U.S. Debate on Philippine Annexation
On the Philippine annexation issue, the American nation was divided into two political camps. Those who supported the President and his Philippine annexation policy became known as the expansionists or "Imperialists";  those who opposed were known as "anti-Imperialists",  copperheads, traitors and other epithets.

The expansionists relied upon what they called "Manifest Destiny" arguing that if the United States had not expanded, its confines would still be within the boundaries of the thirteen original states, a small area that cannot sustain the rapid growth of population. To spread the growth of population and spread the American civilization likewise, it demanded the increase of territory.

On the other hand, the anti-imperialists argued that the forcible Philippine acquisition was in violation to:
the spirit and letter of the American declaration of independence which made no mention of foreign colonies, particularly;
the basic Constitutional principle of  "government by the consent of the governed" 
the Monroe Doctrine that "America is for the Americans", and that it should equally apply to "the Philippines is for the Filipinos."

      •  P.A.W.C.I.

Index of Topic of Debates

Focus of Three Stages of Debate

1]  Philippines as Spoil of War.  Debate on what to do with the Philippines as a spoil of war immediately after Commodore Dewey's historic naval victory at Manila Bay.

"A strong feeling spreading over the land in favor of colonial expansion [is] getting so strong that it will mean the political death of any man to oppose it pretty soon."

2] Treaty Ratification. Debate for the Treaty of Paris ratification by the U.S. Senate

"The hardest, closest fight I have ever known, and probably we shall never see another like it in our time."

3] Post-Treaty/Ongoing War U.S. Debate

Mark Twain in the early 1900s.

[Note: To link with Library of Congress 
biography of Mark Twain, "click" the photo 
of Mark Twain.

"But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but subjugate the people of the Philippines.  We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem."

"It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way.  And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."

        • Mark Twain, from the New York Herald, October 15, 1900

"Was it ever heard before that a civilized, humane, and Christian nation made war upon a people and refused to tell them what they wanted of them? You say you want them to submit. To submit to what? To mere military force? But for what purpose or for what end is that military force to be exerted? You decline to tell them. Not only do you decline to say what you want of them, except bare and abject surrender, but you will not even let them tell you what they ask of you!"

"We have about ten million Malays at two dollars a head unpicked, and nobody knows what it will cost to pick them." Personalities Involved in the Debates
Imperialist Camp
Name Remark
President William McKinley U.S. President
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge U.S. Senator
Senator Albert Beveridge U.S. Senator
Theodore Roosevelt Former Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy
Anti-Imperialist Camp
Name Remark
Grover Cleveland Former U.S. President
William J. Bryan Defeated candidate for U.S. Presidency, 1896 elections
George Frisbee Hoar Senator from Massachusetts, leader in the U.S. Senate
Senator Tillman U.S. Senator
Senator Patterson U.S. Senator
Senator Carmack U.S. Senator
Andrew Carnegie Industrialist
Carl Schulz Leader of independent groups
George Boutwell Former Governor of Massachusetts and a former member of Grant's cabinet; president of the New England Anti-Imperialist League.
Edward Atkinson Economist
Samuel Gompers Labor leader
Mark Twain Writer who joined the group later and became the archcritic of the Treaty of Paris
Jane Addams Reformist
Thomams Reed Prominent Republican
John Sherman Prominent Republican
William Dean Howells  

Political Positions and Arguments of the Imperialists

  1. That loyalty to the flag and country demanded that the President should be supported.
  2. That it had been a part of McKinley's policy to bring about an independent Philippines, and that "Aguinaldo's Revolt" had interfered in this policy;
  3. That the first duty of the U.S. government was to suppress the "rebellion", and that no form of government, except the supremacy of American military authority, could be properly considered until the rebellion was put to an end.
  4. Opposed to the fact that only three percent of the inhabitants of the islands could read and write; that the bulk of the population were savages and consequently unfit for self-government.
  5. That an independent Philippines would set Aguinaldo as dictator and that opposition, revolt, anarchy would follow and that conditions would be worse than under the Spanish rule.
  6. That commerce was the controlling factor in the government of nations and that through the expansion of American trade American civilization could best be spread and promoted.
  7. That the United States needed the Philippine Islands as a way station on the great commercial highway of American-Asiatic commerce.
  8. That no American government had seriously considered the wishes of the American Indians, French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana or the Eskimos of Alaska to be superior to that of the national interest of the country.

Political Positions and Arguments of the Anti-Imperialists

  1. The forcible acquisition of a territory, especially away from the American continent, was in flagrant violation to the teachings of the founding fathers.
  2. That it was a fundamental principle of the U.S. government that "all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
  3. That by the going to war against the Filipinos, American lives were needlessly sacrificed to subjugate a people entitled to freedom.
  4. That for the U.S. to guarantee freedom to Cuba through Congressional resolution, there is no reason why America cannot offer the same to the Philippines;
  5. That inasmuch as the Monroe Doctrine declared that "America is for the Americans", it goes to say that the "Philippines for the Filipinos" is just fair for the Filipinos, if America were to be consistent in its foreign policy.
An editorial cartoon from 1901 issue of Puck depicts Uncle Sam as a giant cocky rooster protecting the little American chickens, and the European chickens complain:

"You're not the only rooster in South America!", to which Uncle Sam retorts, 

"I was aware of that when I cooped you up!"


