/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_19_GeorgeDewey_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressOn May 1, 1898, Commodore George Dewey led the U.S. Navy’s Asiatic Squadron to a decisive victory against the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. The following year, he was commissioned Admiral of the Navy.
The relative ease with which the United States dispatched the Spanish squadron in Manila Bay was only the beginning of what would become a nearly 50-year American presence in the Philippines. It was one thing to capture the islands, but another thing entirely to set up a working administration. The Philippines encompasses about 7,100 islands and sits nearly 8,600 miles away from Washington, DC. By the late 1890s, it had an estimated population of 8 million.63
Dewey’s victory had come so fast that few in the McKinley administration appeared to have given much thought to what came next.64
President McKinley’s strategy going into the conflict was to take as much of the Philippines as possible and then, during peace negotiations, to only “keep what we want.”65 From an administrative standpoint, McKinley envisioned the Philippines as an American protectorate or an American colony. Like many people on the mainland, he believed Filipinos were incapable of self-government and did not want another foreign power to take over the islands.66
The decision to keep the Philippines during the Treaty of Paris that the Senate approved in February 1899 set off an intense and emotional debate across the country and on Capitol Hill. Expansionists in Congress saw the decision to retain the islands as a continuation of America’s “manifest destiny” to spread its reach beyond the West Coast and into the Pacific. Anti-imperialists, on the other hand, believed that America, which itself had once been an overseas colony, had no right to take the islands as the spoils of war.67
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_20_TreatyofParis_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis Kurz & Allison lithograph depicts the December 10, 1898, signing of the Treaty of Paris, which set the terms that ended the Spanish-American War. Commissioners from the United States included Senator Cushman K. Davis of Minnesota, Secretary of State William R. Day, Senator William P. Frye of Maine, Senator George Gray of Delaware, and Ambassador Whitelaw Reid.
By the time the United States took control of the Manila government in 1899, the Philippines had been in a state of war for the better part of three years. In 1896, when the Spanish regime refused long-standing Filipino requests to reform the islands’ colonial government, the Philippines erupted into rebellion. Two years into that conflict the islands suddenly became a crucial theater in the War of 1898, as Spain’s empire receded and America’s expanded. Finally, in 1899, on the heels of the Treaty of Paris, as America’s occupying force attempted to install a new colonial regime in the Philippines, Filipinos fought back in a second war for independence, beginning what would become a three-year conflict over the right to self-government in the Philippines.68
The United States began planning to administer the archipelago in January 1899 when President McKinley established the Philippine commission to gather information about the islands’ “various populations,” their “legislative needs,” and to identify how best to maintain “order, peace and the public welfare.”69
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_21_FirstPhilippineCommission_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressPresident William McKinley established the first Philippine commission in 1899. Four of the members of the commission, shown here from left to right, were Jacob Schurman, Admiral George Dewey, Charles Denby, and Dean Worcester.
The Philippine-American War erupted less than a month later. The conflict pitted pro-independence Filipinos, who believed Spain’s regime had simply been swapped for an American one, against the U.S. military that was based largely out of Manila. In response, the United States placed the Philippines under martial law until the fighting wound down in 1902.70
The multi-year conflict, which Filipinos saw as a continued fight for sovereignty but which Americans considered to be more of an insurrection, was bloody and devastating. What started as a more conventional struggle quickly gave way to a fierce guerrilla fight. According to one State Department estimate, 20,000 Filipino revolutionaries and 4,200 American troops died in combat while upward of 200,000 Filipino civilians starved to death, died of disease, or were killed in combat. Another estimate puts the total fatalities at nearly 300,000 Filipinos and 6,000 Americans. Reports of torture and other atrocities, especially late in the conflict, underscored the brutality of the war.71
By 1902, even as the Theodore Roosevelt administration declared victory in the archipelago, the conflict had left an indelible mark on the identity of the Philippines. If the idea of the Philippines as a sovereign nation had simmered just out of reach during the late 19th century, the collective experience fighting the Spanish and then the Americans inspired the islands to embrace a sense of nationhood, to celebrate their commonalities and shared beliefs, and to eventually adopt an identity that made them Filipinos first and foremost. “Though there was no Filipino nation in the conflict,” observed one recent history, “the Filipino nation could not have existed without the war.”72
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_22_JacobSchurman_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressWhile serving as the third president of Cornell University, Jacob Schurman chaired the first Philippine commission in 1899. He later served as the United States’ top diplomat to Greece, Montenegro, China, and Germany.
