In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

This lesson is a part of a larger unit on the Philippines: At the Crossroads of the World.  
This lesson was reported from:

The Philippine–American War was an armed conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States that lasted from February 4, 1899, to July 2, 1902. While Filipino nationalists viewed the conflict as a continuation of the struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution, the U.S. government regarded it as an insurrection. The conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the short Spanish–American War.  The war resulted in the deaths of at least 200,000 Filipino civilians, mostly due to famine and disease.  Some estimates for total civilian dead reach up to 1,000,000.  Harper’s Weekly, A Journal of Civilization was a widely read news magazine which offered extensive coverage of the war for its American readers.  One of its most prominent correspondents during that war was John F. Bass, the author of this dispatch from Manila in March, 1899, a month after open hostilities between the Filipinos and the occupying American army commenced.

Answer the following questions using details from the text to support your answers:

  1. To whom does Bass assign blame for the war?
  2. What does Bass think of the American project of bringing self-government and civilization to the Philippines?
  3. What are Bass’s ideas about race?  How does this shape his understanding of the war?
  4. Does he seem to think that the Americans deserve their bad reputation among the insurgents?
  5. What is the purpose of Bass’s anecdote about the Spaniard?
An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.
Manila, March 9, 1899.
john bass
John F. Bass was a correspondent for the American magazine Harper’s Weekly, covering the Philippine-American War from Manila. He is pictured here with a cage full of homing pigeons which he used to file breaking news dispatches from the field.

New comers in Manila keep asking where the blame lies for this outbreak. Is the responsibility alike for American and Filipino deaths with our government or with the leaders of the Filipino people? At such a time as this it is difficult for a good American not to throw the blame on Aguinaldo and his followers. The American army has done so well that one feels like overlooking the past. Although the true cause does not lie within the scope of any generalization, but rather in a multitude of small detached facts, still I believe that the fundamental reason for our present fight lies in an unrestrained race antipathy. Americans differ so absolutely in mind, body, and soul from Filipinos that the two could not live together in harmony under the then existing conditions. First among these conditions was an American and a Filipino volunteer force, both more or less undisciplined and longing to jump at each other’s throats; and, secondly, a want of any consistent policy in our government. Moreover, both American and Filipino leaders have been so provincial in their point of view that at no time during the military occupation of Manila has the least good feeling existed between the American and Filipino governments. We have ignored Aguinaldo and his followers in so far as it is possible to ignore an army which for months has been encircling Manila in a peaceful siege. Aguinaldo has stuck out through thick and thin for the independence of his people. Instead of getting what he wanted, he received the hard-and-fast declaration of our President that the islands were American property, that the army would proceed to take possession of them, and that any one resisting our authority would be suppressed by force of arms. Since this manifesto was issued there has been no hope of a peaceful settlement.

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Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, April 24, 1899 edition, drawn by G.W. Peters.

The bone of contention is the sovereignty of the islands. It is said that the Filipinos will not be able to establish a good government, but the same argument would apply to many of our own communities at home which have wretched local self-government. Much as one may dislike the native – and I must say that I have never met with a more unlovable people – it is important occasionally to get his point of view. No doubt the government which the natives would establish would not please the Anglo-Saxon, but would it not be good enough for the natives themselves?

The natives soon learned to dislike us. We plastered the town from end to end with beer and whiskey advertisements. And, so far, Americans who have followed the army have their time and money into saloons. No other business attracts them. According to native standards, the American soldier has been rough and tyrannical, while from our point of view the natives have been tricky and dishonest. The extreme East and the extreme West have learned to hate each other. The importance of these things is great as indicating what the future has in store. The immediate cause of the outbreak was that the insurgent officers and soldiers, being under less control than our men, became so hostile and insulting that we had either to fight or to leave the islands. The outbreak was hastened and made inevitable by the unsettled state of public opinion in the United States, the absence of any fixed policy in Washington, and the consequent contradictory and restricting orders on our local government in Manila. The fact of the matter is that the policy of ignoring the insurgents completely has had its origin in Washington. It reminds one of the ultra-idealistic philosopher who ignored the hard-and-fast world of environment, and while absorbed in thought bumped his head against a stone wall. The insurgent government is here and must be dealt with.

iloilo
Harper’s Weekly, A Journal of Civilization – “Our New Citizens – A Native Family in Iloilo,” January 14, 1899.

Formerly we might have compromised with them; now we must crush them. There are a few men of education and ability who are managing the insurrection; the rest of the army follows blindly, misled by false reports about our cruelty, and they look upon us now as a species of ogre. We have fallen heir to the hatred which the natives felt for the Spaniards, and the same stories are told about us that were told about our predecessors. The Spaniards and the priests have done what they could to make trouble by circulating false reports in both camps. These reports have been believed by the insurgents and in many instances by our own officers.

The Spaniards are jubilant over the present state of affairs. One of them said to me:

“I speak to you as a Spaniard and an enemy of the United States. If fifty insurgents are killed, good; if the insurgents kill one hundred Americans, better; if the Americans in turn kill two hundred insurgents, best all.”

Read more on this subject -> The Origins of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Brutality of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Philippines in the American Empire  ◦  “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism  ◦  Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire  ◦  In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

FURTHER READING

Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines edited by Marrion Wilcox.

History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos by Luis Francia.

hawaii annex

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Read more of Harper’s Weekly’s coverage of the Philippine-American War.

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Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire

This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors. 

It is a part of a larger unit on the Philippine-American War.  

Students can use the Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire Analysis Form to organize their thoughts while viewing this exhibit.

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The stereoscopic viewer was a popular form of middle class entertainment in the United States during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  In the days before radio or television, these stereoscopic cards gave Americans a 3-D (albeit black and white) window into the world abroad.

The War from a Parlor

By Jim Zwick

The Philippine-American War was the United States’ first protracted counterinsurgency war in Asia. It started on February 4, 1899, just months after the end of the Spanish-American War, a war ostensibly fought to free Cuba from Spanish oppression. Like the Cubans, the Filipinos had been fighting for their independence from Spain since 1896. Many people within the United States objected to the annexation of Spain’s former colonies at the close of the Spanish-American War and, in November of 1898, an Anti-Imperialist League was formed in Boston to mobilize this opposition. When the war in the Philippines began three months later, it quickly became the League’s primary focus. The Philippine-American War would become the most divisive overseas war in United States history and it would retain that status for more than sixty years, until the war in Vietnam.

The counterinsurgency war for the “hearts and minds” of the Filipinos was mirrored in the domestic debate about the war. Politicians and editorialists who supported imperialism spoke and wrote of the civilizing mission of the United States, of taking up the “white man’s burden” of national sacrifice for the benefit of peoples they believed to be racially inferior and incapable of governing themselves. This rhetoric was matched with assessments of the value of Chinese commercial markets that lay “just beyond the Philippines” and the need to establish naval bases throughout the Pacific to expand and protect U.S. commerce.

The anti-imperialists highlighted the “un-American” nature of imperialism by quoting such documents as the Declaration of Independence, Washington’s Farewell Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. To them, imperialism was a threat to the country’s anti-colonial and democratic traditions. Many anti-imperialists also opposed the annexation of foreign territories on racial grounds. They initially believed that any territory annexed by the United States would eventually become a state, and they opposed giving what they also believed to be racially inferior peoples a voice in the U.S. government.

From 1898 until July 4, 1902, the date Theodore Roosevelt symbolically used to declare the war over, nearly 200,000 U.S. soldiers served in the Philippines. About 5,000 of them were killed in battle. Most of the soldiers who initially fought in the Philippines had volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War and, as several of the letters excerpted here indicate, not all of them supported the war in the Philippines. Their appeals for return to the United States were eventually heeded, and the Army Bill of 1901 nearly quadrupled the official size of the standing army so that an adequate number of professional soldiers could be employed to serve in the Philippines.

The number of Filipinos who died from the war is staggering. Some 16,000 to 20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed. Estimates of the number of civilians who were killed or died from war-related causes range from 200,000 to 600,000. Evidence of the brutality of U.S. troops in the Philippines was used by the Anti-Imperialist League to argue for the independence of the Philippines. Their most effective ammunition came from the official reports to the War Department by the generals in charge of U.S. forces in the Philippines. Their reports of Filipino casualties showed that for every Filipino wounded, fifteen were killed. In contrast, during the United States’ Civil War, five soldiers were wounded for every one killed.

The U.S. military censored press dispatches from the Philippines, but many local newspapers published the letters sent home by soldiers fighting there. These contained racial slurs, stories of atrocities, and assessments of the army’s morale that were not allowed to be reported over the cable from Manila. They also provided local significance to the news from abroad. In May of 1899, the Anti-Imperialist League collected many of these letters in a pamphlet, Soldiers’ Letters: Being Materials for the History of a War of Criminal Aggression. It was immediately controversial. Supporters of the war discounted the accounts of atrocities as the boasting of soldiers wanting to impress their friends and families at home or, because the identities of some of the writers were withheld from publication, as outright fabrications. Although their truthfulness was hotly debated, the letters were an important part of how the U.S. public learned about the war as they read their daily newspapers.

