"The slaughter at Manila was necessary, but not glorious. The entire American population justifies the conduct of its army at Manila because only by a crushing repulse of the Filipinos could our position be made secure. We are the trustees of civilization and peace throughout the islands."
Chicago Tribune on the fighting deaths that occurred the night the Philippine-American War began
Just as being "trustees of civilization and peace throughout the island," America's "position" as to the status of the Philippines was self-proclaimed. And one of the causes that led to the outbreak of hostilities that led to war.
Having failed to win independence from Spain, the pact of Biak-na-Bato was signedofficially ending resistanceand the leader for the cause, Emilio Aguinaldo, went into exile in Hong Kong. It was arranged for him to return when the Spanish-American War broke out, in order to help fight (conveniently running the war until the United States could get troops theremost fighting was done by Filipinos). As an ally, the Philippine people had been led to believe that this would oust the Spanish and win them freedom from over 300 years as a colony. On 12 June 1898, the Philippines declared its independenceand in what seems to be historical foreshadowing, no country in the world recognized them as an independent sovereign nation (Britain, Germany, and Japan were positioning themselves to take over before the war ended).
Despite having declared independence and having taken control of the islands, the end of the war left the US in charge. The culminating "battle" involved the United States pretending to take Manila, the Spanish putting up nominal resistance, and (at a prearranged signal) giving upall to save face on the part Spain (the condition was that no Filipinos be involved). The two countries had signed a peace protocol the day before.
The US was to temporarily occupy Manila until the fate of the islands was decided ("pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control, disposition, and government of the Philippines"). The Treaty of Paris was signed at the end of the year (again no Filipinos involved) and part of the agreement was that the islands were to be ceded to the United States (a $20 million sum was given to Spainall things suggesting it was purchasing the unrecognized independent nation).
The US and Spain went ahead and the Philippines were annexed. Despite having won the war and fought off the Spanish. Despite having declared independence. Despite Spainwhich no longer had control of the islandshaving no authority to cede anything (arguably Manila, but regardless). Filipinos were left out of both the peace process and the political process that basically made them a colony again. And, as they viewed it, one that was sold by the defeated country to the one supposed to be their ally.
Tensions were high and Filipinos were justifiably outraged. They felt betrayed. The US claimed to be pushing a policy of "benevolent assimilation" which promised many good things (under the American flag) but also stated that the islands would be "within the absolute domain of military authority, which necessarily is and must remain supreme." Aguinaldo issued a manifesto that denounced the actions and conditions, ending with the powerful
I denounce these acts before the world in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are the oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind.
Upon their heads be all the blood which may be shed.
It was thought to be tantamount to a declaration of war (not his intention, though the language suggests it). On 23 January 1899, the first Philippine Republic was announced (preceded by a constitution), with Aguinaldo as president. This of course, meant little to the Philippines' status as a colony as far as the US was concerned. Everything was in place for what would happen less than two weeks later.
The War begins
Around 8 PM, 4 February 1899, two American soldiers fired upon three Filipino soldiers. One of the Americans, Private William W. Grayson described the event:
...Miller and I were cautiously pacing our district. We came to a fence to see what the Filipinos were up to.... In a moment, something rose up slowly in front of us. It was a Filipino. I yelled "Halt!" and made it pretty loud, for I was accustomed to challenging the officer of the guard in approved army style. I challenged him with another loud "halt!" Then he shouted "halto!" to me. Well, I thought the best thing to do was to shoot him. He dropped. If it didn't kill, I guess he died of fright. Two Filipinos sprang out of the gateway about 15 feet from us. I called "halt!" and Miller fired and dropped one. I saw that another was left. Well, I think I got my second Filipino that time....
Filipinos began returning fire and morning found casualties on both sides as the war had begun. Aguinaldo did not want war and even attempted defusing the situation with military governor Major-General Elwell S. Otis. The response was that the "fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end." Even after the beginning of the war, Aguinaldo made intimations that they might sue for peace but Otis required unconditional surrender (which would mean certain loss of any chance for independence), something that the Filipinos refused to accept.
