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Walter LaFeber : The Fight for the Philippines
Walter LaFeber When Americans moved into the Philippines, they thought that they would be able to control Manila and that the local Filipino authorities would go along with this. The local Philippine force was led by a man named Emilio Aguinaldo, and Aguinaldo believed that the Americans, once they defeated the Spanish, would get out. So there was clearly a misunderstanding here. In January of 1899, Aguinaldo proclaimed a Filipino republic. But by that time, McKinley had decided that he had to annex all of the Philippines and, as a consequence, he sends US troops into some of the Filipino cities and in the first week of February of 1899 there's gunfire exchanged and bloodshed on both sides, and the Filipino insurrection is full blast. This was an extreme brutal war that the United States and the Filipinos fought between 1899 and 1902. It was a war of great brutality. On the one hand, Americans got this overseas empire and they felt very good about themselves. On the other hand, they became appalled at the price that they were going to have to pay in order to maintain this empire. McKinley had censored the news coming out of the Philippines, but he could not hide the fact that Americans had been told they would be able to occupy the Philippines with about 30,000 troops. Within a matter of months, McKinley had to send 60,000 troops and finally he had to send 120,000 troops. This is becoming very expensive. He could not hide the fact that of the brutality. Some of the news was coming back in soldiers' letters, one soldier's letter, for example, that relates how one of his comrades, who was an American soldier, had been found murdered outside this village with his stomach slit open. And the American commander immediately orders that everyone in this Filipino village be executed. And, according to this young man who wrote home, there were a thousand men, women, and children who were executed in their reprisal for the murder of this one American soldier. This was a no holds barred war between the Filipinos and the Americans. And by 1899 and 1900, many Americans are beginning to wonder whether even all of the possible profits that this empire might offer was worth this kind of brutality. So what we find in 1899 and 1900 is the beginning to an anti-imperialist movement in the United States, an anti-imperialist movement that begins to raise questions about whether Americans should actually go across water thousands of miles to impose their own society and their own politics on other peoples. And the anti-imperialist movement in 189 and 1900 is interesting especially I think because it is one of the places where women are mobilized in American society politically in a very important way. At some anti-imperialist rallies more than half of the people were women. And the reason for that was simple. The women identified with the Filipinos who did not have the vote who had no say in how their society was being organized. And, as a consequence, these peace movements essentially said, "Let's get out of the Philippines. Let the Filipinos decide how Filipino society should be organized and stop the brutality." So McKinley did not have a free path to empire in 1899 and 1900. He had to somehow deal with this brutality in the Philippines and he somehow had to deal with this anti-imperialist movement that was really in full flower by the early part of 1900 when he was preparing to run for a second term.

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