The fourth of July

"It reverberates today."


The most poignant and profound lesson mankind has learned from the turbulent, yet epic and glorious world history is that all dictatorial, tyrannical and repressive regimes end up in shame and infamy.

Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the despotic rulers of many other countries have been all consigned to the dustbin of history. They have been condemned, hated, and disdained – never revered. Their faces and names appear in rouges’ galleries in museums all over the world. Their countries do not celebrate their birth and death anniversaries.

This lesson affirms the truth that no regime or ruler can run a nation without the consent of the governed. It cannot stand for long under a complete political vacuum.

Abraham Lincoln summed up an ideal government which is run by, for and of the people themselves. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the American Declaration of Independence, clearly laid down the principle that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Today July 4th, the American people celebrate the 244th anniversary of their independence from Great Britain.

With a nucleus of 13 original colonies, the United States of America, has now 50 states with a population of over 330 million living under a truly democratic government.

Many Filipinos still celebrate this event, particularly those who felt the first stirrings of patriotism singing the Star Spangled Banner rather than the Philippine National Anthem. These are the Filipinos who were born during the commonwealth years.

The Philippines became a colony of the USA under controversial, accidental, mysterious and providential circumstances.

The Spanish-American war broke out when the USS Maine was blown up in the harbor of Cuba on February 15, 1898 under mysterious circumstances.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898, the Spanish colonial government in Intramuros, Manila, arranged a secret surrender to the American military contingents three days after the war ended. Yet, the Americans never engaged the Spaniards in a shooting incident. But this was the basis for the USA to assume jurisdiction over the Philippines. It even paid the bankrupt Spanish monarchy $20 million for enslaving over 10 million citizens of the Republic of the Philippines which was proclaimed earlier on June 12, 1898.

When the Treaty of Paris was awaiting ratification by the US senate, it was passed by a majority of one vote. A leader of the opposition lobbied for its approval to advance his personal political interests.

President William McKinley should have immediately recognized Philippine independence which his predecessors did in the case of six South American nations, which gained earlier independence from Spain.

But the Jingoists, led by Alfred T. Mahan, the foremost exponent of American expansionist policy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, and moguls of business interests, pressed McKinley to take over the Philippines.

The most vehement and frantic voices which viewed with shock and dismay the trend towards acquisition of further territory, was Speaker Thomas B. Reed, who became widely respected and admired for his wit and wisdom as presiding officer of the House of Representatives.

One time, a congressman, after lambasting President McKinley, proudly announced at the end of his speech: “That\s why, Mr. Speaker, I would rather be right than be president.”

Speaker Reed promptly banged his gavel and said: “The gentleman need not worry, he will never be either.”

The Imperialist League, prominent names in the academe and other leaders from the business community, like Andrew Carnegie, E. L. Godkin, Samuel Gompers, William James and Harvard University President Charles Eliot, reminded their fellow Americans that “if here is one principle more deeply rooted in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.’

Eliot called Lodge and Roosevelt, degenerate sons of Harvard.

But the man who predicted that the Philippines will fall under the sovereignty of the United States was Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

In his article, The Philippines, A Century Hence,” published in the September 30, 1898 issue of La Solidaridad, Rizal made the curious prediction that neither Germany, England, France, Holland, China or Japan would take interest in the Philippines once Spain’s colonial hold weakened.

“Perhaps,” he wrote, “the great American Republic, whose interests lie in the Pacific, and who had no hand in the spoliation of Africa, may someday dream of such a possession.”

In suppressing the Filipinos’ valiant struggle for independence in the first few years of the colonial government, the American administration claimed that they are here to educate the Filipinos on democratic principles and practices. Howard Taft, the first civil governor assigned to the Philippines who later became US president, had a condescending attitude on his Filipino subjects and spurned efforts to grant them independence.

Taft and succeeding caretakers and envoys sent by the US to the Philippines ignored the fact that the Filipinos have been freedom-loving and had staged hundreds of revolts in their struggle for independence.

The Constitution drafted by the Malolos Convention were nobler and more profound than the lengthy whys and whynots in the American proclamation of independence.

But after a shaky start while seeking recognition as a new nation in the American continent, the USA experienced a bloody and costly civil war, a number of economic downturns, a few colossal foreign engagements, and serious mistakes of some of its heads of state.

Yet it came out stronger and nearer to achieving the dreams of their freedom-loving and puritan forebears.

After dismantling the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, leading the free world in the war against terrorist and extremist elements, the US became the richest and most powerful nation in the world, the champion of human rights and civil liberties.

The 20th century will be stamped in world history as the American Century. The USA could still remain the most powerful and leading architect of the unfolding century if It remains steadfast in its pursuit for excellence and in safeguarding the frontiers of democratic frontiers and institutions.

Millions of Filipinos are now American citizens. Many are now living permanently in the United States. The preponderant majority of our citizens today will prefer to migrate to or visit the United States thanany other country. They will also celebrate, even if quietly, today’s USA independence day. For them, the 4th of July is a memorable and joyous day.

The United States of America is the bedrock and bastion of democracy in the world today. Its strongest pillar of defense and protection is its fidelity to noble and divine principles and its abiding and deep trust and love for God as the only and truly Supreme Being who controls the destiny of man and his universe.

We join theAmericans and all freedom-loving citizens of the world in commemorating the 244th anniversary of the independence of the USA.

God Bless America, the citadel and haven of freedom and liberty.

Mr. Ernesto G. Banawis was formerly general manager of the Philippine News Agency.

Topics: Everyman , The fourth of July
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