Americanization During the War
— from a report by the Taft Commission
Manila, Philippine Islands
April 4, 1899
The Commission desires to assure the people of the Philippine islands of the cordial good will and fraternal feeling which is entertained for them by the President of the United States and by the American people.
The aim and object of the American government, apart from the fulfillment of the solemn obligations it has assumed toward the family of nations by its acceptance of sovereignty over the Philippine islands is the well-being, prosperity, and happiness of the Philippine people and their elevation and advancement to a position among the most civilized peoples of the world.
The President believes that this felicity and perfection of the Philippine people is to be brought about by the assurance of peace and order, by the guarantee of civil and religious liberty, by the establishment of justice, by the cultivation of letters, science and the liberal and practical arts, by the enlargement of intercourse with foreign nations, by expansion of industrial pursuits, by trade and commerce, by multiplication and improvement of the means of internal communication, by development, with the aid of modern mechanical inventions, of the great natural resources of the archipelago - and, in a word, by the uninterrupted devotion of the people to the pursuit of useful objects and the realization of those nobler ideals which constitute the higher civilization of mankind.
Unfortunately these pure aims and purposes of the American government and people have been misinterpreted to some of the inhabitants of certain islands, and as a consequence the friendly American forces have without provocation or cause been openly attacked. And why these hostilities? What do the best Filipinos desire? Can it be more that the United States is ready to give? They are patriots and want liberty.
In the meantime the attention of the people of the Philippines is invited to certain regulation principles by which the United States will be guided in its relations with them. These are deemed to be the points of cardinal importance.
In obeying his behest, the commissioners desire
to join the President in expressing their good will toward the Philippine
people, and to extend to the leading representative men an invitation to
meet them for the purpose of personal acquaintance and the exchange of
views and opinions.
Letter of Instructions to the Taft Commission
April 7, 1900
The commissioners will meet and act as a board,
and the Hon. William H. Taft is designated as president of the
You will instruct the commission to proceed to the city of Manila, where they will make their principal office,... Without hampering them by too specific instruction they should in general be enjoined, after making themselves familiar with the conditions and needs of the country, to devote their attention in the first instance to the establishment of municipal governments, in which the natives of the islands, both in the cities and in the rural communities, shall be afforded the opportunity to manage their own local affairs to the fullest extent of which they are capable, and subject to the least degree of supervision and control which a careful study of their capacities and observation of the workings of native control show to be consistent with the maintenance of law, order, and loyalty.
The next subject in order of importance should be the organization of government in the larger administrative divisions, corresponding to counties, departments, or provinces,... Whenever the commission is of the opinion that the condition of affairs in the islands is such that the central administration may safely be transferred from military to civil control, they will report that conclusion to you, with their recommendations as to the form of central government to be established for the purpose of taking over the control.
Beginning with the 1st day of September, 1900, the authority to exercise, subject to my approval, through the Secretary of War, that part of the power of government in the Philippine Islands which is of a legislative nature is to be transferred from the military governor of the islands to this commission,... under such rules and regulations as you shall prescribe, until the establishment of the civil central government,... or until Congress shall otherwise provide.
Exercise of this legislative authority will include the making of rules and orders having the effect of law, for the raising of revenue by taxes, customs, duties, and imposts; the appropriation and expenditure of public funds of the islands; the establishment of an educational system throughout the islands; the establishment of a system to secure an efficient civil service; the organization and establishment of courts; the organization and establishment of municipal and departmental governments, and all other matters of a civil nature for which the military governor is now competent to provide by rules or orders of a legislative character.
The commission will also have power during the same period to appoint to office such officers under the judicial, educational, and civil-service systems and in the municipal and departmental governments as shall be provided for. Until the complete transfer of control the military governor nor will remain the chief executive head of the government of the islands,... In the meantime the municipal and departmental governments will continue to report to the military governor and be subject to his administrative supervision and control, under your direction.
All legislative rules and orders, establishments of government, and appointments to office by the Commission will take effect immediately, or at such times as they shall designate, subject to your approval and action upon the coming in of the commission's reports,...
In the distribution of powers among the governments organized by the commission the presumption is always to be in favor of the smaller subdivision, so that all the powers which can properly be exercised by the municipal government shall be vested in that government, and all the powers of a more general character which can be exercised by the departmental government shall be vested in that government, and so that in the governmental system which is the result of the process the central government of the islands, following the example of the distribution of the powers between the States and the National Government of the United States, shall have no direct administration except of matters of purely general concern and shall have only such supervision and control over local governments as may be necessary to secure and enforce faithful and efficient administration by local officers.
The many different degrees of civilization and varieties ties of custom and capacity among the people of the different islands preclude very definite instruction as to the part which the people shall take in the selection of their own officers; but these general rules are to be observed: That in all cases the municipal officers, who administer the local affairs of the people, are to be selected by the people, and that wherever officers of more extended jurisdiction are to be selected in any way, natives of the islands are to be preferred, and if they can be found competent and willing to perform the duties, they are to receive the offices in preference to any others.
It will be necessary to fill some offices for the present with Americans which after a time may well be filled by natives of the islands. As soon as practicable a system for ascertaining the merit and fitness of candidates for civil office should be put in force. An indispensable qualification for all offices and positions of trust and authority in the islands must be absolute and unconditional loyalty to the United States;...
In all the forms of government and administrative provisions which they are authorized to prescribe, the commission should bear in mind that the government which they are establishing is designed, not for our satisfaction faction or for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands, and the measures adopted should be made to conform to their customs, their habits, and even their prejudices, to the fullest extent consistent with the accomplishment of the indispensable requisites of just and effective government.