Despite the ruthless conflict and the widespread support in the Philippines for independence, McKinley’s commission, headed by Cornell University president Jacob Schurman, went forward with its investigation and published its final report in four volumes in January 1900. It called on the United States to end martial law and revealed that Filipinos wanted their government to defend religious freedom, protect basic human rights, and guarantee home rule. But Schurman set the tone for future U.S. policy, concluding in no uncertain terms that the Filipinos would be unable to govern themselves in the short term. “No one,” the report said, “can foresee when the diverse peoples of the Philippine Islands may be molded together into a nationality capable of exercising all the functions of independent self-government.”73
Shortly after receiving Schurman’s report, McKinley appointed a second Philippine commission, headed by federal judge William H. Taft, to begin designing a civil government based on America’s model.74
During his research, Taft concluded, and overstated, that “the great majority of Filipinos” did not object to U.S. colonial rule in a general sense; they simply reserved their main “hostility” for America’s “Military Government.”75 Nevertheless, his commission report, issued in August 1900, was a scathing indictment of the population at large. Filipino people were described as being “ignorant, superstitious, and credulous in remarkable degree.” Taft laid out a plan to introduce government institutions, establish a civil service, and enact currency and tax programs. It also called for public works, capital investment, and educational reform. On the heels of its report, the commission assumed all legislative powers in the Philippines on September 1, 1900.76
With Taft’s report in hand, the McKinley administration pushed Congress to follow its recommendations and approve a civil government for the islands. Taft envisioned an insular architecture that included “a Governor General and a legislative body, consisting of the Commission and possibly one or two reliable Filipinos to act as a provisional legislature for eighteen months or two years” until a larger government could be installed. In March 1901, Congress passed and McKinley signed a measure introduced by Senator John C. Spooner of Wisconsin that largely put Taft’s recommendations into law.77
The transfer of power from the military to the temporary insular government in 1901 also marked the beginning of Filipino involvement in the Manila administration. Taft’s dim view of the Filipino people carried over to nearly every class on the islands, from rich to poor, but there were a handful of ilustrados—the wealthiest and most-educated members of the Filipino elite—who accepted positions in the new government. It was these men that first gave shape to what the historian Michael Cullinane has called “the Filipino-American collaborative empire.” “It was an empire,” Cullinane wrote, “that from the outset mediated—though not without frequent strain—between the objectives and expediencies of the American colonial rulers and those of the incumbent political power holders among the Filipino educated elites.”78
Among the “possibly one or two reliable Filipinos” Taft hoped to include on the commission was Benito Legarda, a wealthy businessman who six years later became one of the first two Resident Commissioners to represent the Philippines in Congress.79
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_23_WHTaft_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressWilliam H. Taft was a federal judge when President William McKinley chose him to lead the second Philippine commission in 1900. Taft later was appointed War Secretary, elected as the 27th President in 1908, and appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921.
Legarda’s early involvement helps demonstrate the shifting foundation of this new “collaborative empire” in which “some Filipinos and Americans,” Cullinane observed, “reached an accommodation and eventual collaboration” that satisfied both the ilustrados
’ ambitions and the United States’ commercial blueprint for the Philippines.80
Legarda was one of the first to adopt and help shape this mutual understanding.81 He had made a fortune in the tobacco and alcohol businesses under Spanish rule, and when the Philippines went to war with the Crown, he briefly advised the Philippines’ revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo. Legarda was by no means a revolutionary, but he did serve, again briefly, as the vice president of the Philippine congress in the town of Malolos.
But he was also an entrepreneur, and open warfare first with Spain and then with the United States made it difficult to run a business. When American officials set up the occupation government in Manila, Legarda, who maintained a home in the capital city, began working with the Taft commission to develop the Philippines’ new civil government.
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_24_FilipinoChildrenUSFlags_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis stereoview shows Filipino children, each holding a flag, as they gather for a Fourth of July celebration in Manila in 1900.
Taft hoped men like Legarda would be his gateway to every corner of the Philippines, and he worked to win over ilustrados
sympathetic to America’s goals in the Philippines. He believed that courting men of such stature would help end the Philippine-American War and convince the rest of the population to cast their lot with the United States. This “policy of attraction,” the historian Peter Stanley observed, “transcended the interests of any particular group of ilustrados
… it was a pursuit of the loyalty of the Filipino people by the only means available.”82
As it became increasingly apparent that the Philippine-American War was all but over, more and more ilustrados in Manila began to cooperate with Taft’s provisional government. By the end of 1900, enough Filipino elites had recognized U.S. authority that many joined together to form the Partido Federal (Federal Party). That Taft virtually quashed the creation of any rival political parties only added to the Federalistas’ influence, especially in areas where their party maintained an iron grip on the patronage system.83
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_25_ManilaUSFlags_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis stereoview from around 1901 shows the U.S. flag raised over the walls of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
Per the earlier Spooner bill, Taft became civil governor of the Philippines on July 4, 1901, and appointed Legarda and two other Filipinos to the commission in September. With its expanded roster, the commission looked to overhaul and Americanize virtually every segment of Filipino life, everything from the separation of church and state to education, currency, trade, and the islands’ infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, the commission shouldered the responsibility of designing the Philippines’ governing structure going forward.84
The commission’s plan, which Congress approved mostly intact, concentrated much of the Philippines’ legislative and executive powers within the commission itself. Headed by a governor general, the commission would be evenly divided between four Americans and four Filipinos.85 The resulting legislation—the Philippine Organic Act of 1902—made the Philippines into an American protectorate as an “unorganized” territory. It created a popularly elected assembly to govern alongside the commission pending the results of a territorywide census. The legislation also provided the Philippines with two Resident Commissioners, one elected by the commission, the other elected by the assembly, each selection subject to the approval of the other chamber.86
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_26_HelenTaftFilipinaDress_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressHelen Herron Taft wears a dramatic, Philippine-style gown in this studio photograph taken in Manila during the 1900–1903 governorship of her husband, William H. Taft.
