The Philippine - American War

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Filipino war dead
(photo National Archives)

"You seem to have about finished your work of civilizing the Filipinos. About 8,000 of them have been civilized and sent to Heaven. I hope you like it.”

 Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist and anti-imperialist, 1899

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Filipinos had been fighting the Spanish when the Americans defeated them in Cuba and Puerto Rico. On December 21, 1898, President William Mckinley announced his decision to keep the Philippines as an American colonial possession in the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation.

The United States negotiated the surrender of the Philippines for a payment of $20 million dollars in the Treaty of Paris. However the treaty had to be ratified by the United States Congress.

The Filipinos did not recognize any American right of possession. They expected to receive their independence just as other former Spanish colonies (including Cuba) had done. They had become suspicious of the Americans when the Filipino forces were kept out of Manila when it fell. The Filipino envoy was not allowed to present the their wishes at the peace conference. Their suspicions were confirmed when they heard of the treaty provisions. They were outraged that the United States had "purchased" the Philippines from Spain (see Aguinaldo's Manifesto). War between the Filipinos and the Americans was the result.

In the United States public opinion was divided over the annexation of the Philippines. Many felt it was important to keep the Philippines so that America might "civilize" them. Others argued that imperialism was inconsistent with the American system of government and Americans' fundamental belief in self-government.

An English author and poet, Rudyard Kipling urged America to play the imperialism game. His famous "The White Man's Burden," often called the "Anthem of Imperialism," appeared in McClure's Magazine in 1899, and was written to appeal to America keep the Philippines (more on Kipling and the Poem). The imperialists prevailed in the end and the treaty was ratified.

One of the most famous anti-imperialists was Mark Twain. He adamantly oppeeeeeeeeeeef;'/IOOOmkosed the Philippine War and became President of the Anti-Imperialist League until his death in 1910. He commented frequently on his opposition to the annexation of the Philippines (See Mark Twain and Imperialism). Some of his writings on imperialism are not very well known, because his executors suppressed some of his more controversial social and political writings after his death. His most famous essay satirizing the war in the Philippines was To the Person Sitting in Darkness.

Spain surrendered the island, but the Filipinos did not. They didn't want to be "civilized" and fought back. It took three years for America to win the Philippine-American war. It cost the Americans 10,000 casualties and $600 million. 16,000 soldiers were killed, and about 200,000 civilians died of pestilence, disease, and accident.

Part of Uncle Sam Plants the Flag: Imperialism in Latin America exhibit

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