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Who really started the Filipino-American war?

Generations of Filipinos have been taught that the bloody Philippine-American war broke out on the night of February 4, 1899 because a Filipino lieutenant and three of his men allegedly refused to heed the challenge to halt at the approach of the American post at the San Juan bridge in the outskirts of Manila and were fired upon and killed by the American sentry, Private Grayson.

(Photo source:University of Michigan digital library)

A reliable source, however, presented an entirely different story, exactly the opposite of the textbook version. Felipe Buencamino, a cabinet official of the Filipino government in Malolos, testified before the U.S. Senate that an American patrol forced its way into Filipino lines and provoked the unwary Filipinos into a fight. In the ensuing exchanges of fire that spread across a fifteen mile stretch, three thousand Filipino soldiers whose officers were mostly on leave on that night, fell dead on the first day of battle (Blount,193).

But U.S. Republican President William McKinley took advantage of the resulting conflict to place the blame on Aguinaldo, secure from the U.S. senate the ratification of the Treaty of Paris and unleash the dogs of war. What followed next was now history - the 30,000 strong Filipino army was routed by the Americans; the towns and provinces held and administered by the newly independent Philippine government were forcibly taken; the Malolos republic, the first in Asia, was dismantled, and the Filipino people was forced at gunpoint to submit to American rule.

Two versions of the incident

The textbook version of the event of February 4, 1899 being taught to this day in Philippine history class goes as follows:

"On the evening of February 4, Private Grayson, of the First Nebraska Volunteers, was standing on guard at the American end of this bridge; there was no moon, and the darkness was exceedingly dense, when there suddenly appeared on the bridge a Filipino lieutenant and three privates, all strongly armed, who advanced in perfect step toward him. In obedience to his instructions from the Officer of the Guard, he called, 'Halt!' The summons was deliberately unheeded. Crouching somewhat, with guns in hands, they stealthily moved forward. Again Grayson cried out in a challenging tone, 'Halt!' This second warning was also ignored. The Filipinos moved even more rapidly toward him than before. They were now within a few feet of him. He fired. The Filipino lieutenant fell dead." (Coursey, 72-73)
Compare the above with the following version which has yet to find its way into the pages of Philippine history books, viz:
"On the 4th of February the towns of Santa Ana and San Juan del Monte were under the command of General Ricarte and Colonel San Miguel. On this day those two commanders abandoned their posts and went to a ball, leaving a major by the name of Gray, about 26 years of age, very young and without experience, in command of about 1,800 troops. They extended along the eastern part of the outskirts of Manila and were about half a mile distant from the American troops. We took the deposition of this major, who said that about 9 o'clock p.m. the sergeant of the guard came to his headquarters and told him that a party of American troops desired to cross their lines or were attempting to cross their lines, which was opposed by the Philippine guards. At this time a shot was heard; that he could not say for certain whether the shot came from the American command or from the men under his command, but he ran to the place from which the shot appeared to come, and seeing the American troops in a belligerent attitude gave an order to fire. That is the way the hostilities began." (Buencamino, 3)
The foregoing is an account Felipe Buencamino, Sr. which was taken from the transcript of a hearing conducted by the U.S. Senate regarding the Philippine question, and could be considered the official Filipino version of the Febuary 4, 1899 incident.
[The National Historical Institute (NHI) of the Philippines removed on February 4, 2004 the historical marker that had been on the San Juan bridge for years and transferred it to a site at the corner of Sociego and Silencio streets in Sta. Mesa, Manila. Grayson mentioned Sta. Mesa and not San Juan as the village that the Nebraska regiment was ordered to occupy where the shooting incident happened.]

Who is the aggessor?

The textbook version tagged the Filipinos as the aggressors because they continued to approach the American sentry notwithstanding the challenge to halt. In the Filipino version, the aggressors were the American soldiers because they crossed into Filipino lines and the Filipino guards opposed it.

