Imágenes de páginas

country to another, but the loss that fell upon it in this way was trifling in comparison with the sacrifices imposed upon the natives by the fiction of treating them as suited to a higher organization of industry than the one which they had attained. Considerations of economy led the Government to establish as few warehouses and factories as possible, and consequently a large district was tributary to each one. In one regency about half the cultivators lived 25 miles or more from the indigo factories to which they had to bring their crops. After exhausted fields had gone out of cultivation and other fields had been assigned to a factory the distances ran up as high as 70 miles. To remedy the scattering of the sugar fields, at one time all land near the sugar factory was taken for cane, and rice fields were assigned in the outlying cane fields.


In spite of the theory on which the culture system was established, it was a system of forced labor. It could not be maintained without compulsion, because the Government insisted on keeping up the culture of crops that could not return both profit to itself and fair wages to the laborers. The expectation that export articles would pay well for their cultivation, wherever grown, proved false, and if the planter had been an individual instead of a government the cultivation would have stopped in many, perhaps in most, districts. * * *

While the Government gained during a certain period by the culture system, it gained only by appropriating practically all the profits and by making the natives bear practically all the losses. It could never have obtained its surplus if it had paid the natives a t living wage. The system of piece wage identified the native with the success or failure of the crop that he cultivated, and all depended with him on whether the seed fell on good ground or bad.

The pay would have been small enough if the Government had adhered to the plan published at the origin of the system, by which it was to take but one-fifth of the land and of the labor of the natives. There was not the slightest pretense, however, of maintaining this principle. A month after Van den Bosch had advised its adoption he proposed himself that the proportion of land taken should be not one-fifth, but one-third, and in practice all was taken that the Government dared to reserve from the growing of food crops, even up to a half or more. Native labor was treated with as little respect as native land. The new crops needed more labor than was required for rice. Sugar, for example, required twice as much labor on the same area. Every extension in the government cultures, therefore, was accompanied by a more than proportionate increase in the demand for laborers.

With pay so small, and with all the chances on which it depended so far removed from their control, the natives lost all stimulus to work. They gave their labor grudgingly and made no attempts to acquire skill or to prevent waste in the operations that were required of them. And besides the loss in quantity and quality due to the employment of forced labor, the product suffered further deterioration in the factories under the system of government monopoly. Whether the government carried on the processes of manufacture itself or intrusted the manufacture to contractors, the stimulus of competition was lacking in both cases and the result was the same-a product of poor quality.


In taking over the system of the old East India Company the Dutch Government was drawn inevitably into the old policy of monopoly and exclusion. "Itself a producer, it was bound to view competitors with jealousy, and was forced into an attitude of hostility toward such of its own subjects as desired to exploit the resources of Java. Independent planters had a bad name with the Government as “particulars” and “fortune seekers,” and were practically excluded from the island. * * *

The system was as bad from a political as from an economic standpoint. A characteristic feature of it was the payment to Dutch and native officials of percentages of the product that was delivered to the government by the people under their direction. During the later period of the system over 1,000,000 florins a year were paid out in this form of percentages on three cultures alone; residents had their salaries doubled or more than doubled by this means. À tremendous pressure was thus brought to bear on the whole political administration to enlist the interest of officials in the yield of government cultures. Nothing could have been more efficient in accomplishing the end desired, but at the same time no plan could have been devised more certain

to blind the eyes of officials to duties proper to their position. They were taken from the sphere of public servants and turned into managers and overseers of plantations. So long as they showed a good surplus of products every year, the home Government put no check upon their action, and they lived as they liked, each resident a petty oriental despot. *