The decision to give the Philippines two representatives in Washington is unique in American history, as all other overseas U.S. territories have been assigned either one Delegate or one Resident Commissioner. The justification for two appears to have come from Taft’s desire to maintain U.S. authority in the Philippines while providing the territory with a measure of autonomy.
Because the commission was the United States’ administrative arm in the Philippines, Taft believed the popularly elected assembly should also have a direct line to federal lawmakers. “The Filipinos … desire an opportunity to reach Congress, not through the executive in the islands, not through the Commission in the islands,” he told the House Insular Affairs Committee in February 1902. “They desire a representation here.” By keeping the Philippine commission an appointed body, Taft hoped “to retain American guidance and control and initiative.” But since the Philippine assembly would be the people’s voice on the islands, he told the committee, “a popular assembly with delegates to Washington gives to the Filipinos all the practice in self-government and a popular government that it is possible to give.”87
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_27_Legarda_Ocampo_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressBenito Legarda, left, and Pablo Ocampo, the first two Resident Commissioners from the Philippines, pose together around 1908.
Five months later, on July 4, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt issued a full amnesty proclamation that pardoned anyone who fought against the United States in the Philippine-American War. In addition to signaling the end of the conflict, the general clemency sparked a shift in the islands’ civic makeup: proindependence sentiment that had once sparked a revolution became the bedrock of new political parties in peacetime.88
Philippine nationalists initially splintered into different factions, their main disagreement stemming from conflicting views on the urgency of independence. While some advocated for immediate, unequivocal independence, others sought a more prolonged process to allow the new government to find its footing. In 1907, on the eve of the opening of the Philippine assembly, the two main blocs pushing for immediate independence merged to form the Partido Nacionalista (Nationalist Party). By that point, the nationalist movement was so strong that even Federalistas, who had once advocated for annexation, rebranded themselves as the Partido Nacional Progresista (National Progressive Party) and began calling for gradual independence.89
Following the territorial census, American officials gave the go-ahead for an election to open the Philippine assembly. With a number of restrictions in place, only a fraction of the population qualified to vote, and within that fraction there seemed to be no consensus on the timeline for independence. Consequently, no party captured the majority. Nacionalistas took the most seats, followed by the Independientes, the Progresistas, the Immediatistas, and a handful of “other minor” parties, according to one history of the Philippine legislature. It was not until the legislature convened, however, that Filipino leaders assembled behind the Partido Nacionalista.90
With the opening of the new territorial government, the Philippine legislature sent its first two Resident Commissioners—Benito Legarda and Pablo Ocampo—to Capitol Hill during the winter of 1907–1908. From then until 1946, when the Philippines became independent, the territory sent a total of 13 Resident Commissioners to Congress.
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_28_EmilioAguinaldo_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressRevolutionary leader and general Emilio Aguinaldo fought for the Philippines’ independence, first from Spain and then from the United States. Aguinaldo was captured in 1901 and consented to declare his allegiance to the United States.
Like Legarda and Ocampo, most of the earliest Resident Commissioners were ilustrados
, members of the Philippines’ upper class. On the whole, the 13 came from traditionally wealthy and urban families. They attended the best schools both in Manila and occasionally abroad, and, alongside being fluent in Spanish and their own native languages, often spoke English fluently or well enough to get by. Ocampo was an exception and brought a translator with him to Congress.91
Every Resident Commissioner came from the main island of Luzon except Jaime C. de Veyra, who was from Leyte and who made a name for himself in Cebu, the territory’s second largest city. Otherwise, even if the Resident Commissioners grew up in one of the rural provinces outside Manila, they used the capital city as their primary launching pad for their political careers.
A number of Resident Commissioners took part in the conflicts that ravaged the islands during the turn of the century, fighting against the Spanish, the Americans, or both. After fighting against Spain, Ocampo, for example, joined the forces trying to repel America’s occupation army and served as the chief intelligence officer for Philippine general Emilio Aguinaldo. Afterward, U.S. officials arrested Ocampo and exiled him to the island of Guam. Just a few years later, in 1907, Ocampo was elected to Congress.
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_29_PhilippineLegislature_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThe Philippine legislature poses for a group photo sometime before 1924.
Before they entered politics, Resident Commissioners frequently started out in business, journalism, law, or some combination thereof. Five had been successful businessmen, five had law backgrounds, and four worked in journalism, including two who edited pro-independence newspapers and another who won the Pulitzer Prize on the eve of World War II.
Like Congressmen during any era, Resident Commissioners often started their political careers at the local level and served in their home provinces before making the jump to higher positions in Manila. Three Resident Commissioners were provincial governors, and others held more minor positions. Some, however, started closer to the top. Camilo Osias was the first Filipino superintendent of the islands’ schools, and Joaquin M. Elizalde was an economic adviser to the Philippine president.