The intrusion of the Americans into Filipino-held territory was also cited by Charles E. Russell, a famous American writer-journalist, who wrote that it was the Americans who violated the demarcation lines, viz:
"On February 4, 1899, after the American lines outside the city had been advanced a mile into what was indisputably Filipino territory, an order came to push them still farther. The Filipino officer in command of that sector made the usual protest. It was reported to the American commander, Colonel Stotsenburg, of the Nebraska contingent. In response, he advised another advance in the same direction." (Russell, 92)
Private Grayson, the American soldier who fired the first shots of the war, in a letter cited by U.S. Senator Pettigrew, said that it was the "the damn bullheadedness of the officers in invading insurgent territory that was responsible for that shot." (Pettigrew, 270) Grayson’s statement contradicted the textbook version and confirmed that the American soldiers indeed crossed into Filipino lines and fired the first shots, resulting in an exchange of fire.

The loose alliance

Why would the Americans start a war with the Filipinos who considered the former an ally in the war against Spain? McKinley wanted the Philippine islands as an American colony. But the 30,000 strong Filipino Revolutionary Army stood as the main stumbling block. And war which the Filipinos themselves would start was needed to justify the use of superior force against the upstart Filipino army. McKinley was very careful in pursuing this course lest he ended up a conqueror and not the benefactor that he wanted himself viewed by the American people. He took advantage of the February 4 incident to drag Filipinos into a war, throw the blame on them and achieve his dream of putting the Philippine islands on the map of the United States.

McKinley's dream of acquiring the Philippine islands did not occur to Aguinaldo when he was sought on April 24, 1898 by Spencer Pratt, the United States Consul in Singapore. An arrangement for a general cooperation with Admiral (then Commodore) Dewey was agreed with assurances that Philippine independence would be respected. Dewey had already sailed for Manila when informed of the arrangement with Aguinaldo, but nevertheless, he agreed and cabled Consul Pratt to send Aguinaldo in.

After Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila bay on May 1, 1898, the Americans controlled the bay and harbor of Manila, in addition to the Cavite arsenal that the Spanish marines surrendered to Dewey. As the Spanish flag was still hoisted over the city, Dewey needed land forces to drive the Spaniards out. Aguinaldo came very handy for the purpose. Mr. Wildman, the American Consul in Hong Kong, facilitated the expatriation of Aguinaldo and thirteen of his staff to Cavite, assuring Aguinaldo that the United States was actuated by the same feeling for the Filipinos as it was in undertaking the war to free the Cubans from the Spain.

On May 19, 1898, Aguinaldo was brought to Cavite from Hongkong by one of Dewey's ship, the McCullough. After being assured that the United States had no intention of keeping the islands and would undoubtedly recognize its independence, Aguinaldo undertook the task of renewing the revolution against Spain. He issued three proclamations on May 24, 1898, explaining the reason why he had returned, the presence of the Americans and the need to renew the revolution. Aguinaldo's call spread like wildfire and leaders of the prior uprising rallied behind him and declared their adhesion to his cause. Donations and army enlistments flooded the headquaters of Aguinaldo in Cavite, enabling him to raise a fairly large army, including a small navy.
[Admiral (then Commodore) Dewey provided the initial cache of arms consisting of about 200 Mauser rifles and a few cannon pieces that were taken from the Cavite arsenal which the Spanish marines previously surrendered. The first shipment of arms was procured through the American Consul in Hongkong, Mr. Wildman, and consisted of 3,000 stand of breechloading Remington rifles and catridges. The shipment was paid out of the funds that Aguinaldo set aside in Hongkong for use in renewing the revolution should the Spaniards fail to implement the reforms promised under the peace treaty of Biak-na-bato. Additional arms were secured from captured Spanish garrisons and additional shipments from abroad which were handled by a group of self-exiled Filipinos that eventually became the propaganda arm called Comite Central Filipino. The soldiers were also provided with uniforms sewn from imported blue drilling cotton cloth.]
Visayan men serving in the Spanish army, notably in the 74th regiment and another regiment, defected to the rebels in late March. Native militias organized by the Spanish authorities to fight the Americans and placed under the command of a former rebel General, Pio del Pilar, similary joined Aguinaldo. These additions greatly raised the morale and fighting capability of the Filipino army. Dewey estimated Aguinaldo had about 25,000 troops, but "..they could have any number of men; it was just a matter of arming them." (Blount, 23)