Van den Bosch proposed to secure the adherence of the ruling class of natives, the regents, by giving back to them the position and part of the power that they had enjoyed before the Dutch and Ěnglish had reduced them to the place of officials. To increase their prestige they were turned again into semi-independent rulers, with grants of land to furnish them with dues in labor and kind as under the old régime, and with a militia formed from the native aristocracy for a bodyguard, strong enough to impose upon the people, but so weak that it need never be a menace to the government. In return they were to lend to the government their knowledge and their influence in getting what was wanted from the native population. Under them were lesser agents, of whom the most important in administration was the district chief. He was bound to the service of the culture system, not only by the influence of his superiors, but also by the receipt of percentages. The district chief was the taskmaster in direct contact with the village organization, apportioning the demands of the government among the villages and making the headmen responsible for their proper fulfillment. In the hierarchy of officials he was the last who represented the interests of the Dutch treasury and gained by his connection with the administration. The village headmen were on the other side of the cleft between Dutch and native interests, and the increased power over the villagers that the system gave into their hands did not recompense them for the precarious position in which they were put by being identified with the producing class. If the village did not supply all that was demanded of it, the headman was punished for its failure. In the liberal period that preceded the introduction of the culture system the principle was accepted that the villages should have perfect freedom in the choice of their heads, and that elections could be nullified by the resident only for specific reasons and with the approval of the governor-general. After about 1840 deposition became the common punishment for headmen who were not successful in extorting what the government desired. The right to a free election became nothing but a form, and there arose “a regular trade,” it is said, in village offices. Men of low class and bad character got office as fit tools in carrying out the orders of the administration. '* * *


The main object in view in the institution of the culture system was attained by it, and a net profit was sent each year to the home Government that soon exceeded the anticipations even of the founder. The exact amount of the surplus will never be known, for some of the statistics were falsified and some are lacking, but there is an estimate by the best authority on finance in the Netherlands, N. G. Pierson, covering the most important part of the period of operation of the system, that can be accepted as a close approximation to the truth. The estimate makes the net profit of the system 22,333,000 florins a year from 1840 to 1874, a total profit of about 781,000,000 florins. Over four-fifths of the total came from one crop, coffee, and of the remaining cultures, bringing in 142,000,000 florins, sugar alone gave 115,000,000 florins. It is apparent that the system failed as a system even in respect to the one point of net surplus. It could introduce cultures, but could not maintain them unless they were so well suited to the natural conditions of the country and the needs of the market that the advantages of land and climate overcame the disadvantages of forced labor and government management. The government actually lost on many crops for a number of years. And its greatest success, the coffee culture, was so profitable not because of good management on its own part or good cultivation on the part of the native, but because of a change of the price of coffee in the world for which it was in no way responsible.


The closest parallel to the culture system known to the writer is the system of forced cultures established by the Spanish governor in the Philippines in 1780. It was applied at first to the production of tobacco, indigo, and silk, but was later restricted to tobacco alone. On land fit for the cultivation of tobacco the natives were forced, on penalty of severe corporal punishment, to grow that crop and to deliver the product to the government at an arbitrary and nominal price. The government sold the product in Europe, and got from this source a considerable part of its revenue. Fiscal reasons determined the introduction and maintenance of the system in the Philippines as in Java. The system resulted in abuse of the natives, corruption of the officials, the discouragement of private enterprise, and such a deterioration in the quality of the product that much of it was unsalable at any price. A report to the home Government in 1871 from the director of the culture showed that the net gain from it was much less than had been supposed ($1,360,000) and would vanishi entirely if the government made the necessary expenditures on machinery, factories, and warehouses, paid the arrears due to native cultivators ($1,600,000 for the crops of 1869 and 1870), and paid cash in the future. He showed that the population of the richest districts of the islands had been reduced to utter misery by the culture. They were worse off than the slaves in Cuba, for these were fed by their masters, while the government would not allow the natives in the Philippines the time necessary to gain their food supply. The forced culture was finally abolished in 1882.


