Monday, May 17, 2010

The Philippine Islands

Happiness is merely comparative: with a lovely climate—a continual summer—and all the absolute requirements of life at hand, there is not one-tenth of the misery in the Philippines that there is in Europe, and none of that forlorn wretchedness facing the public gaze. Beggary—that constant attribute of the highest civilization—hardly exists, and suicide is extremely rare. There are no ferocious animals, insects, or reptiles that one cannot reasonably guard against; it is essentially one of those countries where “manʼs greatest enemy is man.” There is ample room for double the population, and yet a million acres of virgin soil only awaiting the co-operation of husbandman and capitalist to turn it to lucrative account. A humdrum life is incompatible here with the constant emotion kept up by typhoons, shipwrecks, earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, brigands, epidemics, devastating fires, etc.

It is a beautiful country, copiously endowed by Nature, where the effulgent morning sun contributes to a happy frame of mind—where the colonistʼs rural life passes pleasantly enough to soothe the longing for “home, sweet home.”

“And yet perhaps if countries we compare
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, yet shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind.”

Such is Americaʼs new possession, wherein she has assumed the moral responsibility of establishing a form of government on principles quite opposite to those of the defunct Spanish régime: whether it will be for better or for worse cannot be determined at this tentative stage.

I think we know the answer to that, but such is the price—and merits—of a democracy.

Excerpt from The Philippine Islands by John Foreman, published in 1899. The eBook is available here for free, under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License.

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