Visual images of the war were also widely distributed. At the turn of the century, the viewing of stereoscopic images was an extremely popular form of parlor entertainment. Stereoscopic images were created by taking two photographs of the same scene from slightly different angles. These would then be pasted to a card made to fit a special stereoscope viewer. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the realistic 3-D effect obtained by stereoscopic images was worth at least two thousand more because it added credibility to the images. Although ostensibly meant as entertainment, they contain implicit — and sometimes explicit — messages about the nature of the war, and about the Philippines and the Filipino people the U.S. government was trying to conquer.

This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet. That both contained partisan messages — often racial, violent, and disturbing — is highlighted here by their juxtaposition. While the Anti-Imperialist League’s collection of the letters marks them as having partisan value, we do not often think of the stereoscopic images in the same way. But they were also an important means through which opinions about the war were shaped. The stereoscopic images and the soldiers’ letters allow us to get a glimpse of the war as it was presented to the people at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.

“The Filipinos”

1 - the filipinos
“Better Class of Filipinos — who welcome American Rule — Manila, Philippines.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
traffic suspended
“Traffic suspended –their first look at a Camera, San Nicholas, Island of Cebu, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.
a favorite costume
“A Favorite Costume for Boys at Jaro, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.
the right way
“The right way to Filipino Freedom –Boys in Normal High School, Manila, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.

They will never surrender until their whole race is exterminated. They are fighting for a good cause, and the Americans should be the last of all nations to transgress upon such rights. Their independence is dearer to them than life, as ours was in years gone by, and is today.
–Ellis G. Davis, Company A, Twentieth Kansas

Some think the insurgents are disheartened, but I think they will make a desperate struggle for what they consider their rights. I do not approve of the course our government is pursuing with these people. If all men are created equal, they have some rights which ought to be respected.
–J. E. Fetterly, a Nebraska soldier

“The Place”

2 - the place
“Escolta, the principal business Street in Manila, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
typical filipino farming scene
“Typical Filipino Farming Scene, a rice field and Water Buffalo–resting between furrows, Luzon, P. I.” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.

The building had been taken possession of by a United States officer, and he looted it to a finish. I suspected something and followed one of his men to the place. I expected to be jumped on by the officer as soon as I found him there, as I was away from my post, but it seems he was afraid I would give him away; in fact, we were both afraid of each other. He was half drunk, and every time he saw me looking at anything he would say, “Tennessee, do you like that? Well, put it in your pocket.” … The house was a fine one, and richly furnished, but had been looted to a finish. The contents of every drawer had been emptied on the floor. You have no idea what a mania for destruction the average man has when the fear of the law is removed. I have seen them — old sober business men too — knock chandeliers and plate-glass mirrors to pieces just because they couldn’t carry it off. It is such a pity.
–D. M. Mickle, Tennessee Regiment, at Iloilo

We sleep all day here, as we do our duty all night, walking the streets. We make every one get into his house by 7 p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses, we shoot him. We killed over three hundred men the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from a house, we burn the house down, and every house near it, and shoot the natives; so they are pretty quiet in town now.
–A Corporal in the California Regiment

“The US Army”

3 - The US Army
“Gallant defenders of the flag Dewey raised over the Philippines – 1st Battalion, Washington Vols. at Pasig.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
lookouts
“Lookouts on the church top – watching the Filipinos – Taquig, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.

The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight, which was done to a finish. About one thousand men, women, and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark-skin and pull the trigger.
–A. A. Barnes, Battery G., Third United States Artillery

We can lick them, but it will take us a long time, because there are about 150,000 of the dagos back in the hills, and as soon as one of them gets killed or wounded there is a man to take his place at once; and we have but a few men in the first place, but we are expecting about 8,000 more soldiers every day, and I hope they will soon get here, or we will all be tired out and sick…. This is an awful bad climate and there have been from two to four funerals every day. The boys have chronic diarrhea and dysentery, and it just knocks the poor boys out.
–Martin P. Olson, Fourteenth Regulars

“The Dead”

3 - The Dead
“Gen. Lawton’s remains, Paco Cemetery Chapel. — ‘A Hero as great as he was modest.'” Underwood & Underwood, 1900.
necessary
“The necessary Result of War –an Insurgent killed in the trenches at the Battle of Malabon, P. I.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
Sacrifice to Aguinaldo's ambition
“A Sacrifice to Aguinaldo’s Ambition – Behind the Filipino Trenches after the Battle of Mala.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
departed
“Praying for the souls of departed friends –Santa Cruz Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.

I deprecate this war, this slaughter of our own boys and of the Filipinos, because it seems to me that we are doing something that is contrary to our principles in the past. Certainly we are doing something that we should have shrunk from not so very long ago.
–General Reeve, Thirteenth Minnesota Regiment

The boys are getting sick of fighting these heathens, and all say we volunteered to fight Spain, not heathens. Their patriotism is wearing off. We all want to come home very bad. If I ever get out of this army I will never get into another. They will be fighting four hundred years, and then never whip these people, for there are not enough of us to follow them up…. The people of the United States ought to raise a howl and have us sent home.
–Tom Crandall, Nebraska Regiment

“Civilized Warfare”

4 - Civilized Warfare
“Insurgent Families coming into the American Lines with the flag of truce, Philippines.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
prisoners
“Filipino prisoners of war at Pasig, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
peace
“Bringing Peace to the fertile Philippines –some of the 9th Infantry Boys at Las Pinas.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.

The boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing jack-rabbits…. I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come into the reservation and promise to be good “Injuns.”
–Colonel Funston, Twentieth Kansas Volunteers

Soon we had orders to advance, and we rose up from behind our trenches and started across the creek in mud and water up to our waists. However, we did not mind it a bit, our fighting blood was up and we all wanted to kill “niggers.” This shooting human beings is a “hot game,” and beats rabbit hunting all to pieces.
–A private of Company H of the First Regiment, Washington State Volunteers

“The Hospital”

stricken
“Stricken with fever –more deadly than Filipino bullets– 1st Reserve Hospital, Manila, Philippine Islands.” Underwood & Underwood, 1899.
5 - Civilized Warfare
Civilized Warfare — restoring men we had to shoot — Reserve Hospital, Manila, P.I. Underwood & Underwood, 1899.

I never saw such execution in my life, and hope never to see such sights as met me on all sides as our little corps passed over the field, dressing wounded. Legs and arms nearly demolished; total decapitation; horrible wounds in chests and abdomens, showing the determination of our soldiers to kill every native in sight. The Filipinos did stand their ground heroically, contesting every inch, but proved themselves unable to stand the deadly fire of our well-trained and eager boys in blue. I counted seventy-nine dead natives in one small field, and learn that on the other side of the river their bodies were stacked up for breastworks.
–F. A. Blake, of California, in charge of the Red Cross

Our Country Victorious and Now a Happy Home

A Spanish-American War Drama in Six Parts

This six-card set of stereoscopic cards was copyrighted in 1899 by Strohmeyer & Wyman and published by both it and Underwood & Underwood. The sets were available in at least two versions, one with Jack going off to fight in Cuba and the other with him fighting in the Philippines. The photographs and captions are identical except that “Manila” in the caption on card three is replaced by “Santiago.”

 

This essay and exhibit, originally presented online in the early 2000s, were the work of the late historian Jim Zwick.  Since Mr. Zwick’s passing, they have disappeared from the internet, as has the original host site.  It is truly a shame for his important exhibition to disappear, especially considering its seemingly perpetual relevance.  I present them here – with an expanded collection of stereoscopic images – in a purely academic spirit, with all due respect to Mr. Zwick and the educational value of his original work.  Openendedsocialstudies.org does not profit in any financial sense by hosting this lesson.

Read more on this subject -> The Origins of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Brutality of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Philippines in the American Empire  ◦  “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism  ◦  Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire  ◦  In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

The Philippines in the American Empire

This lesson is continued from The Brutality of the Philippine-American War.  It is a part of a larger unit on the Philippines: At the Crossroads of the World.  It is also written to be utilized independently.
This lesson was reported from:
Adapted in part from open sources.

American Criticism

  1. What does Mark Twain think about the idea of American Empire?  Do you agree?
  2. The political cartoon at the end of this section makes the argument that the United States has always been about expansion by any means necessary, whether they be financial, diplomatic, or conquest.  In contrast to Mark Twain’s point of view, “Empire is American, the author is arguing – just ask the Native Americans or the Mexicans.  How do you respond to this argument?
  3. In the Twenty-First Century, does the United States have an empire?

