Andrés Bonifacio was a warehouseman and clerk from Manila. He established the Katipunan—a revolutionary organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt—on July 7, 1892. Fighters in Cavite province won early victories. One of the most influential and popular leaders from Cavite was Emilio Aguinaldo, mayor of Cavite El Viejo (modern-day Kawit), who gained control of much of the eastern portion of Cavite province. Eventually, Aguinaldo and his faction gained control of the leadership of the Katipunan movement. Aguinaldo was elected president of the First Philippine Republic at the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, and Bonifacio was executed for treason by Aguinaldo's supporters after a show trial on May 10, 1897. Aguinaldo is officially considered the first President of the Philippines.
By late 1897, after a succession of defeats for the revolutionary forces, the Spanish had regained control over most of the Philippines. Aguinaldo and Spanish Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera entered into armistice negotiations. On December 14, 1897, an agreement was reached in which the Spanish colonial government would pay Aguinaldo $800,000 Mexican pesos—which was approximately equivalent to $400,000 United States dollars at that time in Manila—in three installments if Aguinaldo would go into exile outside of the Philippines.
Upon receiving the first of the installments, Aguinaldo and 25 of his closest associates left their headquarters at Biak-na-Bato and made their way to Hong Kong, according to the terms of the agreement. Before his departure, Aguinaldo denounced the Philippine Revolution, exhorted Filipino rebel combatants to disarm and declared those who continued hostilities and waging war to be bandits. Despite Aguinaldo's denunciation, some of the revolutionaries continued their armed revolt against the Spanish colonial government. According to Aguinaldo, the Spanish never paid the second and third installments of the agreed upon sum.
After only four months in exile, Aguinaldo decided to resume his role in the Philippine Revolution. He departed from Singapore aboard the steamship Malacca on April 27, 1898. He arrived in Hong Kong on May 1, which was the day that Commodore Dewey's naval forces destroyed Rear-Admiral Patricio Montojo's Spanish Pacific Squadron at the Battle of Manila Bay. Aguinaldo then departed Hong Kong aboard the USRC McCulloch on May 17, arriving in Cavite on May 19.
Less than three months after Aguinaldo's return, the Philippine Revolutionary Army had conquered nearly all of the Philippines. With the exception of Manila, which was surrounded by revolutionary forces some 12,000 strong, the Filipinos controlled the Philippines. Aguinaldo turned over 15,000 Spanish prisoners to the Americans, offering them valuable intelligence. Aguinaldo declared independence at his house in Cavite El Viejo on June 12, 1898.
The Philippine Declaration of Independence was not recognized by either the United States or Spain, and the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10, 1898, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.
On January 1, 1899, Aguinaldo was declared President of the Philippines—the only president of what would be later called the First Philippine Republic. He later organized a Congress at Malolos in Bulacan to draft a constitution.
On April 22, 1898, while in exile, Aguinaldo had a private meeting in Singapore with United States Consul E. Spencer Pratt, after which he decided to again take up the mantle of leadership in the Philippine Revolution. According to Aguinaldo, Pratt had communicated with Commodore George Dewey (commander of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy) by telegram, and passed assurances from Dewey to Aguinaldo that the United States would recognize the independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. Pratt reportedly stated that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were equivalent to the official word of the United States government. With these assurances, Aguinaldo agreed to return to the Philippines.
Pratt later contested Aguinaldo's account of these events, and denied any "dealings of a political character" with Aguinaldo. Admiral Dewey also refuted Aguinaldo's account, stating that he had promised nothing regarding the future:
"From my observation of Aguinaldo and his advisers I decided that it would be unwise to co-operate with him or his adherents in an official manner. ... In short, my policy was to avoid any entangling alliance with the insurgents, while I appreciated that, pending the arrival of our troops, they might be of service."
Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes of "American apostasy", saying that it was the Americans who first approached Aguinaldo in Hong Kong and Singapore to persuade him to cooperate with Dewey in wresting power from the Spanish. Conceding that Dewey may not have promised Aguinaldo American recognition and Philippine independence (Dewey had no authority to make such promises), he writes that Dewey and Aguinaldo had an informal alliance to fight a common enemy, that Dewey breached that alliance by making secret arrangements for a Spanish surrender to American forces, and that he treated Aguinaldo badly after the surrender was secured. Agoncillo concludes that the American attitude towards Aguinaldo "... showed that they came to the Philippines not as a friend, but as an enemy masking as a friend."
