Acquisition of the Philippines and Hawaiiby Rit Nosotro
Analyze the acquisition of the Philippines and Hawaii by the USA. What were the motivations, actions, and results of this acquisition?
The bloody transformation of the Philippines into an independent country, and the comparative peaceful transition of Hawaii into a US state, had beneficial long term results for both peoples due to American actions in 1898.
Although selfish business interests pushed the American government to exploit Hawaii, and jealous greed to join the ranks of European Imperialists pushed the American government to declare war on Spain, the end result unintentionally provided for increased prosperity and safety for peoples everywhere.
We are stretching out our hands for what nature meant should be ours. We are taking our proper rank among the nations of the world... along with these markets will go our beneficent institutions, and humanity will bless us” (Charles Denby).1 This quote echoes the sentiment of many Americans after the American Civil War. The United States now wanted to be recognized on the same level of influence as the European countries, most of whom had colonies. Almost every country in Africa and South and Southeast Asia had been parceled among the European countries. In 1898, both Hawaii, an independent nation, and the Philippines, struggling for independence from Spain, became U.S. colonies.2 What motivated the Americans? Why did history proceed as it did? Analyzing these questions reveals some interesting motivations, actions, and results.
These acquisitions were motivated by money, pride, jealousy, religion, and "Manifest Destiny". The US had watched China weaken under the Opium War with the British and fall prey to European spheres of influence. USA fleet commander Perry had coerced Japan to signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1854. Stream powered ships, and new ports of global trade, dramatically increased after the Suez Canal opened in 1869. Within the next 50 years Japan industrialized, militarized, forced Korea to open its ports (1876), occupied China (1895), and began a successful war against Russia in 1902. National rivalries led colonial powers to a scramble for Africa which was partitioned at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. In this time of national muscle flexing, the US saw Spain as one of the weaker contestants.
In Hawaii, American businessmen (mainly sugar cane plantation owners)3 wanted their economic rights and business protected at any cost. Later, concerning the Philippines, William Howard Taft said regarding the opportunistic businessmen in the Philippines: “They resent everything in the government that is not American. They insist that there is a necessity for a firm government here rather than a popular one, and that the welfare of Americans and American trade should be regarded as paramount.4 In regards to defense, Hawaii and the Philippines would be advantageous to America because America needed ports in the Pacific Ocean for American commercial ships and the American Navy. Besides these financial and military benefits, there were a few Americans who sincerely believed in the idea of the “White Man’s Burden,” that ruling the Philippines and Hawaii would better the life for these peoples.5 These few but vocal capitalists helped pave the way for reluctant American imperialism.
The first step towards acquiring Hawaii came in 1886, when American businessmen in Hawaii forced the “Bayonet Constitution” on the Hawaiian monarchy. This constitution decreased the power of the Hawaiian monarchy and the rights of the Hawaiian people. By January 1893, as protests against this constitution had continued to increase, a political coalition overthrew the monarchy and Hawaiian government after threatening military action by U.S. Marines.6 This new government then proposed annexation to the U.S.; however, President Cleveland was convinced by Hawaiian representatives (including Princess Ka’iulani, the crown princess) not to recognize this new government. Eventually, Congress and the President finally gave into pressure and in August 1894, they recognized the new “Republic of Hawaii.” It was not until July 1898, due to the Spanish American War, that objections against annexation were overcome and Hawaii was annexed under President McKinley, an advocate of expansionism.
After the battleship USS Maine experienced a fatal coal bunker fire in Cuba,7 US newspapers sold better by blaming the sinking on an attack from Spain. In the minds of those who wanted to believe, this finally justified and enabled America's rise to join other imperial powers. Furthermore, "yellow journalism" claimed Spain had ruled the Philippines for nearly 400 years under a harsh Roman Catholic dictatorship. They pointed out that although revolts against Spanish rule were unsuccessful, a growing Filipino populace increasingly despised their colonial power. A heretical, Masonic-type, Katipunan revolt had broke out in August 1896. Although the revolt was suppressed, the revolutionaries gave support to Admiral Dewey who had sunk the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in retaliation for the USS Maine. When Spain signed the Treaty of Paris with the U.S. ending war in December 1898, it also ceded the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States. But the ‘subduing’ of the Philippines was not as easy as it had been in Hawaii.