Before their tenures in Washington, five Resident Commissioners served in the lower chamber of the territorial legislature, either in the Philippine assembly or, later, the Philippine house of representatives. Legarda and de Veyra sat on the Philippine commission as two of its only Filipino members. Three others served in the Philippine senate, which replaced the commission in 1916.92
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_30_CredentialsLegardoOcampo_NARA.xmlImage courtesy of the National Archives and Records AdministrationThis paperwork from the new Philippine government certifies the 1907 election of Benito Legarda and Pablo Ocampo as the first Resident Commissioners from the Philippine Islands. To balance the interests of both the Philippine commission and the assembly, the legislative bodies elected candidates who would be quickly ratified by the opposite chamber.
U.S. territories have had a level of nonvoting representation in the national legislature since 1787, when the Northwest Ordinance created a Delegate for the region above the Ohio River. Following the adoption of the Constitution, the early federal Congresses continued the practice as the nation expanded westward. Because their positions were created by an act of Congress rather than delineated in the Constitution, Delegates and Resident Commissioners are considered statutory representatives and their rights and prerogatives as Members depend on a host of different variables, including House Rules and the whims of the majority.93
Resident Commissioners from the Philippines initially served two-year terms. But during a particularly nettlesome re-election contest in 1910, when the assembly and the commission refused to agree to one another’s candidates, Congress was forced to intervene, lengthening the incumbents’ terms to four years in order to give the insular legislature time to resolve its differences without causing a break in representation. Their terms were shortened to three years in 1916.94 The next major change to the office occurred in 1934 when the Philippines became a commonwealth. As part of the deal giving the Philippines its eventual independence, the islands agreed to send a single Resident Commissioner per term rather than a pair.
Experience in Washington
For interested observers in Manila during the early 1900s, the new Resident Commissioners were a matter of speculation. “Just what the powers and prerogatives of the delegates will be upon their arrival in Washington is a matter of conjecture,” the Washington Post reported from the territory’s capital city. “The general impression is that their status will be the same as that of Territorial delegates to Congress, which would entitle them to a seat in the House of Representatives without a vote. But the law designates them as ‘resident commissioners,’ which may mean anything or nothing.”95
In practice, there was little difference between Delegates and Resident Commissioners; Congress gave both offices little legislative agency. Because the House denied the Filipinos a vote and prohibited them from serving on committees, they functioned more like lobbyists and cultural ambassadors than legislators. They were given a salary, access to the House Floor, office space, and, eventually, franking privileges, but they had to wield power in different ways: pigeonholing Members, testifying before committees, and leaning on the Bureau of Insular Affairs. Certain Resident Commissioners, like Manuel Quezon, excelled at such behind-the-scenes lawmaking, meeting with Presidents and delicately maneuvering past Congress’s parliamentary hurdles.
The Resident Commissioners were not so much the representatives of the Filipino people as they were the mouthpieces of the territorial government controlled by the Nacionalistas, and, in theory, they were supposed to follow the marching orders sent by party leaders.96
As part of the first set of Resident Commissioners from the Philippines, Legarda grasped the subtleties of his office early on. “We do not expect to have much weight when political questions are being discussed,” he said in 1907, “but when economic matters pertaining to the Philippine Islands arise in either house of congress we expect to fully inform the homeland legislators.”97
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_31_62ndDesks_HC.xmlCollection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectThis diagram depicts the House Chamber seating chart for the 62nd Congress (1911–1913). Philippine Resident Commissioners Benito Legarda and Manuel L. Quezon were assigned to seats in the last two rows on the west side.
With a handful of exceptions, informing Members of Congress was often all they could do. Testifying before committees was perhaps the most common tool in the Resident Commissioners’ legislative toolbox, and some, especially Quezon, developed alliances with influential chairmen.98
Many took the opportunity to address the House during debate. For the years that we have records, Resident Commissioners were assigned seats in the back of the chamber with the minority party often in close proximity to one another, but not necessarily next to one another. In 1910, for instance, Legarda and Quezon sat at desks in the second-to-last row on the Democratic side of the chamber. But the next year, at the start of the 62nd Congress (1911–1913), after Democrats captured the majority during the fall elections, Legarda and Quezon were assigned to desks in the last two rows on the Republican side.99
Although the historical record is thin, some evidence suggests that the earliest Resident Commissioners interacted with other statutory representatives. “Four men wandered into the house of representatives today, took seats in the rear of the chamber and began [an] animated conversation,” reported the Detroit Free Press in February 1908. “Their language was strange and the group attracted a good deal of attention. ‘Who are they?’ said a stranger in the gallery. ‘Two are resident commissioners from the Philippines, one is the resident commissioner from Porto Rico, while the fourth one … is the delegate from Hawaii,’ said a house [employee].”100
During Quezon’s career in Congress specifically, Resident Commissioners who served in pairs developed something of a unique arrangement. One of them—often the one more well versed in the issues and able to navigate the ever-changing congressional landscape—handled the legislative lift. The other Resident Commissioner, as described by the historian Peter Stanley, was usually “rich, personally dignified as a representative of the Filipino people, and politically impotent.”101
Philippine Trade, 1898–1934
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_32_TaftTug_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressA steamboat transports William H. Taft, then Secretary of War, up the Pasig River in the Philippines in 1905.
