The Philippines

Before the Philippines were even considered being annexed there were some debate on whether or not to annex them. The people that were for annexing the islands argued that there were business interests in thoughts of new markets and fields of investments, the United States wanted to become an empire and so they wanted to expand more. USA, especially, didn’t want to lose these islands to Japan or Germany.

But some people did argue against annexing the islands. One of the biggest things that stood out was that the islands were 6,000 miles away from the Pacific Coast. Another reason that people argued against this was that some senators thought that annexation was a violation of American tradition and this lead other people to follow them. Since the senators had power.

There were some problems though with the annexing of the Philippines. One problem was that fact that there were 7,100 islands in the Philippines. The total population of those islands was 7.5 million people. Collectively, the islands consisted of 43 different ethnic groups and 87 different languages. This made it harder to obtain the various islands because of the large amount of people and the vase amount of different languages.

One of the decisive battles of the Spanish-American War took place in the Philippines and set the stage for the Philippine-American War. U.S. Navy Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish navy in Manila Bay in May 1898. This defeat hurt Spain. Soon, however, the U.S. was locked in battle with Filipinos seeking national independence.

The Filipino fight for independence had begun before the U.S. arrived. In 1896-97, a group of Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo fought a war for independence, which ended in a truce. Filipino rebels retreated to Hong Kong, and in 1897 Dewey met with Aguinaldo there. Dewey knew that if war with Spain came, the U.S. Navy might need Filipinos as land-based allies. A U.S. war ship took Aguinaldo back to the Philippines in early 1898. Armed struggle resumed, and soon the Filipinos controlled most Spanish centers. By May the Filipino army had surrounded Manila, but the U.S. ordered them to stay out of the capital.

In June 1898 Aguinaldo proclaimed the Republic of the Philippines and asked for U.S. support, but both the U.S. and Spain ignored this proclamation. By August Spanish forces in Manila had surrendered – to the U.S. In December 1898, the U.S. and Spain signed a treaty and Spain sold Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the U.S. As the U.S. announced its annexation, a skirmish erupted between U.S. and Filipino troops; the Philippine Republic declared war to defend its independence.

The Philippine-American War was brutal and prolonged. The Filipino Army, though small and poorly armed, was supported by many islanders. As a result, some U.S. soldiers attacked Filipino troops and civilians alike. Historians estimate that as many as 220,000 Filipinos died of war-related causes. The island of Luzon lost 1/8 of its population. Though the U.S. soon captured most Philippine towns, it took 63,000 U.S. soldiers three years of jungle warfare to achieve full control of the islands.

At home, Americans debated the war. Those who supported U.S. actions pointed to the Philippines’ value as a coaling station for U.S. ships; and as a springboard for expansion to China. Some felt the U.S. was duty-bound to educate and “christianize” the islands, not realizing that most Filipinos were already Catholic. Newspapers painted the Filipinos as primitive “savages.” And many Americans came to believe the islanders could not govern themselves or defend themselves against threatening European powers.

I thought it would be a great thing to give a whole lot of freedom to Filipinos, but I guess now that it’s better to let them give it to themselves.

Anti-imperialist Mark Twain

Those who opposed the war held meetings, wrote editorials, and sent petitions to Congress. In November 1898 they formed an Anti-Imperialist League, and in three months membership grew to over 100,000. Many League members felt empires were anti-democratic and a violation of the nation’s heritage. Some union leaders argued that overseas empire would only feed the overwhelming power of big business. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, however, opposed the war for strategic reasons; he believed the U.S. should exercise global economic power but avoid annexing colonies.

We came here to help, not to slaughter, these natives…I cannot see that we are fighting for any principle now.

Nebraska soldier

Attitudes about race divided the anti-imperialists. Some opposed annexation because they did not want a “primitive race” to join the U.S. Others, including many African Americans, suggested that U.S. talk of “uplifting” the Filipinos was hypocritical; at home, they argued, the U.S. was not even trying to protect the rights of black citizens.

The League’s fragile coalition eventually came apart. In 1900 the League supported political candidates who opposed annexation, including William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for President. Bryan ran a hard-fought campaign against incumbent Republican William McKinley and his new vice-president, Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt. But rising prosperity and patriotic support for U.S. soldiers helped McKinley to victory. Gradually the League faded in power.

Videos of a documentary about the Spanish American War


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