The Dutch have sometimes claimed that they were no worse than their English neighbors, and that only “British cant” could deny the existence of forced cultures in British India. The claim is justified by the facts to a certain extent. In the indigo and opium cultures in India there have been cases of compulsion of the natives by the planters attended with as grave abuses as any that marked the application of the culture system in Java. There is this essential difference, however—that the British Government has never made itself responsible for the evils by encouraging the system that gave rise to them, and if it sinned it was by omission. Dilke drew the proper contrast between the policies of the two Governments when he said "With our system there is some chance of right being done, so small is our self-interest in the wrong." The British Government faced the right way, whatever were its weaknesses; the Dutch Government was in itself a wrong. The author of a recently published article on the policy of the Dutch in Java expresses a doubt whether the oppression of the native population was a necessary result of the system, and is not rather to be ascribed to abuses in the application of a principle than to the principle itself.




The culture services, borne in addition to the land tax and the services due the government for building roads and forts, etc., proved to be a burden that was intolerable in those parts of the island that were not specially favored by nature. In the course of time a movement of population was set up from the districts in which the system had been introduced to government lands not subject to it and to the lands held by private individuals. Populous regions lost as much as one-half or two-thirds of their inhabitants through emigration. Those who remained at home suffered from recurrent famines and pestilences due to the diminished food supply. The natives were not left time or land enough to raise their food and were not given wages enough to buy it. That the government might have the fields earlier for sugar cane the cultivators were forced to plant the kinds of rice that matured earlier, but gave a smaller crop of poorer quality. * *

Of all these events practically nothing was known at the time in the Netherlands. No government industry was ever so free from the supervision of the general public or so unchecked by the public criticism that keeps governments in the right track as was the culture system. The minister of the colonies was the only man in the Netherlands who knew the real state of affairs in the East, and he was responsible to the King alone. * * * The one great fact known to the Dutch people and to their representatives in the States-General was the net surplus that was turned into the treasury every year. Arguments against the system would have needed to be strongly urged and widely spread to meet this argument for it.




In fact, there was practically no opposition to the culture system in the Netherlands before the revision of the Dutch constitution in 1848. The members of the Liberal party did not before that time oppose the government's colonial policy; they opposed the political system that allowed the government to have a policy of any kind free from their knowledge and control. It was not until the fundamental question of government by the King or government by the people had been settled that the details of government could form a subject of parliamentary discussion. The colonial question was of minor importance in the agitation that resulted in the constitutional changes of 1848, but the new constitution established conditions essential to reform of the colonial system in providing that the colonies should be governed by the King and chambers, not by the King alone, and by exacting annual reports to the States-General on the state of the colonies. A new class of men entered the second chamber, liberals skilled in the doctrines of classical political economy and opposed to monopoly and compulsion. *

The colonial question occupied the chief place in Dutch politics in the decade from 1860 to 1870. The struggle over it gave rise to bitter party feeling and tempted the King to an interference that put a dangerous strain upon the constitution and was decided only after a number of ministerial crises. By the later date, however, the Liberals had won the victory, and the culture system had practically been abolished in favor of cultivation by free laborers working under private planters.



[ocr errors][merged small]

The less important government cultures, those of tea, tobacco, indigo, pepper, and cinnamon, were given up between 1860 and 1865. Some of these had been the source of actual loss to the government, none had been the source of any considerable profit, and even the Conservatives were ready to agree that these cultures were not worth the keeping. The case was different with the remaining cultures of sugar and coffee, more important than all the others put together in respect to the land and labor occupied by them and the profits that they returned. The sugar culture was peculiar in that it had always given employment to a considerable number of Europeans, who carried on the processes of manufacture as contractors under the government. The organization of the industry under these Europeans promised to make the change from compulsory services to wage labor much easier, and to facilitate also the taxation on which the government must depend for its revenue when the industry was transferred to private enterprise. A law of 1870 provided for a gradual transition from forced to free culture. Beginning in 1878, the amount of land and labor owned by the natives was reduced annually, and in 1890 the transition had been completely effected. Meanwhile the planters were bound to pay the natives wages considerably higher than was customary under the culture system, and to pay them for their land as well, and in addition to pay to the governmenť a tax on the sugar produced, varying from 2 to 3 florins per picul (133 pounds). The government lost slightly by the change, receiving, according to Pierson's estimates, 4,000,000 forins annually in place of over 5,000,000 florins which it had been making by the sale of sugar in the previous period; but the natives gained very decidedly, and the profits to the planters were sufficient to lead to a rapid extension of the culture outside the bounds that the government has set for it. Between 1871 and 1884, 50 new sugar factories were built, and the production rose from 2,725,000 piculs to 6,495,000 piculs.

