Supplementary Report Upon the Philippines


Supplementary Report Upon the Philippines


Ford, Henry Jones, 1851-1925




1914 January 17


Henry J. Ford reports the condition of government in the Philippines to Woodrow Wilson.


Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence







T H E P H I L I P P I N E S.

By Henry J. Ford

To the President of the United States:

Although there is great dissatisfaction with the practical results of the scheme of government provided by the Act of 1902, and it seems to be the general belief among Americans that it was prematurely introduced, it is claimed that at least it possesses these merits: — It admits the people to a larger participation in the government than is the case in any European dependency, and it gives them training in the conduct of public affairs the benefits of which, while they may not now be manifest, will eventually appear. These calaims doubtless express the intentions with which the scheme was adopted, but analysis of actual conditions show that results don not conform to the intentions. It is the habit of American residents of the Philippines to advert to the fact that in none of the neighboring countries have the people been granted a representative assembly as in the Philippines; but it does not follow that the people of the Philippines have thereby been admitted to larger participation in the government.


The ordinary type of government in the British dependencies is, first, an Executive Council, formed by appointment like our Philippine Commission, and like it, partly composed of officials sent out by the home government and partly of natives. This Executive Council, like our Commission, determines the budget, and carries on the administration.

There is an important practical difference in that the Executive Council acts by virtue of home executive authority and has a discretuion in dealing with emergencies that is lacking in our Commission, which acts by virtue of Congressional authority. The value of such discretion was strikingly displayed when the tin smelting industry in the British Malay states was threatened by tariff arrangements in its principal market by which ore was admitted free of duty, while block tin was taxed. An order in council was speedily passed putting an export duty on ore, while exports of block tin remained free. This countervailing measure ended forthwith the attack upon the native smelting industry. The constitution of the Executive Council as an adjunct of the executive branch of the home government, enabled prompt action to be taken, whereas our Commission would have had to apply to Congress, a proceeding entailing such delay that in the case mentioned the hostile designs could have been consummated before the native government would have had ppower to act.


In the British colonies, in addition to the Executive Council, there is a Legislative Council, in which the natives are represented, the extent and character of the representation varying somewhat in the different colonies. The usual scheme is that there will be some nominationed members together with members chosen by popular election, the object sought being apparently actual representation of the various interests of the community instead of representation of numbers alone. Of this Legislative Council, the Executive Council forms an integral part, and it is the practice, approved by the home government, to have the Executive Council act as a unit on matters of policy when sitting as a component part of the Legislative Council. If members of the Executive Council do not agree with conclusions reached within that body they are not allowed to carry their opposition into the Legislative Council. The budget and projects of legislation are submitted to the Legislative Council for approval, and while that approval would not be absolutely necessary in either case it is deemed requisite in practivce and would be dispensed with only under pressing emergency.

In the government of the Philippines an elective Assembly, chosen upon a franchise which admits literacy in English or Spanish as a qualification, but which does not admit native literacy, constitutes a separate house, with power to fix its own procedure, but nevertheless, it does not appear to have as genuine a participation in the government, as the native element in the Legislative Council of the British dependenc ies. In the Legislative Council the native members are brought into actual contact with the government. They are in a position to interrogate the adminsitration and express criticism which even if not judicious, is at least intelligent. This intimacy of communication exerts a valuable influence in correcting misapprehensions, sobering debate, and preventing the growth of imaginary suspicions and the spread of rancorous calumny such as abound in the Philippines.

The representative Assembly in the Philippine government has no more actual power than ithe native element of the Legislative Council, and meanwhile it lacks the opportunities of oversight and criticism which the native element of the Legislative Council possesses through immediate contact with hthe Executive Council in passing the budget and considering legislative proposals. So far as it goes, native representation in the government of the British colonies is a reality; in the government of the Philipipines it is a sham. Irrefutable proofs of this is supplied by the fact that for three successive sessions the budget as passed by the Assembly was rejected, and the appropriations were made by the gGovernor–General. An ordinary concomtmitant of such legislative impotence is a tendency toward violent and inflammatory speech. Such is the habitual courtesy of the Philippino leaders that this tendency is not so marked as might be expected, but it is displayed to some extent, and this is a very important circumstance, since the assembly reaches native public opinion, while the Commission does not. and meanwhile its acts and policies are subject to injurious interpretations that would not be possible under the British system. Hence the late Governor–General Forbes thought it highly desirable that an official newspaper should be established. No such need is felt in the British colonies because the constitution of the Legislative Council secures for both branches of the government admission in common to the parliamentary channels of publicity. The organization of government in the Philippines is such that even isf the Commission had a newspaper medium of publicity, it would be a feeble antidote to the mischiefs arising from the detached position of the Assembly whose proceedings engage the attention of the native press.


