President Schurman of Cornell university, who was president of the first Philippine commission, has aroused an interesting discussion by his recent speech in Boston, on the ultimate disposition of these islands. President Schurman claims that in advocating ultimate independence for the islands he is in the company of distinguished people, such as the late President McKinley and President Roosevelt. For this claim he has been sharply assailed on all sides. Even General Wheaton has taken him to task and one might think, judging from the criticisms that have been made that a citizen no longer has the right to discuss even in temperate, sober language a great and open question of government policy. Just as radical criticism, and one might almost say abuse, have been heaped upon the late President Harrison, Senator Hoar and many other men of the highest enlightenment and intelligence because they dared to differ from what seems to be the party position on this vital question. But it is from such men with courage of their convictions that the American people depend for their enlightenment and convictions on great questions -- these at least who dare to think outside of party lines and party narrowness. Nevertheless, in spite of all criticism, the country will continue to hear just such earnest speech on this burning question.
President Schurman in a recent signed statement has come back at his critics and on the face of his statement he seems easily to have the best of the argument. Relative to General Wheaton's criticism, he says:
"General Wheaton wants 50,000 soldiers for five years and then a colonial government based on those which England and Holland have framed for oriental races. But General Wheaton's commander in chief, President Roosevelt, said in his message to congress that we were to do for the Filipinos far more than any other nation had done for a tropical people, and that we were to fit them for self-government after the fashion of the really free nations.
"I am with President Roosevelt and against General Wheaton. And I go further, and say that as the American people have not yet passed upon the question of a final Philippine policy, it is as proper for me to advocate eventual independence as for General Wheaton to recommend colonial servitude like that of Java or India."
A comparison of this statement with the exact language of President Roosevelt, it would seem, can but convince that Mr. Schurman is right rather than General Wheaton. The president says:
"Our people are now successfully governing themselves, because for more than a thousand years they have been slowly fitting themselves, sometimes unconsciously, toward this end... In dealing with the Philippine people we must show both patience and strength, forbearance and steadfast resolution. Our aim is high.... We hope to do for them what has never before been done for any people of the tropics - to make them fit for self-government after the fashion of the really free nations."
This certainly does not mean that they are ultimately to be left in a state of vassalage. It can hardly be justly interpreted to mean that the Filipinos are to be governed when they have been fitted "for self-government after the fashion of the really free nations" as Dutch and English tropical colonies, such as Java and India, are governed. Neither can the president's language be justly interpreted, it seems, to mean "benevolent assimilation," it does not indicate that he contemplates Americanizing the Filipinos and admitting them to the Union. His language does not indicate that he contemplates even the usual territorial form of government for them. His way of putting the matter does not appear to be capable of construction in accordance with the views of the annexationists. And his words were carefully selected and studied and undoubtedly mean what they say. That is the kind of language President Roosevelt is in the habit of using. President Schurman certainly understands the English language and he has given the construction to the president's statements which every thoughtful person would give them.