This period of progress in the sugar industry has been followed by one of depression that has developed into a real crisis in recent years; but there is no evidence to connect the decline with the change from government to private management. It is due to the ravages of the “sereh” and to the fall in price caused by the increased production throughout the world and by the European bounty system.


* *

But one government culture remains to be considered, the most important of all in the past and the only one that is still maintained—the coffee culture. Under the old system coffee alone returned more than four-fifths of the total revenue that was obtained from the sale of products by the government. The large profits were an index of the strength of the culture and led to its being retained for fiscal reasons long after the other cultures had been abolished. In 1898 the government coffee culture was still imposed on 250,157 families scattered through 14 of the 20 residencies into which Java is divided. In the budget of 1900 the receipts of the government from the sale of coffee are estimated at 10,185,815 fiorins out of total receipts estimated at 141,931,000 florins, and the specific expenditures on account of the coffee culture are put at 5,713,461 florins. * * *

* * With the fall in the price of coffee due to the increased supply in the world's markets and the cc:isequent decline in profits, the motive for maintaining the government culture has grown weaker. * * * There is a great diversity of opinion as to the best way to affect the transition from forced to free culture; but the change is sure to come and will probably be not long delayed. Of the natives engaged in the culture nearly one-half are now freed from the obligation of planting more trees to replace those that die, and since 1894 forced culture and delivery of coffee have been entirely abolished in four of the residencies where they formerly prevailed. *

In their relation with the really free laborers of Java (those not subject to the influence of some political chief) European employers have experienced two great difficulties. At the start the difficulty is encountered of getting men to bind themselves to work for wages who see any chance to continue their independent existence.

As a result, it is the universal practice among employers to offer a large part of the wages for any period in advance. If the native takes the bait, he can be held to labor (in theory ay least) until he has worked out the debt that he has incurred. The system of advances to secure the services of laborers is described as universal down to the present time. Employers and officials deplore it, but recognize its necessity. Even the government makes advances when it requires the services of wage laborers.

* *

The second great difficulty experienced by planters in their relations with the laborers is the tendency of the laborers to break their contracts and leave their work, whether for good reasons or for no apparent reason. Under the culture system, which identified the economic and political organization and applied all the police power of the State to hold laborers to their work, it was possible to check the untrustworthiness and unfitfulness of the natives. ** ***



* * *



[From W. Basil Worsfold's A Visit to Java, 1893.] The great part of the special interest which attaches to Java is derived from the fact that it has been the scene of an interesting financial experiment. The history of the introduction of the culture system and of its gradual abandonment in recent years is interesting. The author of the proposal was General Van den Bosch, who became governor-general in 1830. The system continued in full operation until the year 1871, when the home Government passed an act providing for the gradual abandonment of the government sugar plantations. By the year 1890 sugar, by far the most important of the Javan industries, was practically freed from government interference. At the present time it is in debate whether or not the coffee industry should be similarly treated. * * *


