Friday, December 18, 2009

"Distant Possessions" - 1898 Anti-Imperialist Article by Andrew Carnegie

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One of the amazing phenomena in America is that not all of her richest people are selfish, then (and now). Andrew Carnegie was one of them. Please read below about him, what he has accomplished and done for the American people.

I wonder if we Filipinos will ever have one patriotic and generous enough even if not necessarily comparable in accumulated wealth.

Also, note what Carnegie said about education: "....for education makes rebels...." Thus, in retrospect it is understandable though unacceptable that our former colonizers: the Spaniards did not want to educate us natives and kept the native majority ignorant/illiterate; the Americans gave us public education but distorted our history.

- Bert


In 1898, Carnegie tried to arrange for independence for the Philippines. As the end of the Spanish American War neared, the United States bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million USD. To counter what he perceived as imperialism on the part of the United States, Carnegie personally offered $20 million USD to the Philippines so that the Filipino people could buy their independence from the United States.[15] However, nothing came of this gesture and the Philippine-American War ensued.

Carnegie opposed the annexation of Cuba by the United States and in this, was successful with many other conservatives who founded an anti-imperialist league that included former presidents of the United States, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, and literary figures like Mark Twain.[16][17][18]

Carnegie believed in using his fortune for others and doing more than making money. He wrote:

I propose to take an income no greater than $50,000 per annum! Beyond this I need ever earn, make no effort to increase my fortune, but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes! Let us cast aside business forever, except for others. Let us settle in Oxford and I shall get a thorough education, making the acquaintance of literary men. I figure that this will take three years active work. I shall pay especial attention to speaking in public. We can settle in London and I can purchase a controlling interest in some newspaper or live review and give the general management of it attention, taking part in public matters, especially those connected with education and improvement of the poorer classes. Man must have an idol and the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry! No idol is more debasing than the worship of money! Whatever I engage in I must push inordinately; therefore should I be careful to choose that life which will be the most elevating in its character. To continue much longer overwhelmed by business cares and with most of my thoughts wholly upon the way to make more money in the shortest time, must degrade me beyond hope of permanent recovery. I will resign business at thirty-five, but during these ensuing two years I wish to spend the afternoons in receiving instruction and in reading systematically!

He is one of the most famous captains of industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was an immigrant as a child with his parents. He built Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company, which was later merged with Elbert H. Gary's Federal Steel Company and several smaller companies to create U.S. Steel. With the fortune he made from business, he later turned to philanthropy and interests in education, founding the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Mellon University and theCarnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Carnegie gave away most of his money to establish many libraries, schools, and universities in America, the United Kingdom and other countries, as well as a pension fund for former employees. He is often regarded as the second-richest man in history after John D. Rockefeller. Carnegie started as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He built further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe.

He earned most of his fortune in the steel industry.



Distant Possessions: The Parting of the Ways

By Andrew Carnegie

From The Gospel of Wealth (New York: The Century Co., 1901).
Originally published in the
North American Review (Aug. 1898).

Twice only have the American people been called upon to decide a question of such vital import as that now before them.

Is the Republic, the apostle of Triumphant Democracy, of the rule of the people, to abandon her political creed and endeavor to establish in other lands the rule of the foreigner over the people, Triumphant Despotism?

Is the Republic to remain one homogeneous whole, one united people, or to become a scattered and disjointed aggregate of widely separated and alien races?

Is she to continue the task of developing her vast continent until it holds a population as great as that of Europe, all Americans, or to abandon that destiny to annex, and to attempt to govern, other far distant parts of the world as outlying possessions, which can never be integral parts of the Republic?

Is she to exchange internal growth and advancement for the development of external possessions which can never be really hers in any fuller sense than India is British or Cochin China French?

