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GEORGE HOAR : The Lust for Empire Mr.

GEORGE HOAR : The Lust for Empire

Mr. President, the persons who favor the ratification of this treaty without conditions and without amendment differ among themselves certainly in their views, purposes, and opinions, and as they are so many of them honest and well-meaning persons, we have the right to say in their actual and real opinions. In general, the state of mind and the utterance of the lips are in accord. If you ask them what they want, you are answered with a shout: "Three cheers for the flag! Who will dare to haul it down? Hold onto everything you can get. The United States is strong enough to do what it likes. The Declaration of Independence and the counsel of Washington and the Constitution of the United States have grown rusty and musty. They are for little countries and not for great ones. There is no moral law for strong nations. America has outgrown Americanism."

. . . If you cannot take down a national flag where it has once floated in time of war, we were disgraced when we took our flag down in Mexico and in Vera Cruz, or after the invasion of Canada; England was dishonored when she took her flag down after she captured this capital; and every nation is henceforth pledged to the doctrine that wherever it puts its military foot or its naval power with the flag over it, that must be a war to the death and to extermination or the honor of the state is disgraced by the flag of that nation being withdrawn.

. . . We have no more right to acquire land or hold it, or to dispose of it for an unconstitutional purpose, than we have a right to fit out a fleet or to buy a park of artillery for an unconstitutional purpose. Among the constitutional purposes for which Congress may acquire and hold territory and other property are the building of forts, and the establishment of post offices and subtreasuries and custom houses. In all these cases it is accomplishing a clearly constitutional purpose.

One of the constitutional purposes is the enlargement of the country by the admission of new states, and therefore Congress may lawfully acquire, hold, and dispose of territory with reference to the accomplishment of that great constitutional purpose, among others. It may also acquire adjoining or outlying territory, dispose of it, make rules and regulations for it for the purposes of national security and defense, although it may not be expected that the territory so acquired, held, and disposed of shall ever come into the Union as a state. That is, as many people think, the case of Hawaii.

Now, the disposing of and the making rules and regulations for territory acquired for either of these purposes necessarily involves the making laws for the government of the inhabitants - forever, if the territory is not to come in as a state, or during the growing and transition period if and until it shall come in as a state.

. . .The framers of the Constitution were not thinking mainly and chiefly, when they enacted that clause, of lawmaking, of the government of men, of the rights of citizenship. They were thinking of public property; and although the lawmaking, the rights of men, citizenship have to be recognized from the necessity of the case where the public property is a large tract of land fit for human settlement, yet the language they used and the thought in their minds treated the element of property as the principal, and the element of citizenship as something only temporary and passing, only to last until the property, territory, and inhabitants can be given over to freedom under the jurisdiction of a state, to be admitted as an equal member of our political partnership.

And two things about this clause are quite significant. One is that it is not contained in the article which gives Congress general legislative powers, but is sandwiched in between the section providing for the admission of new states and the section providing for guaranteeing to every state a republican form of government, showing that they were not thinking of conferring a general legislative power over the inhabitants and were only thinking, so far as the inhabitants of a territory were concerned, of the transition or expectant period while they were awaiting admission to statehood. And, Mr. President, you are not now proposing to acquire or own property in the Philippines with dominion as a necessary incident; you are not thinking of the ownership of land there. You propose, now, to acquire dominion and legislative power and nothing else. Where in the Constitution is the grant of power to exercise sovereignty where you have no property? . . .

My proposition, summed up in a nutshell, is this: I admit you have the right to acquire territory for constitutional purposes, and you may hold land and govern men on it for the constitutional purpose of a seat of government or for the constitutional purpose of admitting it as a state. I deny the right to hold land or acquire any property for any purpose not contemplated by the Constitution. The government of foreign people against their will is not a constitutional purpose but a purpose expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Therefore I deny the right to acquire this territory and to hold it by the government for that purpose. . . .

Now, I claim that under the Declaration of Independence you cannot govern a foreign territory, a foreign people, another people than your own; that you cannot subjugate them and govern them against their will, because you think it is for their good, when they do not; because you think you are going to give them the blessings of liberty. You have no right at the cannon's mouth to impose on an unwilling people your Declaration of Independence and your Constitution and your notions of freedom and notions of what is good. That is the proposition which the senator asserted. He does not deny it now.

If the senator gets up and says, "I will not have those people in Iloilo subdued; I 'II not govern the Philippine Islands unless the people consent; they shall be consulted at every step," he would stand in a different position. That is what I am complaining of. When I asked the senator during his speech whether he denied that just governments rested on the consent of the governed, he said, in substance, that he did deny it - that is, his answer was "some of them"; and he then went on to specify places where government did not so rest.

The senator says, "Oh, we governed the Indians against their will when we first came here," long before the Declaration of Independence. I do not think so. I am speaking of other people. Now, the people of the Philippine Islands are clearly a nation - a people three and one-third times as numerous as our fathers were when they set up this nation. If gentlemen say that because we did what we did on finding a great many million square miles of forests and a few hundred or thousand men roaming over it without any national life, without the germ of national life, without the capacity for self-government, without self-government, without desiring self-government, was a violation of your principle, I answer, if it was a violation of your principle it was wrong.

It does not help us out any to say that 150 years ago we held slaves or did something else. If it be a violation of your principle, it is wrong. But if, as our fathers thought and as we all think, it was not a violation of the principle because there was not a people capable of national life or capable of government in any form, that is another thing.

But read the account of what is going on in Iloilo. The people there have got a government, with courts and judges, better than those of the people of Cuba, who, it was said, had a right to self-government, collecting their customs; and it is proposed to turn your guns on them, and say, "We think that our notion of government is better than the notion you have got yourselves." I say that when you put that onto them against their will and say that freedom as we conceive it, not freedom as they conceive it, public interest as we conceive it, not as they conceive it, shall prevail, and that if it does not we are to force it on them at the cannon's mouth - I say that the nation which undertakes that plea and says it is subduing these men for their good when they do not want to be subdued for their good will encounter the awful and terrible rebuke, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."



  1. For what reasons does George F. hoar oppose the annexation of the Philippines?
  2. Why does Hoar believe the imperialist are hypocrites?
  3. On what issues would Hoar disagree with Senator Albert K. Beveridge's views?

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