In less than a month, all Spanish garrisons in the province of Cavite and surroundings were quickly overran and subsequent expeditions to the rest of Luzon, the islands of Mindoro, Palawan, Batanes, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, the provinces of Iloilio, Antique and Agusan, Cagayanes, Zamboanga, successfully hoisted the Filipino flag in those liberated provinces. By June 30, 1898, Aguinaldo had practically crushed the Spanish army, took 9,000 prisoners, declared Philippine independence, established a government, and surrounded the city of Manila. Agunaldo's fete did not escape the notice of Dewey who reported to Washington his admiration of Aguinaldo's accomplishment. But when Dewey was told that the time had come for the Filipinos to take the city of Manila, Dewey advised to hold the attack until the arrival of the bulk of American troops, to which Aguinaldo agreed.

Disowning the alliance

While the Filipinos were celebrating their succession of victories, American troops started arriving and by end of August the number swelled to more than 20,000 men. Some suspicious Filipino generals began to question the presence of American troops in view of the fact that the Spanish army was practically defeated. Aguinaldo never entertained the idea that the American army was eventually going to be used against him. He kept his trust on the Americans, assiting them in securing supplies - ponies, oxen, carts, fresh provisions. Aguinaldo even gave up large, newly liberated areas in the outskirts of the city of Manila for use as encampments of newly arrived American soldiers, including defenses and entrenchments which were built by Filipino troops in preparation for the assault of Manila. By this maneuver, the Americans gained tactical advantage, taking positions between the Filipinos and the remnants of the Spanish forces in Intramuros.

The unwary Aguinaldo did not realize he was only being used by the Americans. One American author described this American treatment of Aguinaldo as follows:
"'Play Aguinaldo for a sucker! String him along until Manila is captured - and then don't do a thing to him, but get out the Gatling guns.' This is inferential from the mutilated and asterisk bestrewed cablegrams set forth in the records of Doc. 62 and Mess. and Doc., Vols. 3 and 4. Furthermore these records show that Aguinaldo and the insurgents up to the time of the capture of Manila were treated as allies to be made use of' by the representatives of our government with the full sanction of President McKinley, and in view of the facts clearly presented to him that they were fighting for independence and expected recognition of their cause from the United States." (Thomas, 87)
The seemingly deceitful treatment of Aguinaldo by the American naval and military commanders was clearly expressed by Colonel James Russell Codman of an old, wealthy and respected family of New England, viz:
"It is an undeniable fact, proved by unquestionable evidence, accessible to any citizen who will take the pains to obtain it, that Aguinaldo's assistance in the war with Spain was solicited by United States officials; that he and his friends were used as allies by the American naval and military commanders; that, until after the capture of Manila, to which they contributed, they were allowed to believe that the independence of the Philippine Islands would be recognized by the American government; and that it was not until after the American forces in the islands had been made strong enough to be able - as was supposed - to conquer the islanders, that the mask was thrown off. Independence was then refused them, and the purpose of the president to extend the sovereignty of the United States over them by military force was openly proclaimed. That the Filipinos resisted, and that they took up arms against foreign rule, was something that ought to have been expected; for it is exactly what Americans would have done." (Codman, 1)
In the assault of Manila on August 13, 1898. U.S. General Wesley Merritt, the commanding officer of American forces, directed the operation under strict orders from Washington not to allow Filipino troops inside the city or enter into any unauthorized agreement with Aguinaldo. The Spanish authorities, through the Belgian consul, Mr. Andre, secretly worked out an arrangement with the Americans whereby a token resistance would precede the capitulation of the city for the purpose of saving the honor of Spain. The Filipinos, who were left out in the pre-arranged capitulation, assaulted from four directions. The column of General Pio del Pilar took Sampaloc; that of General Gregorio del Pilar's, Tondo, Pritil and Paseo de Azcarraga [Claro M. Recto Avenue]; that of General Noriel's, Singalong and Paco; that of General Ricarte's, Sta. Ana, and pursued the Spaniards all the way to Intramuros. (Aguinaldo, 39)

