During the early 1900’s the Philippines was entrenched in the Philippine-American War. This is discussed in much more depth in a separate blog post, so I shall talk mostly about the sentiment that the United States had and their rational for occupying the Philippines.
Manifest Destiny is the idea that the United States was “destined” to spread across the North American continent from the edge of the Atlantic to and through the Pacific Ocean. The term, coined in 1839, was the motivation for the westward expansion of America through the Great Plains and into what is now California. As America continued to grow (in power as well as geographically), it’s definitions of Manifest Destiny were altered. The United States continued to expand its borders, but with the idea now of bringing democracy, peace and civilization to all parts of the world.
The Philippines was a likely candidate for a number of reasons, the largest being that the archipelago is situated in such a way in relation to other powerful nations (such as Japan and China) that would allow commerce between these countries and, perhaps more importantly, in the case of conflict with these powerful nations, a strategic warfare position.
The Philippines joins Cuba and Hawaii in Independence Day celebrations
These motives were of course candy-coated under the veil of being the bringer of civilization and peace to the uncivilized natives of the Philippines. The notion of “Benevolent Assimilation” of 1898 was issued by the United States in regards to the Philippines. In the original statement, the United States clearly were attempting to overtake the Philippines in terms of political control. The statement was sent to General Otis, the U.S. military commander in the Philippines, which was then censored by Otis and sent to Aguinaldo. The censored version removed any mentions of rule by the United States.
“Our little brown brothers” would need “fifty or one hundred years” of close supervision “to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon political principles and skills.” “Filipinos are moved by similar considerations to those which move other men.” - William Howard Taft to President McKinley
The term “little brown brother” was also created in order to make the United States seem less of a threat to the Philippine nation. The term, coined by William Howard Taft, asserted that it was America’s duty to closely watch and monitor the Philippines in order that it may become a civilized and upright nation. Although not intended to be derogatory, the racism in his words is apparent. Taft, in using this statement, effectively saw the Filipino population as children who are unable to accomplish anything themselves and must rely on the United States in order to become “civilized” by Western standards.
Baptizing a “Little Brown Brother”
With these “benign” motives put forth by the United States, it proceeded to take control over the Philippines and thus, pave the way for the Philippine-American War.
Posted by: Edward Patrick Alva