American attitudes about the Filipinos
Grayson's description of the incident is also instructive in how it gives a taste the lack of respect and disregard for the Philippine people (who were supposedly being "benevolently assimilated" by a country who had "come not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and religious rights"). Filipinos were referred to as "injuns" and "jackrabbits," called "niggers" and "gugus."
Commodore George Deweywho had destroyed Spain's naval power at the Battle of Manila Baypredicting a short war ("insurrection" in US terms), explained that "the Filipinos have swollen heads. They only need one licking and they will go crying to their homes, or we shall drive them into the sea within the next three days."
This is more than bravado and posturing, it was a pattern of attitude toward the Filipinos (not unlike the one held about the Indians). A general describing them to the Senate explained that they only want "to go to cockfights, gamble and whet their bolos." A Senator explained the situation with "we must never forget that in dealing with the Filipinos, we deal with children." Anothera superintendent who had helped set up schools thereexplained that the Filipinos were "children, and childlike, do not know what is best for them....by the very fact of our superiority of civilization and our greater capacity for industrial activity, we are bound to exercise over them a profound social influence" (again sounding suspiciously like the assimilationist policies enacted against the American Indians).
Following the outbreak of the war, a New York Times editorial stated that "to commit to their unsteady hands and childish minds political powers...would be to give a dynamite cartridge to a baby for a plaything"managing both a charge of being savages and children, incapable of "civilization" without both the authority of force and the guidance of the "benevolent" United States. "Justifying" the colonial imperialism.
This, of course, was all aided by a military that informed the government and media that it was the Filipinos that were the aggressors and started the conflict. This left some division within the United States, as some viewed this as a worthy cause and a rebellion on US territory that must be put down, while some saw it as imperialism at its worst. Among the latter was Mark Twain, who reflecting on the Treaty of Paris, wrote that "we do not intend to free but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land." He asked the question: "the White man's Burden has been sung. Who will sing the Brown Man's?"
The early part of the war
Despite what Dewey and others may have thought, the Filipinos were not about to go "crying to their homes" after a short engagement or be driven into the sea after three days. On the other hand, they may not have realized just how daunting their task would be.
Though they had superior numbers, organization was less than efficient and there was a degree of infighting amongst the Filipinos. To make things worse, they hadn't the weapons the Americans had. Only old rifles and pistols (or whatever leftovers they could find of the Spanish; later the Americans) and bolos (a kind of machete). The American soldiers were equipped with up-to-date cavalry rifles (with bayonets), Gatling guns, and artillery (on land and boat)even an early form of flame-thrower. Their Hotchkiss cannons with exploding shells had been put to good use against another "problem" in 1890 at Wounded Knee.
Because of their firepower, the US forces under General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas) were able to "break out" of Manila and begin moving into the interior, aided in particular by heavy shelling from naval vessels. Dewey's artillery destroyed the area where the Filipinos were entrenched, causing heavy casualties (3000 that first day). It also caused a British observer to say that "this is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery." As they moved through the suburbs, homes were vandalized and looted (a letter home from a soldier reads "the house I had at Santa Ana had five pianos. I couldn't take them, so I put a big grand piano put of a second-story window.").
They continued to spread outward from Manila, taking the small towns and cities as they went. On the way, the soldiers (many of whom did not want to be there and some suffering from sicknesses common in the area) inflicted heavy casualties on the Filipinos; sometimes killing prisoners (if taken at all). Houses and buildings were burned. One soldier stated that he had "with his own hand set fire to over fifty houses of Filipinos after the victory at Caloocan. Women and children were wounded" (note: after the victory). In many cases, between the fighting and fleeing, towns were left without any inhabitants. Said of the battle referred to in the last quote: "Caloocan was supposed to contain 17,000 inhabitants. The Twentieth Kansas swept through it, and now Caloocan contains not one living native."
Town after town seemed to fall under the US control. And with it came the carnage. After shelling Malabon, the soldiers "went in and killed every native we met, men, women, children." On the other hand, it went both ways as the Filipinos were sometimes known to hack up the soldiers with their bolos (whether they would have resorted to doing so with innocent noncombatants is an interesting question).