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Not all Americans cheered the conquest of the Philippines by the United States.

The American Anti-Imperialist League was an organization established on June 15, 1898, to argue and campaign against the American annexation of the Philippines. The Anti-Imperialist League opposed colonial expansion, believing that imperialism violated the fundamental principle that just republican government must derive from “consent of the governed.” The League argued that such activity would necessitate the abandonment of American ideals of self-government and non-intervention—ideals expressed in the United States Declaration of IndependenceGeorge Washington’s Farewell Address and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Perhaps one America’s greatest celebrities at the time was the author Mark Twain, a fierce critic of the U.S. war in the Philippines, who wrote:

“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone to conquer, not to redeem… And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the [American] eagle put its talons on any other land.”
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Mark Twain, fierce opponent of American annexation of the Philippines.

On October 6, 1900, he published an editorial in the New York World:

“There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it—perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands—but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector—not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now—why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I’m sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”

On October 15, Twain continued in the New York Times:

“We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket… And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.”

Despite articulate voices like Twain’s, the Anti-Imperialist League was ultimately defeated in the battle of public opinion by a new wave of politicians who successfully advocated the virtues of American territorial expansion in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War – after all, the Republican Party, the party that most strongly advocated for empire, held the White House through the Philippine-American War, despite the best efforts of the League, all the way until 1912.

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See more of the imperialist vs. anti-imperialist debate with Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire.

Read more at “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism.

Decline and Fall of the First Philippine Republic

  1. Do you take Aguinaldo’s Proclamation of Formal Surrender statement to be sincere – or something he was compelled to say by his captors?
  2. In your opinion, did the Filipino resistance ever have a chance of success?  Did the loss of life that resulted from this conflict accomplish anything?
A group of Filipino combatants laying down their weapons during their surrender, circa 1900.

While this argument played out in American newspapers and polling booths, the Philippine Army continued suffering defeats from the better armed United States Army during the conventional warfare phase.  This steady string of setbacks forced Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo to continually change his base of operations, which he did for nearly the length of the entire war.

On March 23, 1901, General Frederick Funston and his troops captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela, with the help of some Filipinos (called the Macabebe Scouts after their home locale) who had joined the Americans’ side. The Americans pretended to be captives of the Scouts, who were dressed in Philippine Army uniforms. Once Funston and his “captors” entered Aguinaldo’s camp, they immediately fell upon the guards and quickly overwhelmed them and the weary Aguinaldo.

aguinaldo capture
On March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo was celebrating his birthday when he was captured by Filipino troops in service of the Americans. (Diorama in Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

On April 1, 1901, at the Malacañan Palace in Manila, Aguinaldo swore an oath accepting the authority of the United States over the Philippines and pledging his allegiance to the American government. On April 19, he issued a Proclamation of Formal Surrender to the United States, telling his followers to lay down their weapons and give up the fight. “Let the stream of blood cease to flow; let there be an end to tears and desolation,” Aguinaldo said. “The lesson which the war holds out and the significance of which I realized only recently, leads me to the firm conviction that the complete termination of hostilities and a lasting peace are not only desirable but also absolutely essential for the well-being of the Philippines.”

The capture of Aguinaldo dealt a severe blow to the Filipino cause, but not as much as the Americans had hoped. General Miguel Malvar took over the leadership of the Filipino government, or what remained of it. He originally had taken a defensive stance against the Americans, but now launched all-out offensive against the American-held towns in the Batangas region. General Vicente Lukbán in Samar, and other army officers, continued the war in their respective areas.

General Bell relentlessly pursued Malvar and his men, forcing the surrender of many Filipino soldiers. Finally, Malvar surrendered, along with his sick wife and children and some of his officers, on April 16, 1902. By the end of the month nearly 3,000 of Malvar’s men had also surrendered. With the surrender of Malvar, the Filipino war effort began to dwindle even further.

Official End to the War

  1. Who gets to decide when a war is over?
  2. Why was Sakay labelled a bandit and executed when Aguinaldo and Malvar were both allowed to surrender peacefully?

The Philippine Organic Act—approved on July 1, 1902—ratified President McKinley’s previous executive order which had established the Second Philippine Commission. The act also stipulated that a legislature would be established composed of a popularly elected lower house, the Philippine Assembly, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission. The act also provided for extending the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos. On July 2, the United States Secretary of War telegraphed that since the insurrection against the United States had ended and provincial civil governments had been established throughout most of the Philippine archipelago, the office of military governor was terminated. On July 4, Theodore Roosevelt, who had succeeded to the U.S. Presidency after the assassination of President McKinley, proclaimed an amnesty to those who had participated in the conflict.

After military rule was terminated on July 4, 1902, the Philippine Constabulary was established as an archipelago-wide police force to control brigandage and deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement. The Philippine Constabulary gradually took over the responsibility for suppressing guerrilla and bandit activities from United States Army units. Remnants of the Katipunan and other resistance groups remained active fighting the United States military or Philippine Constabulary for nearly a decade after the official end of the war.  After the close of the war, however, Governor General Taft preferred to rely on the Philippine Constabulary and to treat the irreconcilables as a law enforcement concern rather than a military concern requiring the involvement of the American army.

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Macario Sakay.

In 1902, Macario Sakay formed another government, the Republika ng Katagalugan, in Rizal Province. This republic ended in 1906 when Sakay and his top followers were arrested and executed the following year by the American authorities.

In 1905, Filipino labour leader Dominador Gómez was authorised by Governor-General Henry Clay Ide to negotiate for the surrender of Sakay and his men. Gómez met with Sakay at his camp and argued that the establishment of a national assembly was being held up by Sakay’s intransigence, and that its establishment would be the first step toward Filipino independence. Sakay agreed to end his resistance on the condition that a general amnesty be granted to his men, that they be permitted to carry firearms, and that he and his officers be permitted to leave the country. Gómez assured Sakay that these conditions would be acceptable to the Americans, and Sakay’s emissary, General León Villafuerte, obtained agreement to them from the American Governor-General.

Sakay believed that the struggle had shifted to constitutional means, and that the establishment of the assembly was a means to winning independence. As a result, he surrendered on 20 July 1906, descending from the mountains on the promise of an amnesty for him and his officials, and the formation of a Philippine Assembly composed of Filipinos that would serve as the “gate of freedom.” With Villafuerte, Sakay travelled to Manila, where they were welcomed and invited to receptions and banquets. One invitation came from the Constabulary Chief, Colonel Harry H. Bandholtz; it was a trap, and Sakay along with his principal lieutenants were disarmed and arrested while the party was in progress.

At his trial, Sakay was accused of “bandolerismo under the Brigandage Act of Nov. 12, 1902, which interpreted all acts of armed resistance to American rule as banditry.” The American colonial Supreme Court of the Philippines upheld the decision. Sakay was sentenced to death, and hanged on 13 September 1907. Before his death, he made the following statement:

Death comes to all of us sooner or later, so I will face the LORD Almighty calmly. But I want to tell you that we are not bandits and robbers, as the Americans have accused us, but members of the revolutionary force that defended our mother country, the Philippines! Farewell! Long live the Republic and may our independence be born in the future! Long live the Philippines!

He was buried at Manila North Cemetery later that day.

Philippine Independence and Sovereignty (1946)

  1. When was the Philippines granted self-government?
  2. What conditions did the United States attach to this independence?  In light of these conditions, was this true Philippine independence?
quezon
Upon the occupation of the Philippines in 1898, the Americans claimed that the Filipinos were ill-equipped for total independence, that they needed tutoring on how to run their own affairs. By 1934, because of economic and immigration pressures created by the Great Depression, the United States finally allowed a Filipino to take charge of the colony. A national election was held, and on November 15, 1935, Manuel Quezon became president – a president who still largely answered to the Americans. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines.)

On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (the Schurman Commission), a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman, president of Cornell University, to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations. In the report that they issued to the president the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines was not ready for it. Specific recommendations included the establishment of civilian government as rapidly as possible (the American chief executive in the islands at that time was the military governor), including establishment of a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a new system of free public elementary schools.

From the very beginning, United States presidents and their representatives in the islands defined their colonial mission as tutelage: preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. Except for a small group of “retentionists,” the issue was not whether the Philippines would be granted self-rule, but when and under what conditions. Thus political development in the islands was rapid and particularly impressive in light of the complete lack of representative institutions under the Spanish. 

By the 1930s, there were three main groups lobbying for Philippine independence –  Great Depression-era American farmers competing against tariff-free Filipino sugar and coconut oil; those upset with large numbers of Filipino immigrants who could move easily to the United States, in their changing the U.S.’s racial character and competing with American-born workers; and Filipinos seeking Philippine independence.