By the time America assumed possession of the Philippines, the territory’s economy had grown at a decent clip.102
But the gradual shift from subsistence farming to exporting on a global scale had left its mark. A number of the Philippines’ chief products—sugar, tobacco, cordage, and coconut oil—had taken a considerable amount of farmland out of food production. For American officials, especially Governor Taft, the poor state of the islands’ infrastructure, combined with pockets of poverty, necessitated a complete overhaul of the Philippine economy.103
But Taft’s vision conflicted with that of a skeptical Congress, and a series of events conspired to place the Philippines and its Resident Commissioners front and center in one of the most heated issues on Capitol Hill: the tariff.
After the Supreme Court declared income taxes unconstitutional in 1895, Congress continued to rely on tariffs—fees placed on imported goods—to raise money for the federal treasury. U.S. officials believed that low tariffs would generate trade, but invite competition from abroad. Higher tariffs, on the other hand, would restrict overseas commerce, but “protect” American industries from foreign competitors.104
By the fall of 1908, Taft, who had left the Philippines to head the War Department, won the U.S. presidency. As the Republican candidate, he had run, in part, on a promise to break with traditional GOP doctrine and lower America’s tariffs. Not wanting to waste time, the new President called Congress into special session to deal expressly with the issue.105
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_33_BololandCartoon_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis 1905 political cartoon, “Back from Bololand,” depicts William H. Taft with a group of Congressmen, Senators, and others in a train station. The terminals are labeled “Philippine Free Trade” and “Stand-Pat”—a reference to the debate in Washington about whether to levy steep tariffs on Philippine trade goods. Taft chides the others, “Now, boys, after all my talking, don’t go and take the wrong train.”
Coincidentally, Taft’s reforms dovetailed with the expiration of clauses in the Treaty of Paris that had prevented the United States from establishing new tariff rates on trade with the Philippines. As part of Spain’s surrender, America agreed to favorable terms that gave the Spanish ready access to markets in the Philippines for the next decade. Spanish goods were essentially treated the same as U.S. goods. But when those 10 years were up, Congress was free to overhaul how America did business with its farthest territory. For Taft, that meant tightly binding the Philippines to the U.S. economy by making calculated investments in the islands and using trade to form a measure of economic dependence on the United States. It was dollar diplomacy in its purest form, the historian H. W. Brands once observed.106
With such high stakes, the territorial government leaned heavily on its new Resident Commissioners. This ensured that the first piece of legislation they dealt with would be one of the cornerstone bills governing the transpacific relationship.107
The tariff bill reported by the Ways and Means Committee, what became known as the Payne–Aldrich Tariff Act, provided American businesses with virtually unlimited access to the Philippine market while simultaneously installing quotas on Philippine imports to the United States. The effect would be to open the flow of U.S. goods going to the Philippines while severely restricting Philippine goods headed to the United States. Since the Philippines generated a large portion of its revenue from fees on imported goods and since the archipelago did a robust trade with the States, the proposal to remove tariffs on American products threatened to both unravel the territory’s fiscal policy and prevent the Philippines from diversifying its economy.108
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_34_SerenoPayne_HC.xmlCollection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectSereno Payne of New York was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from 1899 to 1911, and introduced a revision to the Payne–Aldrich Tariff Act.
On paper, Congress had clear authority to dictate the rates of the Philippines’ tariffs, but, in practice, the process was monumentally awkward. The territory may have been part of America’s geopolitical orbit, but for many people on either side of the Pacific, the Philippines seemed like a separate nation entirely. Congress, for its part, had never been able to decide whether the archipelago was an international or domestic trading partner. House Republicans danced around its liminal status, but Democrats, as they said in a 1905 committee report, wanted Congress to decide whether the Philippines was “altogether American or altogether foreign.”109
No one associated with the territorial government was happy about the terms of Payne–Aldrich, and Legarda and Ocampo protested the measure on the House Floor.110 As Washington scrambled to bring the Philippines back onboard, Taft and the Bureau of Insular Affairs developed a revision that Sereno Payne of New York, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced as H.R. 9135 that promised to help the Philippines make up lost revenue once the new tariffs went into place.111 Although Ocampo and Legarda disagreed about the new bill, the House passed the standalone Philippine tariff on May 24, 1909, and the Senate cleared it in July.112 On August 2, the conference report for the Philippine trade bill was quickly approved, and a deeply satisfied Taft signed it into law three days later.113
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_35_SugarRefinery_Philippines_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressSugar refineries in the Philippines processed the territory’s sugarcane and prepared it for export. Sugar was one of the Philippines’ major agricultural products.