The immediate object of the culture system was to extend the cultivation of sugar, coffee, and other produce suited for European consumption; its ultimate object was to develop the resources of the island. This latter was, of course, the most important. Van den Bosch saw that the natives would never be able to do this by themselves. In the first place, they were still organized on the patriarchal model in village communities; and, in the second, owing to the tropical climate and the extreme ease with which life could be sustained in so fertile a country, they were naturally indolent and unprogressive. He therefore proposed to organize their labor under European supervision. By this method he thought that he would be able both to raise the revenue and to improve the condition of the peasants by teaching them to grow valuable produce in addition to the rice crops on which they depended for subsistence. Van den Bosch became governor-general of Java and its dependencies in 1830. Before leaving Holland he had made his proposals known and obtained the approval of the Netherlands Government. He took with him newly appointed officials free from colonial traditions, and his reforms inspired such confidence that a number of well-educated and intelligent persons were willing to emigrate with their families to Java in order to take up the business of manufacturing the produce grown under the new system. Upon his arrival in the island a special branch of the colonial administration was created. The first work of the new department was to found the sugar industry. It was necessary to supply the manufacturers with both capital and income. Accordingly a sum amounting to £14,000 was placed to the credit of each manufacturer in the books of the department. Of this sum he was allowed to draw up to £125 per month for the expenses of himself and his family during the first two years. From the third year onward he paid back one-tenth annually. Thus at the end of twelve years the capital was repaid. The manufacturer was to apply the capital so advanced to the construction of the sugar mill, which was to be fitted with the best European machinery and worked by water power. Free labor and timber from the government plantations was supplied, and the customs duties upon the machinery and implements imported were remitted. The building of the mills was supervised by the controleurs, the officials of the new department, and had to be carried out to their satisfaction. The department also undertook to see that the peasants in the neighborhood of each mill should have from 700 to 1,000 acres planted with sugar canes by the time the mills were in working order. In Java, as in other Eastern countries, the landlord has the right of selecting the crop which the tenant is to plant, and therefore the peasant saw nothing unusual in the action of the government. The controleurs ascertained, in the case of each village, how much rice land was necessary for the subsistence of the village, and they then ordered the remainder, usually one-fifth, to be planted with sugar canes. At the same time they explained that the value of the crop of sugar would be much greater than that of the rice crop, and promised that the peasants should be paid not only for the crops but also for the labor of cutting the canes and carrying them to the mill. When, at the end of two years, the mills had been built and the plantations established, another advance was made by the department to the manufacturers. This was capital sufficient to pay for the value of the sugar crop, estimated as it stood, for the wages of the peasants, and generally for the expenses of manufacture. This second advance was at once repaid by the produce of the mill. At first the department required the manufacturer to deliver the whole amount of produce to them at a price one-third in excess of the cost of production. Subsequently he was allowed the option of delivering the whole crop to government, or of delivering so much of the produce only as would pay for the interest on the crop in advance, together with the installment of the original capital annually due. Working on these terms, large profits were made by the manufacturers, and there soon came to be a demand for such new contracts as the government had at their



As for the peasants, they were undoubtedly benefited by the introduction of the system. While the land rent continued to be calculated as before, on a basis of the produce of rice fields, the value of the sugar crop was so much greater than that of the rice, which it partially displaced, that the money received for it amounted on the average to twice the sum paid to government for land rent on the whole of the village land. Moreover, although the estimated price of the crop was paid to the wedanas, or village chiefs, the wages for cutting and carrying were paid to the peasants individually. The value of the crop, the rate of wages, and the relations between the peasants and the manufacturers generally were settled by the controleurs.

In 1871, when the culture system was in full operation, there were 39,000 Jouws, or 70,000 acres, under sugar cane, giving employment to 222,000 native families, and 97 sugar mills had been started. One-tạird of the produce was delivered to government at the rate of 8 florins per picul (135 pounds), and the remaining two-thirds were sold by the manufacturers in open market. In the five years, 1866–1870, the government profit on sugar amounted to rather more than 25,000,000 florins.