The newly arrived Spanish Governor-General Fermín Jáudenes had made a secret agreement with his predecessor Basilio Augustín, along with Commodore Dewey and Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, according to which the Spanish forces would surrender only to the Americans, not to the Filipino revolutionaries. To save face, the Spanish surrender would take place after a mock battle which the Spanish would lose; the Filipinos would not be allowed to enter the city. On the eve of the battle, Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo, "Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire". On August 13, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish.
Before the attack on Manila, American and Filipino forces had been allies against Spain in all but name. After the capture of Manila, Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the Filipino insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops had almost broken out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo had been told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.
On December 21, 1898, President William McKinley issued a Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation. Major General Elwell Stephen Otis—who was Military Governor of the Philippines at that time—delayed its publication. On January 4, 1899, General Otis published an amended version edited so as not to convey the meanings of the terms "sovereignty", "protection", and "right of cessation" which were present in the original version. However, Brigadier General Marcus Miller—then in Iloilo City and unaware that the altered version had been published by Otis—passed a copy of the original proclamation to a Filipino official there. The original proclamation then found its way to Aguinaldo who, on January 5, issued a counter-proclamation: "My government cannot remain indifferent in view of such a violent and aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which arrogated to itself the title of champion of oppressed nations. Thus it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American troops attempt to take forcible possession of the Visayan islands. I denounce these acts before the world, in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are true oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind. In a revised proclamation issued the same day, Aguinaldo protested "most solemnly against this intrusion of the United States Government on the sovereignty of these islands". Otis regarded Aguinaldo's proclamations as tantamount to war, alerting his troops and strengthening observation posts. On the other hand, Aguinaldo's proclamations energized the masses with a vigorous determination to fight what was perceived as an ally turned enemy.
On the evening of February 4, Private William W. Grayson—a sentry of the 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment—fired the first shots of the war at the corner of Sociego and Silencio Streets, near the San Juan River Bridge in Santa Mesa. Upon opening fire, Grayson killed a Filipino lieutenant and another Filipino soldier; Filipino historians maintain that the slain soldiers were unarmed. This action triggered the 1899 Battle of Manila. The following day, Filipino General Isidoro Torres came through the lines under a flag of truce to deliver a message from Aguinaldo to General Otis that the fighting had begun accidentally, and that Aguinaldo wished for the hostilities to cease immediately and for the establishment of a neutral zone between the two opposing forces. Otis dismissed these overtures, and replied that the "fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end". On February 5, General Arthur MacArthur ordered his troops to advance against Filipino troops, beginning a full-scale armed clash. The first Filipino fatality of the war was Corporal Anastacio Felix of the 4th Company, Morong Battalion under Captain Serapio Narváez. The battalion commander was Colonel Luciano San Miguel.
Annexation of the Philippines by the United States was felt to be justified by those in the U.S. government and media who supported the conflict through the use of moralistic oration. Stuart Creighton Miller writes "Americans altruistically went to war with Spain to liberate Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos from their tyrannical yoke. If they lingered on too long in the Philippines, it was to protect the Filipinos from European predators waiting in the wings for an American withdrawal and to tutor them in American-style democracy."
On February 11, 1899—only one week after the first shots of the war were fired—American naval forces destroyed the city of Iloilo with bombardment by the USS Petrel and the USS Baltimore. The city was then captured by ground forces led by Brigadier General Marcus Miller, with no loss of American lives.
Months later, after finally securing Manila from the Filipino forces, American forces moved northwards, engaging in combat at the brigade and battalion level in pursuit of the fleeing insurgent forces and their commanders. In response to the use of guerilla warfare tactics by Filipino forces beginning in September 1899, American military strategy shifted to a suppression footing. Tactics became focused on the control of key areas with internment and segregation of the civilian population in "zones of protection" from the guerrilla population (foreshadowing the Strategic Hamlet Program that would be utilized decades later, during the Vietnam War). Due to unsanitary conditions, many of the interned civilians died from dysentery.