The Tydings–McDuffie Act (officially the Philippine Independence Act; Public Law 73-127) approved on March 24, 1934, provided for self-government of the Philippines and for Filipino independence (from the United States) after a period of ten years. World War II intervened, bringing the Japanese occupation between 1941 and 1945. In 1946, the Treaty of Manila (1946) between the governments of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.

independence
In a ceremony on July 4, 1946, the U.S. flag was lowered in Manila for the last time while the Philippine flag was raised over a newly independent nation. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

However, before the 1946 Treaty was authorized, a secret agreement was signed between Philippine President Osmena and US President Truman. President Osmena “supported U.S. rights to bases in his country by backing them publicly and by signing a secret agreement.” This culminated in the Military Bases Agreement, which was signed and submitted for Senate approval in the Philippines by Osmena’s successor, President Manuel Roxas.

As a result of this agreement, the U.S. retained dozens of military bases in Philippines, including a few major ones. It further required U.S. citizens and corporations be granted equal access with Filipinos to Philippine minerals, forests, and other natural resources. In hearings before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs William L. Clayton described the law as “clearly inconsistent with the basic foreign economic policy of this country” and “clearly inconsistent with our promise to grant the Philippines genuine independence.

Despite these inconsistencies, President Roxas did not have objections to most of the United States’ proposed military bases agreement in 1947. Below are some of the demands Roxas approved.

  1. The United States would acquire the military bases for ninety-nine years (Article 29)
  2. Clark Air Base would cover 130,000 acres, Olongapo City will be integrated into the Subic Naval Base, and areas surrounding the bases will be under US authority (Article 3)
  3. The Philippines should seek U.S. approval before granting base rights to third nations (Article 25)

On March 17, Roxas submitted the Military Bases Agreement to the Philippine Senate for approval. The Military Bases Agreement was approved by the Philippine Senate on March 26, 1947, with all eighteen present senators in favor. Three senators did not attend the session in protest.

Philippine Senator Tomas Confesor stated that the military bases were “established here by the United States, not so much for the benefit of the Philippines as for their own.” He cautioned his fellow senators: “We are within the orbit of expansion of the American empire. Imperialism is not yet dead.”

childrenofthesunreturning
This statue, Children of the Sun Returning, stands in Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base retained under the Military Bases Agreement.  It commemorates the 1992 withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Philippines, nearly a century after the Philippine-American War and nearly fifty years after the ostensible independence of that country.  The Filipinos in the sculpture are removing the symbolic blindfolds of colonialism.  The inscription reads in part: “We, the Children of the Sun, had lost our way. Apathy blinded us, stripped us of our power… The skies darkened and the Earth shook.  Pinatubo (a nearby volcano) taught us humility before nature and then the Americans were gone as well.  Nature and man took our jobs, our wealth, our security.  November 24, 1992… A day of reckoning – a defining moment when we found within ourselves the true spirit of the Filipino for it was then that we threw off the blinds that had entrapped us and reached out to one another, bound together by a dream of the future… The Children of the Sun had returned.” (Subic Bay, Philippines, 2018.)

Activities

  1. There is a long tradition of resistance to colonial rule in the Philippines. 
    Juan Sumuory is celebrated in the Gallery of Heroes. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)

    Couple of this with the country’s strong Catholicism – with its tradition of sainthood and martyrdom – and you have nation that is very aware of those who have sacrificed to advance the cause of the Filipino.  Manila’s Rizal Park features the Gallery of Heroes, a row of bust sculpture monuments of historical Philippine heroes.  These include:  Andres Bonifacio, Juan Sumuroy, Aman Dangat, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Gregorio Aglipay, Sultan Kudarat,  Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, Rajah Sulayman, and Gabriela Silang.  Choose one of these personalities to commemorate in your own classroom.  Write a brief description of their accomplishments to accompany a piece of artwork that celebrates their life for those who aren’t aware.

  2. Jose Rizal never specifically advocated violence or even open revolt against
    Untitled-1
    Jose Rizal famously declined the Spanish offer of a carriage ride to his execution site. Instead, he walked, and today, bronze footprints mark his path from Fort Santiago to today’s Rizal Park, a memorial that literally allows one to walk in the footsteps of a national hero.

    the Spanish, pushing instead for political reforms within the colonial structure.  He wrote with such clarity and passion, however, that he become a symbol to revolutionaries – and this is why the colonial authorities decided he needed to die, in a plan that ultimately backfired, transforming him into a martyr.  Debate with your class – “Does a national hero need to be a warrior – a violent figure?  If not, why are so many warriors celebrated the world over as national heroes?”

  3. Rudyard Kipling wrote a famous poem about the U.S. and its conquest of the Philippines.  It is called “The White Man’s Burden.”  The poem became so famous that it became the subject of parody as well.  Read both the poem and one of its parodies and discuss it with your classmates using the included questions to help guide you.
  4. Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire – This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  5. In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War – How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

Read more on this subject -> The Origins of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Brutality of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Philippines in the American Empire  ◦  “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism  ◦  Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire  ◦  In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

FURTHER READING

History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos by Luis Francia.

In the Twenty-First Century, the Philippines faces many challenges.  It is also one of the most stunningly beautiful places you could ever visit, filled with some of friendliest people you will ever meet. (El Nido, Philippines, 2018.)

THIS LESSON WAS INDEPENDENTLY FINANCED BY OPENENDEDSOCIALSTUDIES.ORG.

If you value the free resources we offer, please consider making a modest contribution to keep this site going and growing.

The Brutality of the Philippine-American War

This lesson is continued from The Origins of the Philippine-American War.  It is a part of a larger unit on the Philippines: At the Crossroads of the World.  It is also written to be utilized independently.
This lesson was reported from:
Adapted in part from open sources.
war
The Philippine-American War pitted one time allies in the overthrow of Spain against each other.  Spain negotiated a separate peace with the United States in the Treaty of Paris, ceding colonial rule of the Philippine Islands to the Americans rather than granting the Filipinos independence.  The American government accepted this new imperial role, and set about subduing any Filipinos who resisted.  In this scene, the city of Iloilo is captured from Filipino forces by Americans led by Brigadier General Marcus Miller, with no loss of American lives. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

Waging the American War

  1. How did the Americans justify their takeover of the Philippines?  Are you convinced by this argument?
  2. In your opinion, did American conduct during the war match these justifications?  Why or why not?
  3. How did the American military attempt to counter rumors of their brutality?

Annexation of the Philippines as a colony of the United States was often justified by those in the U.S. government and media on moral and racial grounds. The U.S. was simply doing its duty as an advanced, Western nation, spreading civilization, democracy, and capitalism to primitive Asians who enjoyed none of these things and were too simple to be trusted with self-government.  Historian Stuart Creighton Miller writes that in this view, “Americans altruistically went to war with Spain to liberate Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos from their tyrannical yoke. If they lingered on too long in the Philippines, it was to protect the Filipinos from European predators waiting in the wings for an American withdrawal and to tutor them in American-style democracy.”  Implicit in this attitude were notions of racial superiority and the inherent superiority of white America over primitive people of color.

The ugly reality of Americans colonial mission was laid bare by Dean Worcester, an American colonial official, who wrote in his memoirs that the Filipinos were “treacherous, arrogant, stupid and vindictive, impervious to gratitude, incapable of recognizing obligations. Centuries of barbarism have made them cunning and dishonest. We cannot safely treat them as equals, for the simple and sufficient reason that they could not understand it. They do not know the meaning of justice and good faith. They do not know the difference between liberty and license…. These Filipinos must be taught obedience and be forced to observe, even if they cannot comprehend, the practices of civilization.”

whitemansburden
One popular defense of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines was to say that the U.S. didn’t really want this role – they were stuck with the responsibility, as poet Rudyard Kipling put it, this “White Man’s Burden,” to help the poor, benighted Filipinos.  Never mind that the Filipinos didn’t seem to want the “help” that was being offered.

On February 11, 1899—only one week after the first shots of the war were fired—American naval forces destroyed the city of Iloilo with bombardment by the USS Petrel and the USS Baltimore. The city was then captured by ground forces led by Brigadier General Marcus Miller, with no loss of American lives.

Gregorio del Pilar, only 24 years old at the time of his death in 1899, belonged to a whole generation of high school and college graduates who, despite their youth, were pressed into leadership roles during the revolution.  Sent to negotiate an honorable peace with American General Otis, he was rebuffed and told peace could be achieved only though the “complete submission” of the Filipino people.  Angered, he set about defending a mountain pass, stalling American troops in hot pursuit of President Aguinaldo.  He succeeded, but died, hit in the neck by an American sharpshooter. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

Months later, after finally securing Manila from Filipino control, American forces moved northwards, engaging in combat at the brigade and battalion level in pursuit of the fleeing insurgent forces and their commanders. In response to the use of guerilla warfare tactics by Filipino forces beginning in September 1899, American military strategy shifted to a suppression footing. Tactics became focused on the control of key areas with internment and segregation of the civilian population in “zones of protection” from the guerrilla population (foreshadowing the Strategic Hamlet Program that would be utilized decades later, during the Vietnam War). Due to unsanitary conditions, many of the interned civilians died from dysentery.