It is argued that there is compensation for the inconvsiences of the present system in the training which it affords in the conduct of public affairs, but there are considerations which indicate that the effect is to encourage practices and to develop methods incompativble with good government. Instead of acting as a scholol of government by public discussion, the existing arrangement is acting as a school of intrigue, stimulating the worst qualities of Filipino character. The national character is not volatile, but is remarkable for patience of temper and decorum of behaviodsr. Its principlse weakness is a disposition towards selfish indulgence in opportunities of profit, and evidences of this are seen in the conduct of members of the Assembly. In this respect, as in some other respects, American standards of compensation have had a deleterious effect. tThe members of the Assembly are aware that members of our Congress are paid $7,500 a year with valuable perquisites, and there is a disposition among them to regard it as only fair that they should be allowed t at least half as much. Being altogether separate from the Commission, the Assembly is naturally imitating our own legislative bodies in multiplying committees to prepare business for consideration, and some of these are authorized to sit during the recess with extra pay for such service. There is a tendenycy under thin disguises to tap the public treasury for the benefit of particular interests, and cases of such behaviour are cited buy American residents as evidence of the unfitness of the Filipinos for self–government, and as instances of what might be expected if they obtained control of the government. The relations between the Commission and the Assemby encourage this tendency as the Commission is inclined to be indulgent in such matters in the interest of harmony between the two bodies. tThe mode of settling differences is nominally through committees of conference, but actually — for the most part— through private negociation with leading members, so that measures are more the outcome of intrigue than of consideration upon their merits. With affairs in such a situation, it struck me as being a rather surprising evidence of self denial that the members of the Assembly should have concluded it to be unwise to pass upion details of internal improvements, The preparation of the schedule is left to the proper executive department, a chief of which told me that he would rather deal with the Assembly than the Commission itself about such matters.


A deplorable consequence of the friction arising from the existence of separate authorities is the increasing anttipathy between Americans and Filipinos. An American administrator comes out to take his seat as a member of the Philippine Commission withe the determination to do his best to conduct the government so honestly and efficiently as to serve the best interests of the people and establish it in their esteem. He may be so pro–Filipino at fitrst that the American colony will assume a contemptuous attitude. He finds that the very people for whomk he is enduring contumely are unappreciative of his efforts. Conscious of his own good intentions, he gradually becomes resentful of their hostility and suspicion, and in the end he is apt to become openly antipathetic, or, if he restrains his feelings, he will at least act upon the convictions that there is in the character of the Filipino people an innate perversity diabling them from frank and straight–forward dealing, so that they have to be treated like children. I am unable to agree with this opinion. The truth of the matter I construct conceive to be is that the scheme of government is so ill contrived that satisfactory results cannot be obtained by any set of administrators. American administration in the Philippines has been in the maain honest and capable, but it has been too deficient in sympathy and insight to be successful.

If by an effort of the imagination, the situation is viewed from the Filipino standpoint, it is not difficult to see how, with the best intentions, American administration had failed to secure any appreciable native support, but finds the people unresponsive to efforts to cultivate their good will. The Filipinos think that we entered the Philippines as their allies, and that after we had used them to overthrow Spanish rule throughout the islands, we seized the opportunity to substitute American rule for Spanish rule. They see the American Governor–General occupying the palace of the Spanish Governor–gGeneral, American army garrisons in place of Spanish army garrisons, and they think that so far all that they have accomplished by their struggles for independence is a change of masters, not altogether to their advantage. It is a common belief among Europeans in the East that if Aguinaldo had been installed in the Spanish Governor–Gerneral’s palace, and treated with respect and consideration, as the head of the Filipino people, the insurrection could have been averted and we could have meanwhile have reatained all needful opportunisties of organizing the government. If this be true, it has cost us over two hundred million dollars to retain for the use of American officials the state residences vacated by the Spanish.