General Otis gained notoriety for some of his actions in the Philippines. Although multiple orders were given to Otis from Washington to avoid military conflict, he did very little to prevent the breakout of war. Otis refused to accept anything but unconditional surrender from the Philippine Army. He often made major military decisions without first consulting leadership in Washington. He acted aggressively in dealing with the Filipinos under the assumption that their resistance would collapse quickly. Even after this assumption proved false, he continued to insist that the insurgency had been defeated, and that the remaining casualties were caused by "isolated bands of outlaws".
Otis also played a large role in suppressing information about American military tactics from the media. When letters describing American atrocities reached the American media, the War Department became involved and demanded that Otis investigate their authenticity. Each press clipping was forwarded to the original writer's commanding officer, who would then convince or force the soldier to write a retraction of the original statements.
Meanwhile, Otis claimed that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in "fiendish fashion". During the closing months of 1899, Aguinaldo attempted to counter Otis' account by suggesting that neutral parties—foreign journalists or representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross—inspect his military operations. Otis refused, but Aguinaldo managed to smuggle four reporters—two English, one Canadian, and one Japanese—into the Philippines. The correspondents returned to Manila to report that American captives were "treated more like guests than prisoners", were "fed the best that the country affords, and everything is done to gain their favor." The story went on to say that American prisoners were offered commissions in the Filipino army and that three had accepted. The four reporters were expelled from the Philippines as soon as their stories were printed.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant J.C. Gilmore, whose release was forced by American cavalry pursuing Aguinaldo into the mountains, insisted that he had received "considerable treatment" and that he was no more starved than were his captors. Otis responded to publication of two articles concerning this by ordering the "capture" of the two authors, and that they be "investigated", therefore questioning their loyalty.
When F.A. Blake of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived at Aguinaldo's request, Otis kept him confined to Manila, where Otis' staff explained all of the violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Filipino soldiers. Blake managed to slip away from an escort and venture into the field. Blake never made it past American lines, but even within American lines he saw burned out villages and "horribly mutilated bodies, with stomachs slit open and occasionally decapitated." Blake waited to return to San Francisco, where he told one reporter that "American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight."
Estimates of the Filipino forces vary between 80,000 and 100,000, with tens of thousands of auxiliaries. Most of the forces were armed only with bolo knives, bows and arrows, spears and other primitive weapons which were vastly inferior to those of the American forces.
A fairly rigid caste system existed in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. The goal, or end-state, sought by the First Philippine Republic was a sovereign, independent, stable nation led by an oligarchy composed of members of the educated class (known as the ilustrado class). Local chieftains, landowners, businessmen and cabezas de barangay were the principales who controlled local politics. The war was at its peak when ilustrados, principales, and peasants were unified in opposition to annexation by the United States. The peasants, who represented the majority of the fighting forces, had interests different from their ilustrado leaders and the principales of their villages. Coupled with the ethnic and geographic fragmentation, aligning the interests of people from different social castes was a daunting task. The challenge for Aguinaldo and his generals was to sustain unified Filipino public opposition; this was the revolutionaries' strategic center of gravity.
The Filipino operational center of gravity was the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregulars in the field. The Filipino general Francisco Macabulos described the Filipinos' war aim as, "not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them constant losses." In the early stages of the war, the Philippine Revolutionary Army employed the conventional military tactics characteristic of an organized armed resistance. The hope was to inflict enough American casualties to result in McKinley's defeat by William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 presidential election. Bryan, who held strong anti-imperialist views, would then hopefully withdraw the American forces from the Philippines.
McKinley's election victory in 1900 was demoralizing for the insurgents, and convinced many Filipinos that the United States would not depart precipitously. This, coupled with a series of devastating losses on the battlefield against American forces equipped with superior technology and training, convinced Aguinaldo that he needed to change his approach. Beginning on September 14, 1899, Aguinaldo accepted the advice of General Gregorio del Pilar and authorized the use of guerilla warfare tactics in subsequent military operations in Bulacan.