General Otis gained notoriety for some of his actions in the Philippines. Although multiple orders were given to Otis from Washington to avoid military conflict, he did very little to prevent the breakout of war. Otis refused to accept anything but unconditional surrender from the Philippine Army. He often made major military decisions without first consulting leadership in Washington. He acted aggressively in dealing with the Filipinos under the assumption that their resistance would collapse quickly. 

A member of the American colonial government offered an alternative theory on what Bell was achieving, noting in his official report that far from breaking the spirit of the Filipino people, the blanket policy of violence and destruction was:

… sowing the seeds for a perpetual revolution. If these things need be done, they had best be done by native troops so that the people of the U.S.. will not be credited therewith.
American Soldiers Inspect Insurgent Casualties
American soldiers survey the bodies of fallen Filipino soldiers.

Otis also played a large role in suppressing information about American military tactics from the media. When letters describing American atrocities reached the American media, the War Department became involved and demanded that Otis investigate their authenticity. Each press clipping was forwarded to the original writer’s commanding officer, who would then convince or force the soldier to write a retraction of the original statements.

Meanwhile, Otis claimed that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in “fiendish fashion.” During the closing months of 1899, Aguinaldo attempted to counter Otis’ account by suggesting that neutral parties—foreign journalists or representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross—inspect his military operations. Otis refused, but Aguinaldo managed to smuggle four reporters—two English, one Canadian, and one Japanese—into the Philippines. The correspondents returned to Manila to report that American captives were “treated more like guests than prisoners,” were “fed the best that the country affords, and everything is done to gain their favor.” The story went on to say that American prisoners were offered commissions in the Filipino army and that three had accepted. The four reporters were expelled from the Philippines as soon as their stories were printed.

U.S. Navy Lieutenant J.C. Gilmore, whose release was forced by American cavalry pursuing Aguinaldo into the mountains, insisted that he had received “considerable treatment” and that he was no more starved than were his captors. Otis responded to publication of two articles concerning this by ordering the “capture” of the two authors, and that they be “investigated,” therefore questioning their loyalty.

When F.A. Blake of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived at Aguinaldo’s request, Otis kept him confined to Manila, where Otis’ staff explained all of the violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Filipino soldiers. Blake managed to slip away from an escort and venture into the field. Blake never made it past American lines, but even within American lines he saw burned out villages and “horribly mutilated bodies, with stomachs slit open and occasionally decapitated.” Blake waited to return to San Francisco, where he told one reporter that “American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight.”

H.L. Wells, a staunch imperialist writing in the New York Evening Post, excused the troubling American racial theories that contributed to the often callous violence that characterized the Philippine-American War “There is no question that our men do ‘shoot niggers’ somewhat in the sporting spirit, but that is because war and their environments have rubbed off the thin veneer of civilization…Undoubtedly, they do not regard the shooting of Filipinos just as they would the shooting of white troops. This is partly because they are “only niggers,” and partly because they despise them for their treacherous servility…The soldiers feel they are fighting with savages, not with soldiers.”

Manila In Ruins
A burned district of Manila following combat between American and Filipino troops, 1899.

Waging the Filipino War

  1. How was the class structure of Filipino society a challenge to carrying out the war against the Americans?
  2. What was strategy of the Filipino war effort before the U.S. election of 1900?  How and why did it change after the election?
Philippine-American War
Filipino insurgents pose with their weapons, including bolo knives, circa 1900.

Estimates of the Filipino forces vary between 80,000 and 100,000, with tens of thousands of auxiliaries. Most of the forces were armed only with bolo knives, bows and arrows, spears and other primitive weapons which were vastly inferior to those of the American forces.

A fairly rigid caste system existed in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. The goal, or end-state, sought by the First Philippine Republic was a sovereign, independent, stable nation led by an oligarchy composed of members of the educated class (known as the ilustrado class). Local chieftains, landowners, businessmen and cabezas de barangay were the principales who controlled local politics. The war was at its peak when ilustradosprincipales, and peasants were unified in opposition to annexation by the United States. The peasants, who represented the majority of the fighting forces, had interests different from their ilustrado leaders and the principales of their villages – they were more likely to favor redistribution of land, tax reforms, and greater democracy, whereas the Filipino elites were more likely to favor a plan in which they replaced the Spanish elites, leaving the broader social order intact. Coupled with the ethnic and geographic fragmentation, aligning the interests of people from different social castes was a daunting task. The challenge for Aguinaldo and his generals was to sustain unified Filipino public opposition; this was the revolutionaries’ strategic center of gravity.

Filipino Officers And Leaders
Several Filipino leaders, including President Emilio Aguinaldo (bottom row, third from right), pose for a photo. Cavite. 1898.  The Filipino leadership was clearly wealthier and more educated than the average villager or soldier.
Image result for filipino concentration camps
American media tended to print photos that emphasized the primitive nature of Filipinos and the impoverished, backwards nature of the Philippines.  This better suited the narrative that the United States was “saving” the Philippines out of some sense of duty.

The Filipino operational center of gravity was the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregulars in the field. The Filipino general Francisco Macabulos described the Filipinos’ war aim as, “not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them constant losses.” In the early stages of the war, the Philippine Revolutionary Army employed the conventional military tactics characteristic of an organized armed resistance. The hope was to inflict enough American casualties to result in McKinley’s defeat by William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 presidential election. Bryan, who held strong anti-imperialist views, would then hopefully withdraw the American forces from the Philippines.

McKinley’s election victory in 1900 was demoralizing for the insurgents, and convinced many Filipinos that the United States would not depart soon – after all, the war was McKinley’s and the American people had just reelected him, thereby approving his actions. This, coupled with a series of devastating losses on the battlefield against American forces equipped with superior technology and training, convinced Aguinaldo that he needed to change his approach. Beginning on September 14, 1899, Aguinaldo accepted the advice of General Gregorio del Pilar and authorized the use of guerilla warfare tactics in subsequent military operations in Bulacan.

For most of 1899, the revolutionary leadership had viewed guerrilla warfare strategically only as a tactical option of final recourse, not as a means of operation which better suited their disadvantaged situation. On November 13, 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo decreed that guerrilla war would henceforth be the strategy. This made American occupation of the Philippine archipelago all the more difficult over the next few years. In fact, during just the first four months of the guerrilla war, the Americans had nearly 500 casualties.  The Philippine Army began staging bloody ambushes and raids, such as the guerrilla victories at PayeCatubigMakahambusPulang LupaBalangiga and Mabitac. At first, it even seemed as if the Filipinos would fight the Americans to a stalemate and force them to withdraw.

American Atrocities

  1. Describe the actions of the Americans that might be labeled atrocities.
  2. Imagine that an invading force was doing this sort of thing in your town – would this make you more or less likely to cooperate with them?
  3. Imagine you are a soldier and your commanding officer has ordered you to burn down a village, then administer the water cure to anyone you capture in the process.  What do you do?
  4. If the goal of a war is to win, should there be rules in war?  What should those rules be?  How should captured enemy soldiers be captured?  Should it matter if they wear a uniform?  Should civilians be harmed?
  5. What should happen to commanders or soldiers who break any rules you established in the previous question?
Image result for filipino concentration camps
In an effort to curb guerrilla warfare, Filipino civilians were moved into concentrations camps.

Following Aguinaldo’s capture by the Americans on March 23, 1901, Miguel Malvar assumed command of the Philippine revolutionary forces. Batangas and Laguna provinces were the main focus of Malvar’s forces at this point in the war, and they continued to employ guerrilla warfare tactics.

In late 1901, Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell took command of American operations in Batangas and Laguna provinces.  Writing about his approach to the war, Bell said, “All consideration and regard for the inhabitants of this place cease from the day I become commander.  I have the force and authority to do whatever seems to me good and especially to humiliate all those in this Province who have any pride….”

In response to Malvar’s guerrilla warfare tactics, Bell employed counterinsurgency tactics (described by some as a scorched earth campaign) that took a heavy toll on guerrilla fighters and civilians alike. “Zones of protection” were established, and civilians were given identification papers and forced into concentration camps (called reconcentrados) which were surrounded by free-fire zones. At the Lodge Committee, in an attempt to counter the negative reception in America to General Bell’s camps, Colonel Arthur Wagner, the US Army’s chief public relations office, insisted that the camps were to “protect friendly natives from the insurgents, and assure them an adequate food supply” while teaching them “proper sanitary standards.” Wagner’s assertion was undermined by a letter from a commander of one of the camps, who described them as “suburbs of Hell.”