Subsequently the cultivation of coffee, indigo, cochineal, tobacco, pepper, tea, and cinchona was added to that of sugar. The system pursued was not identical in the case of all produce. "Cochineal, indigo, tea, and tobacco were cultivated in a manner similar to that adopted for sugar. But in the case of coffee, cinnamon, and pepper it was not found necessary to have any manufacturers between the controleurs and the peasants. Of these coffee, the most important, is grown on all lands having an elevation of from 2,000 to 4,500 feet. Each head of a family is required to plant a certain number of trees in gardens (the maximum was fixed in 1877 at fifty a year), and to keep a nursery of young trees to replenish the plantations. These gardens and nurseries are all inspected by native and European officials. The process of harvesting the berry is similarly supervised, but after that is accomplished the peasants are left to dry, clean, and sort the berries by themselves, and are allowed to deliver the crop at the coffee stores at their own convenience. Finally, private persons contract for periods of two or three years to pack and transport the coffee to the central stores at the ports. Of the coffee produced on government account, one-fifth only is sold in Java, and the remainder is sent home to Europe and sold there.


The culture system was so successful as a financial expedient that between the years 1831 and 1875 the colonial revenue yielded surpluses to Holland amounting to 725,000,000 florins. This total seems the more remarkable when we know that from 1838 onwards, the colonial revenue was charged with 200,000,000 florins of the public debt of Holland, being the proportion borne by Belgium before the separation of the two countries, which took place at that date.

In 1876, however, the long series of surpluşes ceased, and they have since been replaced by deficits almost continuous. These deficits are due to three well-ascertained causes: (1) the Achin war, (2) public works, and (3) the fall in the price of sugar and coffee. In order to show that this remarkable change in the financial fortunes of Java is in no way due to the culture system, it is necessary to go somewhat more into detail.

(1) Before the outbreak of the Achin war in 1873, the average expenditure of the colonial government for military purposes was 30,000,000 forins annually. During the period 1873–1884 this expenditure rose to an average of 50,000,000 florins, and the total cost of the war during that period amounted to 240,000,000 fiorins. Since 1884 the expenditure has been reduced by confining the operations of the troops to such as are purely defensive; even then the average annual expenditure has reached 40,000,000 florins.

(2) Since 1875 the construction of railways and other public works, notably the harbor works at Tanjong Priok, the port of Batavia, has been undertaken by government. Since the cost has been paid out of current revenue, and not raised by loans, these works have necessitated a further annual expenditure of 8,000,000 florins. The total sum spent in public works between the years 1875–1884, amounting to 75,000,000 florins, is almost exactly equivalent to the deficit incurred during the same period.

(3) In suffering from the competition of France in sugar, and of Brazil in coffee, Java has not been peculiar. The British West Indian colonies are at the present time most disastrously affected by the bounty-fed sugar industry of France, and Ceylon is only just learning how to compensate itself for the diminution of its coffee export by the introduction of a new industry-tea.


Although the culture system has yielded such satisfactory results, it has been gradually abandoned since 1871.

The reason for this change of policy is the feeling that the system, though necessary originally to develop the resources of the island, is at variance with the best interests of the natives, and hinders the introduction of private enterprise and capital. Increased commercial prosperity is expected to compensate for the loss of revenue caused by the withdrawal of the government from the work of production. In the mean time, it has been found necessary to impose various new and direct taxes. The most important of these is a poll tax on the natives, which has taken the place of the personal service formerly rendered by them on the government plantations. Originally imposed in 1871, it yielded 2,500,000 florins in 1886. Another compensating source of revenue is the growth of the verponding. As already mentioned, this is a tax of three-fourths per cent on the capital value of house property and industrial plant. It is assessed every three years, and therefore is an accurate test of the growth of private wealth invested in the colony. In the fifteen years from 1871 to 1886 the amount yielded by this tax showed a growth of 75 per cent.

It is not necessary to detail the various steps by which the Dutch have carried out this policy of abandonment. It is suficient to note the general result.

To-day all the industries, with the exception of coffee, opium, and salt are free. In the production of the two latter, opium and salt, the colonial government maintains a complete monopoly; in the case of coffee they compete with the planters. The extent of the shares respectively taken by the government and private enterprise in the trade of the island is exhibited by the following returns for 1889:

[blocks in formation]

The government still produces two-thirds of the coffee crop. In 1889 the amount produced respectively by the government and the planters was 578,000 and 356,000 piculs.

