Philippine Insurection and the Open Door
Spanish-American War, the US had fought alongside Filipinos who sought
independence from Spain led by Emilio Aguinaldo.
*When the Spanish surrendered, Aguinaldo helped create the Philippine
Republic and served as its first president. However, despite what
he thought, the United States intended to keep the Philippines as a US
possession to have a trading and military base near Asia and the US did
not recognise the Philippine Declaration of Independence.
*Some fighting between Filipino and American forces took place in 1898,
and in 1899 a large-scale uprising called the Philippine Insurrection
began, led by Aguinaldo.
*The Filipinos fought a guerrilla war, attacking out of the jungle and
out of villages, often hitting the US Army behind their own
lines. The US fought a war of extermination in return,
particularly under the US military governor Arthur MacArthur.
Both sides tortured prisoners and generally fought in the most brutal
fashion they could. The US put Filipinos in concentration camps
and the Filipinos deliberately infected American captives with diseases
they could carry back to their bases when released and slaughtered
other Filipinos who would not support them. A few American
officers were tried in courts martial for their actions, and many
captured Filipino leaders were executed, but many perpetrators of war
crimes went unpunished.
*Read the selection from the San Francisco Argonaut on page 264.
How do you feel about its statement?
*Many people felt the role of the US in the Philippines should be to
‘civilise’ the local people—teach them English, end the role of the
Catholic Church in government, convert the large Muslim minority to
Christianity, and generally make the Philippines as much like America
and Europe as possible.
*Other Americans opposed the occupation of the Philippines. Mark
Twain helped found the Anti-Imperialist League in 1898 and served as
its vice-president from 1901 to 1910, and William Jennings Bryan ran on
an anti-imperialist platform in 1900.
*Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901 and only allowed to go free
after swearing allegiance to the US and asking his followers to stop
fighting. Most did so by 1902, although in more remote areas
violence lasted at least until 1913.
*Over 5,000 Americans died in the Philippine Insurrection and more
(perhaps many more) than 200,000 Filipinos were killed.
*One reason violence did decrease is that Arthur MacArthur was replaced
by a new governor of the Philippines, William Howard Taft, who treated
the Filipinos with much greater respect and allowed some
self-government (although he also was strict in some areas, limiting
the freedom of the press and imprisoning people who protested against
*In 1916 the Jones Act promised that the Philippines could eventually
have their independence, which was granted in 1946 after the end of
World War II, although the US continued to keep military bases in the
Philippines for years afterwards. Emilio Aguinaldo did live to
see this and was given a position in the Council of State in which he
served a full term before retiring.
*The US was interested in having a presence in Asia because one of the
richest areas in Asia was very weak by the end of the 1800s.
China had been carved up into ‘spheres of influence’ by European powers
and Japan, in which each had exclusive trading rights and a great deal
of political control—it was like have a colony, but with less expense.
*Because the US got into the imperialist game too late, it was unable
to obtain a sphere of influence. Instead, Secretary of State John
Hay proposed an Open Door policy in which any country (or at least the
United States) could trade with any part of China. This was
mostly ignored by the countries that dominated China.
*Many Chinese did not appreciate the dominance of their country by
foreigners or the fact that their own Emperor permitted it (although he
probably had little choice). One group who opposed foreign
influence were the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, who secretly met to
study martial arts and celebrate traditional ways of life. They
believed that doing so would, among other things, make them immune to
the bullets of the foreign devils—an important point, as they planned
to rebel against them.
*The Boxer Rebellion (named by the Yellow Press, who based the name
Boxer on the Fists in the group’s name) began in May, 1900 with the
assassination of the German ambassador to China. Soon every
European country with an interest in China, Japan, and the United
States sent soldiers to China to put down the Boxer Rebellion.
Over 20,000 soldiers put the rebellion down, then forced the Chinese
government to pay for the damage done to their property by the
*Eventually the Chinese would successfully rebel against their own
government and (some) foreign dominance in the Wu Chang Rebellion of
1911-1912, which created the Republic of China.
*The United States were also increasingly suspicious of Japan. It
had not only beaten China in the 1894-1895, but in 1904-1905 destroyed
the Russian Navy in the Russo-Japanese War (begun with a surprise
morning attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet in Port Arthur) and also
took over most of Manchuria. Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel
Peace Prize for helping negotiate and end to the war, but Americans
were still concerned about Japanese expansion.
*Furthermore, racism against Asians was wide-spread on the West Coast,
particularly in California. In 1906, San Francisco banned Asian
children from going to school with white children. When the
Japanese government protested, Roosevelt (who also disliked the plan)
negotiated a Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan under which San Francisco
would end its segregation policy, but Japan would limit emigration to
*Just in case things heated up more in the Pacific, Roosevelt built up
the US Navy, and in 1907 sent 16 new battleships on a world tour.
These ships were painted white and were known as the Great White
Fleet. Roosevelt called this a good will tour, but to the rest of
the world, it was a demonstration that the US was a military power to
be reckoned with.