On December 13, Bell announced that the killing of American troops would be paid back in kind. Whenever such an event occurred, Bell proposed to select a prisoner “by lot from among the officers or prominent citizens” and have him executed. On December 15, Bell announced that “acts of hostility or sabotage” would result in the “starving of unarmed hostile belligerents.” The warning to Malvar was clear: he either had to give up the struggle or the “detainees” would face mass starvation. To show that he meant it, on December 20 Bell ordered all rice and other food lying outside the camps to be confiscated or destroyed. Wells were poisoned and all farm animals were slaughtered.

By December 25, 1901, nearly the entire populations of Batangas and Laguna provinces had gathered into the reconcentrados. Families had to bring everything they could carry because anything left behind—including houses, gardens, carts, poultry and animals—was subject to confiscation or destruction by the U.S. Army. The reconcentrados were overcrowded, which led to disease and death. Between January and April 1902, 8,350 prisoners of approximately 298,000 died, and some camps experienced mortality rates as high as 20 percent.

Civilians became subject to a curfew, after which all persons found outside of camps without identification could be shot on sight. Men were rounded up for questioning, tortured, and summarily executed.” Methods of torture such as the water cure were frequently employed during interrogation, and entire villages were burned or otherwise destroyed.

Throughout the war, American soldiers and other witnesses sent letters home which described some of the atrocities committed by American forces. For example, In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger wrote:

“The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog… Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

Reports were received from soldiers returning from the Philippines that, upon entering a village, American soldiers would ransack every house and church and rob the inhabitants of everything of value, while those who approached the battle line waving a flag of truce were fired upon.

Some of the authors were critical of leaders such as General Otis and the overall conduct of the war. When some of these letters were published in newspapers, they would become national news, which would force the War Department to investigate. Two such letters included:

  • A soldier from New York: “The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger.”
  • Corporal Sam Gillis: “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.”

General Otis’ investigation of the content of these letters often consisted of sending a copy of them to the author’s superior and having him force the author to write a retraction. When a soldier refused to do so, as Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment did, he was court-martialed. In the case of Private Brenner, the charge was “for writing and conniving at the publication of an article which…contains willful falsehoods concerning himself and a false charge against Captain Bishop.” Not all such letters that discussed atrocities were intended to criticize General Otis or American actions. Many portrayed U.S. actions as the result of Filipino provocation and thus entirely justified.

Image result for filipino water cure
Soldiers from the 35th US Volunteer Infantry subject a Filipino to the ‘water cure’ – the victim has the mouth forced or wedged open, the nose closed with pincers and a funnel or strip of cloth forced down the throat into which tremendous amounts of water are poured. The stomach fills until near bursting and is sometimes beaten until the victim vomits and the torture begins again.

Filipino atrocities

  1. Why is it important for the Americans to claim that Filipinos were at least as brutal as they were?
  2. There was surely violence on both sides of this conflict.  Is the American violence, carried out by a more powerful invading force, different from that carried out by Filipinos? 
  3. Examine the cover of Life Magazine from May 22, 1902.  It appears to be a realistic drawing at first, but it is actually a political cartoon.  What does it mean?
Enraged by a guerrilla massacre of U.S. troops on the Island of Samar, General Jacob H. Smith retaliated by carrying out an indiscriminate attack upon its inhabitants. His order “KILL EVERY ONE OVER TEN” became a caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902. The Old Glory draped an American shield on which a vulture replaced the bald eagle. The bottom caption exclaimed, “Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines.” Published in the New York Journal-American, May 5, 1902. Smith was eventually court-martialed by the American military and forced to retire.

U.S. Army General Otis alleged that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in “fiendish fashion.” According to Otis, many were buried alive or were placed up to their necks in ant hills. He claimed others had their genitals removed and stuffed into their mouths and were then executed by suffocation or bleeding to death. It was also reported that Spanish priests were horribly mutilated before their congregations, and natives who refused to support Emilio Aguinaldo were slaughtered by the thousands. American newspaper headlines announced the “Murder and Rapine” by the “Fiendish Filipinos.” General “Fighting Joe” Wheeler insisted that it was the Filipinos who had mutilated their own dead, murdered women and children, and burned down villages, solely to discredit American soldiers.

In January 1899, the New York World published a story by an anonymous writer about an American soldier, Private William Lapeer, who had allegedly been deliberately infected with leprosy. The story has no basis in fact however, and the name Lapeer itself is probably a punStories in other newspapers described deliberate attacks by Filipino sharpshooters upon American surgeons, chaplains, ambulances, hospitals, and wounded soldiers. An incident was described in the San Francisco Call that occurred in Escalante, Negros Occidental, where several crewmen of a landing party from the CS Recorder were fired upon and later cut into pieces by Filipino insurgents, while the insurgents were displaying a flag of truce.

Other events dubbed atrocities included those attributed by the Americans to General Vicente Lukban, the Filipino commander who allegedly masterminded the Balangiga massacre in Samar province, a surprise Filipino attack that killed almost fifty American soldiers. Media reports stated that many of the bodies were mutilated. The attack itself triggered American reprisals in Samar, ordered by General Jacob Hurd Smith, who reportedly ordered his men to kill everyone over ten years old. To his credit, Major Littleton Waller countermanded it to his own men. Smith was court-martialed for this order and found guilty in 1902, which ended his career in the U.S. Army. Waller was acquitted of killing eleven Filipino guides.

Sergeant Hallock testified in the Lodge Committee that natives were given the water cure, “… in order to secure information of the murder of Private O’Herne of Company I, who had been not only killed, but roasted and otherwise tortured before death ensued.”

1902 Life magazine cover, depicting water curing by U.S. Army troops in the Philippines

On the Filipino side, information regarding atrocities comes from the eyewitnesses and the participants themselves. In his History of the Filipino People Teodoro Agoncillo writes that the Filipino troops could match and even exceed American brutality on some prisoners of war. Kicking, slapping, and spitting at faces were common. In some cases, ears and noses were cut off and salt applied to the wounds. In other cases, captives were buried alive. These atrocities occurred regardless of Aguinaldo’s orders and circulars concerning the good treatment of prisoners.

Dean Worcester, an official in the American colonial government, recounts two specific Filipino atrocities as follows:

A detachment, marching through Leyte, found an American who had disappeared a short time before crucified, head down. His abdominal wall had been carefully opened so that his intestines might hang down in his face. Another American prisoner, found on the same trip, had been buried in the ground with only his head projecting. His mouth had been propped open with a stick, a trail of sugar laid to it through the forest, and a handful thrown into it. Millions of ants had done the rest.

Casualties

  1. Why is there so much debate over the number of Filipinos dead?
  2. Why is there reason to be skeptical over numbers provided by the U.S. government?
  3. Should famine and disease caused by the conduct of a war be considered a form of violence?  Is this kind of death different from one that occurs during a shooting or a bombing?

The total number of Filipino who died remains a matter of debate. Some modern sources cite a figure of 200,000 total Filipino civilians dead with most losses attributable to famine, and disease.  Some estimates reach 1,000,000 million dead. In 1908 Manuel Arellano Remondo, in General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote: “The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number.” Another expert estimates that at least 16,000~20,000 Filipino soldiers and 34,000 civilians were killed directly, with up to an additional 200,000 civilian deaths, mostly from a cholera epidemic. Filipino historian E. San Juan, Jr. argues that 1.4 million Filipinos died during the war, and that constitutes an act of genocide on the part of the United States. The United States Department of State states that the war “resulted in the death of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants,” and that “as many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease.”

That story is told in The Philippines in the American Empire

Activities

  1. There is a long tradition of resistance to colonial rule in the Philippines. 
    Juan Sumuory is celebrated in the Gallery of Heroes. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)

    Couple of this with the country’s strong Catholicism – with its tradition of sainthood and martyrdom – and you have nation that is very aware of those who have sacrificed to advance the cause of the Filipino.  Manila’s Rizal Park features the Gallery of Heroes, a row of bust sculpture monuments of historical Philippine heroes.  These include:  Andres Bonifacio, Juan Sumuroy, Aman Dangat, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Gregorio Aglipay, Sultan Kudarat,  Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, Rajah Sulayman, and Gabriela Silang.  Choose one of these personalities to commemorate in your own classroom.  Write a brief description of their accomplishments to accompany a piece of artwork that celebrates their life for those who aren’t aware.

  2. Jose Rizal never specifically advocated violence or even open revolt against
    Untitled-1
    Jose Rizal famously declined the Spanish offer of a carriage ride to his execution site. Instead, he walked, and today, bronze footprints mark his path from Fort Santiago to today’s Rizal Park, a memorial that literally allows one to walk in the footsteps of a national hero.

    the Spanish, pushing instead for political reforms within the colonial structure.  He wrote with such clarity and passion, however, that he become a symbol to revolutionaries – and this is why the colonial authorities decided he needed to die, in a plan that ultimately backfired, transforming him into a martyr.  Debate with your class – “Does a national hero need to be a warrior – a violent figure?  If not, why are so many warriors celebrated the world over as national heroes?”