Although the language of the 1909 Philippine Tariff Act remained the basis of the islands’ economy over the next few years, Congress occasionally adjusted the terms of America’s trade relationship with the Philippines. And ever so gradually Congress began treating the Philippines more and more like a foreign trading partner. In 1913, for instance, Congress passed the Underwood–Simmons Act, removing quotas placed on Philippine imports to the United States and more or less installing a policy of free trade. Three years later, as part of the Jones Act, Congress gave the Philippine legislature more control over the territory’s commerce with other countries, empowering it to set “customs duties on all foreign goods entering the Islands,” according to Pedro Abelarde, an historian of the tariff. Congress, however, retained oversight of the Philippines’ trade with the United States.114
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_36_FlagHonorCartoon_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis 1906 political cartoon, “Upholding the Honor of the American Flag,” shows a large figure personifying America’s agricultural industry blasting Philippine commerce with a gun labeled “Dingley Tariff.”
The terms of the Jones Act remained on the books until 1934, when Congress passed the Jones–Costigan Act, giving the Agriculture Secretary the right to set quotas on goods coming into America. A while later, as part of the Tydings–McDuffie Act that granted the Philippines its independence, Congress cleared the way for the Philippines to assume the role of a completely unaffiliated trading partner.115
“For decades,” Abelarde observed in 1947, a year after the Philippines became independent, “the Filipinos had been repeatedly advised with paternal solicitude to be more material-minded and devote more serious attention to their country’s economic development.”116 As it turned out, that development often came in the form of one-dimensional commerce. By the late 1920s, goods from America made up 60 percent of the Philippines’ total imports, and as late as 1934, the United States was the destination for 83 percent of the Philippines’ exports and accounted for 75 percent of the Philippines’ total trade.117
A large part of that commerce depended on the Philippines’ agricultural sector and its two biggest crops, sugar and tobacco. But over the years, U.S. sugar and tobacco industries maintained powerful allies on Capitol Hill, meaning that, “in dealing with the Insular tariff,” Abelarde concluded, “Congress acted, in the main, in the interest of American producers.”118
Toward Independence, 1907–1934
If the tariff debates underscored the tenuous nature of the Philippines’ economic relationship with official Washington, they also revealed the rather muddled nature of the Philippines’ political status, especially early on: Was the Philippines foreign, American, or something else entirely? What became clear after tariff reform, however, was that the Philippines’ economic future was in nearly every respect intimately bound to its insular status. The issues were two sides of the same coin.
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_37_MacArthurHeadquartersManila_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressThis stereoview shows an American flag flying over the entrance to the Manila headquarters of Major General Arthur MacArthur Jr. during the Philippine-American War.
With the new tariffs in place after 1909, Congress’s dealings with the Philippines switched gears, and with the new Resident Commissioner, Manuel Quezon, taking the lead, debate began focusing more and more on the islands’ long-term political future. Beginning with the 62nd Congress, Quezon received help from a new House majority after Democrats took back the chamber for the first time in 15 years.
Unlike the GOP, which saw huge economic possibilities in the Philippines but believed the territory needed to be carefully tutored in self-government, the Democratic Party had been on the record since 1900 as being firmly against acquiring the Philippines. According to the historian H. W. Brands, Democrats believed that retaining the Philippines as a territory “contradicted American ideals and prevented the natural development of Filipino society.” Now in power, Democrats had a chance to link up with Filipino nationalists in an uneasy partnership to give the Philippines greater autonomy, if not full independence.119
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_38_WilliamJones_HC.xmlCollection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectWilliam A. Jones, a Representative from Virginia, chaired the Committee on Insular Affairs from 1911 to 1918 and worked with Resident Commissioner Manuel L. Quezon on the issue of independence for the Philippines.
Working alongside William A. Jones of Virginia, the new chairman of the House Committee on Insular Affairs, Quezon readied an independence bill he hoped to show voters back home in time for the upcoming territorial elections. The Resident Commissioner knew that as much as Democrats wanted to divest America of the Philippines they would not rush the separation; so, he designed legislation (H.R. 22143) that provided for independence after a period of eight years and committed the U.S. military to 20 years of protection to discourage predatory foreign powers.120
Quezon’s bill, which came to be known as the Jones bill, made it out of Jones’s committee, but quickly hit a snag in the form of Woodrow Wilson, then the Democratic nominee for President, who advised party leaders to sit on the matter.121
As Wilson quietly came around on the issue after winning the presidency, Quezon reworked his proposal into something more gradual. The crux of his new plan would swap the U.S.-backed Philippine commission for a popularly elected territorial senate, giving the Philippine people more control over their government but likely delaying independence until at least the 1930s.122
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_39_FrankMcIntyre_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressAs chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs from 1912 to 1929, Major General Frank McIntyre served as intermediary between Resident Commissioner Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippines and President Woodrow Wilson.