Of the two chief industries of the island, sugar and coffee, the exports in 1890 amounted in value to 50,000,000 and 15,000,000 florins, respectively. To there must be added the new industries—tea and cinchona bark. The former is only in its infancy, and is confined to the immediate neighborhood of Soekaboemi, the headquarters of the planting interest in Java. Here there are two important estates, Sinagar and Parakan Salak, which are from 12,000 to 15,000 acres in extent. The latter industry is especially hopeful. In 1890 the area of cinchona plantations was 22,500 acres, and 6,000,000 pounds of bark, containing 4 per cent of sulphate of quinine was exported. This amount is equivalent to half the world's supply for the year.

Of the import trade, it is not necessary to say more than that the most important item is that of the various cotton goods, coming mainly from this country, which serve the natives with material for clothing suitable for their tropical climate. It is also important to remember that there are 250,000 Chinese residents in the island, by whom all the retail and part of the wholesale trade is conducted.


Undoubtedly the resources of Java are at the present time subjectea to a heavy strain. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that (1) the burden of the Achin war may be at any time removed, and (2) all public works are being paid for out of current revenue without recourse to loans. There is, therefore, no reasonable ground for supposing that the present financial difficulties of the colonial government are more than temporary. A glance at the balance sheet of the island for the year 1889 shows to what an extent the difficulties are due to an increasing sense of responsibility toward the natives, and to an intention to eventually open all the

industries of this singularly fertile island to private enterprise.

No. 9--30


(Report presented by M. H. Van Kol, member of the Dutch Parliament, to the first section of the International Congress of Colonial Sociology held at Paris in 1900.)


To create between the colonizing nation and its native subjects a bond of moral sympathy, to substitute for a domination imposed and maintained by force a state of political tutelage which is accepted because it is felt to be based on justice, and because of the advantages and services which it renders'—such is the vast and beautiful programme which the general secretary of our Congress has formulated in his report introductory to our labors.

Whereas formerly colonization was treated only from the viewpoint of the mother country's interests, and with sole regard to the material advantages derived from commercial monopoly, forced labor of the natives, and the exploitation of their land, we are faced now and henceforth with a nobler and higher ideal.

The results of the old régime are well known; absolute subjection of the colony, an artificial economic organization, and a complete lack of administrative freedom on the part of the subject people. This narrow colonial policy, based as it was on egotism and violence, remained blind to the rights of the natives and deaf to the voice of justice toward the “inferior” races. Under pretext of civilizing, remorseless exploitation was resorted to. The people of different color and clime were ruthlessly exterminated.

Colonial expansion may be regarded as an inevitable phenomenon, the fatal result of capitalism and the economic evolution of the nineteenth century; this problem, however, is beyond the scope of our congress. Given the fact of our productive forces multiplying infinitely, our machinery throwing on the market each day enormous quantities of products, it became necessary to seek new outlets in order to escape the terrible crisis of overproduction.

On the other hand, it was neither just nor natural that the civilized nations of the west should remain as if huddled in a narrow space, suffocating from constantly increasing agglomeration, whereas half of the world with all the natural riches of its soil was left at random, being occupied by primitive and ignorant people, forming few scattered groups and holding sway over disproportionately large

If the new colonies were to be left to shift for themselves, their wealth would never be brought to the surface for the happiness of humanity. Furthermore, were one to abandon existing colonies it would mean to deliver them to anarchy and to condemn them to misery. Hence we have also a duty to fulfill and a problem to solve.

Wherever civilization can not originate spontaneously—and the history of centuries is a proof thereof-it must be imposed by the slow and patient work of education and the transformation of a defective organization. We have to take under our benevolent charge these weakly and sickly children. This work of civilization and education requires much reflection and intelligence. It should be properly adjusted to the period of evolution in which the backward races live. A political régime has to be selected which should cause the least amount of friction with the native population in order to elevate them gradually by persuasion and example. In a word, their rights should be respected. Justice and kindness should be used to achieve what will never be done by violence and tyranny. This is the task which modern history imposes on us. How shall we perform it?