When Filipino troops attempted to enter the walled city the American soldiers blocked the entry points. A very tense atmosphere ensued that was ready to explode into a firefight had it not been for Filipino Generals Noriel and Ricarte and U.S. General Thomas Anderson, whose friendly relations diffused the situation. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo in Bacoor asking him to order his troops out of Intramuros in order to prevent a bloody confrontation, and the order was given. Reluctantly, the Filipinos moved out of the walled city. The other Filipino generals wanted to take the opportunity to strike at the Americans, but Aguinaldo stayed calm and refused to be pushed into a war. He continued to entertain the hope that the promises of Consul Pratt, Consul Wildman and Admiral Dewey would be respected by the McKinley administration, if not, by the United States Congress. With the surrender of Manila, the land area controlled by the Americans significantly increased.

U.S. General Elwell S. Otis, who took over from General Merritt on August 21, 1898, continued to do what his predecessor had done - maltreat Aguinaldo. General Otis demanded that Filipino troops evacuate the city of Manila and suburbs by September 15 beyond the demarcation lines marked on a map that Otis presented to Aguinaldo. Otis claimed that the August 12 Peace Protocol signed in Washington D.C. between Spain and the United States gave the latter the right to occupy the bay, harbor and city of Manila. Aguinaldo questioned the inclusion of some villages and tried to secure a written commitment that the same position of the troops will be restored to the Filpinos should the United States decide to leave the islands to Spain. But General Otis simply ignored him.

When Otis realized that the Filipinos were not showing signs of evacuating the city and suburbs he gave an ultimatum on September 13 threatening to use force. Aguinaldo gave in and on September 15, while the congress of the first Philippine republic was being inaugurated at Malolos, four thousand Filipino soldiers in their bright blue drilling uniforms and every man with his rifle marched out of the city of Manila to the cadence of the ninety piece Pasig band, amidst the enthusiastic shouts of a multitude that lined the streets. As Colonel Juan Cailles and his brigade passed by the Wyoming barracks near the city walls and cheered by American soldiers an observer remarked that ".. it sounded strange to hear one force cheering another which the day before was looked on as half an enemy." (Stickney, 296-297)

Like a cue from a prepared script, more incidence of maltreatment followed. The following incidents were enough reason to commence war against the Americans but these failed to provoke Aguinaldo:

(1) On September 23, 1898, Dewey ordered the seizure of the 700 ton Filipino steamer, the Patria, which was disguised as the Abbey and registered as an American steamer. This vessel was clandestinely smuggling arms and ammunitions for the Filipino army. The seizure of the steamer was protested by the Filipinos to no avail.

(2) The following month, Dewey suddenly seized all thirteen other Filipino vessels that constituted the Filipino navy.
[Ships were also acquired by the Revolutionary government of Aguinaldo. The native crew of Spanish commercial vessel, the Purisima Concepcion, mutinied, killed its twelve Spanish officers, hoisted a Filpino flag and joined Aguinaldo. The ship was fitted with guns taken from sunken Spanish ships in the bay and rechristened Filipinas. Another vessel, the Taaleno, was donated by the rich, patriotic Agoncillo family of Batangas. The addition of eight captured Spanish launches and three more vessels of greater dimensions that were purchased from Singapore – Balayan, Taal and Bulusan - constituted the flotilla of what could be considered today as the first Philippine naval force. These steamers flew the Filipino flag, moved in and out of Manila Bay, were saluted by Dewey's ships, and usually laden with troops, arms and ammunition, supplies and mails that regularly sailed to Northern Luzon, the Bicol provinces, the Visayas and some parts of Mindanano. The converted warship, Filipinas, had its first engagement in early July when it proceeded to Subic bay and bombarded the Spanish garrison at Isla de Grande. Although the bombardment was ineffective the Spaniards probably thought their situation was hopeless and decided to raise the flag of surrender. The German gunboat Irene came to the rescue and approached the Filipinas to take it as prisoner, claiming the flag it flew was not recognized as a belligerent. The Filipinos hurriedly hauled down the Filipino flag and raised a white flag and left to tell Aguinaldo of the incident. Aguinaldo complained to Dewey, who immediately dispatched two American gunboats - the Concord and the Raleigh. Upon seeing the approach of the American vessels, the German gunboat left. Shells were fired towards the Spanish garrison and 500 Spanish marines surrendered and were turned over to Aguinaldo with instructions from Dewey to treat them fairly.]
(3) After the Treaty of Paris was signed in December 10, 1898, but before its ratification by the U.S. Senate, McKinley ordered General Otis to effect the establishment of a military government that will administer the islands with him, Otis, as Governor General. The formal protest of Aguinaldo, who took it as an affront to his position as president of the Philippine republic, was ignored.