Over the winter of 1913–1914, Quezon teamed up with Frank McIntyre, chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, to put his new ideas into bill form. McIntyre briefed Wilson on the matter, and Quezon met with the President in January. The Resident Commissioner came away with the understanding that, although Wilson sympathized with the Philippines, the White House would not support immediate independence nor would it hamstring the administration by fixing a date for independence.123
Taking this into account, Quezon and McIntyre’s new bill creating the Philippine senate (H.R. 606) included a preamble that set no timetable for independence. Instead, it included a vague promise that independence would only be possible once the Philippines established a “stable” government.124
During House debate on the bill in the fall of 1914, the Resident Commissioner framed the struggle in the Philippines much like America’s own past: “Remember how your forefathers felt when they were as we are now struggling for freedom,” Quezon asked.125 The bill passed, but died in the Senate when a small group of Senators threatened to filibuster the preamble’s “stable” government clause.126
Despite the setback, Quezon had laid a solid foundation after years of work on the issue, and when the 64th Congress (1915–1917) opened, the Philippine government bill was the first piece of legislation offered in the House on the first day of the new Congress (H.R. 1). Within two weeks, Quezon testified before the Senate Committee on the Philippines and pointed out that his support for the bill was a huge political gamble. “As a practical man who takes what he can get that is good,” he said, “I am ‘standing pat’ on this bill now.” The Senate committee reported it favorably and urged Congress to act swiftly.127
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_40_Quezon_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressManuel L. Quezon, Resident Commissioner from the Philippine Islands, attends the 1912 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore.
The stable government clause, however, remained problematic. In 1916, an election year, Democrats, including Wilson, started to walk back their support for gradual independence. Eventually, Senator James Clarke of Arkansas offered an amendment to give the Philippines its independence in four years or less. The Senate cleared the amendment by one vote in early February.128
Quezon was stuck. The Clarke amendment would free the Philippines almost immediately, but such a truncated timeline could bring large-scale economic and social unrest. By supporting it, Quezon risked the Philippines’ future. But if he opposed the amendment and the bill died, all his work would be for nothing. In the end, Quezon supported it, and Chairman Jones reluctantly brought the Clarke amendment to the House Floor. In a marathon session on May 1, 1916, Quezon and Jones urged House Democrats to vote for the new version.129
Despite the earlier pressure from party leadership, a number of Democrats broke ranks and stood with Republicans to vote down the Clarke amendment. Seeing an opportunity, Jones submitted his earlier draft containing the “stable” government clause, and the House quickly adopted it.130 After a summer of uncertainty and delay in which Quezon urged the President to support the vague preamble, the Senate abandoned the Clarke amendment and cleared the Jones bill in mid-August. With Quezon looking on, Wilson signed it into law on August 29, 1916.131
Although the Jones Act was a major turning point, Quezon’s successors in the House continued to deal with the same issues of trade and insular status. Independence remained a driving force in Manila, but in Washington, Philippine Resident Commissioners had to navigate between Republican and Democratic administrations that came down on different sides of the independence debate. Often the Resident Commissioners had to fight to protect the gains in autonomy the islands had won over the years.
In the waning days of the Wilson administration, for instance, Resident Commissioner Jaime de Veyra and other pro-independence activists worked to speed up the independence process before Republican President-elect Warren G. Harding took office. As former chairman of the Senate Committee on the Philippines, Harding, like many Republicans, believed the United States should retain the islands indefinitely.132
In December 1920, Wilson appeared ready to move on Philippine independence and told Congress that the territory had “succeeded in maintaining a stable government” and was therefore eligible for its freedom.133 But it was too little, too late, and Congress mostly ignored the outgoing President.134
After taking office the next year, Harding met with the Philippine Resident Commissioners Isauro Gabaldon and de Veyra but refused to commit one way or the other on independence. Like Taft and McKinley before him, Harding sent a fact-finding mission to assess the “fitness” of the Philippines for self-rule. Led by General Leonard Wood and former Governor General W. Cameron Forbes, both opponents of independence, Harding assured the Resident Commissioners that he would make no policy decision until the commission submitted its report.135
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_41_ForbesOsmena_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressIn 1921 President Warren G. Harding charged General Leonard Wood and former Governor General W. Cameron Forbes with determining whether the Philippines was fit for self-rule. Almost two decades later, Forbes, left, meets with Sergio Osmeña, then vice president of the Philippines.
The Wood–Forbes Mission visited the islands during the summer of 1921 and spoke with insular government officials, American expatriates, everyday Filipinos, and a host of other “foreigners.” They visited all but one of the 49 provinces of the islands and held meetings in nearly 450 cities and towns.136
In its report, the mission not only opposed Philippine independence, it asked Congress to strengthen America’s presence in Manila by expanding the powers of the governor general.137 Gabaldon and de Veyra publicly protested the report, with Gabaldon calling it little more than “a clever, but unworthy attempt to change the issue from that of stable government to a multitude of other conditions not required by Congress.”138
Nevertheless, President Harding endorsed the report and nominated General Wood to reassert the powers of the governor general over the islands. Confirmed in October 1921, Wood maintained cordial relations with Filipinos, but he soon ran afoul of insular politicians while navigating the shoals of a pitched political battle between Manuel Quezon, president of the Philippine senate, and Philippine assembly speaker Sergio Osmeña. To many in the capital city of Manila, Harding’s decision to appoint Wood seemed to violate the intent of the Jones Act that gave the territorial legislature more control over the Philippines’ daily affairs. As Wood tried to consolidate power, the division between Philippine and American officials only widened.139
The struggle for power in Manila—what came to be called the Cabinet Crisis—nearly put independence on the legislative agenda in the 68th Congress (1923–1925). After a Philippine independence mission met with a number of administration officials and Members of Congress to protest Wood’s reforms, six bills taking steps toward independence were submitted between December 1923 and March 1924.140 But the proposals struggled to gain traction. Lawmakers, backed by a negative propaganda campaign designed to curb Philippine autonomy and led largely by U.S. business interests, remained committed to maintaining American control over the islands.141
To Provide for Independence
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_42_GuevaraEspinas_HC.xmlCollection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectPhilippine Resident Commissioner Pedro Guevara, left, visits the White House in 1923 with his secretary, J. E. Espinas.
