The American AntiImperialist League was founded in 1899, after the United States
occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands. Cuba became nominally
independent, although the United States retained until 1934 the legal right to intervene
in Cuban domestic and foreign affairs. Both Puerto Rico and the Philippines became
American colonies. The Filipinos revolted against American rule in February, 1899, and
were suppressed in 1902 after a bloody, ruthless guerrilla war. Most Americans supported
overseas expansion, but many of the nation's most illustrious citizens - including Andrew
Carnegie and William James, were appa11ed by American imperialism. In 1899 they founded
the American AntiImperialist League in order to campaign, unsuccessfully as it turned
out, against the annexation of the Philippines.
We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward
militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free. We regret that it has
become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of
whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We
maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We
insist that the subjugation of any people is "criminal aggression" and open
disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our Government.
We earnestly condemn the policy of the present National Administration in the
Philippines. It seeks to extinguish the spirit of 1776 in those islands. We deplore the
sacrifice of our soldiers and sailors, whose bravery deserves admiration even in an unjust
war. We denounce the slaughter of the Filipinos as a needless horror. We protest against
the extension of American sovereignty by Spanish methods.
We demand the immediate cessation of the war against liberty, begun by Spain and
continued by us. We urge that Congress be promptly convened to announce to the Filipinos
our purpose to concede to them the independence for which they have so long fought and
which of right is theirs.
The United States have always protested against the doctrine of international law which
permits the subjugation of the weak by the strong. A self-goveming state cannot accept
sovereignty over an unwilling people. The United States cannot act upon the ancient heresy
that might makes right.
Imperialists assume that with the destruction of self-government in the Philippines by
American hands, all opposition here will cease. This is a grievous error. Much as we abhor
the war of "criminal aggression" in the Philippines, greatly as we regret that
the blood of the Filipinos is on American hands, we more deeply resent the betrayal of
American institutions at home. The real firing line is not in the suburbs of Manila. The
foe is of our own household. The attempt of 1861 was to divide the country. That of 1899
is to destroy its fundamental principles and noblest ideals.
Whether the ruthless slaughter of the Filipinos shall end next month or next year is
but an incident in a contest that must go on until the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution of the United States are rescued from the hands of their betrayers. Those who
dispute about standards of value while the foundation of the Republic is undermined will
be listened to as little as those who would wrangle about the small economies of the
household while the house is on fire. The training of a great people for a century, the
aspiration for liberty of a vast immigration are forces that will hurl aside those who in
the delirium of conquest seek to destroy the character of our institutions.
We deny that the obligation of all citizens to support their Government in times of
grave National peril applies to the present situation. If an Administration may with
impunity ignore the issues upon which it was chosen, deliberately create a condition of
war anywhere on the face of the globe, debauch the civil service for spoils to promote the
adventure, organize a truthsuppressing censorship and demand of all citizens a
suspension of judgment and their unanimous support while it chooses to continue the
fighting, representative government itself is imperiled.
We propose to contribute to the defeat of any person or party that stands for the
forcible subjugation of any people . We shall oppose for reelection all who in the White
House or in Congress betray American liberty in pursuit of un-American ends. We still hope
that both of our great political parties will support and defend the Declaration of
Independence in the closing campaign of the century.
We hold, with Abraham Lincoln, that "no man is good enough to govern another man
without that other's consent. When the white man governs himself, that is self-government,
but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than
self-government-that is despotism." "Our reliance is in the love of liberty
which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the
heritage of all men in all lands. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for
themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it."
We cordially invite the cooperation of all men and women who remain loyal to the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
"Platform of the American Antilmperialist League," in Speeches,
Correspondence, ard Political Papers of Carl Schurz, vol. 6, ed. Frederick Bancroft
(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913), p. 77, note 1.