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THE DEBATE OVER THE PHILIPPINES

The debate in America over what to do with the Philippines was a much more intense one. This debate took place on the floor of the Senate and in countless editorial pages across the country. An aggressive policy toward Cuba could be justified, since they were only 90 miles away and seemed important to the United States' position in the Western Hemisphere. Many had second thoughts, however, over controlling the Philippines; the Filipinos seemed a world away, and, after all, were not “like us.” In addition, Americans became aware that Filipinos expected that after the Americans helped throw out the Spanish they would then help them achieve independence. What, indeed, should America’s role in the Philippines be?

All of the most basic arguments on the merits of imperialism were debated in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. Didn’t the concept of ruling a territory by force violate everything that America stood for? An Anti-Imperialist League was formed in 1898 (with Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryan as charter members). The first brochures put out by this organization wondered if America didn’t have too many problems at home to be involved abroad, and also expressed the fear that the armies needed for imperialistic adventures abroad might also be used to curb dissent at home.

Others pointed to the huge costs of imperialism and the fear that natives from newly acquired territories might take the jobs (or lower the wages) of American workers. Some pointed out the basic racism involved in American attitudes toward the Filipinos; some Southerners opposed imperialism because they feared it would bring people of the “inferior races” to America in greater numbers.

In the end, those arguing the political, strategic, and economic advantages that control of the Philippines would bring won the national argument. The American frontier nuts closing; wouldn’t expansion abroad keep America vital and strong? In addition, religious figures noted that the acquisition of the Philippines would give the Church the opportunity to convert Filipinos to Christianity.

In the end, President McKinley supported American control of the Philippines, stating that if the Americans didn’t enter, civil war was likely there. Me also proclaimed that the Filipinos were simply “unfit for self- government.” The treaty authorizing American control of the Philippines was ratified in February of 1899. It should be noted that American soldiers fought Filipino rebels for the next three years, with nearly 4500 American soldiers killed in this fighting. The American army attacked Filipino rebels with a vengeance; by the end of the insurrection, 200,000 Filipinos had been killed. Many humanitarian groups in America, which had initially enthusiastically supported the Spanish-American War, were appalled. An American commission later criticized the U.S. military for its conduct when dealing with the rebel forces.

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