For most of 1899, the revolutionary leadership had viewed guerrilla warfare strategically only as a tactical option of final recourse, not as a means of operation which better suited their disadvantaged situation. On November 13, 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo decreed that guerrilla war would henceforth be the strategy. This made American occupation of the Philippine archipelago all the more difficult over the next few years. In fact, during just the first four months of the guerrilla war, the Americans had nearly 500 casualties. The Philippine Army began staging bloody ambushes and raids, such as the guerrilla victories at Paye, Catubig, Makahambus, Pulang Lupa, Balangiga and Mabitac. At first, it even seemed as if the Filipinos would fight the Americans to a stalemate and force them to withdraw. This was even considered by President McKinley at the beginning of the phase.
Following Aguinaldo's capture by the Americans on March 23, 1901, Miguel Malvar assumed command of the Philippine revolutionary forces. Batangas and Laguna provinces were the main focus of Malvar's forces at this point in the war, and they continued to employ guerrilla warfare tactics.
In late 1901, Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell took command of American operations in Batangas and Laguna provinces. In response to Malvar's guerrilla warfare tactics, Bell employed counterinsurgency tactics (described by some as a scorched earth campaign) that took a heavy toll on both guerrilla fighters and civilians alike. "Zones of protection" were established, and civilians were given identification papers and forced into concentration camps (called reconcentrados) which were surrounded by free-fire zones. General Bell insisted that he had built these camps to "protect friendly natives from the insurgents, assure them an adequate food supply" while teaching them "proper sanitary standards." The commandant of one of the camps referred to them as the "suburbs of Hell."
By December 25, 1901, nearly the entire populations of Batangas and Laguna provinces had gathered into the reconcentrados. Families had to bring everything they could carry because anything left behind—including houses, gardens, carts, poultry and animals—was subject to confiscation or destruction by the U.S. Army. The reconcentrados were overcrowded, which led to disease and death. "One camp was two miles by one mile in area and 'home' to some 8,000 Filipinos. Between January and April 1902, 8,350 prisoners of approximately 298,000 died, and some camps experienced mortality rates as high as 20 percent.
Civilians became subject to a curfew, after which all persons found outside of camps without identification could be shot on sight. Men were rounded up for questioning, tortured, and summarily executed." Methods of torture such as the water cure were frequently employed during interrogation, and entire villages were burned or otherwise destroyed.
Throughout the war, American soldiers and other witnesses sent letters home which described some of the atrocities committed by American forces. For example, In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger wrote: "The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog..." Reports were received from soldiers returning from the Philippines, that upon entering a village, American soldiers would ransack every house and church and rob the inhabitants of everything of value, while those who approached the battle line waving a flag of truce were fired upon.
Some of the authors were critical of leaders such as General Otis and the overall conduct of the war. When some of these letters were published in newspapers, they would become national news, which would force the War Department to investigate. Two such letters included:A soldier from New York: "The town of Titatia was surrendered to us a few days ago, and two companies occupy the same. Last night one of our boys was found shot and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger."
Corporal Sam Gillis: "We make everyone get into his house by seven p.m., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses we shoot him. We killed over 300 natives the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from the house we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives, so they are pretty quiet in town now."
General Otis' investigation of the content of these letters consisted of sending a copy of them to the author's superior and having him force the author to write a retraction. When a soldier refused to do so, as Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment did, he was court-martialed. In the case of Private Brenner, the charge was "for writing and conniving at the publication of an article which...contains willful falsehoods concerning himself and a false charge against Captain Bishop." Not all such letters that discussed atrocities were intended to criticize General Otis or American actions. Many portrayed U.S. actions as the result of Filipino provocation and thus entirely justified.
U.S. Army General Otis alleged that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in "fiendish fashion." According to Otis, many were buried alive or were placed up to their necks in ant hills. He claimed others had their genitals removed and stuffed into their mouths and were then executed by suffocation or bleeding to death. It was also reported that Spanish priests were horribly mutilated before their congregations, and natives who refused to support Emilio Aguinaldo were slaughtered by the thousands. American newspaper headlines announced the "Murder and Rapine" by the "Fiendish Filipinos." General "Fighting Joe" Wheeler insisted that it was the Filipinos who had mutilated their own dead, murdered women and children, and burned down villages, solely to discredit American soldiers.