(4) Almost simultaneous with McKinley's order to Otis, General Marcus Miller sailed for Iloilo to occupy the city. The Ilonggo general, Martin Delgado, and his Tagalog aide, Ananias Diokno, opposed the disembarkation of American troops without prior authorization from Aguinaldo. General Miller could have used force to break the impasse, but he preferred to lay in wait in Iloilo harbor for a more opportune time because a forcible occupation of the Iloilo at that time, without a ratified treaty, would be considered aggression. The opportune time came in less than two months, i.e., on February 4, 1899, the date hostilities were opened, and Iloilo fell into American hands after a quixotic resistance by the Ilonggos.

Filipinos already administering the islands

It should be recalled that prior to February 4, the Americans were confined within the limits of the city of Manila and the Filipinos held the rest of the country. An importat document, the Memorial to the Senate of the United States, which was presented by Felipe Agoncillo to the State Department and copied to the U.S. Senate, articulated the situation, viz:
"America is in actual possession at this time [around October, 1898 - author] of 143 square miles of territory, with a population of 300,000, while the Philippine Government is in possession and control of 167,845 square miles, with a population of 9,395,000, and only a few scattered Spanish garrisons are to be found in islands having an area of 51,630 square miles, with a population of 305,000. The figures, as to the Spanish possessions, should be diminished, and those of the Philippine Government enlarged, by virtue of the fact that the inhabitants of the islands where Spanish troops yet remain have practically confined such troops to the narrow quarters of their garrison towns." (Atkinson, 4)
In other words, in terms of land area, the Philippine government held ninety-three percent of the country, while the United States, only seven percent. In terms of population, the Philippine government administered to ninety-four percent of the people, while the United States, to only three percent. Unfortunately, no weight was given to the memorial because no official acknowledgment was received from the U.S. State Department. A similar document in the form of a protest was also ignored by the American and Spanish peace commissioners at the Paris conference during their deliberations from October 1, 1898 to December 10, 1898, the date McKinley signed the treaty.

War needed to ratify the treaty

Unknown to Aguinaldo, General Otis was actually facing a problem. McKinley's orders, originally given to General Merritt, to establish immediately a military government that will administer American authority on all of the islands, had not been accomplished. General Otis knew he could not comply with the order because the only territory that the Americans occupied was the city of Manila which the Spaniards yielded in an act of surrender, and later qualified by the Peace Protocol of August 12. The Treaty of Paris which was supposed to cede the islands to the United States, although signed by McKinley, was not effective until the U.S. Senate had ratified it. It did not clothe the American forces with authority to forcefully evict the Filipinos from the territories they held and doing so would have been considered criminal aggression.

But the situation was not favorable to the Americans because the Filipinos had established a functioning government that administered the policitical, social and commercial affairs of the islands, including the regulation of customs at all major ports excepting the port of Manila. General Otis knew that the only way to implement the instructions of McKinley was to get the Philippine government out of the way and raise the American flag over the dead bodies of Filipino soldiers. This, of course, meant opening hostilities with the Filipinos.