[Note: Monroe Doctrine is the U.S. policy declaring the Americas, particularly the Caribbean's, from outside interference by European powers, a term coined after a foreign-policy statement by President James Monroe in 1823.

Quotes from the Imperialists

"We have full power and are absolutely free to do with these islands as we please."


"We must on no account let the islands go...We hold the other side of the Pacific, and the value to this country is almost beyond imagination."

"The Philippines are ours forever, "territory belonging to the United States,: as the Constitution calls them.  And just beyond the Philippines are Chian's illimitable markets.  We will not retreat from either.  We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago.  We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient.  We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world."

"I believe it wise and proper to retain the Philippines. I think the government we enjoy in the United States is the best government for us in the Philippines."

"The Philippines should be ours on moral, legal, commercial, sociological, and religious grounds." Quotes from the Anti-Imperialists

"that under the Constitution...no power is given to the Federal Government to acquire territory to be held and governed permanently as colonies."

"the people of the Philippine Islands of right ought to be free and independent."

Felipe Agoncillo, Philippine's 
Extraordinary Plenipotentiary 
during the Revolutionary days.
Felipe Agoncillo's Memorial Urging 
the U.S. Senate Not to Vote For the 
Approval of the Treaty of Paris

January 24, 1899

To: The United States Secretary of State

1. I respectfully submit that the United States, not having received from the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands authority to pass laws affecting them, its legislation as to their welfare possesses no binding force upon my people.
2.  American authorities herein cited demonstrate that the Philippine Revolution was never more threatening that immediately before the breaking out of the Spanish-American War, five thousand revolutionists having been encamped near Manila three weeks before the American declaration of  war, this army acting under the direction of General Aguinaldo (though he was personally absent), in whom the consular representatives of the United States reposed the highest confidence.
3.   The purpose of the revolution was tosecure independence, and, understanding this, the United States encouraged the revolutionists to believe their desires would attain fruition. This is shown by citations from the archives of the State Department and by the incidents above related.
4.  The Philippine Republic was entitled to recognition from the United States as an independent nation before the signing of the protocol with Spain, that Government knowing that Philippine Independence had been proclaimed in June, a Government de facto and de jure established, laws promulgated, and Spain's further domination impossible, being acquainted with all these facts immediately upon their happening, through documents and written reports submitted to the United States by its officers.
5.  The American Government for months has had in its possession, as herein shown, evidence of the actual independence of the Filipinos.
6.  Spain could not deliver possession of the Philippines to the United States, she having been ousted by their people, and in fact at the present moment the United States holds only and entrenched camp, controlling one hundred and forty-three square miles, with 300,000 people, while the Philippine Republic represents the destinies of nearly 10,000,000 souls, scattered over an area approaching 200,000 square miles.
7.  Spain having no possession (except minor garrison posts), and no right of possession in the Philippines, could confer no right to control them.
8.  American purchase of public buildings, etc., in the Philippine Islands was ineffective , because the Islands, having been lost by Spain to the Philippine Republic, the last-named Government had already by conquest acquired public property.
9. Secretaries of State of your country (including Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Pinckney) have denied the right of an ally of America to acquire by conquest from Great Britain any American territory while America was struggling for independence.  The United States Supreme Court has sustained this view.  We deny similarly the right of the United States to acquire Philippine territory by cession from Spain while the Filipinos were yet at war with that power.
 American Anti-Imperialist League
Declaration of Principles

October 1899

"We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends towards militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free.  We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.  We insist that the subjugation of any people constitutes 'criminal aggression' and flagrant disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our government...."

"We demand the immediate cessation of war against liberty begun by Spain and continued by us.  We urge that Congress pre promptly convened to announce to the Filipinos our purpose to concede to them the independence for which they have so long fought and which of right is theirs...."

"We propose to contribute to the defeat of any person or party that stands for the forcible subjugation of any people..  We shall oppose for re-election all those who, in the White House or in Congress, betray American liberty in pursuit of un-American ends.  We still hope that both our great political parties will support and defend the Declaration of Independence in the closing campaign of the century."

"We hold with Abraham Lincoln that:  'No man is good enough to govern another without the other's consent.  When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government --that is despotism.  Our safety lies in the laws of liberty which God has implanted in us.  Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men in all lands everywhere.  Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it."

[ Source:  Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, ed. Frederick Bancroft, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913, Vol. VI, note, pp. 77-79. ]

Anti-Imperialist Resolutions 
From Black Citizens of Boston

The Boston Post
Tuesday, July 18, 1899

Revolved, That the colored people of Boston in meeting assembled desire to enter their solemn protest against the present unjustified invasion by American soldiers in the Philippine Islands.

Resolved, That, while the rights of colored citizens in the South, sacredly guaranteed them by the amendment of the Constitution, are shamefully disregarded;  and, while the frequent lynching of negroes who are denied a civilized trial are a reproach to Republican government, the duty of the President and country is to reform these crying domestic wrongs and not to attempt the civilization of alien peoples by powder and shot.

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be sent to the President of the United States and to the press.

[ Reprint Source: The Philippines Readers, Edited by Daniel B. Schirmer & Stepehn Rosskamm Shalom ] 


Copyright ©1998.  All rightrs reserved
Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)