By the Rev. Francis E. Price
|North side of Plaza|
No one conversant with public affairs in Guam can doubt for a moment that the American Government, during the more than four years of its occupancy, has discharged its functions in the interest of the people. Speaking broadly, they are far more prosperous now than ever before, and, as a rule, contented. Many of them being of Spanish extraction they are naturally loyal to the Spanish name and inclined to criticize the American Government, but all admit that, although the cost of living is higher, there never was a time in the history of the island when the people were so well supplied with the comforts of life. The price paid for a day's work is many times larger and rents have increased from $3, $5 and $8 per month to from $15 to $6o per month. This change has affected the common people more than the better classes, and enabled them to live in decency and comfort. Said an intelligent Chamorro: "Formerly our lower class women rarely had an upper garment to wear, now almost everyone has four or five camisas. As clerk in a Government office, and interpreter under Spanish rule, I received $2 Mexican per month, now no one receives Less than $20 per month, and many much more." A large sum of money is distributed to the people monthly, and. a very large proportion goes to the poorer people, who never handled money before, and naturally they like it.
|Governor Schroeder mounted on his favorite horse|
The satisfaction with American rule does not spring entirely from the prosperity of the people. It is frankly admitted that there have been mistakes and failures on the part of the American Government, and that evil examples have been set before the natives by some Americans; yet this one fact stands out clear as light in the history of the last four years: The Government has been honest, administering public affairs justly and visiting swift punishment on official dishonesty.
Governor Schroeder, who has just retired, was a man who took his office seriously, realized his responsibilities, conducted his government conscientiously and with ability, and who adorned his office with a personal character and private life that commanded universal respect. At first unpopular because of severe measures which he instituted, yet by force of character and conscientious fidelity to public duties he gradually won the confidence and esteem of his fellow countrymen a n d evoked from Chamorro lips the encomium: "Governor Schroeder is a good man, everybody likes him." The secret of his popularity was that he loved the people and performed the functions of his office "with malice toward none and charity for all."
|Chamorro "Wash women"|
It will be instructive to know the opinion of a farmer in whose but the writer took shelter one day from a passing shower. Speaking of the American Government, he said: "Yes, the Spanish were very good (loyal as usual to the Spanish), but before plenty lies, now all truth." However crude this man's idea of goodness, he paid a high compliment to the American Government—a compliment in which all of his class would concur. The Government keeps her pledges with the people, and they have learned to rely on her promises.
Another line of good work accomplished by the Americans is that of relief and medical work. When the typhoon in November, 1900, had left the inhabitants of Guam in a destitute condition the Government promptly expended $5,000 in relief work. At that time the writer heard the following from a group of persons on the street: "This is something we never saw before—the suffering people; but the work of the medical department, in the long run, counted for more. Guam is a naval station, and consequently does not admit of private medical practice; the surgeons have therefore deemed it their duty to look after the general public. The Civil Hospital building, the Leper Colony, the public market house, where meat and fish are sold under expert supervision, the licensing of midwives after having received special instruction, which has the Government helping the people! Heretofore the people have always given to the Government, and received nothing in return. "Evidently" a government for the people "had not been a popular sentiment in Guam.
About this time, when Governor Schroeder made a tour of the villages he was received with great enthusiasm, and the people flocked around him everywhere, desiring to kiss his hand and showing him every mark of respect.
|Jail on the north corner of the Plaza|
Such relief was, of course, valuable and properly evoked the gratitude of the reduced the mortality among infants so per cent, the reduction of nuisances and the introduction of preventive measures against disease are conspicuous results of their work. These all count for much in the general health of the community, but the private treatment of the sick in serious cases, freely given by the surgeons, the daily public clinic at the hospital, open to all, and the kindness and courtesy of the American surgeon, so free from snobbery, pride and contempt for the natives, have touched the hearts of the people more effectually and called forth expressions of warmest praise. The medical man is to them "carinoso," kind—the most highly esteemed virtue among them. The Leper Colony, which now has 26 inmates under the best possible conditions of segregation, though unfortunate financially and not appreciated by the people, who little realize the danger of contagion, is one of the best results of American rule. It is under the supervision of the thief surgeon, who serves without salary and employs a native superintendent, who resides in the colony. The number of inmates testifies to the opportuneness of this work.