Such is the portentous question of the day. Two equally important questions the American people have decided wisely, and their flag now waves over the greater portion of the English-speaking race; their country is the richest of all countries, first in manufactures, in mining, and in commerce (home and foreign), first this year also in exports. But, better than this, the average condition of its people in education and in living is the best. The luxuries of the masses in other lands are the necessaries of life in ours. The school-house and the church are nowhere so widely distributed. Progress in the arts and sciences is surprising. In international affairs her influence grows so fast, and foreshadows so much, that one of the foremost statesmen has recently warned Europe that it must combine against her if it is to hold its own in the industrial world. The Republic remains one solid whole, its estate inclosed in a ring fence, united, impregnable, triumphant, clearly destined to become the foremost power of the world, if she continue to follow the true path. Such are the fruits of wise judgment in deciding the two great issues of the past, Independence and Union.

In considering the issue now before us, the agitator, the demagogue, has no part. Not feeling, not passion, but deliberate judgment alone, should have place. The question should be calmly weighed; it is not a matter of party, nor of class; for the fundamental interest of every citizen is a common interest, that which is best for the poorest being best for the richest. Let us, therefore, reason together, and be well assured, before we change our position, that we are making no plunge into an abyss. Happily, we have the experience of others to guide us, the most instructive being that of our own race in Great Britain.

There are two kinds of national possessions, one colonies, the other dependencies. In the former we establish and reproduce our own race. Thus Britain has peopled Canada and Australia with English-speaking people, who have naturally adopted our ideas of self-government. That the world has benefited thereby goes without saying; that Britain has done a great work as the mother of nations is becoming more and more appreciated the more the student learns of world-wide affairs. No nation that ever existed has done so much for the progress of the world as the little islands in the North Sea known as Britain.

With dependencies it is otherwise. The most grievous burden which Britain has upon her shoulders is that of India, for there it is impossible for our race to grow. The child of English-speaking parents must be removed and reared in Britain. The British Indian official must have long respites in his native land. India means death to our race. The characteristic feature of a dependency is that the acquiring power cannot reproduce its own race there.

Inasmuch as the territories outside our own continent which our country may be tempted to annex cannot be colonies, but only dependencies, we need not dwell particularly upon the advantages or disadvantages of the former, although the writer is in thorough accord with Disraeli, who said even of colonies: "Our colonies are millstones round the neck of Britain; they lean upon us while they are weak, and leave us when they become strong." This is just what our Republic did with Britain.

There was something to be said for colonies from the point of view of pecuniary gain in the olden days, when they were treated as the legitimate spoil of the conqueror. It is Spain's fatal mistake that she has never realized that it is impossible to follow this policy in our day. Britain is the only country which has realized this truth. British colonies have complete self-government; they even tax the products of their own motherland. That Britain possesses her colonies is a mere figure of speech; that her colonies possess her is nearer the truth. "Our Colonial Empire" seems a big phrase, but, as far as material benefits are concerned, the balance is the other way. Thus, even loyal Canada trades more with us than with Britain. She buys her Union Jacks in New York. Trade does not follow the flag in our day; it scents the lowest price current. There is no patriotism in exchanges.

Some of the organs of manufacturing interests, we observe, favor foreign possessions as necessary or helpful markets for our products. But the exports of the United States this year are greater than those of any other nation in the world. Even Britain's exports are less, yet Britain possesses, it is said, a hundred colonies and dependencies scattered all over the world. The fact that the United States has none does not prevent her products and manufactures from invading Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all parts of the world in competition with those of Britain. Possession of colonies or dependencies is not necessary for trade reasons. What her colonies are valued for, and justly so, by Britain, is the happiness and pride which the mother feels in her children. The instinct of motherhood is gratified, and no one living places a higher estimate upon the sentiment than I do. Britain is the kindest of mothers, and well deserves the devotion of her children.

If we could establish colonies of Americans, and grow Americans in any part of the world now unpopulated and unclaimed by any of the great powers, and thus follow the example of Britain, heart and mind might tell us that we should have to think twice, yea, thrice, before deciding adversely. Even then our decision should be adverse; but there is at present no such question before us. What we have to face is the question whether we should embark upon the difficult and dangerous policy of undertaking the government of alien races in lands where it is impossible for our own race to be produced.