In January 1899, the New York World published a story by an anonymous writer about an American soldier, Private William Lapeer, who had allegedly been deliberately infected with leprosy. The story has no basis in fact however, and the name Lapeer itself is probably a pun. Stories in other newspapers described deliberate attacks by Filipino sharpshooters upon American surgeons, chaplains, ambulances, hospitals, and wounded soldiers. An incident was described in the San Francisco Call that occurred in Escalante, Negros Occidental, where several crewmen of a landing party from the CS Recorder were fired upon and later cut into pieces by Filipino insurgents, while the insurgents were displaying a flag of truce.
Other events dubbed atrocities included those attributed by the Americans to General Vicente Lukban, the Filipino commander who allegedly masterminded the Balangiga massacre in Samar province, a surprise Filipino attack that killed almost fifty American soldiers. Media reports stated that many of the bodies were mutilated. The attack itself triggered American reprisals in Samar, ordered by General Jacob Hurd Smith, who reportedly ordered his men to kill everyone over ten years old. To his credit, Major Littleton Waller countermanded it to his own men. Smith was court-martialed for this order and found guilty in 1902, which ended his career in the U.S. Army. Waller was acquitted of killing eleven Filipino guides.
Sergeant Hallock testified in the Lodge Committee that natives were given the water cure, "... in order to secure information of the murder of Private O'Herne of Company I, who had been not only killed, but roasted and otherwise tortured before death ensued."
On the Filipino side, information regarding atrocities comes from the eyewitnesses and the participants themselves. In his History of the Filipino People Teodoro Agoncillo writes that the Filipino troops could match and even exceed American brutality on some prisoners of war. Kicking, slapping, and spitting at faces were common. In some cases, ears and noses were cut off and salt applied to the wounds. In other cases, captives were buried alive. These atrocities occurred regardless of Aguinaldo's orders and circulars concerning the good treatment of prisoners.
Worcester recounts two specific Filipino atrocities as follows:
"A detachment, marching through Leyte, found an American who had disappeared a short time before crucified, head down. His abdominal wall had been carefully opened so that his intestines might hang down in his face. Another American prisoner, found on the same trip, had been buried in the ground with only his head projecting. His mouth had been propped open with a stick, a trail of sugar laid to it through the forest, and a handful thrown into it. Millions of ants had done the rest."
The total number of Filipino who died remains a matter of debate. In 1908 Manuel Arellano Remondo, in General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote: "The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number." However, it is not known where Remondo derived his figure for 1895, the official Spanish population estimate was less than 6 million.
Ramsey estimates that at least 16,000~20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed, with up to an additional 200,000 civilian deaths, mostly from a cholera epidemic.R.J Rummel claims that 128,000 Filipinos were murdered by the U.S. Filipino historian E. San Juan, Jr. argues that 1.4 million Filipinos died during the war and that constitutes an act of genocide on the part of the United States. E. San Juan Jr's source quotes a far lower figure. Most sources cite a figure of 200,000 to 250,000 total Filipino civilians dead with most losses attributable to disease. The United States Department of State states that the war "resulted in the death of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants", and that "as many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease".
The Philippine Army continued suffering defeats from the better armed United States Army during the conventional warfare phase, forcing Aguinaldo to continually change his base of operations, which he did for nearly the length of the entire war.
On March 23, 1901 General Frederick Funston and his troops captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela, with the help of some Filipinos (called the Macabebe Scouts after their home locale) who had joined the Americans' side. The Americans pretended to be captives of the Scouts, who were dressed in Philippine Army uniforms. Once Funston and his "captors" entered Aguinaldo's camp, they immediately fell upon the guards and quickly overwhelmed them and the weary Aguinaldo.
On April 1, 1901, at the Malacañan Palace in Manila, Aguinaldo swore an oath accepting the authority of the United States over the Philippines and pledging his allegiance to the American government. On April 19, he issued a Proclamation of Formal Surrender to the United States, telling his followers to lay down their weapons and give up the fight. "Let the stream of blood cease to flow; let there be an end to tears and desolation," Aguinaldo said. "The lesson which the war holds out and the significance of which I realized only recently, leads me to the firm conviction that the complete termination of hostilities and a lasting peace are not only desirable but also absolutely essential for the well-being of the Philippines." The capture of Aguinaldo dealt a severe blow to the Filipino cause, but not as much as the Americans had hoped. General Miguel Malvar took over the leadership of the Filipino government, or what remained of it. He originally had taken a defensive stance against the Americans, but now launched all-out offensive against the American-held towns in the Batangas region. General Vicente Lukbán in Samar, and other army officers, continued the war in their respective areas.