|Street Scene in Agaria|
The executive department has been greatly hampered for lack of funds, and some public work, well begun, had to be broken off abruptly because the treasury was depleted. The income of the Insular Government for seven months ending January 31st, 1903, was as follows: From Customs Tariff, $12,273.79; Internal Revenue, $801.87; Real Estate, $3,674.45, and miscellaneous, $11,215.95; giving a total of $27,966.06 in Mexican coin, or $3,995.15 per month. This in gold would be about $1,600 per month. This amount was expended for eight objects—namely, Executive Office, Insular Artillery, Public Works, which received nearly one-third of the entire amount, Custom House, Health and Charities. Treasury, Judiciary and Registry of Lands. It will be seen from this brief summary, which seems necessary in order rightly to judge of the work of the executive, that only the most necessary things have been done, and that the Government is utterly unable to provide for the education of the people without a larger income or help from the home Government. Attention will be called to the schools later on, but it is important to notice this very serious difficulty in providing for the wants of the Guam people.
A difficult and delicate question presented itself with reference to a code of laws for the island. The people were, of course, living under Spanish law—the Spanish code with changes adapted to the needs of the Philippines. In general the policy of the Government has been to proceed cautiously so that respect for all law might not be destroyed by attacking the only code known to the public, and at the same time to provide against injustice, not to say oppression. Existing conditions were not disturbed, but the Governor used his prerogative to supplement and limit the existing code by issuing general orders from time to time as necessity arose. For instance, it was found that no one but a priest of the Catholic Church could perform marriages. The Governor was informed of this and at once issued an order in conformity with American usage. Fifty-two of these orders have been issued covering a wide range of Subjects, and they have served an excellent purpose in the conduct of the affairs of the island.
|One of the main streets at Agana|
The Judiciary presented the most serious difficulty of any department of the Government, and has received perhaps too little attention. Whether for cause or no it is severely criticized, and the mere mention of the court to a Chamorro caused a shrug of the shoulders. One reason is that court proceedings are excessively costly. One man who had, as he supposed, a clear title to his house and lot, in attempting to defend it against one who asserted a prior claim, was informed by the court that it would cost him more to defend his title than his property was worth. And then the proceedings are so slow as to wear out the patience of the claimant for justice. Delayed justice is often no justice. One insignificant case has been in court more than a year and the "end is not much nearer in sight than when it begun." Necessarily where the proceedings are so evidently in favor of the judicial authorities justice often goes astray and complaints are not wholly without foundation. Speaking as an outsider and endeavoring to express public opinion as to the matter, I should say that the Judiciary needs far more attention than it has received, and a most thorough overhauling by competent hands.
In the matter of public schools, the glory of the American Republic, the Government, though starting well and with the best of intentions, has sadly failed. Three teachers, all of one family, were brought from America, and schools were started in Agana and some of the villages. The attendance was good and the children seemed eager to learn, but after continuing with unabated interest for eight months they stopped like a spent ball, for lack of power behind them. The Insular Treasury was empty. The teachers returned to America. The reasons for this failure of funds need not here be discussed. It is sufficient to say that the Insular Government had unexpected bills to pay, which depleted the treasury, and the public schools could be and were closed.
Under the Spanish the people had schools. They were very poor, teaching the children only their letters and the catechism, but they were schools, and showed a purpose at least to do something for the training of the natives. Out of four years of American rule only eight months of schooling has been provided.
