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The insular possessions of the United States, acquired within recent years, bring diverse peoples under the care and protection of the American people, raise new problems in government, at least for the United States, and place America in new relations with the other powers of the world. It is yet too soon to play the prophet with respect to these new possessions, but as prophecy ultimately accords with history, the future of these possessions may best be read in their history before their acquisition by the United States and in the trend of affairs since they became American soil. The larger part of the present volume is a history of these possessions as foreign soil, of independent governments, as in Hawaii; of dependencies, in Porto Rico and the Philippines. The social, industrial and political problems which these new possessions raise must be approached historically; having acquired these possessions, America, in attempting to introduce the principles of republican institutions among them cannot safely break with the past; customs long established, traditions fixed long before historic times, perhaps, cannot wisely be ignored. The relations long existing between the native peoples and the Spanish government must be thoroughly understood as part of that knowledge necessary for the pacific and prosperous government of the islands. In other words, the complex and highly systematized political institutions of the people of the United States cannot instantaneously be impressed upon the native inhabitants of these new possessions.
The history of these insular possessions is a new and a critical chapter in the history of the United States. Until the time of the sudden acquisition of these possessions, the civic problems of America were strictly continental: the United States was a compact area of states and territories, each accessible and within well-known historical boundaries. The Spanish-American war suddenly changed the boundaries of the United States and by the very fact of territorial changes transformed America into a world-power with new responsibilities. It would be a mistake to think that the United States until the Spanish-American war was not a world-power. That war defined anew the national responsibilities: the extension of the national domain being no more than objective proof of the extension of responsibilities. The present volume narrates the causes of that war and traces them in long line into the past so that the astonishing and apparently sudden changes of international relations and policies are now seen to be less astonishing, when the history of the Philippines, of Porto Rico, of Hawaii and of Cuba is understood.
The practical annihilation of distance, by modern inventions, simplifies the problem of government for geographically distant possessions. The Philippines are more easily administrable, in the matter of distance from Washington, to-day, than was the Oregon country sixty years ago, or Alaska, until within twenty years. Civilization ignores distance; the Philippine Islands once in industrial and economic accord with the people of the United States, their people will be, for all purposes of just government, no further from Washington than are the inhabitants of any state now within the Union. The problem is not one of mere distance on the map: it is one of civilization.
Because the problem is one of civilization, the present volume becomes a contribution to its solution. Prior to any practical experience in dealing with peoples of diverse races, who by the course of events are within the government and care of the United States, common prudence teaches the necessity of first understanding the history of these peoples, — their traditions, customs and traits,—and then of adapting theories of government to the great facts which face any outside power that would extend its domain over them. The American people, taking their traditions from colonial or revolutionary times in America have nothing in common with the native races of the new insular possessions. The history of these native races intensifies the difference, the irrelativity between the two inheritances; whence it follows that the serious problem, as in the Philippines, is to engraft ideas, to merge sentiments, to harmonize discordant notions of life, and to build a strong civil structure on a heterogeneous foundation. To state the problem is not to solve it. Race is the key to history, and theories of government held by highly cultured peoples must yield and modify themselves to the instincts, the habits, the mentality of less cultured peoples, if these are to be bound to the more cultured by enduring ties. It must be adaptation or extermination: as the history of the American Indian has proved. Whence it follows that among a people of the culture, or want of culture, of the various races found in the Philippine Islands, American institutions must assume a modified form, varying notably, here and there, from their originals in the United States.
The present volume recites the history and the present condition of the inhabitants of the insular possessions of the United States and equips the reader with knowledge on which to base some conclusions as to the wisest course to. pursue in dealing with these possessions. The peculiar character of the problem may, perhaps, best be hinted at by a comparison. Iowa, Kansas, Montana, and other western states were once territories and, as territories, were subject to the immediate control of Congress. During the period of slavery in the United States, congressional control of a territory, as of Kansas, became a party question: a question of the extension or of the exclusion of slavery. Not many years before the creation of the territory of Kansas the area thus set apart under special congressional control was a wilderness, here and there over-run by Indian tribes. Immigration speedily eliminated the Indian element from the problem, and the development of the territory fell wholly into the hands of a superior race. In other words, the rise and growth of new states and territories in the United States are the rise and growth of successive communities of a homogeneous people, essentially working out a common motive and a common organization: the racial problem at no time has delayed or differentiated their development. The West is only a larger East.
The insular possessions of the United States became part of the national domain as already organized communities, some of them much older than any state organized since the original thirteen. And the peoples inhabiting these insular possessions have been inducted into notions of government by a nation of Europe whose political institutions are antithetic to those of the United States. Extremes have followed each other: American republican institutions succeeding to Spanish monarchical and autocratic institutions, the latter also the more complex because of the intermixture and domination of ecclesiastical institutions. The problem, therefore, as it now presents itself in Porto Rico and the Philippines, and perhaps ultimately in Cuba, has no analogue in the American commonwealth or territory; it is such a problem as the British Government, or the German Government or the French Government faces in its colonial possessions.
Thus for the first time American representative institutions are compelled to contribute to the solution of the problems of colonial government. Can a republic such as the United States, successfully administer a colonial policy? Are democratic institutions adaptable to races of the status of the inhabitants of the Philippines? Or of Porto Rico, or of Hawaii, or, prospectively, of Cuba ? Has the time come, fixed by the Spanish-American war, when republican institutions are to be tested ? Has society, marching, as Cavour said a generation ago, "with long strides toward democracy” entered upon the demonstration that democracy is "the inevitable future of humanity ?"
It is this large, fateful question which gives significance to the acquisition of insular possessions by the United States. The mere extension of national power over an island or an archipelago has been repeatedly effected in every age: but never before, in the world's history has so powerful a democracy existed as the people of the United States, or has a powerful democracy acquired extensive possessions as far from its seat as the further side of the globe. It is not the distance or the mere acquisition that gives significance to the act: it is the extension, the adoption, the utilization of the principles of democracy by and among a hitherto undemocratic people that imparts to the act an epoch-making character.
It is not impossible then that the people of the United States may find the fate of republican institutions in the future of their insular possessions. The principles of government by and among a great nation should be the principles of a universal legislation.
The learned author of the present volume has written an exact, a critical, an impartial account based upon the primary sources of knowledge, and carefully apportioned to the relative importance of the parts of his theme. His volume is the one volume of the History of North America in which the theme carries him far from the continent to the confines of Asia and Australia and to the islands of distant seas. The very title of his work intimates the power and place to which the New World has come. His volume brings the series to which it belongs to a close. In order of time it is a far cry from “Prehistoric America” to “Insular Possessions.” The discovery of the New World has proved the exploitation of the Old World. He who reads, reflectively, the successive volumes of the series now brought to an end must conclude that the history of North America is after all only a chapter in the history of civilization. The discovery of America has proved to be no more than the discovery of the opportunity