Classic History Books


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

existed no native organization which could supply even the basis for the formation of a government. The
people seemed, indeed, to have no desire for independence, and public sentiment in the United States

generally favored the permanent possession of the island. After a period of rule entirely at the discretion

of the President, Congress established in 1900 a form of government based on that of the American

territories. Porto Rico remained, however, unincorporated into the Union, and it was long doubtful

whether it would remain a dependency or would ultimately attain statehood. In 1917, however, the

degree of self-government was increased, and the inhabitants were made American citizens. It now

seems probable that the island will ultimately become a State of the Union.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world the United States had a more unpleasant task. The revolted
Filipinos, unlike the Cubans, had not declared themselves for independence but for redress of grievances.

The United States had assisted Aguinaldo, at the moment in exile, to return to the islands after the Battle

of Manila Bay but had not officially recognized him as having authority. When he saw Spanish power

disappearing under American blows, he declared himself in favor of the abolition of all foreign rule. This

declaration, of course, in no way bound the United States, to whom the treaty with Spain, the only

recognized sovereign, ceded the island absolutely. There was no flaw in the title of the United States, and

there were no obligations, save those of humanity, to bind the Americans in their treatment of the natives.

Nevertheless, the great majority of Americans would doubtless have gladly favored a policy similar to

that pursued in the case of Cuba, had it seemed in any way practicable. Unfortunately, however, the

Filipinos did not constitute a nation but only a congeries of peoples and tribes of differing race and

origin, whom nearly four centuries of Spanish rule had not been able to make live at peace with one

another. Some were Christians, some Mohammedans, some heathen savages; some wore European

clothes, some none at all. The particular tribe which formed the chief support of Aguinaldo, the

Tagalogs, comprised less than one half of the population of the island of Luzon. The United States had

taken the islands largely because it did not see any one else to whom it could properly shift the burden.

The shoulders of the Tagalogs did not seem broad enough for the responsibility.

The United States prepared, therefore, to carry on the task which it had assumed, while Aguinaldo, with
his army circling Manila, prepared to dispute its title. On February 4, 1899, actual hostilities broke out.

By this time Aguinaldo had a capital at Malolos, thirty miles north of Manila, a government, thirty or

forty thousand troops, and an influence which he was extending throughout the islands by means of

secret organizations and superstitious appeals. This seemed a puny strength to put forth against the

United States but various circumstances combined to make the contest less unequal than it seemed, and

the outcome was probably more in doubt than that in the war with Spain.

The United States had at the moment but fourteen thousand men in the islands, under the command of
General Otis. Some of these were volunteers who had been organized to fight Spain and who could not

be held after the ratification of peace. Congress had, indeed, provided for an increase in the regular army,

but not sufficient to provide the "40,000 effectives for the field," whom Otis had requested in August,

1899. There were, of course, plenty of men available in America for service in the Philippines, and

finally twelve regiments of volunteers were raised, two of which were composed of negroes. Aguinaldo's

strength lay in the configuration of the country, in its climate, which for four centuries had prevented a

complete conquest by the Spaniards, and in the uncertainty which he knew existed as to how far the

American people would support a war waged apparently for conquest, against the wishes of the Filipinos.

On the other hand, the chief advantages of the American forces lay in Aguinaldo's lack of arms and in the

power of the American Navy, which confined the fighting for the most part to Luzon.

 

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