For over three years, 120,000 American soldiers fought a long and bloody war against the Filipinos. The United States spent an estimated $600 million fighting the Filipinos in addition to the $20,000,000 paid to Spain under the Treaty of Paris for public property in the Philippines.8 Over 4,000 American soldiers died. Almost 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos died in their valiant attempt against what they saw as another imperial power. On July 4, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt declared that the Philippine-American War, which Americans called the Philippine Insurrection, was over.9 However, sporadic guerrilla fighting continued unofficially for thirteen more years.
While the United States had similar reasons for acquiring Hawaii and the Philippines, the outcome of the acquisitions were different. In the United States, debate continued whether America should keep the Philippines or not. Many leading Americans such as Andrew Carnegie and Mark Twain had been against any thought of annexing the Philippines. When leading politicians spoke of the benefits for the Filipinos should America retain them, William Jennings Bryan wrote this in response.
Some argue that American rule in the Philippine Islands will result in the better education of the Filipinos...[But] The educated Filipinos are now in revolt against us and the most ignorant ones have made the least resistance to our dominion. If we are to govern them without their consent and give them no voice in determining the taxes they must pay, we dare not educate them less they learn to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and mock us for our inconsistency"10America kept the Philippines as a colony for over forty years. During the American colonial era, came many benefits – a public education system, infrastructure, democracy and many other helpful institutions. After liberation from brutal Japanese tyranny at the end of WWII, the Philippines finally achieved their long awaited independence.11 With American backing, the Philippines had the opportunity to grow and prosper agriculturally and economically. America’s control was in the long run, helpful to the Philippines.12
Hawaii never regained its freedom but eventually became an American state in 1959. During the years that Hawaii was a territory under U.S. control, the deposed Hawaiian royalty dedicated their lives to secure voting rights for Hawaiians. They succeeded and now Hawaiians enjoy the right of full citizenship with the U.S. Prosperity came to the Philippine and the Hawaiian Islands in opposition to what they had pleaded. Whether the relatively peaceful transition of Hawaii into a US state, or the bloody transformation of the Philippines into an independent country, the repercussions were phenomenal.
The diversity of USA motivations and actions mentioned for controlling Hawaii and the Philippines were not altogether noble. And yet, God's sovereign hand has expressly revealed the light of life giving Christianity to more of His creation. He turned the jealous greed of national imperialism into a force that prevented Hitler from developing a nuclear weapon. These new Pacific holdings gained by defeating the Spanish in 1898, led the USA to encourage Panama to break away from Colombia in 1903 in exchange for the Canal Zone Treaty. The US Pacific fleet grew to challenge Japanese expansionism which indirectly led to the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into WWII. One could little imagine that an explosion on board the USS Maine could usher in American superiority in a Nuclear Age.
1.US President McKinley annexed
d. the Philippines
2. Each of the following groups approved of American support to break away
from European colonialism EXCEPT
c. the Philippines
1Charles Den, (lawyer, diplomat, Minister to China, member of U.S. Philippines Commission) taken from Forum, November 1898: “Shall We Keep the Philippines?” pp. 233-235 in The Annals of America, vol. 12. p. 235 quoted. His "beneficent institutions" were free democracy and Protestant missionary organizations like the YMCA. He elaborated: "For nearly a century the missionary men and women have labored to carry our prestige, our language, and our commerce into China. . . . If we turn them adrift, our national fame will be dimmed. It cannot be doubted that by their disappearance our commerce would greatly suffer, and our diplomacy would lose its chief support." Return
4William Howard Taft was governor of the Philippines
for several years. His policies were in action for thirteen years while he was
governor of the Philippines, secretary of war, and President.
Taken from In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. Stanley Karnow, p. 198 Return
8The $600 million amount was written as it was valued in that time period. They have not been modified to allow for inflation. In the 1970s, the $600 million was roughly equivalent to $4 billion. Taken from In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. Stanely Karrow, p. 194 Return
12Although many nationalists still disdain
the “colonial” mentality that some Filipinos still feel towards
the U.S., the majority does not feel this way and these two opposing views have
been summed up in the sarcastic slogan: “Americans go home! But take me
with you!” Return
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