General Bell relentlessly pursued Malvar and his men, forcing the surrender of many of the Filipino soldiers. Finally, Malvar surrendered, along with his sick wife and children and some of his officers, on April 16, 1902. By the end of the month nearly 3,000 of Malvar's men had also surrendered. With the surrender of Malvar, the Filipino war effort began to dwindle even further.
The Philippine Organic Act—approved on July 1, 1902—ratified President McKinley's previous executive order which had established the Second Philippine Commission. The act also stipulated that a legislature would be established composed of a popularly elected lower house, the Philippine Assembly, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission. The act also provided for extending the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos. On July 2, the United States Secretary of War telegraphed that since the insurrection against the United States had ended and provincial civil governments had been established throughout most of the Philippine archipelago, the office of military governor was terminated. On July 4, Theodore Roosevelt, who had succeeded to the U.S. Presidency after the assassination of President McKinley, proclaimed an amnesty to those who had participated in the conflict.
On April 9, 2002, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed that the Philippine–American War had ended on April 16, 1902 with the surrender of General Miguel Malvar, and declared the centennial anniversary of that date as a national working holiday and as a special non-working holiday in the Province of Batangas and in the Cities of Batangas, Lipa and Tanaun.
Colonel Charles McC. Reeve, commander of the 13th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, opined upon returning from the Philippines in 1899 that the war was deplorable, unjustiable, and contrary to American principles. He further stated that the war could have been prevented with conciliatory measures:
"Conciliatory methods would have prevented the war. Now, we all agree to the proposition that the insurrection must be suppressed, but in the beginning a conciliatory course was not adopted. General Otis' unfortunate proclamation of January 4 rendered conciliation almost impossible."
On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed Jacob Gould Schurman to chair a commission, with Dean C. Worcester, Charles H. Denby, Admiral Dewey, and General Otis as members, to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations. Fighting subsequently erupted between U.S. and Filipino forces on February 4, and when the non-military commission members arrived in the Philippines in March, they found General Otis looking upon the commission as an infringement upon his authority.
Meetings in April with Aguinaldo's representative, Colonel Manuel Arguelles, convinced the commission that Filipinos wanted to know the specific role they would be allowed to play in the new government, and the commission requested authorization from McKinley to offer a specific plan. McKinley authorized an offer of a government consisting of "a Governor-General appointed by the President; cabinet appointed by the Governor-General; [and] a general advisory council elected by the people." McKinley also promised Filipinos "the largest measure of local self-government consistent with peace and good order.", with the caveat that U.S. constitutional considerations required that the United States Congress would need to make specific rules and regulations.
A session of the Revolutionary Congress convened by Aguinaldo voted unanimously to cease fighting and accept peace on the basis of McKinley's proposal. The revolutionary cabinet headed by Apolinario Mabini was replaced on May 8 by a new "peace" cabinet headed by Pedro Paterno and Felipe Buencamino. After a meeting of the Revolutionary Congress and military commanders, Aguinaldo advised the commission that he was being advised by a new cabinet "which is more moderate and concilatory", and appointed a delegation to meet with the Philippine Commission. At this point, General Antonio Luna, field commander of the revolutionary army, arrested Paterno and most of his cabinet. Confronted with this development, Aguinaldo withdrew his support from the peace cabinet, and Mabini and his original cabinet returned to power. Schurman, after proposing unsuccessfully to the Commission that they urge McKinley to revise his plan to increase Filipino participation, cabled the suggestion to the President as his own. McKinley instructed Secretary of State John Hay to cable Schurman that he wanted peace "preferably by kindness and conciliation", but the preference was accompanied by a threat to "send all the force necessary to suppress the insurrection if Filipino resistance continued." McKinley also polled the other members of the Commission, receiving a response that "indecision now would be fatal" and urging "prosecution of the war until the insurgents submit."
