TR Center - Philippine-American Conflict

Philippine-American Conflict

The Philippine-American Conflict developed out of the Philippine struggle for independence from Spain. This struggle was played out both in Cuba and in the Philippines.

"Halt!", 1900. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States hoped to assist Cubans and Filipinos in their ongoing efforts at freedom from Spanish colonial rule. In addition, Americans had millions of dollars invested, particularly in Cuba, and the U.S. acted to protect these business interests. The Treaty of Paris, signed by the U.S. and Spain in December 1898, ended the Spanish-American War. Filipinos did not recognize the treaty, however, because it called for Spain to cede the Philippines to the United States (for a sum of twenty million dollars) rather than allow them their promised independence. Critics in America and abroad accused President William McKinley of imperialism.

In the Philippines, the alliance between U.S. forces and Filipino revolutionaries led by Emilio Aguinaldo brought about Spain’s defeat. Aguinaldo boldly declared the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898. He called a constitutional convention and on January 1, 1899, was named the president of the new Philippine Republic. The United States would not recognize his leadership, however.

Hostilities began between Aguinaldo’s forces and the U.S. military on February 4, 1899. Conventional fighting turned to guerrilla warfare. With Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901 his supporters lacked a leader, yet the fighting dragged on.

Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in Cuba in the Spanish-American War, assumed the U.S. presidency on September 14, 1901. He agreed with his predecessor that the Filipinos were not capable of self-governance. He also believed in the importance of the Philippine Islands as refueling stations for the navy. Yet he sought an end to a war that was characterized by brutalities on both sides. He proclaimed a general amnesty and a ceasefire on July 4, 1902.

William Howard Taft served as the first governor general of the Philippines, and with his wife, Helen Herron Taft, instituted reforms designed to instill democracy. The Philippines remained under U.S. protection and oversight until 1946.

 The Aguinaldo Guard, 1900. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.