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History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard

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American Policies in the Philippines and the Orient

A Philippine Home
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
A Philippine Home

The Filipino Revolt against American Rule.—In the sphere of domestic politics, as well as in the field of foreign relations, the outcome of the Spanish war exercised a marked influence. It introduced at once problems of colonial administration and difficulties in adjusting trade relations with the outlying dominions. These were furthermore complicated in the very beginning by the outbreak of an insurrection against American sovereignty in the Philippines. The leader of the revolt, Aguinaldo, had been invited to join the American forces in overthrowing Spanish dominion, and he had assumed, apparently without warrant, that independence would be the result of the joint operations. When the news reached him that the American flag had been substituted for the Spanish flag, his resentment was keen. In February, 1899, there occurred a slight collision between his men and some American soldiers. The conflict thus begun was followed by serious fighting which finally dwindled into a vexatious guerrilla warfare lasting three years and costing heavily in men and money. Atrocities were committed by the native insurrectionists and, sad to relate, they were repaid in kind; it was argued in defense of the army that the ordinary rules of warfare were without terror to men accustomed to fighting like savages. In vain did McKinley assure the Filipinos that the institutions and laws established in the islands would be designed “not for our satisfaction or for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands.” Nothing short of military pressure could bring the warring revolutionists to terms.

Attacks on Republican “Imperialism.”—The Filipino insurrection, following so quickly upon the ratification of the treaty with Spain, moved the American opponents of McKinley’s colonial policies to redouble their denunciation of what they were pleased to call “imperialism.” Senator Hoar was more than usually caustic in his indictment of the new course. The revolt against American rule did but convince him of the folly hidden in the first fateful measures. Everywhere he saw a conspiracy of silence and injustice. “I have failed to discover in the speeches, public or private, of the advocates of this war,” he contended in the Senate, “or in the press which supports it and them, a single expression anywhere of a desire to do justice to the people of the Philippine Islands, or of a desire to make known to the people of the United States the truth of the case.... The catchwords, the cries, the pithy and pregnant phrases of which their speech is full, all mean dominion. They mean perpetual dominion.... There is not one of these gentlemen who will rise in his place and affirm that if he were a Filipino he would not do exactly as the Filipinos are doing; that he would not despise them if they were to do otherwise. So much at least they owe of respect to the dead and buried history—the dead and buried history so far as they can slay and bury it—of their country.” In the way of practical suggestions, the Senator offered as a solution of the problem: the recognition of independence, assistance in establishing self-government, and an invitation to all powers to join in a guarantee of freedom to the islands.

The Republican Answer.—To McKinley and his supporters, engaged in a sanguinary struggle to maintain American supremacy, such talk was more than quixotic; it was scarcely short of treasonable. They pointed out the practical obstacles in the way of uniform self-government for a collection of seven million people ranging in civilization from the most ignorant hill men to the highly cultivated inhabitants of Manila. The incidents of the revolt and its repression, they admitted, were painful enough; but still nothing as compared with the chaos that would follow the attempt of a people who had never had experience in such matters to set up and sustain democratic institutions. They preferred rather the gradual process of fitting the inhabitants of the islands for self-government. This course, in their eyes, though less poetic, was more in harmony with the ideals of humanity. Having set out upon it, they pursued it steadfastly to the end. First, they applied force without stint to the suppression of the revolt. Then they devoted such genius for colonial administration as they could command to the development of civil government, commerce, and industry.

The Boxer Rebellion in China.—For a nation with a world-wide trade, steadily growing, as the progress of home industries redoubled the zeal for new markets, isolation was obviously impossible. Never was this clearer than in 1900 when a native revolt against foreigners in China, known as the Boxer uprising, compelled the United States to join with the powers of Europe in a military expedition and a diplomatic settlement. The Boxers, a Chinese association, had for some time carried on a campaign of hatred against all aliens in the Celestial empire, calling upon the natives to rise in patriotic wrath and drive out the foreigners who, they said, “were lacerating China like tigers.” In the summer of 1900 the revolt flamed up in deeds of cruelty. Missionaries and traders were murdered in the provinces; foreign legations were stoned; the German ambassador, one of the most cordially despised foreigners, was killed in the streets of Peking; and to all appearances a frightful war of extermination had begun. In the month of June nearly five hundred men, women, and children, representing all nations, were besieged in the British quarters in Peking under constant fire of Chinese guns and in peril of a terrible death.

Intervention in China.—Nothing but the arrival of armed forces, made up of Japanese, Russian, British, American, French, and German soldiers and marines, prevented the destruction of the beleaguered aliens. When once the foreign troops were in possession of the Chinese capital, diplomatic questions of the most delicate character arose. For more than half a century, the imperial powers of Europe had been carving up the Chinese empire, taking to themselves territory, railway concessions, mining rights, ports, and commercial privileges at the expense of the huge but helpless victim. The United States alone among the great nations, while as zealous as any in the pursuit of peaceful trade, had refrained from seizing Chinese territory or ports. Moreover, the Department of State had been urging European countries to treat China with fairness, to respect her territorial integrity, and to give her equal trading privileges with all nations.