The treaty of peace between Spain and the United States was up for a U.S. senate vote on February 6. The expectation was the treaty would not be ratified because the senate was lukewarm to the idea of administering an archipelago 10,000 miles away from the U.S. mainland. John Foreman, the widely quoted English historian said:
"A week before the vote was taken it was doubtful whether the necessary two-thirds majority could be obtained. It was a remarkable coincidence that just when the Republican Party was straining every nerve to secure the two or three wavering votes, the first shots were exchanged between a native and an American outpost in the suburbs of the capital." (Foreman, 486-487)
U.S. Senator Pettigrew supported the contention that the unilateral extension of American outpost lines was the primary cause of the outbreak of the war. He said that the Filipinos were patrolling what they thought were their side of the demarcation line when the incident occurred. Here is the statement of the senator:
"It appears that there was a town between the lines of the two armies, occupied by the forces of Aguinaldo - a town 150 yards in advance of the line of the American troops - and that Otis wished to obtain possession of it. He therefore entered into an agreement to have Aguinaldo withdraw his pickets therefrom and retire to a greater distance. This was done. On the night after this had been accomplished a patrol of the insurgents entered the abandoned town. A patrol is not a war party; a patrol is simply to pick up stragglers. They had occupied the place the night before, and they sent a patrol in the evening to see if any of their men had remained behind - if there were any stragglers in this village. We had occupied the place as a picket station, and when these Malays, who do not speak our language, came along, a Nebraska boy ordered them to halt, and they did not halt." (Pettigrew, 214)
The senator also read before the U.S. senate a letter from a soldier named Abram L. Mumpher from Colorado, supporting the claim that Americans intruded into Philippine territory, viz:
"The Nebraska regiment had been sent to Santa Mesa. Aguinaldo had vigorously protested against this and pointed out to General Otis that Santa Mesa was outside the line of the protocol. General Otis looks it up and admits to Aguinaldo that such is the case (pages 20 and 21, General Otis's report), but holds fast to the position. Here, outside the limits of the protocol, in an effort to make the insurgents move back a sentry post, the first shot was fired. Grayson, the man who fired that shot, told me, on board the Hancock, as his regiment was ready to sail for America, that it was "the damn bullheadedness of the officers in invading insurgent territory" that was responsible for that shot. But we fired the second shot and third shot before we got a response. And this was two days before the Senate was to vote upon the peace treaty, and many of the insurgent officers away from the firing line! This is the way the insurgents made what the President calls a "foul attack" upon us. But the Filipinos returned the fire and the war was on." (Pettigrew, 270)

Filipinos did not want war

The Filipinos did not want a war with the Americans. If they did, war would have broken out much earlier. Atkinson, a noted anti-imperialist of Boston, Massachusetts, cited a report of General MacArthur about an incident on February 2, 1899, or two days before the outbreak of hostilities, indicating that Filipino officers respected the demarcation line separating the two armies:
"The original note from these headquarters, which was prepared after conference with the department commander, was carried by Major Strong, who entered the insurgent lines and placed the paper in the hands of Colonel San Miguel. The answer of Colonel San Miguel was communicated in an autograph note, which was written in the presence of Major Strong, who also saw Colonel San Miguel write an order to his officer at the outpost in question, directing him to withdraw from the American side of the line." (Atkinson, 37)
According to Aguinaldo, the Filipinos could not have started the war. On that day, being Saturnday, many Filipino officers were on leave and only General Pantaleon Garcia was at his post at Maypajo. Here is Aguinaldo's statement:
"While I, the Government, the Congress and the entire populace were awaiting the arrival of such a greatly desired reply [proposal for an independent Philippines under American protectorate - author], ... there came the fatal day of 4th February, during the night of which day the American forces suddenly attacked all our lines, which were in fact at the time almost deserted, because being Saturday, the day before the regular feast day, our Generals and some of the most prominent officers had obtained leave to pass the Sabbath with their respective families. General Pantaleon Garcia was the only one who at such a critical moment was at his post in Maypajo, north of Manila, Generals Noriel, Rizal and Ricarte and Colonels San Miguel, Cailles and others being away enjoying their leave. …Filipinos could never be the aggressors as against the American forces, with whom we had sworn eternal friendship and in whose power we expected to find the necessary protection to enable us to obtain recognition of our independence from the other powers. General Otis, according to trustworthy information, telegraphed to Washington stating that the Filipinos had attacked the American Army. President McKinley read aloud the telegram in the Senate, where the Treaty of Paris of the 10th December, 1898, was being discussed with a view to its ratification, the question of annexation of the Philippines being, the chief subject of debate, and through this criminal procedure secured the acceptation of the said Treaty in toto by a majority of only three votes." (Aguinaldo, 51-52)
Senor Escamillo, Aguinaldo's private secretary, was arrested by the Americans in Manila the day after the outbreak of the war. If there was anyone who should know if the Filipinos would launch an attack on American positions would be the Aguinaldo's private secretary. If there was really a plan to attack the Americans, Sr. Escamilo would perhaps had the better judgment of not loitering in the city.