In the report that they issued to McKinley the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines was not ready for it. Specific recommendations included the establishment of civilian control over Manila (Otis would have veto power over the city's government), creation of civilian government as rapidly as possible, especially in areas already declared "pacified" (the American chief executive in the islands at that time was the military governor), including the establishment of a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a system of free public elementary schools.
On November 2, 1900 Dr. Schurman signed the following statement:
"Should our power by any fatality be withdrawn, the commission believe that the government of the Philippines would speedily lapse into anarchy, which would excuse, if it did not necessitate, the intervention of other powers and the eventual division of the islands among them. Only through American occupation, therefore, is the idea of a free, self-governing, and united Philippine commonwealth at all conceivable. And the indispensable need from the Filipino point of view of maintaining American sovereignty over the archipelago is recognized by all intelligent Filipinos and even by those insurgents who desire an American protectorate. The latter, it is true, would take the revenues and leave us the responsibilities. Nevertheless, they recognize the indubitable fact that the Filipinos cannot stand alone. Thus the welfare of the Filipinos coincides with the dictates of national honour in forbidding our abandonment of the archipelago. We cannot from any point of view escape the responsibilities of government which our sovereignty entails; and the commission is strongly persuaded that the performance of our national duty will prove the greatest blessing to the peoples of the Philippine Islands. [...]"
The Second Philippine Commission, appointed by President McKinley on March 16, 1900, and headed by future president William Howard Taft, was granted legislative as well as limited executive powers. The Commission established a civil service and a judicial system which included a Supreme Court, and a legal code was drawn up to replace obsolete Spanish ordinances. The new laws provided for popularly elected politicians to serve on municipal boards. The municipal board members were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining municipal properties, and undertaking necessary construction projects; they also elected provincial governors.
Some Americans, notably William Jennings Bryan, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Ernest Crosby, and other members of the American Anti-Imperialist League, strongly objected to the annexation of the Philippines. Anti-imperialist movements claimed that the United States had become a colonial power, by replacing Spain as the colonial power in the Philippines. Other anti-imperialists opposed annexation on racist grounds. Among these was Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who feared that annexation of the Philippines would lead to an influx of non-white immigrants into the United States. As news of atrocities committed in subduing the Philippines arrived in the United States, support for the war flagged.
Mark Twain famously opposed the war by using his influence in the press. He said the war betrayed the ideals of American democracy by not allowing the Filipino people to choose their own destiny.
"There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it—perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands—but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector—not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now—why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."
In a diary passage removed by Twain's first biographical editor Thomas Bigelow Paine, Twain refers to American troops as "our uniformed assassins" and describes their killing of "six hundred helpless and weaponless savages" in the Philippines as "a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory."
Some of Aguinaldo's associates supported America, even before hostilities began. Pedro Paterno, Aguinaldo's prime minister and the author of the 1897 armistice treaty with Spain, advocated the incorporation of the Philippines into the United States in 1898. Other associates sympathetic to the U.S. were Trinidad Pardo de Tavera and Benito Legarda, prominent members of Congress; Gregorio Araneta, Aguinaldo's Secretary of Justice; and Felipe Buencamino, Aguinaldo's Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Buencamino is recorded to have said in 1902: "I am an American and all the money in the Philippines, the air, the light, and the sun I consider American." Many such people subsequently held posts in the colonial government.
U.S. Army Captain Matthew Arlington Batson formed the Macabebe Scouts as a native guerrilla force to fight the insurgency.
After military rule was terminated on July 4, 1902, the Philippine Constabulary was established as an archipelago-wide police force to control brigandage and deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement. The Philippine Constabulary gradually took over the responsibility for suppressing guerrilla and bandit activities from United States Army units. Remnants of the Katipunan and other resistance groups remained active fighting the United States military or Philippine Constabulary for nearly a decade after the official end of the war. After the close of the war, however, Governor General Taft preferred to rely on the Philippine Constabulary and to treat the Irreconcilables as a law enforcement concern rather than a military concern requiring the involvement of the American army.
In 1902, Macario Sakay formed another government, the Republika ng Katagalugan, in Rizal Province. This republic ended in 1906 when Sakay and his top followers were arrested and executed the following year by the American authorities.
