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The Philippine American War

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The Responsibility to rule: Imperialism in the Philippines
The Philippine-American War

Skyler Collins
Senior Paper Category The rights of Filipinos were violated during the Philippine-American war because America thought it was their “responsibility” to govern the Filipinos and be a nobler destiny. America took up the white man’s burden when it came to the Philippines. Instead of America allowing the Philippines to declare their independence the Filipinos go into another revolutionary war over their independence. Imperialists were the Americans backing up the war and egging it on. Imperialism is the desire to acquire influence or ownership of areas outside the United States, for the increase in military, economic, and commercial wealth. The annexation of the Philippines brought better trade routes to China and opened up more opportunities for America. One imperialist, President William McKinley, had these reasons to annex the Philippines: 1) We could not give them back to Spain, that would be cowardly; 2) We could not turn them over to our rivals, that would be bad business; 3) We could not hand them to themselves- they are unfit for self-government; and 4) There was nothing left to do but take them all and to educate, civilize, and Christianize them. 1 The imperialists faced much disapproval though. The Anti-Imperialist league was formed to compete against the annexation of the Philippines. Anti-Imperialists argued that the annexation of the Philippines violated the constitutional guideline of America’s government, governing nations without their consent. Some worried that the foreign virtues would dissipate the nation’s wealth. Others feared it would not only violate the principles of rights, justice and liberty but also brings in and influx of more or less barbarous Asiatic in the U.S.2
Senator George F. Hoar was an active anti-imperialist advocate which had to say this about the taking over the Philippines. “To annex foreign territory and govern it without the consent of its populations… is utterly contrary to the sacred principles of the Declaration of Independence and is unconstitutional …”3 What Senator Hoar had to say establishes the main points of anit-imperialists they believed that America violated their own principles of their country. Albert Beveridge an imperialist at this time had this to say about Senator George’s statement. “The Declaration of Independence applies only to the people capable of self-government. How dare any man prostitute this expression on the very elect self-governing peoples to a race of Malay children of barbarism, schooled in Spanish methods and ideas?”4 Beveridge only believed in the American ways and traditions and thought they were the right and only way.
America takes over the “responsibility” of governing the Philippines because they believed the Philippines were inadequate of self-rule and needed to be shown the way that of course is the American way. The American way was the educated, Christian, and civilized way, not the barbaric way of the Spanish. Albert Beveridge, believed the Filipinos were a barbaric race with superstition in religion and were schooled with Spanish methods and ideas. These Spanish methods were looked down upon because they weren’t the American methods and ideas. America had to take the white man’s burden and fix the Spanish methods by converting the Filipinos to American methods and ideas. This took away the rights of the Philippines nation, not allowing people to keep their native roots and also to change their religion. America also stepped in to take over their government this is where the first and second Philippine Commission came in.
The first Philippine Commission was a group of five men appointed by President McKinley to investigate and make recommendations for the island. After the first year the commission declared the Philippines was not ready for their own independence. They wanted to establish civilian government, bicameral legislature, and autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal level. The second Philippine Commission again appointed by McKinley granted legislative and limited executive power. They issued 499 laws and set up a judicial system and legal code that replaced ancient Spanish laws. In
1902 with the agreement of peace a legislative would be set composed of the Philippine Assembly (the lower house) and the Philippine Commission (the upper house). The Filipinos were only granted voting for the lower house. The upper house was still appointed by the President of the United States.5 This took away the rights of the Filipinos because they weren’t able to set up their own government or vote for who they wanted to run it.
Emilio Aguinaldo was a Filipino general and politician at this time. He had a very active role during the Philippines revolution against the Spanish and Americans. Aguinaldo knew they stood no chance against the American government or their army but he still made sure to tell his people they did. Emilio had fought for his country because he was tired of being ruled like slaves by the Spanish before. In 1898, the United States supported Emilio Aguinaldo in his efforts against the Spanish. Once the Filipinos banished the Spanish colonial government, Aguinaldo appointed himself the new leader of the Philippines. When the United States refused to recognize his authority they sent troops to occupy the islands, the Philippine Republic then declared war on the United States.6
America has had the habit of trying to annex countries before or trying to civilize foreign people. At this time America was in the process of annexing or civilizing Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Other foreign people America tried to civilize were the Indians. America was no stranger to the annexation process and taking up the white man’s burden. Imperialists believed taking over these foreign counties would open better trade routes to the Asian countries. Richard E. Welch in his book “Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902” had this to say about opening trade routes. “Business leaders had convinced that the home market was inadequate to the needs of expanding industrial production… The Philippines would increase exports and foreign commerce and provide protection and stimulus for the China trade.”7 Opening these trade routes only aimed to help America not the Philippines, showing America was only trying to benefit themselves but at the same time look like they were aimed to aid the Philippines.
President William McKinley gave the Benevolent Acclimation Proclamation before the war had begun, giving the Philippines the illusion that they would have their rights. The Benevolent Acclimation Proclamation was a speech that was issued so the people of the Philippines would know the United States was coming not by force but as friends in succeeding to the sovereignty of Spain. Even though America came by force they came to help protect the native inhabitants. They did not come as invaders or conquerors of the Philippines. The president wanted to ensure the people we were coming to protect and ensure their rights.8 The proclamation states, “The U.S. has come, not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends to protect the natives in their home, employment, and in their personal and religious rights.” The proclamation continues,