That the Filipinos did not intend to commence hostilities is borne out by the official report of General Otis to the Department of war in Washington which said in part: "It is not believed that the chief insurgent leaders wish to open hostilities at this time" (Storey, 92). The day after the outbreak of war, Aguinaldo sent General Torres to General Otis to discuss the temporary cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a neutral zone to separate the two armies while negotiations are undertaken to resolve the conflict. General Otis refused and gave this stern reply: "the fighting having once begun must go on to the grim end" (PIS-V1N06, 38). This inflexible position of General Otis betrayed the true motives of the Americans and reflected the imperialist policy of McKinley when he said:
"There will be no useless parley until the insurrection is suppressed and American authority acknowledged and established. The Philippines are ours as much as Louisiana, by purchase, or Texas, or Alaska." (Sawyer, 120)
McKinley knew that the cessation of hostilities would give the American public and his enemies - the anti-imperialists - the opporutnity to investigate and learn more about the character of the Filipinos and the truth about the conflict in the Philippines that could put his dream of retaining the Philippines and his chances of reelection in jeopardy.
[McKinley's conquest of the Philippines became a controversial issue in the United States. The 1900 U.S. Presidential elections saw Democrat candidate William Jennings Bryan embraced the immediate independence of the Philippines as the principal program of the Democratic party. Bryan's campaign rode on the declaration that McKinley was leading the United States towards imperialism. McKinley won and his victory signalled the death of Philippine independence. It also placed the Filipinos in an akward position of having to prove wrong McKinley's misrepresentations: first - that the Filipinos were savages distributed among several tribes, second - that McKinley embarked on a humanitarian mission to uplift the Filipinos and prepare them for self government, and third - that the insurgency was waged by the Tagalog tribe alone, and the rest of the other tribes were not opposed to American sovereignty. Liberal members of the U.S. Congress and prominent American citizens sharply criticized McKinley for double talk, citing his self-declared, lofty principle: "Forcible annexation, according to our American code of morals, would be criminal aggression." (Olcott, 289)]


General Otis clearly understood McKinley's predicament. Dutifully, he delivered to his chief a moderate-sized war and charged it to the account of Aguinaldo. Subsequent events would show that McKinley was the principal beneficiary of the outbreak of the war. Apart from being reelected, he succeeded in acquiring the Philippine islands as an American colony with the full backing of the United States Senate and the American people, notwithstanding the prohibition in their constitution and their proud libertarian heritage. All these came about because private Grayon fired on the Filipino lieutenant in consequence of General Otis's maneuver to provoke the Filipinos into a war. Without the shoot out at Sta. Mesa the American military would have no reason to proceed further beyond the city of Manila, the Treaty of Paris would have been rejected by the U.S. senate, and the Filipinos would have proven their capability for self-government. Obviously, given McKinley's mandate, if it was not Grayson, another American soldier would have fired the shots anyway.

This post first appeared on Aguinaldo - A Tarnished Hero, please read the originial post: here

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Who really started the Filipino-American war?


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