The first fighting in Cavite did not take place immediately. Dewey gave the forces time to surrender and when the time came, the Filipinos set fire to the town and left except for only a few soldiers. Once the flames died down, the men were told, in the words of one, to "kill all we could find." He also noted that "I had lots of fun that morning...."
This did not stop the Filipinos. On 22 February (already fifteen days past Dewey's "three day" prediction), one of the leaders of the war, General Antonio Luna made an attempt to retake Manila. He went so far as to have his men burn houses in the suburbs in order to cause confusion among the US troops. Unfortunately, his men suffered heavy losses and had to retreat. By 31 March, the capital and headquarters of the government of the Philippine Republic at Malolos was captured. Aguinaldo and many of his men escaped.
Schurman Commission and the offer of "autonomy"
In April, two months after the opening shots of the war, the "First Philippine Commission" issued its proclamation about the islands. It was a group of five headed by president of Cornell University, Dr. Jacob Schurman (it is also known as the "Schurman Commission") that had been instituted back in January (before the war) in order to make recommendations on the course of action to take with the islands. It also had Otis and Dewey as members. In the proclamation, it recognized the desire for "liberty" and offered the "good will" of America. It also made many promises for helping with a degree of self-government and education: "in a word, by the uninterrupted devotion of the people to the pursuit of useful objects and the realization of those nobler ideals which constitute the higher civilization of mankind." On the other hand, it clearly stated that:
Unfortunately these pure aims and purposes of the American government and people have been misinterpreted to some of the inhabitants of certain islands, and as a consequence the friendly American forces have without provocation or cause been openly attacked. And why these hostilities? What do the best Filipinos desire? Can it be more that the United States is ready to give? They are patriots and want liberty.
It also reiterated the ideas from the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation that "the supremacy of the United States must and will be enforced throughout every part of the archipelago, and those who resist it can accomplish no end other than their own ruin."
Both it and the American claim to sovereignty over the Philippines were rejected. Filipino forces were urged to continue their fight for independence. While Aguinaldo's retreat to a new headquarters in San Isidro was well covered (there wasn't a great push to chase him), the fighting continued to favor the Americans.
On 28 April, there was an offer for armistice on behalf of the cabinet. It was rejected. About a week later, on the fifth, the Schurman Commission was authorized to offer terms of "autonomy" (but only under US sovereignty). Nothing came of it, eitherthough there began to surface certain factions that were beginning to desire that over war, contrasted by those desiring independent sovereignty (even those who wished it at any cost, like the strict military disciplinarian Luna).
Disunity, the Assassination of General Luna, and a proclamation of war
One of the struggles the Filipinos had to deal with was infighting amongst their leaders. Some of it was due to military/political decisions and ideas, but personal reasons and personalities as well. Though being the best and most capable military leader, Luna was outspoken (even disagreeable) and adament about independence, going so far as arresting some of the cabinet members (calling them " traitors") when they began plans for peace negotiations.
Rumors were spread that Luna had ambitions for the presidency and he was disliked for being one of the people responsible for revealing the Katipunan (a secret society dedicated to independence from colonialism) to the Spanish. On 5 June, he was assassinated/murdered by soldiers loyal to Aguinaldo. No investigation took place but he was buried the next day with military honors. The incident not only took away a key leader of the war, it led to poor morale and dissension within the ranks. Other leaders who had been under Luna were arrested and some of the "pro-Luna" companies disarmed.
Meanwhile, on 2 June, head of the cabinet Pedro Paterno issued a proclamation of war. It was an admission that diplomacy was not going to work (Paterno was part of the "Peace Cabinet" which had entertained ideas of a settlementfor which Paterno had been arrested by Luna).1 The proclamation acknowledged that the Filipinos were "offering [themselves] as victims for the sake of peace without abandoning the sacred idea of liberty and independence" and that the United States, by refusing to end hostilities, had the "responsibility of the war and its consequences." He called his "beloved Filipinos" to "unite to save our native land from insult and ignominy, from punishments and scaffolds, from the sad and fatal inheritance of enslaved generations."