Beginning in 1904, brigandage by organized groups became a problem in some of the outlying provinces in the Visayas. Among these groups were the Pulajanes, who were from the highlands of Samar and Leyte. The term Pulajan is derived from a native word meaning "red", as they were distinguished by the red garments they wore. The Pulajanes subscribed to a blend of Roman Catholic and folk belief. For example, they believed certain amulets called agimat would render them bulletproof. These movements were all dismissed by the American government as bandits, fanatics or cattle rustlers. The last of these groups were defeated or had surrendered to the Philippine Constabulary by 1911.
The American government had a peace treaty with the Sultanate of Sulu at the outbreak of the war, that was supposed to prevent war in that part of the Philippines (which included parts of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan and Sabah). However, after the Filipino resistance in Luzon and the Visayas collapsed, the United States began to colonize Moro land, which provoked the Moro Rebellion. Beginning with the Battle of Bayan in May 1902, the rebellion continued until the Battle of Bud Bagsak in June 1913, which marked the end of this conflict.
The influence of the Roman Catholic Church was reduced when the secular United States Government disestablished the Church and purchased and redistributed Church lands, one of the earliest attempts at land reform in the Philippines. The land amounted to 170,917 hectares (422,350 acres), for which the Church asked $12,086,438.11 in March 1903. The purchase was completed on December 22, 1903 at a sale price of $7,239,784.66. The land redistribution program was stipulated in at least three laws: the Philippine Organic Act, the Public Lands Act and the Friar Lands Act. Section 10 of the Public Land Act limited purchases to a maximum of 16 hectares for an individual or 1024 hectares for a corporation or like association. Land was also offered for lease to landless farmers, at prices ranging from fifty centavos to one peso and fifty centavos per hectare per annum. Section 28 of the Public Lands Act stipulated that lease contracts may run for a maximum period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.
President McKinley, in his instructions to the First Philippine Commission in 1898, ordered the use of the Philippine languages as well as English for instructional purposes, and displace Spanish. The American administrators, used as excuse that finding the local languages to be too numerous and too difficult to learn and to write teaching materials in, ended up with a monolingual system in English, with no attention paid to the other Philippine languages except for the token statement concerning the necessity of using them eventually for the system
In 1901 at least five hundred teachers (365 males and 165 females) arrived from the U.S. aboard the USS Thomas. The name Thomasite was adopted for these teachers, who firmly established education as one of America's major contributions to the Philippines. Among the assignments given were Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and Masbate. Twenty-seven of the original Thomasites either died of tropical diseases or were murdered by Filipino rebels during their first 20 months of residence. Despite the hardships, the Thomasites persisted, teaching and building learning institutions that prepared students for their chosen professions or trades. They opened the Philippine Normal School (now Philippine Normal University) and the Philippine School of Arts and Trades (PSAT) in 1901 and reopened the Philippine Nautical School, established in 1839 by the Board of Commerce of Manila under Spain. By the end of 1904, primary courses were mostly taught by Filipinos under American supervision.
On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (the Schurman Commission), a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman, president of Cornell University, to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations. In the report that they issued to the president the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines was not ready for it. Specific recommendations included the establishment of civilian government as rapidly as possible (the American chief executive in the islands at that time was the military governor), including establishment of a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a new system of free public elementary schools.
From the very beginning, United States presidents and their representatives in the islands defined their colonial mission as tutelage: preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. Except for a small group of "retentionists", the issue was not whether the Philippines would be granted self-rule, but when and under what conditions. Thus political development in the islands was rapid and particularly impressive in light of the complete lack of representative institutions under the Spanish. The Philippine Organic Act of July 1902 stipulated that, with the achievement of peace, a legislature would be established composed of a lower house, the Philippine Assembly, which would be popularly elected, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission, which was to be appointed by the president of the United States.
The Jones Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1916 to serve as the new organic law in the Philippines, promised eventual independence and instituted an elected Philippine senate. The Tydings–McDuffie Act (officially the Philippine Independence Act; Public Law 73-127) approved on March 24, 1934 provided for self-government of the Philippines and for Filipino independence (from the United States) after a period of ten years. World War II intervened, bringing the Japanese occupation between 1941 and 1945. In 1946, the Treaty of Manila (1946) between the governments of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.