  3. Rudyard Kipling wrote a famous poem about the U.S. and its conquest of the Philippines.  It is called “The White Man’s Burden.”  The poem became so famous that it became the subject of parody as well.  Read both the poem and one of its parodies and discuss it with your classmates using the included questions to help guide you.
  4. Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire – This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  5. In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War – How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

Read more on this subject -> The Origins of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Brutality of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Philippines in the American Empire  ◦  “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism  ◦  Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire  ◦  In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

FURTHER READING

History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos by Luis Francia.

pasig
The Philippine-American War ended more than a century ago, but much of the nation is still gripped by the poverty and dramatic income inequality that characterizes many former colonies around the world. Why do you think the effects of colonization tend to linger long after the empire itself has crumbled? (Pasig River, Manila, Philippines, 2018.)

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The Origins of the Philippine American War

This lesson continues in The Brutality of the Philippine-American War.  It is a part of a larger unit on the Philippines: At the Crossroads of the World.  It is also written to be utilized independently.
This lesson was reported from:
Adapted in part from open sources.

Philippine Revolution

  1. In his famous novel El Filibusterismo, describing the abuses the Spanish government and the colonial church, Jose Rizal wrote, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming part of an edifice.”  What did he mean?  Did he achieve this goal in his own life?
  2. Many risked and ultimately sacrificed their lives and livelihood for the cause of Philippine independence.  What cause do you believe in?
rizal
Jose Rizal was the author of novels and poems which inspired a strong sense of Filipino nationalism at the end of the Spanish colonial period. He on behalf advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain, and while he never really pushed for it himself, his critiques made him an inspiration to the independence movement. For this reason, the Spanish considered him dangerous. He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution broke out. Though shot in the back, Rizal’s final act was to spin as he fell so that he would land facing up, toward the rising sun. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

Andrés Bonifacio was a warehouseman and clerk from Manila, fed up with Spanish rule and his status as a second class citizen in his own homeland, and inspired, like many, by the writings of Jose Rizal.  He established the Katipunan—a revolutionary organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt—on July 7, 1892. After more than three hundred years of colonial rule, discontent was widespread among the Filipino population, and support for the movement grew quickly.  Fighters in Cavite province, across the bay from Manila, won early victories. One of the most influential and popular leaders from Cavite was Emilio Aguinaldo, mayor of Cavite El Viejo, who gained control of much of the eastern portion of Cavite province. Eventually, Aguinaldo and his faction gained control of the leadership of the Katipunan movement. Aguinaldo was elected president of the Philippine revolutionary movement at the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, and Bonifacio was executed for treason by Aguinaldo’s supporters after a show trial on May 10, 1897.

bonifacio
The revolution against Spain begins – In 1896, after the existence of the Katipunan, a heretofore secret society working toward independence, became known to the Spanish, founder Andres Bonifacio asked his men whether they were prepared to fight to the end. They all responded in the affirmative. Bonifacio then urged everyone to tear up his or her tax certificate, a symbolic gesture signifying the end of servitude to Spain. They did so amidst cries of “Long live the Philippines! Long live the Katipunan!” (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)
Key moments in the opening months of the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

Aguinaldo’s exile and return

Emilio Aguinaldo in the field.
  1. Why did Aguinaldo agree to leave the Philippines?  Do you agree with his decision?
  2. What was the decisive contribution of the Americans to the defeat of the Spanish?
  3. Was Aguinaldo’s right to claim independence for the Philippines legitimate?

By late 1897, after a succession of defeats for the revolutionary forces, the Spanish had regained control over most of the Philippines. Aguinaldo and Spanish Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera entered into armistice negotiations. On December 14, 1897, an agreement was reached in which the Spanish colonial government would pay Aguinaldo $800,000 Mexican pesos—which was approximately equivalent to $400,000 United States dollars at that time in Manila—in three installments if Aguinaldo would go into exile outside of the Philippines.

Upon receiving the first of the installments, Aguinaldo and 25 of his closest associates left their headquarters at Biak-na-Bato and made their way to Hong Kong, according to the terms of the agreement. Before his departure, Aguinaldo denounced the Philippine Revolution, exhorted Filipino rebel combatants to disarm and declared those who continued hostilities and waging war to be bandits. Despite Aguinaldo’s denunciation, some of the rebels continued their armed revolt against the Spanish colonial government. According to Aguinaldo, the Spanish never paid the second and third installments of the agreed upon sum.

After only four months in exile, Aguinaldo decided to resume his role in the Philippine Revolution. He departed from Singapore aboard the steamship Malacca on April 27, 1898. He arrived in Hong Kong on May 1,which was the day that Commodore Dewey’s naval forces destroyed Rear-Admiral Patricio Montojo‘s Spanish Pacific Squadron at the Battle of Manila Bay. Aguinaldo then departed Hong Kong aboard the USRC McCulloch on May 17, arriving in Cavite on May 19.

USS Olympia art NH 91881-KN.jpg
The Battle of Manila Bay took place on 1 May 1898, during the Spanish–American War. The American Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey engaged and destroyed the Spanish Pacific Squadron. The battle took place in Manila Bay in the Philippines, and was the first major engagement of the Spanish–American War. The battle was one of the most decisive naval battles in history and marked the effective end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.

Less than three months after Aguinaldo’s return, the Philippine Revolutionary Army had conquered nearly all of the Philippines. With the exception of Manila, which was surrounded by revolutionary forces some 12,000 strong, the Filipinos rebels controlled the Philippines. Aguinaldo turned over 15,000 Spanish prisoners to the Americans, offering them valuable intelligence. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence at his house in Cavite El Viejo on June 12, 1898.

aguinaldo
On June 12, 1898, the Philippine national flag was unfurled for the first time at the Aguinaldo residence in Kawit. At the same time, the Declaration of Philippine Independence was read aloud. It invoked the protection of God in heaven and “the Mighty and Humane North American Nation” on earth, dissolved all bonds between Spain and the Philippines, and proclaimed the right of the new republic to exercise all the attributes of a sovereign nation-state. (Diorama in the Ayala Museum, Makati, Philippines, 2018.)

The Philippine Declaration of Independence was not recognized by either the United States or Spain on the grounds that it did not give power to the people and only left an elite few in charge. The Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10, 1898, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.

On January 1, 1899, Aguinaldo declared himself President of the Philippines—the only president of what would be later called the First Philippine Republic. He later organized a Congress at Malolos in Bulacan to draft a constitution.

The Relationship Sours

  1. What was Aguinaldo’s understanding his relationship with the Americans?  What were the Americans’ understanding?  Whose version do you believe and why?
  2. Would things be different if Filipino troops had captured Manila, raising their flag over Fort Santiago?
  3. How did the Filipino relationship with the Americans change once the Spanish were defeated?

On April 22, 1898, while in exile, Aguinaldo had a private meeting in Singapore with United States Consul E. Spencer Pratt, after which he decided to again take up the mantle of leadership in the Philippine Revolution. According to Aguinaldo, Pratt had communicated with Commodore George Dewey (commander of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy) by telegram, and passed assurances from Dewey to Aguinaldo that the United States would recognize the independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. Pratt reportedly stated that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were equivalent to the official word of the United States government. With these assurances, Aguinaldo agreed to return to the Philippines.

Pratt later contested Aguinaldo’s account of these events, and denied any “dealings of a political character” with Aguinaldo.  Admiral Dewey also refuted Aguinaldo’s account, stating that he had promised nothing regarding the future:

“From my observation of Aguinaldo and his advisers I decided that it would be unwise to co-operate with him or his adherents in an official manner. … In short, my policy was to avoid any entangling alliance with the insurgents, while I appreciated that, pending the arrival of our troops, they might be of service.”

Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes of “American apostasy,” saying that it was the Americans who first approached Aguinaldo in Hong Kong and Singapore to persuade him to cooperate with Dewey in wresting power from the Spanish. Conceding that Dewey may not have promised Aguinaldo American recognition and Philippine independence (Dewey had no authority to make such promises), he writes that Dewey and Aguinaldo had an informal alliance to fight a common enemy, that Dewey breached that alliance by making secret arrangements for a Spanish surrender to American forces, and that he treated Aguinaldo badly after the surrender was secured. Agoncillo concludes that the American attitude towards Aguinaldo “…showed that they came to the Philippines not as a friend, but as an enemy masking as a friend.”

