Charles Henry Brent to Colonel House


Charles Henry Brent to Colonel House


Charles Henry Brent




1913 December 28


Charles H. Brent writes to Edward M. House about the Philippine situation.


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


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence




Philippine Policy — Bishop Brent.

My Dear Col. House

A few days after my arrival, I was admitted into a confidence relative to political affairs in the Philippine Islands with permission to acquaint you also with what was told me.

The Speaker of the Assembly and Commissioner Quezon\in consultation with several representative Americans have agreed, I understand, upon a Philippine policy of qualified independence which Quezon will advocate in Washington. It is this, that the legislative powers of the Philippines should be vested in the present Assembly and an elective Senate; that the Governor General should be appointed by the President of the United States with power of veto from which, by two–thirds vote of the Philippine legislature, there would be appeal to the President whose word would be final; and that the Justices of the Supreme Court\should be appointed by the President. All other officers of the Philippine Government would be appointed by the Governor General with the consent of the Philippine Senate. The U. S. Army and Navy would reserve such stations as the American Government should require.

By this programme the Filipino would secure full active control of government with advantages and safeguards consequent upon a continued relationship with the United States. At the same time the United States would have final authority in government, which\alone, in my judgment, could justify our continuance of any responsibility whatever in Philippine affairs. The idea of a protectorate seems to me clear beyond the most generous interpretation of national duty. It is not independence which the Filipinos at heart want. It is qualified independence with some sort of protection, if my judgment is not in error. Their leaders are in the habit of making demands beyond their desire or expectation, under the conviction that by aiming high they are more likely to secure what they really aspire to than if they frankly stated their exact claims. I have reason to believe that the best Filipinos would deprecate our abandonment of the Islands now or in the near future — indeed some,(including the Chief Justice), I am informed by reliable persons, are alarmed lest we speedily determine on such a course. I daresay they would like a protectorate in which they would have all the liberty and we all the responsibility, but they cannot in their wildest flights of imagination behlieve such foolishness on our part\within the realm of possibility. They talk glibly of neutralisation as if it were to be had for the asking. The rank and file of the Filipinos, who have only inchoate ideas of the meaning of independence, will accept gladly any progressive programme emanating from their leaders, Osmeña and Quezon.

In my judgment the proposition outlined is worth serious consideration for the following reasons:—

1. The present status quo will not long satisfy the Filipino mind. Uncertainty as to what the future may hold has a bad moral effect on everyone. A clear and unmistakable policy is sadly needed. The next step should have enough finality about it to stop agitation for years to come.

2. It is the safest programme acceptable to the Filipino that has yet been mooted. Whatever we do must have the hearty support of the people, as this will have coming as the constructive proposition of their resident Ccommissioner who is idolised by them.

3. It would settle the status of the Islands probably for a long enough period to allow quiet growth without which the Filipino can hope for no national future.

4. It would have a fair chance of meeting acceptance, both here and in America, as a National as distinct from a party policy, and would renew here goodwill between Filipinos and Americans. Congressman Miller, I am credibly informed, who has recently been in the Islands, is in favor of this plan, and would be prepared to support it in the House of Representatives as a non–partisan measure.

I do not consider this by any means ideal, and in advocating it I expose myself to misunderstanding and attack. But I believe it to be in the circumstances a discreet and statesmanlike proposition. It is worse than usesless to attempt to force a policy of our own, however wise, on an unwilling people. If we, as a Nation, cannot regain their glad co–operation and confidence, we had better withdraw at once and completely. A matter of two years or so as against eight years as proposed by the Jones Bill is all one; and two years would be more honest than eight, for the amount of real progress in eight years over that of two in so slowly moving a development as the education of a heterogeneous nation, would be too insignificant to consider in view of the trouble involved to America.

My firm conviction, based on local observation and experience, upon the object lesson of Mexico, and upon my reading of the history of nations from ancient Rome to modern Germany, is that you cannot establish constitutional government, least of all a republic, save on the foundation of an intelligent commonalty such as we cannot hope to have in the Philippines sooner than a generation. Public education has barely begun to make itself felt here in public life. The insignificant percentage of voters is sufficient evidence of the fact, liberal as the franchise is.

I can conceive of Mexican history repeating itself in the Philippines. Granted that we have here, which I am sure we have not, as able and strong a leader as Diaz, his fate would be similar. Diaz had to become a dictator because he had not an intelligent or educated commonalty to lead. To me the situation in Mexico, viewed from a democratic standpoint, looks well nigh hopeless because of their dishonest past in which the republic has been little more than a pretence. We must at least do our part to guard the Filipinos against a like fate.

The ideal course, if we could get the acquiescence of the Filipino, would be a much slower Filipinization of the public service than seems to be the present policy, —a more gradual change from a government “by Americans aided by Filipinos to a government by Filipinos aided by Americans”. But judging from the present temper of the Filipinos, I am of the opinion that there would be more chance of checking unwise speed if we were to adopt some such definite and final plan as the Filipino leaders have agreed upon than by any other course that has been suggested. In the interim I would recommend that further Filipinizing of the service be reduced to a minimum. I venture to say this because the changes thus far have made have, as I am told, a number of Filipinos fear that they are not only going to get what they want but more than they want.

It is of the utmost importance that this matter should be held in strictest confidence for when the programme is presented it should come from Quezon.

I find that Quezon has been absolutely fair to me every since I talked with him. He is a man of ability and has a chance to become a statesman.

Yours very faithfully,
CH Brent

Col. House
New York

Original Format



House, Edward Mandell, 1858-1938



Charles Henry Brent, “Charles Henry Brent to Colonel House,” 1913 December 28, WWP18253, First Year Wilson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.