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American Imperialism and the Philippines

The Imperialist position with reference to American involvement in the affairs of the Philippines in 1899 is elucidated in documents by Elihu Root and Theodore Roosevelt. These views are countered by other documents from the period pointing out why American intervention is not warranted or would be counter-productive. Each side offers compelling arguments as to why America should follow their point of view. Those arguing for intervention emphasized American interests, while those arguing against emphasized long-term consequences and the lack of compelling American interests.

The Philippines at the end of the last century experienced an internal revolution, and Emilio Aguinaldo emerged as the leader. At the time, the Spanish were fighting an unsuccessful war in Cuba and wanted to end the fighting in the Philippines, so they offered Aguinaldo and his supporters amnesty if Aguinaldo would go into exile. He agreed. However, in May 1898, an American fleet entered Manila Bay and destroyed the Spanish fleet, part of the expansion of the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo returned from exile, expecting support from the United States, and was elected president of the new republic. Leaders in the U.S., however, would not accept the idea of independence for the Philippines and were instead eager to establish a military and commercial presence in the Far East. This led to a Filipino war against the United States. It was over this war that the arguments were waged between the administration and Anti-Imperialists of the time.

In espousing the administration position, Elihu Root first defended President McKinley and what he had done in the Philippines, stating that he had defended and asserted American sovereignty. Anti-Imperialists wanted the U.S. to withdraw, and Root says this would be impossible, stating that it would undercut American self-respect and national honor and that the world would condemn such an action even as Ameri...

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American Imperialism and the Philippines. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:48, May 21, 2019, from