The first contingent of American troops arrived in Cavite on June 30, the second under General Francis V. Greene on 17 July, and the third under General Arthur MacArthur on 30 July. By this time, some 12,000 U.S. troops had landed in the Philippines.

Fort Santiago is a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established Spanish city of Manila. The defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros, the primary military outpost from which the Spanish defended Manila in 1898. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)

Aguinaldo had presented surrender terms to Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines Basilio Augustín, who refused them. Augustín had thought that if he really needed to surrender the city, he would do so to the Americans. On 16 June, warships departed Spain to lift the siege, but they altered course for Cuba where a Spanish fleet was imperiled by the U.S. Navy. Life in Intramuros (the walled center of Manila), where the normal population of about ten thousand had swelled to about seventy thousand, had become unbearable. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before the city fell, and fearing vengeance and looting if the city fell to Filipino revolutionaries, Governor Augustín suggested to Dewey that the city be surrendered to the Americans after a short, “mock” battle. Dewey had initially rejected the suggestion because he lacked the troops to block Filipino revolutionary forces, but when Merritt’s troops became available he sent a message to Fermin Jáudenes, Augustín’s replacement, agreeing to the mock battle. Spain had learned of Augustín’s intentions to surrender Manila to the Americans, which had been the reason he had been replaced by Jaudenes.

Merritt was eager to seize the city, but Dewey stalled while trying to work out a bloodless solution with Jaudenes.  On 4 August, Dewey and Merritt gave Jaudenes 48 hours to surrender; later extending the deadline by five days when it expired. Covert negotiations continued, with the details of the mock battle being arranged on 10 August. The plan agreed to was that Dewey would begin a bombardment at 09:00 on 13 August, shelling only Fort San Antonio Abad, a decrepit structure on the southern outskirts of Manila, and the impregnable walls of Intramuros. Simultaneously, Spanish forces would withdraw, Filipino revolutionaries would be checked, and U.S. forces would advance. Once a sufficient show of battle had been made, Dewey would hoist the signal “D.W.H.B.” (meaning “Do you surrender?), whereupon the Spanish would hoist a white flag and Manila would formally surrender to U.S. forces.  This engagement went mostly according to plan and is known as the Mock Battle of Manila.

The Filipinos would not be allowed to enter the city. On the eve of the battle, Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo, “Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire.” On August 13, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish.

American flag raised over Fort Santiago 8-13-1898.jpg
Raising the American flag over Fort Santiago, Manila, on the evening of August 13, 1898. From Harper’s Pictorial History of the War with Spain, Vol. II, published by Harper and Brothers in 1899.

Before the attack on Manila, American and Filipino forces had been allies against Spain in all but name. After the capture of Manila, Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the Filipino insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops had almost broken out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo had been told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.

On December 21, 1898, President William McKinley issued a Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation, which read in part, “…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.”

Major General Elwell Stephen Otis—who was Military Governor of the Philippines at that time—delayed its publication. On January 4, 1899, General Otis published an amended version edited so as not to convey the meanings of the terms “sovereignty,” “protection,” and “right of cessation,” which were present in the original version. However, Brigadier General Marcus Miller—then in Iloilo City and unaware that the altered version had been published by Otis—passed a copy of the original proclamation to a Filipino official there.

The original proclamation then found its way to Aguinaldo who, on January 5, issued a counter-proclamation: “My government cannot remain indifferent in view of such a violent and aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which arrogated to itself the title of champion of oppressed nations. Thus it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American troops attempt to take forcible possession of the Visayan islands. I denounce these acts before the world, in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are true oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind. In a revised proclamation issued the same day, Aguinaldo protested “most solemnly against this intrusion of the United States Government on the sovereignty of these islands.”

Otis regarded Aguinaldo’s proclamations as tantamount to war, alerting his troops and strengthening observation posts. On the other hand, Aguinaldo’s proclamations energized the masses with a vigorous determination to fight against what was perceived as an ally turned enemy.

Uncle Sam (representing the United States), gets entangled with rope around a tree labelled "Imperialism" while trying to subdue a bucking colt or mule labeled "Philippines" while a figure representing Spain walks off over the horizon carrying a bag labeled "$20,000,000"
1899 political cartoon by Winsor McCay.

Outbreak

  1. Why did Aguinaldo initially offer a cease fire?  Why do you think the Americans refused a cease fire when Aguinaldo offered one?
Filipino casualties.

On the evening of February 4, Private William W. Grayson—a sentry of the 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under orders to turn away insurgents from their encampment, fired upon an encroaching group of four Filipinos—fired the first shots of the war at the corner of Sociego and Silencio Streets, in Santa Mesa. According to Grayson’s account, he called “Halt!” and, when the four men responded by cocking their rifles, he fired at them. Upon opening fire, Grayson claims to have killed two Filipino soldiers; Filipino historians maintain that the slain soldiers were unarmed.

The following day, Filipino General Isidoro Torres came through the lines under a flag of truce to deliver a message from Aguinaldo to General Otis that the fighting had begun accidentally, saying “the firing on our side the night before had been against my order,” and that Aguinaldo wished for the hostilities to cease immediately and for the establishment of a neutral zone between the two opposing forces. Otis dismissed these overtures, and replied that the “fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.” On February 5, General Arthur MacArthur ordered his troops to advance against Filipino troops, beginning a full-scale armed clash between 19,000 American soldiers and 15,000 Filipino armed militiamen.

Utah Battery
The U.S. Utah Battery fires on insurgents near the San Juan Bridge, Manila.

Aguinaldo then reassured his followers with a pledge to fight if forced by the Americans, whom he had come to see as new oppressors, picking up where the Spanish had left off:

“It is my duty to maintain the integrity of our national honor, and that of the army so unjustly attacked by those, who posing as our friends, attempt to dominate us in place of the Spaniards.
“Therefore, for the defense of the nation entrusted to me, I hereby order and command: Peace and friendly relations between the Philippine Republic and the American army of occupation are broken—and the latter will be treated as enemies with the limits prescribed by the laws of War.”

In this Battle of Manila, American casualties totaled 238, of whom 44 were killed in action or died from wounds. The U.S. Army’s official report listed Filipino casualties as 4,000, of whom 700 were killed, but this is guesswork, and it is only the unfortunate opening battle of a much larger war that would drag on in one form or another for more than a decade.

That story is told in The Brutality of the Philippine-American War
Manila Burns
Fire during the fighting in Manila, 1899.

Activities

  1. There is a long tradition of resistance to colonial rule in the Philippines. 
    Juan Sumuory is celebrated in the Gallery of Heroes. (Manila, Philippines, 2018.)

    Couple of this with the country’s strong Catholicism – with its tradition of sainthood and martyrdom – and you have nation that is very aware of those who have sacrificed to advance the cause of the Filipino.  Manila’s Rizal Park features the Gallery of Heroes, a row of bust sculpture monuments of historical Philippine heroes.  These include:  Andres Bonifacio, Juan Sumuroy, Aman Dangat, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Gregorio Aglipay, Sultan Kudarat,  Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino, Rajah Sulayman, and Gabriela Silang.  Choose one of these personalities to commemorate in your own classroom.  Write a brief description of their accomplishments to accompany a piece of artwork that celebrates their life for those who aren’t aware.

  2. Jose Rizal never specifically advocated violence or even open revolt against
    Untitled-1
    Jose Rizal famously declined the Spanish offer of a carriage ride to his execution site. Instead, he walked, and today, bronze footprints mark his path from Fort Santiago to today’s Rizal Park, a memorial that literally allows one to walk in the footsteps of a national hero.

    the Spanish, pushing instead for political reforms within the colonial structure.  He wrote with such clarity and passion, however, that he become a symbol to revolutionaries – and this is why the colonial authorities decided he needed to die, in a plan that ultimately backfired, transforming him into a martyr.  Debate with your class – “Does a national hero need to be a warrior – a violent figure?  If not, why are so many warriors celebrated the world over as national heroes?”

  3. Rudyard Kipling wrote a famous poem about the U.S. and its conquest of the Philippines.  It is called “The White Man’s Burden.”  The poem became so famous that it became the subject of parody as well.  Read both the poem and one of its parodies and discuss it with your classmates using the included questions to help guide you.
  4. Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire – This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  5. In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War – How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

Read more on this subject -> The Origins of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Brutality of the Philippine-American War  ◦  The Philippines in the American Empire  ◦  “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism  ◦  Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire  ◦  In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War

FURTHER READING

History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos by Luis Francia.

The Philippines is full of monumental humans – and monumental landscapes.  This is Taal – a volcanic island in the middle of a lake, which holds a lake and another island in its crater. (Taal Lake, Philippines, 2018.) 

THIS LESSON WAS INDEPENDENTLY FINANCED BY OPENENDEDSOCIALSTUDIES.ORG.

If you value the free resources we offer, please consider making a modest contribution to keep this site going and growing.