America and the Philippines

by Ferdinand Blumentritt

For the Washington Sentinel

  American imperialism invokes the national prestige and honor, the mission of civilization and other phrases of the same kind to convince the nation of Washington and Franklin that it is indispensable for them to annex the Philippine Islands. The American Commission of Peace recommends the same and the American Government is going to form a colonial department in the Ministry of -- "War."

Let us examine what the American Imperialists are publishing to defend their annexational objects. They say that the national honor and the prestige of America will not allow them to retire from the Philippines. They invoke feelings of honor in order to suppress the liberty of a people. Well, since American Imperialists recognize that moral obligations and promises should decide the politics of a nation, they should also recognize that the moral obligation which they contracted when they allied themselves with the Filipinos against Spain is certainly much greater than what is due to the military prestige of Otis & Co., for no Filipino, not one of them, would have taken up arms against Spain, if the object of all those slaughters had been to implant the Starry flag instead of the Spanish banner.

The Filipinos rose, confident in the loyalty of the Americans, convinced that the United States would accomplish their historical mission: to give liberty to the colonies, assuring them their independence by their valuable protectorate.

All the proclamations published by the Revolutionary Committee of the Philippines in order to incite the country to assist the Americans in their liberating action are vivid testimonials of the confidence which the Filipinos had in their allies. A short time before the beginning of the war between Spain and America, rumors ran in the European press, rumors speaking of the understanding between the Filipinos and the Americans. I immediately addressed some Philippine friends who were living in the extreme Orient, begging them to entreat the Philippine patriots not to ally themselves with the Americans, because at the time I suspected already that the Americans, in case of victory, might stay in the archipelago, or give up their former allies to the vengeance of those powerful Spanish elements that had demanded and obtained the head of Rizal. My letters did not reach their destination until the war had been inaugurated, and my friends replied that my advices had come to late: in consideration of the impossibility of the Spaniards making the necessary reformations in the country, they had allied themselves with the Americans, confident that by means of this alliance they would obtain their independence.

Still I could not believe in the sincerity of the Filipinofilia of the Americans, but subsequent successes at first favored the belief of the Filipinos that the great American people would give the Philippine people liberty and independence, for neither Dewey nor Merritt protested against what Aguinaldo promulgated, viz.: the independence of the Philippine Republic, and they allowed the Filipinos to raise and to hoist the three colored Philippine flag. Nor did the Americans protest, after the preliminary peace of Washington, against the convocation of a Philippine Congress at Malolos, and they allowed the Filipinos resident at Manila, which was then occupied by the Americans, to accept the mandates of said Congress; they did not prevent the same Deputies from going by train to Malolos in order to take part in the sessions of the Congress which -- without any protest from the Americans -- solemnly proclaimed the independence of the Philippine Republic, on the 29th of September, 1898.

Since the Americans permitted all these actions on the part of the Filipinos, they undoubtedly made a moral compromise to recognize the independence of the country, which was confident in the loyalty of the American people. Now if in the American Philippine question they invoke the prestige of the American name, the honor of its flag and nation, I think that this honor and this prestige can only come out immaculate if America give independence to the country.

How they can invoke, with the idea of annexation, the mission of civilization of the United States, I really do not understand.

I do not understand it because those Filipinos who elected the Deputies for the Congress at Malolos, and united formerly against Spain and today against America, have no need of being passive objects of that mission of civilization, since they are more civilized than many European independent States; and it is only to be feared that, if the Americans establish their domination in the country, the Filipinos will not progress. The experience of the American Indians, who were the natives of the United States of today, does not speak in favor of the so-called mission of civilization, which used lead, powder and muskets as means of propagation.

What the commission of Schurman said to the President I shall not judge of for today, as I do not know the verbal texts and I cannot believe that what the papers have published until today is the exact repetition of it. However, how could the multitude of dialects be an obstacle to the independence of the country, as the commission says? Russia and Austria count more dialects and they are enjoying their independence.