“Finally, it should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”9
Even though America told the Philippines we would grant them their rights we defied their rights. We shoved our religion at them, ran their government for them, and took up the duty to colonize the inferior race and make them more European like. When America was in the Philippines with their army they were taking away the rights of the Filipinos soldiers and citizens. Civilians were given identification and forced into concentration camps with a publicly announced deadline after which all people found outside of camps without identification would be shot on sight. The concentration camps were called reconcentrados which were surrounded by “dead zones.” Conditions in these “reconcentrados” were commonly known to have been inhumane. Additionally, these camps were overcrowded and filled with disease.10 Thousands of civilians died in these camps due to poor conditions. Corporal Sam Gillis said,
“We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses, we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now.” 11
The civilians had the rights of staying out stripped from them many lost their lives for being out past 7 p.m. This doesn’t support McKinley’s proclamation telling the Philippines people America was there to protect them in their homes. They defied this by giving the civilians curfews, burning down some of their homes, or putting them into camps.
America shows the Philippines were inadequate of self-rule in the political cartoon “School Begins.” The political cartoon was made in 1899 by author Louis Dalrymple. The cartoon shows Uncle Sam (America) lecturing four endogenous children labeled Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Philippines all of which don’t seem joyful or concerned in what Uncle Sam is saying. Also in the cartoon is all the white children sitting properly ready to learn with open books. On the table of Uncle Sam’s desk is a book labeled “US—First lessons in Self Governing.”12 The cartoon demonstrates America was taking the “responsibility” of teaching the Philippines but at the same time this was taking away the rights of Filipinos to govern themselves. The cartoon is disgracing the Philippine people and other Spanish colonies, showing America believes these countries are incapable of self-rule and therefore need the help of Americans to show them the way. In the back of the room is a black board with notes, one note says, “The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.” America could care less what the Philippines had to say for themselves they were going to control them anyway. Senator Albert Beveridge said,
“The rule of liberty that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government we govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our territories without their consent, we govern our children without their consent. How do they know what our government would be without their consent? Would not the people of the Philippines prefer the just, humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of pillage and extortion from which we have rescued them?” 13
Albert shows he doesn’t care what the Filipinos think about self-rule America believes it is their responsibility to govern the Philippines. He gives examples of people we have governed without their consent, these only shows that America is susceptible to to doing this and continues to do this. This was the basic belief of all imperialists; they will govern whoever they want no matter what. There was also the issue of race. Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” asserted the whites racial superiority. America being the leader of the white race believed it has to spread its culture and intuitions over the earth.14 This was partly influenced by Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden.” The poem from Kipling, an English poet, was published upon the U.S. annexation of the Philippines.15 It demonstrated many imperialist’s views of occupying foreign territories. The imperialists used “the white man’s burden” as a way of justifying imperialism and rationalizing it. It is saying that America had the obligation to take up the dreadful consequence of governing the non-white nations and convert them to the white man’s ways. It can be seen as racist because it is saying the non-whites aren’t wealthy enough nor educated enough to rule themselves. The imperialists saw themselves as a noble group that could go in and help these “less fortunate” nations and make them equal to the white man but at the same time it is seen as a burden because the other nations cannot do it themselves. Another political cartoon that gives a clear sign of America taking control of the Philippines and governing them as they please is the political cartoon “Smashed!”16 In this cartoon there is a fist with an American flag smashing Emilio Aguinaldo on a horse labeled “dictatorship.” This showed the views America had on the Philippines and what they were trying accomplish. It also is showing how America wanted to take down dictatorship and fill it with democracy. Many soldiers in the war didn’t support what they were doing let alone why they were even there. One solider, Theodore Conley, said, “This war is reversing history. It places American people and the government of the United States in the position occupied by Great Britain in 1776… The longer it is continued, the greater crime it becomes—a crime against human liberty as well as against Christianity and civilization…”17 Theodore Conley brings up the thoughts of Anti-Imperialists and believed it defies everything America stands for. America taking away the rights of so many civilians for the benefit of their own good, instead of doing the noble thing and giving them their independence. Another solider, Sergeant Arthur Vickers, said, “I am not afraid, and am always ready to do my duty, but I would like someone to tell me what we are fighting for.”18 Soldiers’ not knowing what they were fighting for wasn’t uncommon because it was such a controversial subject. America did grant the Philippines their independence but not the way the Filipinos wanted it. They expected it to be handed to them but America being the noble destiny country, took it up themselves to take the “responsibility” of the white man’s burden and govern them in the American ways. This took the rights away from the Filipinos being used for America to step their foot into the door of the Chinese trade routes. The Filipinos were granted their rights 44 years later after America had declared their independence but, after setting up a democratic/capitalistic nation. America did do some good for the Philippines, setting up their government and laws. America had also adopted a new foreign policy which pursued them to take an active role in the world stage.

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