As long as we remain free from distant possessions we are impregnable against serious attack; yet, it is true, we have to consider what obligations may fall upon us of an international character requiring us to send our forces to points beyond our own territory. Up to this time we have disclaimed all intention to interfere with affairs beyond our own continent, and only claimed the right to watch over American interests according to the Monroe Doctrine, which is now firmly established. This carries with it serious responsibilities, no doubt, which we cannot escape. European nations must consult us upon territorial questions pertaining to our continent, but this makes no tremendous demand upon our military or naval forces. We are at home, as it were, near our base, and sure of the support of the power in whose behalf and on whose request we may act.

If it be found essential to possess a coaling-station at Puerto Rico for future possible, though not probable, contingencies, there is no insuperable objection. Neither would the control of the West Indies be alarming if pressed upon us by Britain, since the islands are small and the populations must remain insignificant and without national aspirations. Besides, they are upon our own shores, American in every sense. Their defense by us would be easy. No protest need be entered against such legitimate and peaceful expansion in our own hemisphere, should events work in that direction. I am no "Little" American, afraid of growth, either in population or territory, provided always that the new territory be American, and that it will produce Americans, and not foreign races bound in time to be false to the Republic in order to be true to themselves.

As I write, the cable announces the annexation of Hawaii, which is more serious; but the argument for this has been the necessity for holding the only coaling-station in the Pacific so situated as to be essential to any power desirous of successfully attacking our Pacific coast. Until the Nicaragua Canal is made, it is impossible to deny the cogency of this contention. We need not consider it a measure of offense or aggression, but as strictly defensive. The population of the islands is so small that national aspirations are not to be encountered, which is a great matter. Nor is it obtained by conquest. It is ours by a vote of its people, which robs its acquisition of many dangers. Let us hope that our far-outlying possessions may end with Hawaii.

To reduce it to the concrete, the question is: Shall we attempt to establish ourselves as a power in the far East and possess the Philippines for glory? The glory we already have, in Dewey's victory overcoming the power of Spain in a manner which adds one more to the many laurels of the American navy, which, from its infancy till now, has divided the laurels with Britain upon the sea. The Philippines have about seven and a half millions of people, composed of races bitterly hostile to one another, alien races, ignorant of our language and institutions. Americans cannot be grown there. The islands have been exploited for the benefit of Spain, against whom they have twice rebelled, like the Cubans. But even Spain has received little pecuniary benefit from them. The estimated revenue of the Philippines in 1894-95 was £2,715,980, the expenditure being £2,656,026, leaving a net result of about $300,000. The United States could obtain even this trifling sum from the inhabitants only by oppressing them as Spain has done. But, if we take the Philippines, we shall be forced to govern them as generously as Britain governs her dependencies, which means that they will yield us nothing, and probably be a source of annual expense. Certainly they will be a grievous drain upon revenue if we consider the enormous army and navy which we shall be forced to maintain upon their account.

There are many objections to our undertaking the government of dependencies; one I venture to submit as being peculiar to ourselves. We should be placed in a wrong position. Consider Great Britain in India to-day. She has established schools and taught the people our language. In the Philippines, we may assume that we should do the same, and with similar results. To travel through India as an American is a point of great advantage if one wishes to know the people of India and their aspirations. They unfold to Americans their inmost thoughts, which they very naturally withhold from their masters, the British. When in India, I talked with many who had received an English education in the British schools, and found that they had read and pondered most upon Cromwell and Hampden, Wallace and Bruce and Tell, upon Washington and Franklin. The Briton is sowing the seed of rebellion with one hand in his schools, -- for education makes rebels, -- while with the other he is oppressing patriots who desire the independence of their country.

