Men have been taught to govern by being given a share in government. The response through a decade has been eminently satisfactory, and a carefully organized civil service, controlling both Americans and Filipinos has promoted a purity of motive and an efficiency of service that is admirable. Every step in the direction of Filipinization—this awkward but expressive word is current coin—has been logical. Government by commission gave place in the course of time to government by commission and popular assembly. A majority of American commissioners gave place to a majority of Filipino commissioners and in provincial administration similar changes were made. Now within a few months, government by commission and popular assembly has been superseded by government by a legislature of two chambers—a Senate and a House of Representatives.

The Jones Bill, after three years of consideration, emerged as a tolerably creditable product. Its defects, in my judgment, are three. The preamble is marred by the insincerity of intentional ambiguity—it is "the deliberate purpose of the people of the United States to withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognize their independence as soon as stable government can be established therein." The room for controversy over the italicized section of this clause is so patent as to call for no comment. In the second place, it is dangerous and provocative of conflict for the young Senate to be immediately clothed with authority to checkmate at will the chief executive in his appointments. Lastly, an increase of the electorate at this stage is unwise in the light of our experience in America.

It was to the credit of the House of Representatives in Washington that they negatived in emphatic manner the Clarke Amendment to the Jones Bill, which provided for complete Philippine independence in not more than four years. It was unintelligent in conception, cowardly in motive, and unjust to the Philippines in substance. Loyalty, not opposition, to the true principles of Philippine freedom prompts this criticism. I write as one who, without prospect or thought of reward, has given the best years of his life to the Philippine cause in its more difficult and obscure phases. Democracy I hold to be a sacred trust. It is governed, as history clearly shows, by inflexible laws. Opportunism which scouts these laws may bring momentary satisfaction, but later on retribution will inflict its scorpion sting. Other governmental systems may flourish without regard to the condition of each individual citizen. Democracy, never. Democracy is as dependent for its purity and effectiveness, its wisdom and integrity, upon the purity and effectiveness, the wisdom and integrity of each citizen small or great, as the babe is upon its mother's milk. In the Philippines, America is for the moment the steward of democracy in a university of government of her own creation. She must exercise her stewardship with due regard for the nature of the treasure she is dispensing, as well as with consideration for the desires and aspirations of the people she is educating.

Mention should be made of the thorough training that is being given our wards in scientific research through the agency of the Bureau of Science, which is by long odds the most efficient institution of the sort in the Orient. They are also being trained in the treatment of criminals under the Bureau of Prisons, which, in the Gwahig Penal Colony where there is neither weapon, bolt, nor bar, and in San Rameon Farm among the Moros, has in operation among one thousand five hundred prisoners the most advanced and humane principles of penology. The Filipinos are being educated in road building, in the development of irrigation and artesian water, in architecture and construction, by the Bureau of Public Works; in matters pertaining to exports and imports, to the reservation of public order, to hygiene and sanitation, by their respective Bureaus; and, last but not least, in religious magnanimity, which I believe to be greater than in any other Latin-trained country, by the separation of church and state. I mention the foregoing not as exhaustive but as illustrative. Moreover, the instruction has all been given in our university of self-government without drawing upon the Treasury of the United States. Apart from the twenty million dollars agreed upon as a douceur to Spain by the Treaty of Paris, and the added expense connected with maintaining the army and navy in the Philippines, the affairs of our insular dependency have been so honestly and economically handled that the receipts of government meet all liabilities. The men who laid the foundations of this undertaking and bore the burden and heat of the day builded a fabric too strong and too deep to be easily shaken. All who come after will be able to do themselves and their task credit only in so far as they give honor to whom honor is due.

The future of the Philippines is difficult to forecast. It will depend in large part upon the way America executes the balance of her trust; But I would say in conclusion that this seems tolerably clear: the young or small or weak nation of to-morrow is going to have a harder time and a grander opportunity than ever before. It is true that nations like India and Egypt did govern themselves or, to speak more accurately, had independent statehood—the two expressions are not synonymous—in ancient days. But that was at a period when the ends of the earth did not rub shoulders. Such government as they had would not be tolerated in our modern world any more than an absolute monarchy would be tolerated in America. If internationalism and the federation of the world are anything more than empty verbiage, they imply that every nation is responsible for the purity and effectiveness of its .government not only to itself but also to the whole family of nations, just as truly as the States of the Union are responsible to the federal centre which symbolizes and cements the whole. Even we have not hesitated to call to account Spain and Santo Domingo and Haiti and, forbearingly and ineffectively, Mexico, for financial incompetence or inability to preserve order. The small state of the future, if it has any self-respect, will not even desire to crawl behind the pseudo-protection of the discredited principle of neutralization. Every nation, great and small, will desire and be compelled to stand on its own merits and character, manfully shouldering its responsibility. It is not merely that neutralization fails to protect from attack from the outside. If a nation were really to trust in its guaranteed inviolability as, happily, Belgium did not, as Holland and Switzerland do not, neutrality would prevent growth from within, for it would emasculate and sterilize its victim. A nation cannot be a nation in more than name if it declines to accept full international responsibility.

Democracy to grow healthily must grow slowly; and, as I view it, it will be to the mutual advantage of both America and the Philippines to walk yet awhile in close organic relation. America has had no more sobering or enlightening experience, than her direct responsibility for the well-being of a people like the Filipinos. It goes without saying that when once America's governmental authority in the Philippines has reached the vanishing point, the flag that has guaranteed and presided over an unprecedented period of peace, prosperity, and progress, will go down forever, leaving the Islands to their own self-protection as well as their own self-government. But I still cling to the hope that our school, so ably and hopefully established by American men and patriots, will not close its doors until the Philippines shall have honorably graduated into a liberty that will be as secure as it will be to the liking of its citizens and to the credit of democracy.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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