This flaunting of American authority still continues and as that is the conspicuous fact of the situation from the Filipino standpoint, it is not to be expected that increase f of the Filipino membership of the commission will assuage the public discontents. It will have a tendency to avert another uprising as being a concession pointing toward ultimate grant of independence, but it is not likely to render the existing scheme of government any more workable. Although Filipinos may compose a majority of the cCommission, that body remains none hthe less a rival of the Assembly, regarded with intense jealousy. Filipinos appointed to the Commission lose their influence. It is the practice to impute their presence on the Commission to some personal influence, against which other interests combine. . The Assembly leaders are alert to show that they, and not the Filipino members of the Commission, represent the Filipino pepople, and they exert themselves to find ways to impress upon the as Commission that fact.


It may be wise to consider whether American control could not better be exerted indirectly through native authority, than directly as under the present system. Authority is none the less effectual when it is content with the reality of power and avoisds its insignia. British control over Egypt is none the less real because its chief representative is designated t simply as British Agent and Consul Gneral. The Filipinos are not averse to the service of American administrators; they are well aware of its value, and moreover the precedent set by Japan in employing foreign instructors has great weight with them, but they resent the irritating pressure of American sovereignty of which Malacañan is the symbol.

Malacañan palace, the official residence in Manila of the Governor–General, stands on the river side in a small park which contains some magnificent trees. The building is spacious, but not very pretenstious in external appearance. It contains some interesting portraints, and other paintings that are memorials of Spanish occupancy, and it has large reception rooms which have a showy appearance. It occurred to me while visiting there what a difference it would make to the Filipinos if ohne of their own people occupied that relic of Spanish grandeur, presiding over the social hospitalities of which they are so fond. As it is, registry on the invitation list of Malacañan is a valued social distinction in the American colony, and the periodical receptions of the Governor–General are the great social events. There are official receptions to which Filipino notables are invited, and the chiefs of American administration exert themselves to be civil, but the line between Americans and Filipinos is quite evident. Our Governors–General have tried to cultivate friendly relations with Filipino society through hospitality, but the American colony hold aloof. The Two races do not mix socially and cannot be made to do so. Without anything overt, there is enough to apprise the quick–witted Filipino gentry that their company is tolerated for official reasons, but is not socially desired, so in attending receptions they practice a polite reserve, and while although in the social gathering, they are not of it. Meanwhile, they are really people of marked social gifts, vivacious, courteous and affable, which qualities are finally finely displayed at their own social gatherings. If Malacañan were the center of their social life, it would be fraught with satisfactions that would be felt throughout the Philippines. It will be a proud day for the Filipinos when a native ruler is seated in the place the palace of the Spanish Governor–General. Would it not pay to grant them that satisfaction? It would cost something to provide the American representative with a suitable residence but it might conceivably save the United States many millions of dollars.


A disadvantage of the present system of government is that it is fixed by the Act of 1902 and its general character is not susceptible of modification through administrative experience. For this reason, in the report previously submitted, I recommended the repeal of the Act of 1902 and the placing of the islands under the direct control of the President of the United States. The government could then be conformed to the needs of the situation as experience might suggest, and needful change could be promptly effected by executive regulation. If such action were taken, it might be wise to avoid conferring any titles of authority upon the President’s pepresentatives in the Philippines. Real training of the people in the work of government could be provided, and their national aspirations would receive substantial gratification if a provisional constitution should be arranged by executive regulation, something after the Swiss pattern, such as I learned the Filipino leaders desire. The Assembly might be allowed to elect the President of the People of the Philippines, under regulations that would retain under American control the financial administration and the the direction of the constabulary. Malacañan should then be turned over to him as his official residence. As to wWhether the cabinet officers of the Filipino President should be appointed by him, or elected by the Assembly, would be a detail to be determined by circumstances as ascertained on the spot, but in any event the cabinet officials should have the right to introduce bills and attend the sessions of the Assembly, and they should frame and introduce the budget. I question very much if a Senate or Upper House would perform any useful function in the Philippines. If one should be found to be desireable, the best way to constitute it would be to have it elected by the Assembly as in Norway. The fewer popular elections they have in the Philippines, the more orderly and efficient will be the government. The rule should be to confine popular elections strictly to the choice of representatives. The Filipino leaders seem to have such an intelligent appreciation of their own needs that if dealt with in a sympathetic spirit, it would be, I believe, safe and feasible to allow them to frame their own constitution, with tactful exertion of influence to guide the process. And I venture to say that opportunities for a pacific accomodation of our national interests with their desires for self government are better now than they will be later. If the hopes they entertain of satisfaction to their aspirations through the change of administration in the United States are disappointed, there may be grave consequences.


