The Philippines historically suffered under Spanish rule prior to its annexation by the United States. However, American colonization of the region, while pledged to be altruistic, proved to support a hidden agenda of gaining an Asian territory of military and social importance, similar in the imperialistic tradition of major European countries. The acquisition of the Philippines was met with strong opposition by Filipinos charging the U.S. presence to be imperialistic, but the considerable value it brought to Philippine politics, the economy, and the social welfare of its people have, in some ways, justified the U.S. struggle for possession.
European imperialism in the 1800s proved highly profitable for both the Dutch East Indies and the British Indies, as rival European powers strived to conquer foreign territories for their own profit. These ideal colonies were models of success for the Dutch and Great Britain as they gained from trade and natural resources from the regions they occupied. For the Dutch, territory in Indonesia was granted as a reward for their efforts to fight against rebel uprisings. However, as the Dutch regulated crop production and market prices for the area, the Indonesians rebelled and eventually gained their independence back. The possibilities demonstrated through forcing land acquisition stimulated the U.S. To join in the pursuit of annexing colonies, focusing their efforts in the emerging Asian territories that proved to be accessible, profitable, and of military interest.
The Spanish-American war of the late 1800s led to the American capture of Puerto Rico, a Spanish possession, and a final defeat of the Spaniards. A peace treaty was signed by Spain and the United States, granting Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States while Spain pulled out of Cuba. The U.S. was allowed to occupy Manila, but the question of the fate of the Philippines, another Spanish possession, was yet unanswered. Spain considered the American presence in Manila a violation of the armistice so demanded the Philippines in return. In 1898 another peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, was drafted ending the war with Spain and formally claiming the previous provisions, with the Philippines ceded to the U.S. In return for payment to Spain of twenty million dollars.
The treaty went before the U.S. Senate for annexation, but met with opposition from factors opposed to imperialism of the Philippines. The opposition, which included former President Grover Cleveland and writer Mark Twain, reasoned that the annexation was inconsistent with the Teller Amendment which opposed the annexation of Cuba and other Spanish colonies. Also, it was discussed that the Filipino resistance to an American presence demonstrated an act of imperialism on the part of the U.S. In forcing rule. Those who favored the annexation of the Philippines saw the opportunity as a means to bring Christianity to the Filipinos, prevent Germany's annexation of the colony, and provide a stronghold for the U.S. In the Asian markets. The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris on February 6, 1899, formally granting U.S. rule over the Philippines, and the American people reelected President McKinley the following year, representative of the people's opinion that the treaty was favored.
President McKinley announced the assimilation of the Philippines as an American colony in his Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation of 1899. While the mission was clarified as a "benevolent assimilation," McKinley also provided a military presence in the area to "extend by force American sovereignty over this country." In response, the Filipino leader Aguinaldo issued a counter proclamation, warning the U.S. against any forced attempt to take over his country. While his declaration sounded like an announcement of war, Aguinaldo favored negotiations to war as he knew his people would suffer. Unfortunately, no compromises were reached and tensions between the Filipinos and the Americans mounted. Hostilities continued and the American military marched into Manila and other major Philippine cities to force occupation. While the Philippine government was unified in their desire for American withdrawal, divisions arose among cabinet members, further weakening their stance against the U.S. invasion. Eventually, Aguinaldo's army dissolved, and only guerilla fighting units remained. After his capture in 1901, Aguinaldo swore allegiance to the U.S. And called for his people to cease the rebellion and accept American rule. Although atrocities continued on both sides, President Roosevelt finally declared an end to the "Philippine Insurrection" in 1902.
The first American government established in the Philippines was military in nature and held the U.S. president as the ruler. A supreme court was set up, composed of six Filipinos and three Americans. At the close of the Philippine-American War, the military government was abolished by the enactment of the Army Appropriations Act, granting ruling authority to the U.S. Congress. As a result, the first civil government of the Philippines was established on July 4, 1901, with the Philippine Bill of 1902, or the Cooper Act, enacted to provide a Bill of Rights for the Filipinos. While the devastation of the war impacted both sides, the future of American colonial rule in the Philippines presented many benefits and advantages to both the U.S. And the Filipinos.
The institution of the modern civil state served to provide Filipinos with a judicial system, a code of law, and municipal and provincial governments not previously enjoyed during Spanish rule. The Philippine Organic Act was issued in 1902 to protect the Filipinos under the U.S. Bill of Rights and provide separation of church and state, which ended the Roman Catholic Church's dominion as the state religion. While electoral politics were created for the colony, the Nationalista party supported personal issues rather than considering the national issues of social reform, tenancy rights and land ownership, the exponential population growth, and the distribution of wealth. The new party politics did not support the non-elite, and the general failure of democracy was the basis of continued Filipino revolt and insurrection. The later enactment of the 1935 Constitution provided reorganization of the old government politics and the establishment of a republican form of government similar to that of the United States. Through this ratification, multiple social issues, such as the rights of woman suffrage, were addressed.
Through the 1935 Constitution, Filipino women were granted the rights of suffrage, or the rights to vote and be voted upon. As a result, 24 women were elected to municipal and provincial government positions, including the office of Councilor of Manila. In 1941, the first woman was elected to the Philippine House of Representatives. The Constitution also stimulated movements in educational reform, agricultural development, mass communication, and transportation.
The National Council of Education was established in 1936 to promote education for Filipino citizens. Recommendations were made to stimulate vocational and adult education, and a national vocational school was created. Also, the Office of Adult Education was established, enrolling more than a half million Philippine citizens by the end of 1940. Through economic development plans more than four million hectares of land were made immediately available for cultivation with irrigation systems and plant nurseries developed, and soil surveys issued. Filipino citizens were also granted the right to file for homestead and obtain agricultural land. The Philippine movement into the agricultural market provided stimulated trade with the United States, with the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) popularizing the domestic trade of native products. Transportation and communication facilities also benefited by the work of the emerging government, with new roads and bridges built, communication lines enhanced, and an air travel system provided for people to travel quickly and easily between the U.S. And the Philippines. As the Filipino people reaped the new advantages of the democratic government, the U.S. likewise benefited, drawing the controversy between American altruism and imperialism.
The long-term military, social, and economic advantages to U.S. colonization of a Pacific Rim interest demonstrate the strategic implications of the Philippine acquisition. Elements of opportunism can be…