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The Philippine-American War. A war of frontier and empire

Essay 2013 11 Pages

History - America

Excerpt

Coming into the twentieth-century, after the closing of the frontier in 1890, the United States was looking to expand its influence into new frontiers and solidify itself as a significant player on the world stage. Until 1890, the United States had always had a frontier, a vast expanse of uninhabited, untamed, territory to expand into and conquer. Much like Spain which sought other ventures after the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492 (which lead to the discovery of the American continents), the United States and the American people were forced to look elsewhere in order to continue expanding and developing as a world power. This search would get the United States involved in a multiple-party conflict with the revolutionary forces of Cuba and the Philippines against the imperial, colonial, forces of the dying Spanish Empire, and become the United States’ first major step into becoming a world power.[1] Americans took what they learned from decades of combat against “unruly” native tribes, partially fueled by a racist dialectic, to take this first step.

David J. Silbey calls the Spanish-American War a “war of frontier and of empire.”[2] This war, that would rise from the end of American expansionism in the west of a shrinking continent, would also be the answer for what to do with the growing state of American nationalism, a sense of nationalism that was not felt in the Philippines, which until this time hardly saw themselves as the same cluster of islands, let alone members of a unified nation.[3]

The American people, until 1890 had been born into a culture of frontier and westward expansion. When the frontier closed they needed to start looking to extend American influence elsewhere. The American government was also looking to extend the power and influence of the United States, to solidify their power in the eyes of international spectators.[4] For the government, the geographic location of the Philippines was ideal for this purpose. The United States would have to extend its influence outside of the American continents and establish a foothold in east Asia in order compete with the European economies and their spheres of influence in China. The location of the Philippines was also important for establishing a fueling station for the United States military.[5] It became evident that one of the keys to building a successful empire, especially one that is more-or-less isolated on an island, is the development of a powerful navy.[6] For all of these reasons and more, the United States desired to have control of the Philippines.

The United States entered the initial conflict on the 25th of April, 1898, under the pretenses of helping end Spanish Imperialism and establish Cuban sovereignty. The United States joined the Philippine Revolution, in the Pacific theatre on the same day, but did not arrive with warships in Manila Bay until the 1st of May. The war ended on the 25th of August, that same year, just over three months after it started, with the independence of Cuba and the Spanish transferring control of the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States.[7] This transfer of power to the United States from the Spanish government completely violated the ideas of sovereignty which the Filipinos had fought since 1896 for. Feeling betrayed by the Americans, the Filipinos triggered a new war for their freedom, against their former allies, in the Philippine-American War.[8]

Whatever positive attitudes that some Americans may have had about the Philippines, or hopes of “civilizing” the Filipino people, during the Spanish-American War, these sentiments had all but disappeared when (President) Emilio Aguinaldo (of the Philippines) and the Filipino people alike decided that they had sacrificed too much and spilled too much of their own blood to simply be bought out by American gold.[9] The attitudes of the American public, as seen in the following memoires from the war, are vastly different from the pro-Filipino political cartoons and propaganda that were portrayed across America months earlier when Americans and Filipinos were allies against imperialist Spanish forces.

Private Fred B. Hinchman, of Company A with the United States Engineers, tells in a letter from Manila, dated the 22nd of February, about the procedure and sentiment of taking prisoners:

“At 1:30 o’clock the general gave me a memorandum with regard to sending out a Tennessee battalion to the line. He tersely put it that ‘they were looking for a fight.’ At the Puente Colgante [suspension bridge] I met one of our company, who told me that the Fourteenth and Washingtons were driving all before them, and taking no prisoners. This is now our rule of procedure for cause. After delivering my message I had not walked a block when I heard shots down the street. Hurrying forward, I found a group of our men taking pot-shots across the river, into a bamboo thicket, at about 1,200 yards. I longed to join them, but had my reply to take back, and that, of course, was the first thing to attend to I reached the office at 3 P.M., just in time to see a platoon of the Washingtons, with about fifty prisoners, who had been taken before they learned how not to take them.”[10]

[...]


[1] Smith, James B. Spanish-American War. Springfield, Illinois, Phillips Bros. State Printer;1902. 1-10.

[2] Silbey, David J. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Hill and Wang, United States, 2008. 3.

[3] Silbey, David J. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Hill and Wang, United States, 2008. Xiii.

[4] Birtle J. Andrew. United States Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941. United States, Library of Congress Publications; 1998. 100-105.

[5] Silbey, David J. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Hill and Wang, United States, 2008. 213.

[6] Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Boston, Little Brown Company; 1890. Preface, 347.

[7] Smith, James B. Spanish-American War. Springfield, Illinois, Phillips Bros. State Printer; 1902. 630-635, 643-647, 650.

[8] McAllister Linn, Brian. U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902. University of North Carolina Press, United States, 1989. 1-20.

[9] Silbey, David J. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Hill and Wang, United States, 2008. 3.

[10] “American Soldiers in the Philippines Write Home about the War.” History Matter. Historymatters.edu. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/58/. (accessed 12 Feb, 2013).

Details

Pages
11
Year
2013
ISBN (eBook)
9783668236868
ISBN (Book)
9783668236875
File size
466 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v333806
Institution / College
Westminster College
Grade
93.0
Tags
philippines war united states imperialism empire colonialism

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Title: The Philippine-American War. A war of frontier and empire