The national patriotism upon which a Briton plumes himself he must repress in India. It is only a matter of time when India, the so-called gem of the British crown, is to glitter red again. British control of India is rendered possible to-day only by the division of races, or rather of religions, there. The Hindus and Mohammedans still mistrust each other more than they do the British, but caste is rapidly passing away, and religious prejudices are softening. Whenever this distrust disappears, Britain is liable to be expelled, at a loss of life and treasure which cannot be computed. The aspirations of a people for independent existence are seldom repressed, nor, according to American ideas hitherto, should they be. If it be a noble aspiration for the Indian or the Cuban, as it was for the citizen of the United States himself, and for the various South American republics once under Spain, to have a country to live and, if necessary, to die for, why is not the revolt noble which the man of the Philippines has been making against Spain? Is it possible that the Republic is to be placed in the position of the suppressor of the Philippine struggle for independence? Surely, that is impossible.

With what face shall we hang in the school-houses of the Philippines our own Declaration of Independence, and yet deny independence to them? What response will the heart of the Philippine Islander make as he reads of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation? Are we to practise independence and preach subordination, to teach rebellion in our books, yet to stamp it out with our swords, to sow the seed of revolt and expect the harvest of loyalty? President McKinley's call for volunteers to fight for Cuban independence against the cruel dominion of Spain meets with prompt response, but who would answer the call of the President of an "imperial" republic for free citizens to fight the Washington and slaughter the patriots of some distant dependency which struggles for independence?

It has hitherto been the glorious mission of the Republic to establish upon secure foundations Triumphant Democracy, and the world now understands government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Tires the Republic so soon of its mission, that it must, perforce, discard it to undertake the impossible task of establishing Triumphant Despotism, the rule of the foreigner over the people? and must the millions of the Philippines who have been asserting their God-given right to govern themselves be the first victims of Americans, whose proudest boast is that they conquered independence for themselves?

Let another phase of the question be carefully weighed. Europe is to-day an armed camp, not chiefly because the home territories of its various nations are threatened, but because of fear of aggressive action upon the part of other nations touching outlying "possessions." France resents British control of Egypt, and is fearful of its West African possessions; Russia seeks Chinese territory, with a view to expansion to the Pacific; Germany also seeks distant possessions; Britain, who has acquired so many dependencies, is so fearful of an attack upon them that this year she is spending nearly eighty millions of dollars upon additional war-ships, and Russia, Germany, and France follow suit. Japan is a new element of anxiety; and by the end of the year it is computed she will have sixty-seven formidable ships of war. The naval powers of Europe, and Japan also, are apparently determined to be prepared for a terrific struggle for possessions in the far East, close to the Philippines -- and why not for these islands themselves? Into this vortex the Republic is cordially invited to enter by those powers who expect her policy to be of benefit to them, but her action is jealously watched by those who fear that her power might be used against them.

It has never been considered the part of wisdom to thrust one's hand into the hornet's nest, and it does seem as if the United States must lose all claim to ordinary prudence and good sense if she enter this arena and become involved in the intrigues and threats of war which make Europe an armed camp.

It is the parting of the ways. We have a continent to populate and develop; there are only twenty-three persons to the square mile in the United States. England has three hundred and seventy, Belgium five hundred and seventy-one, Germany two hundred and fifty. A tithe of the cost of maintaining our sway over the Philippines would improve our internal waterways; build the Nicaragua Canal; construct a waterway to the ocean from the Great Lakes, an inland canal along the Atlantic seaboard, and a canal across Florida, saving eight hundred miles' distance between New York and New Orleans; connect Lake Michigan with the Mississippi; deepen all the harbors upon the lakes; build a canal from Lake Erie to the Allegheny River; slack-water through movable dams the entire length of the Ohio River to Cairo; thoroughly improve the Lower and Upper Mississippi, and all our seaboard harbors. All these enterprises would be as nothing in cost in comparison with the sums required for the experiment of possessing the Philippine Islands, seven thousand miles from our shores. If the object be to render our Republic powerful among nations, can there be any doubt as to which policy is the better? To be more powerful at home is the surest way to be more powerful abroad. To-day the Republic stands the friend of all nations, the ally of none; she has no ambitious designs upon the territory of any power upon another continent; she crosses none of their ambitious designs, evokes no jealousy of the bitter sort, inspires no fears; she is not one of them, scrambling for possessions; she stands apart, pursuing her own great mission, and teaching all nations by example. Let her become a power annexing foreign territory, and all is changed in a moment.