The moral duty which we have to perform may be said to be to favor the well-being of the natives, to improve their condition, and to raise them to a higher moral plane. This is our only excuse and defense of the fact that we take from them their complete independence which would be to their ruin. Our superior civilization, instead of a terrible scourge, might be a source of benefit for the natives by favoring and accelerating their material, intellectual, and moral evolution.

Abhorring as I do any colonial expansion by force or violent annexation, I do not hesitate to declare that we can extend our sovereignty only by peaceful means; it would be fortunate indeed if the European powers were to find the time to discharge their duties in the immense-possibly even too large-colonies they hold at present.

In order to consolidate our dominion, so that we may in peace devote ourselves to the beneficent work, we must win the minds and the hearts of the natives, form the minds of the children at school, and those of the adults by our political administration.

Education adapted to their practical needs, carefully respecting their ideas, customs, and traditions, is likely to slowly raise the children to a higher intellectual and moral plane. A special programme will be needed for each country and even each region, but this question constitutes a subject of a more competent discussion by M. de Saussure.

All I would say here is that we ought to start with educating the young, who some day will be the adult, and that in the same way as the children the grown-up people are able to develop, and will develop, owing to our efforts. When a higher stage of evolution will be reached the hideous customs will disappear, the morals will become purer, and the natives will have mounted one step of the long ladder of civilization, the summit of which we can by no means be said to have reached.

One great principle should always guide us in this great work of education, and that is that each reform, each administrative measure, should be adapted to the given state of development and the existing conditions without breaking too suddenly their continuity.


The great law of progressive evolution dominates the moral as well as the physical world, both of them developing simultaneously. In the matter of intellect the faculty of comprehending and assimilating certain ideas depends largely on the environment in which man has been born, on heredity, the traces of which he shows, but chiefly on the means of production which he controls, so that the mode of production of material life dominates generally the development of the social, political, and intellectual life. The social evolution, independent of the will of individuals, may be favored or retarded by the power of some in the state or society, and within certain limits this of course holds true of the immense power wielded by the colonial government. The mode of production is, after all, the great factor in the evolution of mankind which ought never to be lost out of view.

It is clear, then, that the improvement of minds, the abolition of barbarous customs, the change of traditions and habits can go on only progressively by slow stages. We are able to accelerate the evolution and progress, but we can not regulate them at our pleasure. Our wishes are impotent, our orders ridiculous and harmful. A social organization can not be changed by means of decrees, still less by an army of soldiers or functionaries.

Sometimes we may have to face artificial institutions which are not the result of spontaneous development, but that of the arbitrary will of an individual or a class; such institutions can be easily eradicated, for they have not taken root in the soil for which they were intended. But all those organisms which are the result of past evolution, which have originated and grown up with the natives, will disappear only with the factors that have caused them to originate.

Cannibalism, slavery even, disappear amidst changed social surroundings; the laziness and servility of the natives, their wasteful character, are but the results of economic conditions in which they have lived, and are sure to change with them. Let us therefore not strive after chimeras, but let us take account of reality and learn how to adapt our administrative organisms to the customs and conditions of the natives. Let us respect their organization of the family, tribe, commune, and everything else that makes up the covenant” of their life.

It is only by studying their language and learning their customs, traditions, and history that we will be enabled to rule people who for centuries have had a different civilization. To be sure, the task is difficult, and this the more because our predecessors have left us a heritage of continued spoliations, crimes, injustice, and cruelty, the memory of which has filled the hearts of the natives with hatred and distrust; the task is difficult but not impossible. Since we are unable to either push them into other regions or, following the example of colonizers of former centuries, to exterminate them, all that is left to us is to conciliate the natives by bringing them into closer touch with ourselves by gaining their lost confidence and acquiring their affections by our benevolence.

« AnteriorContinuar »