At the same time the commission should bear in mind, and the people of the islands should be made plainly to understand, that there are certain great principles of government which have been made the basis of our governmental system which we deem essential to the rule of law and the maintenance of individual freedom, and of which they have, unfortunately, been denied the experience possessed by us; that there are also certain practical rules of government which we have found to be essential to the preservation of these great principles of liberty and law, and that these principles and these rules of government must be established and maintained in their islands for the sake of their liberty and happiness, however much they may conflict with the customs or laws of procedure with which they are familiar.
It is evident that the most enlightened thought of the Philippine Islands fully appreciates the importance of these principles and rules, and they will inevitably within a short time command universal assent. Upon every division vision and branch of the government of the Philippines, therefore, must be imposed these inviolable rules:
That no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation; that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense; that excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted; that no person shall be put twice in jeopardy for the same offense, or be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; that the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist except as a punishment for crime; that no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed; that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances; that no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship ship without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed.
It will be the duty of the commission to make a thorough investigation into the titles to the large tracts of land held or claimed by individuals or by religious orders; into the justice of the claims and complaints made against such landholders by the people of the island [sic], or any part of the people, and to seek by wise and peaceable measures a just settlement of the controversies and redress of wrongs which have caused strife and bloodshed in the past. In the performance of this duty the commission is enjoined to see that no injustice is done; to have regard for substantial rights and equity, disregarding technicalities so far as substantial right permits, and to observe the following rules:
That the provision of the treaty of Paris pledging the United States to the protection of all rights of property in the islands, and as well the principle of our own Government which prohibits the taking of private property without due process of law, shall not be violated; that the welfare of the people of the islands, which should be a paramount consideration, shall be attained consistently with this rule of property right; that if it becomes necessary for the public interest of the people of the islands to dispose of claims to property which the commission finds to be not lawfully acquired and held, disposition shall be made thereof by due legal procedure, in which there shall be full opportunity for fair and impartial hearing and judgment; that if the same public interests require the extinguishment of property rights lawfully acquired and held, due compensation shall be made out of the public treasury therefor; that no form of religion and no minister of religion shall be forced upon any community or upon any citizen of the islands; that upon the other hand no minister of religion shall be interfered with or molested in following his calling, and that the separation between state and church shall be real, entire, and absolute.
It will be the duty of the commission to promote and extend, and, as they find occasion, to improve, the system of education already inaugurated by the military re-authorities. In doing this they should regard as of first importance the extension of a system of primary education which shall be free to all, and which shall tend to fit the people for the duties of citizenship and for the ordinary avocations of a civilized community. This instruction should be given in the first instance in every part of the islands in the language of the people. In view of the great number of languages spoken by the different tribes, it is especially important to the prosperity of the islands that a common medium of communication may be established, and it is obviously desirable that this medium should be the English language. Especial attention should be at once given to affording full opportunity to all the people of the islands to acquire the use of the English language.
It may be well that the main changes which should be made in the system of taxation and in the body of the laws under which the people are governed, except such changes as have already been made by the military government, should be relegated to the civil government which is to be established under the auspices of the commission. It will, however, be the duty of the commission to inquire diligently gently as to whether there are any further changes which ought not to be delayed; and if so, they are authorized to make such changes, subject to your approval. In doing so they are to bear in mind that taxes which tend to penalize or repress industry and enterprise are to be avoided; that provisions for taxation should be simple, so that they may be understood by the people; that they should affect the fewest practicable subjects of taxation which will serve for the general distribution of the burden.
The main body of the laws which regulate the rights and obligations of the people should be maintained with as little interference as possible. Changes made should be mainly in procedure, and in the criminal laws to secure speedy and impartial trials and at the same time effective administration and respect for individual rights.
In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the islands the commission should adopt the same course followed by Congress in permitting the tribes of our North American Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government and under which many of those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by a civilization to which they are unable or unwilling to conform. Such tribal governments should, however, be subjected to wise and firm regulation; and, without undue or petty interference, constant and active effort should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices and introduce civilized customs.
Upon all officers and employees of the United States, both civil and military, should be impressed a sense of the duty to observe not merely the material but the personal and social rights of the people of the islands, and to treat them with the same courtesy and respect for their personal dignity which the people of the United States are accustomed to require from each other.
The articles of capitulation of the city of Manila on the 13th of August, 1898, concluded with these words:
"This city, its inhabitants, its churches and religious worship,its educational establishments, and its private property of all descriptions are placed under the special safeguard of the faith and honor of the American army."
I believe that this pledge has been faithfully kept. As high and sacred an obligation rests upon the Government of the United States to give protection for property and life, civil and religious freedom, and wise, firm, and unselfish guidance in the paths of peace and prosperity to all the people of the Philippine Islands. I charge this commission to labor for the full performance of this obligation, which concerns the honor and conscience of their country, in the firm hope that through their labors all the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands may come to look back with gratitude to the day when God gave victory to American arms at Manila and set their land under the sovereignty and the protection of the people of the United States.
— WILLIAM McKINLEY
[ Note: The full text is in Annual Reports
of the War Department... 1900, Vol. I: Report of the Secretary of War,
Pt. 1, Appendix B, pp. 72-76. The instructions were addressed to the Secretary
of War Elihu Root, who in turn transmitted them to the Commissioner. Besides
W. H. Taft, the other members of the Commission were: Dean C. Worcester,
Luke E. Wright, Henry C. Ide, and Bernard Moses.]
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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)