If we are to compete with other nations for foreign possessions, we must have a navy like theirs. It should be superior to any other navy, or we play a second part. It is not enough to have a navy equal to that of Russia or of France, for Russia and France may combine against us just as they may against Britain. We at once enter the field as a rival of Britain, the chief possessor of foreign possessions, and who can guarantee that we shall not even have to measure our power against her?

What it means to enter the list of military and naval powers having foreign possessions may be gathered from the following considerations. First, look at our future navy. If it is only to equal that of France it means fifty-one battle-ships; if of Russia, forty battle-ships. If we cannot play the game without being at least the equal of any of our rivals, then eighty battle-ships is the number Britain possesses. We now have only four, with five building. Cruisers, armed and unarmed, swell the number threefold, Britain having two hundred and seventy-three ships of the line built or ordered, with three hundred and eight torpedo-boats in addition; France having one hundred and thirty-four ships of the line and two hundred and sixty-nine torpedo-boats. All these nations are adding ships rapidly. Every armor- and gun-making plant in the world is busy night and day. Ships are indispensable, but recent experience shows that soldiers are equally so. While the immense armies of Europe need not be duplicated, yet we shall certainly be too weak unless our army is at least twenty times what it has been -- say five hundred thousand men. Even then we shall be powerless as against any one of three of our rivals -- Germany, France, and Russia.

This drain upon the resources of these countries has become a necessity from their respective positions, largely as graspers for foreign possessions. The United States to-day, happily, has no such necessity, her neighbors being powerless against her, since her possessions are concentrated and her power is one solid mass.

To-day two great powers in the world are compact, developing themselves in peace throughout vast conterminous territories. When war threatens they have no outlying possessions which can never be really "possessed," but which they are called upon to defend. They fight upon the exposed edge only of their own soil in case of attack, and are not only invulnerable, but they could not be more than inconvenienced by the world in arms against them. These powers are Russia and the United States. The attempt of Britain to check Russia, if the wild counsels of Mr. Chamberlain were followed, could end in nothing but failure. With the irresistible force of the glacier, Russia moves upon the plains below. Well for Russia, and well for the world, is her advance over pagan China, better even for Britain from the standpoint of business, for every Russian to-day trades as much with Britain as do nine Chinamen. Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, are all vulnerable, having departed from the sagacious policy of keeping possessions and power concentrated. Should the United States depart from this policy, she also must be so weakened in consequence as never to be able to play the commanding part in the world, disjointed, that she can play whenever she desires if she remain compact.

Whether the United States maintain its present unique position of safety, or forfeit it through acquiring foreign possessions, is to be decided by its action in regard to the Philippines; for, fortunately, the independence of Cuba is assured; for this the Republic has proclaimed to the world that she has drawn the sword. But why should the less than two millions of Cuba receive national existence and the seven and a half millions of the Philippines be denied it? The United States, thus far in their history, have no page reciting self-sacrifice made for others; all their gains have been for themselves. This void is now to be grandly filled. The page which recites the resolve of the Republic to rid her neighbor, Cuba, from the foreign possessor will grow brighter with the passing centuries, which may dim many pages now deemed illustrious. Should the coming American be able to point to Cuba and the Philippines rescued from foreign domination and enjoying independence won for them by his country and given to them without money and without price, he will find no citizen of any other land able to claim for his country services so disinterested and so noble.

We repeat, there is no power in the world that could do more than inconvenience the United States by attacking its fringe, which is all that the world combined could do, so long as our country is not compelled to send its forces beyond its own compact shores to defend worthless possessions. If our country were blockaded by the united powers of the world for years, she would emerge from the embargo richer and stronger, and with her own resources more completely developed. We have little to fear from external attack. No thorough blockade of our enormous seaboard is possible; but even if it were, the few indispensable articles not produced by ourselves (if there were any such) would reach us by way of Mexico or Canada at slightly increased cost.

