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Dean Hutchins on New Era, American Statesmanship


To the Nation Foreseen from the Change.

A Strong Consitutional Argument in Favor of the Right of Congress to Govern Territory Acquired by War.

The final number in the Unity Club lecture course was given last night by Dean H. B. Hutchins of the law department on the subject "New Era in American Statesmanship." It was a masterful presentation of the constitutional questions involved in the acquisition and control of our new possessions and our duty as an enlightened, humane and progressivo nation thereto.

In opening he said that the century just closing must always be one of great historical interest. It has been one of unsurpassed intellectual activity, the mind of man having gone out into hitherto unexplored regions with the result that our living has been placed upon a higher plane and our activities directed into channels, the possible existence of which were never previously dreamed of. The century has not been as great in the fields of literature and art as some others, but in discovery and invention and in the practical application of knowledge to the comfort and happiness of the race, it has surpassed all that have gone before. The highways of commerce have been extended in every direction and modern inventions have made the whole world a market place. The possibilities of a lifetime have been vastly increased. But it is not alone from a material point of view that the century just closing bas been remarkable. It has also been remarkable in the extent to which the human mind bas been freed from traditions and superstitions which cramped and dwarfed it. Freedom of thought and publication have brought new conditions which must be reckoned with and new demands which will not be silenced. The speaker reviewed the advance of religious teaching and thought and said the faith of the future must appeal both to the reason and the heart. He declared that the century would also stand out pre-eminently as an era of personal and political emancipation, an era wherein the rights of man as man were more generally recognized and enforced than ever before, and wherein the power of the people, as a factor in government, made itself felt as never before and it will always be a source of pride that the battle for personal liberty and government by the people was so largely fought by our kinsmen. The speaker showed how a government of the people and by the people under a written constitution had developed during the century meeting successfully all demands put upon it and its influence had extended over ihe whole of Central and South America and struggling humanity the world over has turned to its' principles for light. The speaker spoke of the great trials which representative government has met and solved during the century and said the victories of Manila and Santiago mean more than he crushing of the Spanish power in the Philippines and Antilles, they mean a new era in American statesmanship. Mr. Hutchins declared his belief that this new era would be one ;hat will add to the nation's strength and the nation's honor. While the new problems which the war have thrust upon us are grave and difficult, he did not see in them the dangers to the integrity of our institutions which some would have us believe. The lecturer here entered upon a discussion of the constitutional questions involved. He thought a careful study of the situation in connection with the provisions of the organic law must convince the candid mind that the administration is acting within constitutional limits. The question whether a European government had the power to add to its domain by conquest or purchase was simply a question of ability and expedience. Here it is different. The very life of the federal government is wrapped up in the written constitution which gave it birth and prescribes lts power. In this document the power must be found for every act of the government. The lecture, followed the various cases in our history bearing upon the subject of the acquisition, control and disposition of territory, quoting from Marshall, Taney, Webster and others and concluded that the control of the territories of the United States was wholly in the hands of congress to direct as in its wisdom it may think best. He quoted from the Constitution to show that the territories of the United States, in whatever functions of government they have exercised, have received these powers from congress. The executive, the legislature and tbe courts were all creatures of congress. "The constitution," says Chief Justice Marshall, "confers absolutely on the government of the Union the power of making war and making treaties; consequently that government possesses the power of acquiring territory either by conquest or by treaty." Chief Justice Taney held that there is "no power given by the constitution to the federal government to establish or maintain colonies bordering on the United States or at a distance, to be ruled and governed at its own pleasure nor to enlarge its territorial limits in any way except by the admission of new states." But the "power to expand the territory of the United States by the new states is plainly given." This opinion of Judge Taney was given in connection with the Dred Scott case. Our recent experience proves that territory may come under our control as a result of war, which under no circumstances which we can expect to exist, can be formed into states. What is to be done with it? The sensible conclusion is that the framers of the constitution intended the government should have the power to acquire territory for any purpose without limitation, Pending action by congress the president has full power to govern such territory subject, of course, to the limitations of his office.

Dean Hutchins held that there is nothing in the present situation or tendencies which indicates a change of deals or that we are drifting toward imperialism. He argued that the government has hitherto exercised all the authority and powers which it is now proposed to exercise over these new possessions, only snch possessions have been called territories instead of colonies, and if there has been nothing un-American in this how can our control of the new possessions which the fortunes of war have thrown into our hands be un-American? These territories are ours by right of conquest. The war was not undertaken for the purpose of conquest but for humanitarian objects, but one of its results has been the placing of these colonies under our control. We owe a duty to them therefore. We cannot return them to Spain without stultifying ourselves. We cannot honorably barter them away to the highest bidder. Such a course would be mercenary, undignified and unstatesmanlike. The difficulties and responsibilities which they bring we must be honest enough, brave enough and hopeful enough to take upou ourselves and solve them. We cannot shift the burden if we would. Our honor will not permit it. We owe it to ourselves, to the people of these islands and to the other powers who have interests there and to the world in general to bear it.

But what shall our policy be? It is too early and we have too little light on the subject at present to permit of a declaration of that policy which might in future return to plague us. In the opinión of the leoturer the questions growing out of the situation will not soon be settled. But that they will finally be settled in a way to bring honor to the public I firmly believe, said the speaker. In their control it vill be our duty to legislate for the good of these people in accordance with the great principles of onr institutions. It is our moral if not legal duty to do this and to manage their affairs always with reference to their development and wellbeing, in the hope that they may finally be prepared or independent self government.