Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

equity in the property to some other power which possessed the equipment necessary to conquer the
Philippines. To many this eventuality did not seem objectionable, as is indicated by the remark, already

quoted, of an American official to certain Germans: "We don't want the Philippines; why don't you take

them?" That this attitude was foolishly Quixotic is obvious, but more effective in the molding of public

opinion was the feeling that it was cowardly.

In such a changing condition of public sentiment, McKinley was a better index of what the majority
wanted than a referendum could have been. In August he stated: "I do not want any ambiguity to be

allowed to remain on this point. The negotiators of both countries are the ones who shall resolve upon the

permanent advantages which we shall ask in the archipelago, and decide upon the intervention,

disposition, and government of the Philippines." His instructions to the commissioners actually went

farther:

"Avowing unreservedly the purpose which has animated all our effort, and still solicitous to adhere to it,
we cannot be unmindful that, without any desire or design on our part, the war has brought us new duties

and responsibilities which we must meet and discharge as becomes a great nation on whose growth and

career from the beginning the Ruler of Nations has plainly written the high command and pledge of

civilization.

"Incidental to our tenure in the Philippines is the commercial opportunity to which American
statesmanship cannot be indifferent.... Asking only the open door for ourselves, we are ready to accord

the open door to others.

"In view of what has been stated, the United States cannot accept less than the cession in full rights and
sovereignty of the island of Luzon."

The American commissioners were divided. Day favored the limited terms of the instructions; Davis,
Frye, and Reid wished the whole group of the Philippines; Gray emphatically protested against taking

any part of the islands. On the 26th of October, Hay telegraphed that the President had decided that "the

cession must be of the whole Archipelago or none." The Spanish commissioners objected strongly to this

new development, and threatened to break off the negotiations which otherwise were practically

concluded. This outcome would have put the United States in the unfortunate position of continuing a

war which it had begun in the interests of Cuba for the quite different purpose of securing possession of

the Philippines. The Spanish were probably not without hopes that under these changed conditions they

might be able to bring to their active assistance that latent sympathy for them which existed so strongly

in Europe. Nor was the basis of the claim of the United States entirely clear. On the 3d of November the

American commissioners cabled to the President that they were convinced that the occupation of Manila

did not constitute a conquest of the islands as a whole.

By this time, however, the President had decided that the United States must have the islands. On the
13th of November, Hay telegraphed that the United States was entitled to an indemnity for the cost of the

war. This argument was not put forward because the United States wished indemnity but to give a

technical basis for the American claim to the Philippines. In the same cablegram, Hay instructed the

commissioners to offer Spain ten or twenty millions for all the islands. Upon this financial basis the

treaty was finally concluded; it was signed on December 10, 1898; and ratifications were exchanged on

April 11, 1899.

The terms of the treaty provided, first, for the relinquishment of sovereignty over Cuba by Spain. The

 

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