The present Governor proposes to conduct the schools on a cheaper plan, to employ an American Superintendent of Schools, who shall also have charge of a normal class to train natives as teachers in the villages and in the primary classes in the Agana schools, and he has asked the United States Government to appropriate $25,000 for buildings and $6,000 for annual running expenses. The plan thus succinctly stated has the advantage not only of being cheaper than to employ American teachers, but also of giving the natives a share in the work and developing native talent. Such a plan will enlist the sympathy and support of the Chamorro public as nothing else would and, as it looks toward giving the natives control of their own educational work as soon as they are competent to assume it, and will encourage Chamorro young men and women to make the most of themselves, it must commend itself to all.
Filipinos. One of whom came to Guam as a prisoner of war
and is now Judge at a salary of $290 per month
There seems to be no good reason why our home Government should not make this plan possible. An immediate appropriation of $25,000 and of $6,000 annually for a few years would enable the Government to erect all needed buildings, employ an American superintendent for the work outlined above, and in the meantime to provide for a permanent school fund by direct taxation.
It should be remembered that the typhoon of November, 1900, not only destroyed many cocoanut trees, but carried salt spray to all parts, injuring very materially every tree on the island and reducing the exports from $50,000 to zero. A very little copra has been exported this year, but there will not be a full crop for several years. The earthquake in September, 1902, destroyed much property, 98 buildings being wholly or in part shaken down or injured, and among them the school buildings. These calamities greatly reduced the income of the Insular Government. With these facts in mind may we not ask: Ought not the United States Government to provide free schools for these people? It has taken the island for a possession, and has it not in so doing assumed the responsibility of caring for the people? Certainly private benevolence or a Government appropriation should come to the aid of Guam, whose people are eager to learn and lament the closing of the schools as a public calamity.
As to public works, more money has been spent on them than any other one object. The landing at Piti has been improved and a good wharf and other buildings erected, the road from Piti to Agana, five miles long, has been put in first-class condition, with new bridges and easy grades, and short stretches of roads have been made in other parts of the island. A census of the population has been made, giving a total of 9,676 inhabitants. A careful survey of the island and environs is almost completed and new maps and charts will soon be published. On the whole creditable work has been done, leaving much to be desired, of course, but showing an earnest purpose on the part of the Government to improve the island and the condition of her people.
The one object to which all fingers point is a civil government for the island people. There are many objections to the naval government, which need not here be discussed. It is evident to all that the island should have "a civil government with a large measure of local autonomy," giving capable Chamorros such responsibilities in the conduct of the Government as they are presumably able to discharge. A petition has been sent to Congress by leading Chamorros, indorsed by the Governor, praying that a commission be sent to Guam empowered to provide such a government, and adjust the currency and other matters of importance. The plea is a reasonable one and should be granted. The share that the Chamorros could have in such a Government would necessarily be slight at first, but would increase with their growth in knowledge and recognition of their duties and obligation in government for the people as contrasted with one for the comfort and enrichment of its rulers.
|Leper Colony on Guam, showing houses for lepers|
A word ought to be added with reference to social conditions in Guam. A few marines and other Americans have married native young women. Such marriages are approved by the Chamorros, as a rule. The best that can be said is that social conditions are bad and have in some respects grown worse during the past four years. There has been almost no legislation against social vices, and there is no public sentiment to compel or even support legislation. There is a very great deal of gambling —unlawful, but practically unrestrained. Among the natives there is now very little drunkenness, there has not yet been an open saloon in Guam during the American occupation, and the present Governor has just told the writer that there would be none during his administration. An American trading company is permitted to bring in liquors, which may be sold in unopened packages on a permit from the Governor. The permit is granted to those who affirm that the liquor is for personal use. An open saloon would be ruinous among a people who have so little power to resist appetite, and that we have none and are not to have for some time to come is due to the firmness of our Governors, who have refused to grant a license save under such restrictions as would rob the saloon of many of its evils, and hence of its profits. The American Board Mission has just opened a day school in Agana and will soon open a boarding school on its premises, one and a half miles from Agana. It is impossible to predict what the future will be, but faith, looking at what has been and what is now, turns with hope to the coming days, and takes courage.
From The Independent Magazine – 1903.
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