From every point of view we are forced to the conclusion that the past policy of the Republic is her true policy for the future; for safety, for peace, for happiness, for progress, for wealth, for power -- for all that makes a nation blessed.

Not till the war-drum is silent, and the day of calm peace returns, can the issue be soberly considered.

Twice have the American people met crucial issues wisely, and in the third they are not to fail.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a vice president and generous financial supporter of the Anti-Imperialist League from its formation in 1898 until his death. He was also a member of the Philippine Independence Committee (1904) and a vice president of the Filipino Progress Association (1905-1907).


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Manong Bert, for piece of history which I didn’t know much about.

I know that Mark Twain fought the colonizer/imperialist crowd in his own homeland through his writings.

But Carnegie is to be admired and honored by Filipinos more for taking this bold stance against the imperialist mindset of his time – even putting his money where his heart is.

Philanthropy in the US is quite amazing.

I shall look forward for future articles like these from you.

BTW, why don’t you self-publish some of your blogs, or find a publisher?

- Jay

Bert M. Drona said...

Hi Jay,

Thanks too for the feedback.

It's a shame we Filipinos do not have any "comparable" rich in the homeland. Are we truly selfish and at best only helpful to relatives and friends?

As to publishing, it's not really in my crosshairs for now. I just want to rock the boat of complacency and/or ignorance of the Filipino Mind. Maybe in the future when I have more time.

Please visit my website and find more about our distorted and hidden history. As Carnegie wrote: "..for education makes rebels."

Thus our colonizers, Spain and America; the first deprived us of education; the second distorted our history.

Best wishes for a healthier and better 2010!

- Bert

Anonymous said...

Hi Bert,

Let me greet you a Merry Christmas.

I suggest that you blog about some new subjects. Who are the people who might still be interested in Imperialism ! There are no more imperialists I think; try to move on.

Being a technical person, your talents can be better used in the climate change advocacies. Study and write about these subjects. Being a scientist in a place like the US affords you the technical information not available here.

My Best,


Bert M. Drona said...


As to my topics, I am encouraged by the feedback and linkage I have established with several discussion groups back home;though I do not actively participate in them,they help disseminate my postings.

Re climate change, I have lectured about "the greenhouse effect" back in 1968 when I was teaching at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Mandaluyong.

I think we are concerned now about climate change because of the recent destructive flooding; which I believe is MORE due to the denuded mountains,disappeared forests --include the unneeded reclamation projects, etc -- brought about by logging operations during the Marcos regime by his cronies (still among our current ruling class) and continued thereafter.

A publication talked about our homeland losing 90% of our forests as early as the 1980s. So it is not just climate change. which of course is happening; I have a few DVDs about it.

The Netherlands have quietly been working on their survival; in fact they now have designed and implemented floating villages/communities as reported by the NY Times during the week of Christmas.

Our homeland situation is different unfortunately. We Filipinos can not talk only about what is currently occurring in the world, especially those we can not even remotely change (we Filipinos tend to talk big when the world does not even see us in its radar, if not totally ignore us); thus, to me that is less a priority than learning about our distorted history.

I do not see any realizable improvement in our homeland during our lifetime. As long as we do not know our past, acknowledge our weaknesses we are fucked and will remain so. I know I am not suffering like many of you may be back there; but it really makes me sad and angry just the same. When so many intelligent fellow countrymen exist, there is simply no excuse for being in the pits so to speak.

As long as we have no nationalism, we will remain in dire straits. Nobody really gives a shit about us. It all depends on us bottom line.

Those NPAs should be fighting for nationalism, not communism but I believe many of them are for the most part, maybe not realizing it, fighting for national unity.

Anyway. Enjoy the season. Best wishes for a healthy and better 2010!