Special Message

February 27, 1903

To the Senate:

I have just received a cable from Governor Taft which runs as follows:

"Necessity for passage House tariff bill most urgent. The conditions of productive industry and business considerably worse than in November, the date of last report, and growing worse each month. Some revival in sugar, tobacco prices due to expectation of tariff law. The interest of Filipinos in sugar and tobacco extensive, and failure of bill will be blow in face of those interests. Number of tobacco factories will have to close, and many sugar haciendas will be put up for sale at a sacrifice, if the bill will not pass. Customs receipts have fallen off this month one-third, showing decrease of purchasing power of islands. General business stagnant. All political parties, including labor unions, most strenuous in petition for tariff bill. Effect of its failure very discouraging."

Vice-Governor Luke Wright indorses in the strongest manner all that Governor Taft has said, and states that he has the gravest apprehension as to the damage that may come to the islands if there is not a substantial reduction in the tariff levied against Philippine goods coming into the United States. I very earnestly ask that this matter receive the immediate attention of Congress and that the relief prayed for be granted.

As Congress knows, a series of calamities have befallen the Philippine people. Just as they were emerging from nearly six years of devastating warfare, with the accompanying destruction of property and the breaking up of the bonds of social order and the habits of peaceful industry, there occurred an epidemic of rinderpest, which destroyed 90 per cent of the carabaos, the Filipino cattle, leaving the people without draft animals to till the land or to aid in the ordinary work of farm and village life. The extent of the disaster can be seen from the fact that the surviving carabaos have increased over tenfold in value. At the same time a peculiar oriental horse disease became epidemic, further crippling transportation. The rice crop, already reduced by various causes to but a fourth of its ordinary size, has been damaged by locusts, so that the price of rice has nearly doubled.

Under these circumstances there is imminent danger of famine in the islands. Congress is in course of generously appropriating $3,000,000 to meet the immediate needs; but the indispensable and preeminent need is the resurrection of productive industry from the prostration into which it has been thrown by the causes above enumerated. I ask action in the tariff matter, not merely from the standpoint of wise governmental policy, but as a measure of humanity in response to an appeal to which this great people should not close its ears. We have assumed responsibilities toward the Philippine Islands which we are in honor bound to fulfill. We have the specific duty of taking every measure in our power to see to their prosperity. The first and most important step in this direction has been accomplished by the joint action of the military and civil authorities in securing peace and civil government. The wisdom of Congress at the present session has provided for them a stable currency, and its spirit of humane liberality and justice toward them will be shown in the appropriation now substantially agreed upon of $3,000,000 to meet the pressing, immediate necessities; but there remains a vital need that one thing further shall be done. The calamities which have befallen them as above enumerated could have been averted by no human wisdom. They can not be completely repaired; but the suffering can be greatly alleviated and a permanent basis of future prosperity assured if the economic relations of the islands with the United States are put upon a satisfactory basis.


Theodore Roosevelt, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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