Toward the dissolution of the army
The American campaign in the islands was not all victory, but most of the Filipino accomplishments were relegated to slowing the advance or diverting the troops. It was June and Otis was impatient with Dewey's "three day" war. He predicted a decisive "final battle" to the press, sending two columns of troops to Cavite where many of the Filipino forces were. The battle was a success. Some 400 Filipinos died and only four Americans. On the other hand, it was far from the decisive rout toward an end to the war that was predicted and Otis was robbed of his "final battle."
Other than the publishing of the lyrics of the new Philippine National Anthem in September, there were no bright spots for Aguinaldo's forces. The Republic was practically nonexistent and after recurring defeat on the battlefield, it was clear that the army was in no condition to effectively continue a conventional war. On 12 November, Aguinaldo dissolved it as an official fighting force. It turns out that it gave the Filipinos more of a chance.
Now that the troops were "decentralized," small groups began to mount a campaign of guerilla warfare against the American forces. While this did not stop the US from continuing to take land and towns, it made them more efficient and successful overall, prolonging the war. Casualties actually went down compared to fighting in "open" battles.
That December, Aguinaldo barely escaped being captured at the Battle of Tirad Pass, where one of his generals and a hand-picked group of 60 soldiers held off a battalion for five hours. The general and all but seven men were killed. Also that month, seeing it as a losing cause, other military leaders and civilian officials surrendered or were captured (some were eventually deported to Guam).
The Taft Commision
On 16 March 1900, the Second Philippine Commission, headed by future vice president and president, William Howard Taft. It was similar in goals as the first: "to make recommendations on the course of action to take with the islands." Though, now the war as part of the equation. Taft felt that peace would happen soon. The group arrived on 3 June and in September became the "legislative body" for the colony. The commission enacted laws and legislation governing civil and public sectors. It collected and distributed taxes and arranged for the building of roads, schools and other public works. A judiciary was set up and eventually, in July 1901, a Philippine Constabulary made up almost entirely of Filipinos. Following the "end" of hostilities, it was the constabulary that dealt with remaining rebels. All, of course, were led by Americans in the important positions.
It is sad that the first of the "benevolence" didn't appear until almost two years after the US started the war.
As the guerilla fighting continued, so did the occupation of the islands by American forces. In May, General Otis gave up command and it was turned over to General Arthur MacArthur.
1Paterno was also one who, in May 1898, issued a manifesto calling for the Philippines to side with Spain in the Spanish-American War. He felt they had a better chance for, at least, limited sovereignty under Spanish power. It ended with
Under the Americans our future is cloudy; we shall certainly be sold and lose our unity; some provinces will become English, others German, others French, others Russian or Chinese. Let us struggle, therefore, side by side with Spain, we who love the Philippines united and free. Long live Spain!
While he was probably wrong about their chances under Spain, he seems to have been correct about US intentions. Aguinaldo isseed his own manifesto harshly criticizing Paterno, listing Spanish behavior in the past and at that time. In it he fired back that
To die today for cowardly Spain! This implies not only want of dignity and delicate feeling, but also gross stupidity in weaving a sovereignty of frightened Spaniards over the heads of brave Filipinos. It is astonishing that in the face of such an eloquent example of impotence there should still be a Filipino who defends the sovereignty of Spain.
Part Two: Philippine-American War part two
A more detailed look at the causes of the war: Events leading to the Philippine-American War
On the "insurrection"/"war" controversy: Philippine Insurrection
(Sources: http://phil-am-war.org; www.filipino-americans.com most of the soldiers' quotes are from here; www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/9782/index.html; Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States twentieth anniversary edition, 1999; www.ualberta.ca/~vmitchel; www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/01/31/SC16131.DTL; www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/1999/02/04/EDITORIAL11417.dtl; www.philnewscentral.com/philrev.html; gopher://gopher.umsl.edu/00/library/govdocs/armyahbs/aahb4/aahb0247; gopher://gopher.umsl.edu/00/library/govdocs/armyahbs/aahb4/aahb0248)