The American Policy of the “Open Door.”—In the autumn of 1899, Secretary Hay had addressed to London, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg his famous note on the “open door” policy in China. In this document he proposed that existing treaty ports and vested interests of the several foreign countries should be respected; that the Chinese government should be permitted to extend its tariffs to all ports held by alien powers except the few free ports; and that there should be no discrimination in railway and port charges among the citizens of foreign countries operating in the empire. To these principles the governments addressed by Mr. Hay, finally acceded with evident reluctance.

American Dominions in the Pacific

On this basis he then proposed the settlement that had to follow the Boxer uprising. “The policy of the Government of the United States,” he said to the great powers, in the summer of 1900, “is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese empire.” This was a friendly warning to the world that the United States would not join in a scramble to punish the Chinese by carving out more territory. “The moment we acted,” said Mr. Hay, “the rest of the world paused and finally came over to our ground; and the German government, which is generally brutal but seldom silly, recovered its senses, and climbed down off its perch.”

In taking this position, the Secretary of State did but reflect the common sense of America. “We are, of course,” he explained, “opposed to the dismemberment of that empire and we do not think that the public opinion of the United States would justify this government in taking part in the great game of spoliation now going on.” Heavy damages were collected by the European powers from China for the injuries inflicted upon their citizens by the Boxers; but the United States, finding the sum awarded in excess of the legitimate claims, returned the balance in the form of a fund to be applied to the education of Chinese students in American universities. “I would rather be, I think,” said Mr. Hay, “the dupe of China than the chum of the Kaiser.” By pursuing a liberal policy, he strengthened the hold of the United States upon the affections of the Chinese people and, in the long run, as he remarked himself, safeguarded “our great commercial interests in that Empire.”

Imperialism in the Presidential Campaign of 1900.—It is not strange that the policy pursued by the Republican administration in disposing of the questions raised by the Spanish War became one of the first issues in the presidential campaign of 1900. Anticipating attacks from every quarter, the Republicans, in renominating McKinley, set forth their position in clear and ringing phrases: “In accepting by the treaty of Paris the just responsibility of our victories in the Spanish War the President and Senate won the undoubted approval of the American people. No other course was possible than to destroy Spain’s sovereignty throughout the West Indies and in the Philippine Islands. That course created our responsibility, before the world and with the unorganized population whom our intervention had freed from Spain, to provide for the maintenance of law and order, and for the establishment of good government and for the performance of international obligations. Our authority could not be less than our responsibility, and wherever sovereign rights were extended it became the high duty of the government to maintain its authority, to put down armed insurrection, and to confer the blessings of liberty and civilization upon all the rescued peoples. The largest measure of self-government consistent with their welfare and our duties shall be secured to them by law.” To give more strength to their ticket, the Republican convention, in a whirlwind of enthusiasm, nominated for the vice presidency, against his protest, Theodore Roosevelt, the governor of New York and the hero of the Rough Riders, so popular on account of their Cuban campaign.

The Democrats, as expected, picked up the gauntlet thrown down with such defiance by the Republicans. Mr. Bryan, whom they selected as their candidate, still clung to the currency issue; but the main emphasis, both of the platform and the appeal for votes, was on the “imperialistic program” of the Republican administration. The Democrats denounced the treatment of Cuba and Porto Rico and condemned the Philippine policy in sharp and vigorous terms. “As we are not willing,” ran the platform, “to surrender our civilization or to convert the Republic into an empire, we favor an immediate declaration of the Nation’s purpose to give to the Filipinos, first, a stable form of government; second, independence; third, protection from outside interference.... The greedy commercialism which dictated the Philippine policy of the Republican administration attempts to justify it with the plea that it will pay, but even this sordid and unworthy plea fails when brought to the test of facts. The war of ’criminal aggression’ against the Filipinos entailing an annual expense of many millions has already cost more than any possible profit that could accrue from the entire Philippine trade for years to come.... We oppose militarism. It means conquest abroad and intimidation and oppression at home. It means the strong arm which has ever been fatal to free institutions. It is what millions of our citizens have fled from in Europe. It will impose upon our peace-loving people a large standing army, an unnecessary burden of taxation, and would be a constant menace to their liberties.” Such was the tenor of their appeal to the voters.

With the issues clearly joined, the country rejected the Democratic candidate even more positively than four years before. The popular vote cast for McKinley was larger and that cast for Bryan smaller than in the silver election. Thus vindicated at the polls, McKinley turned with renewed confidence to the development of the policies he had so far advanced. But fate cut short his designs. In the September following his second inauguration, he was shot by an anarchist while attending the Buffalo exposition. “What a strange and tragic fate it has been of mine,” wrote the Secretary of State, John Hay, on the day of the President’s death, “to stand by the bier of three of my dearest friends, Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, three of the gentlest of men, all risen to the head of the state and all done to death by assassins.” On September 14, 1901, the Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, took up the lines of power that had fallen from the hands of his distinguished chief, promising to continue “absolutely unbroken” the policies he had inherited.

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