There are also such strange contradictions in what the papers pretend to be the message of that commission that it is impossible to recognize the authenticity of the text. For the supposed text says that the United States cannot recognize the independence of the Philippines because complete anarchy would arise out of it, and on the other hand they say they would give the country the most complete autonomy. I do not understand this, since autonomy means the government of a country regulated by its natives, the same as in an independent country. Well, according to the idea of that commission the Filipinos are unable to govern themselves if they are independent, and presently they are able to fulfill that mission if the country is annexed. Who can understand this? Is that promise of autonomy no more than a kind of sweetmeat which they promise to big children to induce them to submit to the good Uncle Sam? Who knows?

I am going now to demonstrate that the Americans will gain more advantages if they recognize the independence of the Filipinos and defend it with their protectorate, than by annexation.

The annexation will never be sympathetic to the Filipinos because neither the American dominion nor the Anglo Saxon does respect those who do not belong to the pure white race, and social intercourse with them is avoided as if they were lepers, and political equality would never be permitted, even if it were warranted by written laws. So hatred of the ruled against the rulers will necessarily result, a hatred much greater and deeper than that which the most radical Filipinos ever professed against the friars. This hatred will augment every new year of the American domination, as abuses, political suppression and social depreciation will be summed up.

The Philippines will be in a state of latent revolution, and this state will make it necessary for the Americans to keep a great army in the country, an army which in case of an outside conflict will be in the same situation as the Spanish in the year 1898. This army will not defend the country against foreigners, being obliged to defend itself against the popular insurrections. These predictions will be accomplished, since so far the Americans have been copying the colonial policies of Spain to such a degree as to favor also the friars, the grave diggers of the Spanish domination in the islands.

Another picture much more distinct will present itself if the Americans recognize the independence of the country, and recognize it under their protectorate. Then the political and military position of the Americans in the extreme Orient will be strong, because the United States will have at their disposal the gallant and cheap Philippine army. The excellent qualities of the Philippine soldiers have been recognized by the military authorities of Spain and other foreign countries and they have proved themselves so in so many wars against the Moors, Dutch, English, Chinese, Annamites, Spaniards and the Americans themselves, that it does not seem to be a small matter to count with such a good military element in the political and strategic reckonings in any conflict in the extreme Orient.

But we have still more to add: The Anglo Saxons as well as the Europeans do not profess any sympathy with military duty; for offensive wars they have armies formed with mercenaries and volunteers, and to defend their own territory that have the institution of militia.

These armies of volunteers are very expensive, and should any considerable conflict arise they are quickly absorbed by the formation of line troops, as we can now observe in the war in the Transvaal. In the Philippines, however, the natives are used to the obligatory service. So if the Filipinos adopt the military organization which is called Landwehr in Austria and Hanved in Hungary, they can form a permanent army of 12,000 to 18,000 soldiers in time of peace, and in time of war there will be in their ranks an army of 150,000 to 200,000 valiant, sober and cheap soldiers. The United States may dispose of this army in any conflict arising in the extreme Orient.

Let the Americans compare this situation with that created by the annexation. If they annex the country they have to maintain a great army of volunteers which will be very expensive and which, because of the effects of the climate, will not be able to render as many services as in their own country. In case of war this expensive army will not be able to fight against the enemy, because its forces will be necessary to stifle or to prevent revolution in the Philippines. So the maintenance of the American dominion in the Philippines annexed is not an augmentation of the American power, but a weakening of the military and political forces of the North American Union. In case of war every American soldier residing in the Philippines will be lost for the United States, since instead of being in a condition to be utilized for the offensive war and for the defense of the national territories against the foreigners, the American soldier will have to fight against the subdued Americans which, in union with the foreigners, will rise against the North American yoke.

But if the Philippines are independent the United States will not only be able to call the last of their soldiers against the foreign enemy, but they will also have at their disposal an army of 150,000 to 200,000 more soldiers able to fight in the moors of tropical territories as well as in dry and cold mountains.

I believe that this military arithmetic is worth studying by the men who steer the destiny of the United States of North America.

Text from the Washington Sentinel (March 10, 1900), 1. The Washington Sentinel was edited and published in Washington, D.C., by Louis Schade, a prominent German-American who served as a vice president of the Washington Anti-Imperialist League.

Text entered and converted to HTML by Jim Zwick, Syracuse University.

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