HistoryWired About the Program Help Comments Smithsonian Institution
back
The Philippines, an American colony from 1898 to 1946

In 1898, the United States took advantage of the struggles for independence in Spanish colonies to enlarge American political, economic, and moral influence. Ironically, Spanish and American interests were very similar. The Philippines, under Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, had already begun a revolution against Spain, which had controlled the Islands as a colony, administered from Manila through Mexico from 1565 to 1821, when New Spain became independent of Spain.
Events moved quickly in 1898. After the sinking of the "Maine" at Havana harbor, the United States declared war in April. In May, Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and the U.S. returned Aguinaldo from exile in Hong Kong. Both men thought that U.S. policy promised independence for the Philippines. In June, Philippine revolutionaries declared independence, but U.S. troops occupied Manila in August. In December, Spain signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish American War and ceding Spanish colonies, including Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the U.S. In February 1899, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty without the support of President McKinley, but not without heated debate. What the U.S. called an "insurrection" had begun in the islands earlier in February. The conflict became the brutal Filipino-American War that officially lasted until 1902. An estimated 4,500 Americans, and at least ten times that many Filipinos died. By 1902, a U.S. Commission had installed a civil government in Manila to promote American culture and Protestant Christian values.

From 1902 to 1934, the Philippines was subject to U.S. economic and social interests while gradually receiving greater autonomy. A U.S. Act in 1902 established a Philippine Assembly. By 1907, the Philippines had held an election, formed a legislature, and been introduced to U.S. teachers, engineers and missionaries. Free trade with the U.S. came in 1913, and limited self-government in 1916. In 1934 a U.S. Act assured independence within ten years, and Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena were elected President and Vice President of the Philippine Commonwealth.

The independence act sharply curtailed Philippine emigration to the U.S. Then, in December 1941, Japan invaded the Philippines and imposed the horrors of World War II. Filipino guerillas continued to fight, and in October 1944, their hope was fulfilled with the return of Allied forces under General MacArthur. U.S. President Truman announced the war's end in August 1945, and in 11 months the Philippines became independent.

 

Related Images

Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900
Enlarge
Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900
Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900
Enlarge
Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900
Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900
Enlarge
Filipino boy's penmanship examination, 1900


Start HistoryWired | About the Program | Help | Comments

Smithsonian Institution | Terms of Use | Privacy