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Walter LaFeber : The Decision to Annex the Philippines
Walter LaFeber McKinley once related to a group of visitors to the White House that he had been unable to sleep at night before he made his decision to annex the Philippines. And he said that he had prayed regularly and finally one night he said a voice came the him that said that you had to annex all of the Philippines, because, otherwise, he said, the voice told that if you gave the Philippines back to the Filipinos, that would be, quote, "cowardly", unquote, and, moreover, if you did that, the French and the British and the Japanese and the Germans might move in and that would be, as McKinley told his visitors, quote, "bad business", unquote. And so McKinley said that he had decided that night that he would have to annex all of the Philippines and he went to bed and he slept soundly because he had decided that it was now the role of the United States, as he told these visitors, to, quote, "lift up and civilized the Filipinos even as we annex islands." Most historians do not believe that story. For one thing, he was telling a group of Methodist missionaries that particular story. He knew his audience and the Methodist missionaries were very impressed with the reasons why McKinley decided to take the Philippines. The other reason, though, I think that is more important, that well before the war, in late 1897-early 1898, McKinley had understood very clearly that war against Spain meant not only taking Cuba; it meant taking the Spanish possessions in the Pacific, and McKinley wanted this very badly and he had decided that he would take at least the Port of Manila. The only question was whether or not you could take the Port of Manila without taking the rest of the Philippines, and he had decided finally that he could not. As a consequence, McKinley had made the decision to annex the Philippines

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