If the Lesser Antilles were about 600 miles farther west, they would occupy about the same position with respect to the United States as do the Philippines with respect to Eastern Aisia, Manila is on the same parallel of latitude as St. Pierre, in Martinique, while Peking is on the same parallel as Philadelphia. The Philippines are, however, more remote from trade routes as the general contour of Eastern Asia is like what that of the United States would be if the peninsula of Florida did not exist. The trade routes follow the trend of this receding coast. Palawan, the wensternmost island of the Philippines, is about 750 miles from the nearest part of the mainland. The opinion is expressed in commercial circles at Manila that the opening of the Panama Canal will change trade routes greatly to the advantage of the Philippines, since they lie almost due west of the Panama Canal. But nevertheless, they are farther away than the ports of Japan or China. The shortest and most direct route even to Hong Kong––the southernmost part of China–– passes to the north of Formosa. The Philippines lie far south of commercial routes from Panama to China and Japan, –– a fact which stands out when distances are examined on a globe. Moreover, Manila labors under the disadvantage of a higher scale of prices than at other ports in the Orient. There appears to be little to warrant the belief that the Philippines occupy a piosition of great strategic value with respect to international commerce.

Vieweing the situation from the standpoint of the Filipino people their position is one of marked strategic weakness. It may be compared to what that of the Lesser Antilles if the group of large islands north of them were the seat of a great military and naval pPower, in need of more land for her people, and more material resources for her industries. With a depot of supplies in Formosa, it would be only a matter of hours to land a force in northern Luzon. It is a common belief throggughout the East that sooner or later, the Philippines will belong to Japan. The Filipino leaders, —and indeed the mass of the people as well–– are aware of the danger and would like to prepare for it.


An unfortunate feature of American occupation of the Philippines as now constituted is that it stands in the way of organizing the defensive resources of the country. As a xxx necessary measure of precaution, in view of the disaffection of the people, the sale of firearms and ammunition is forbidden except in cases wherein special licenses have been issued by the government to individuals. These licenses are cautiously granted and closely superviosed. If the fear of insurrection were removed, by recognition of native authority, as suggested in the foregoing, Filipino nationality could be strengthened by introducing universal military training after the pattern of Switzerland, which country Filipino leaders regard as a model. The means are ready to hand through the organization of the an constabulary with officers in every province. Incidentally, the educational system would be strengthened in places where it is now weak. I muy previous report, I called attention to the poor quality of school instruction in the use of English. If the school children were regularly instructed in military tactics, they would become accustomed to hearing English properly spoken. The constabulary officiers are selected with careful attention to not only to their soldeierly capacity, but also to their personal deportment. As a rule, they are graduates of the military schools of the United States, and their bearing as a class is marked by suavity and good manners. They are required by the regulations of the service to cultivate the good will and friendship of the people, and however other American residents may hold aloof, the constabulary officers make a practice of attending social gatherings among the natives, in whose houses they are welcome and agreeable guests. The organization of the constabulary is far and away the most successful achievement of American rule in the Philippines, and it would be wise to improve opportunities of enlarging the usefulness of the coprps. The experience of Switzerland has shown that the military virtues––order, duty, obedience, discipline–– are also industrial virtues, producing results of great practical value. While much good educational work has been done in the Philippines, the system is based upon traditional cultural standards, whose practical value is now seriously questioned in the United States. If the principle should be adopted, that the proper aim of education is to fit people to act with ability and success in their sphere of opportunity, the present system of secondary schools would be abolished in favor of continuation schools, giving specialized instruction, directly connecting with the work of the primary schools. But in any event, it would be of special benefit to the Filipino people to introduce military discipline in the schools. Such training in a nation of some seven million civilized people would be the best possible security against invasuion.

I am,
Very respectfully yours,
Henry J. Ford


Original Format




Ford, Henry Jones, 1851-1925, “Supplementary Report Upon the Philippines,” 1914 January 17, WWP18289, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.