The symbiotic link between trade and status that so often characterized Congress’s policy toward the Philippines entered a new phase by the early 1930s. As the U.S. economy plummeted amid the Great Depression and as Japan widened its global reach by invading Manchuria, Congress considered ways to free the Philippines perhaps less out of genuine interest for the islands and more because many considered the territory to be a financial and national security liability.142
Moreover, Democrats, who traditionally opposed the retention of the Philippines, had once again captured the majority in the House to start the 72nd Congress (1931–1933), giving the independence movement something of a leg up. Whatever policy Congress designed, however, would depend on the support of the insular government in Manila.
As a coalition of U.S. industries and interest groups pushed to limit both Philippine trade and Philippine immigration in order to protect struggling markets at home, Congress responded by drafting a measure that granted the Philippines its independence after a relatively brief transition period. Named after its authors in the House and Senate—Butler Hare of South Carolina, chairman of the House Insular Affairs Committee, and Senators Harry Hawes of Missouri and Bronson Cutting of New Mexico—the Hare–Hawes–Cutting bill cleared the way for a new Philippine constitution, but kept immigration quotas low and tariffs high following the installment of independence.143
During the House debate on the bill, Resident Commissioner Pedro Guevara reminded everyone of the high stakes involved. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 and the 1916 Jones Act were only temporary vehicles for the Philippines, he said. But granting outright independence would redeem America’s promise for freedom. With Guevara watching, the House approved the bill in a landslide vote, 306 to 47. Although the Senate sat on the bill until after the fall elections, it passed on December 17, 1932. A conference committee swiftly changed the transition period to 10 years, and by the end of the month, both the House and Senate had cleared the new version.144 In early 1933, the outgoing President, Republican Herbert Hoover, vetoed the bill, but the House and Senate quickly overrode him.145
Although the bill had become law, the insular legislature had to approve it before the graduated independence schedule began. Almost immediately a struggle for power on the islands derailed it. For much of 1933, the governing Partido Nacionalista had fractured into those for and those against the independence bill. Those in favor of the bill included power brokers like Resident Commissioner Camilo Osias, who had helped design the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act, and Sergio Osmeña, who had lobbied for it. Those against it were led by former Resident Commissioner Manuel Quezon, perhaps the most powerful official in Manila. Quezon had once supported the bill, but quickly backtracked when he realized credit for independence might go to Osmeña instead of himself. At that point, he became a fierce critic of the Hare–Hawes–Cutting bill. Ultimately, Quezon prevailed and solidified his position in the Philippines when the insular government rejected the measure.146
Not to be outdone, Quezon traveled to Washington to negotiate a second and nearly identical independence bill during the 73rd Congress (1933–1935). He initially received a chilly reception from the new Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) administration.147 Nevertheless, FDR wanted to resolve the Philippine issue as quickly as possible. The President believed the United States was bound by the Jones Act to uphold the law’s “stable” government provision, and in March 1934, he asked Congress to revisit Philippine independence.148
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_43_JohnMcDuffie_HC.xmlCollection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this objectAlabama Representative John McDuffie, pictured here, and Maryland Senator Millard Tydings authored legislation during the 73rd Congress (1933–1935) that brought about Philippine independence after a 10-year transition period.
After a few days of intense debate, both houses of Congress approved the new version built largely on the framework of Hare–Hawes–Cutting, including the 10-year transition period to independence. President Roosevelt signed it into law on March 24, 1934. Dubbed the Tydings–McDuffie Act after Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland and Representative John McDuffie of Alabama, the Philippine legislature approved the law in May 1934. The Philippines then held a referendum on the new constitution and an island-wide plebiscite on independence. Philippine voters approved the package by huge margins.149
Under Tydings–McDuffie, the Philippines became a commonwealth, making the islands far more autonomous, but still subject to Congress’s authority over the next decade as it prepared for independence. The law replaced the governor general with an American high commissioner, and it changed how the Philippines was represented on the Hill. Since 1907 the insular legislature had elected two Resident Commissioners, but the new law provided for only one and empowered the new Philippine president to appoint that person directly. Unsurprisingly, Quezon was elected the Philippines’ first president a year later. Tydings–McDuffie also set graduated tariff rates on Philippine goods so that, by the time the islands became independent, they would have to pay the rates in full.150
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_44_FDRPhilippineDutiesSigning_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressPhilippine High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre, Philippine Vice President Sergio Osmeña, and Resident Commissioner Joaquin M. Elizalde (standing, left to right), watch as President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a 1939 bill that adjusted duties on Philippine goods.
But exactly when those full tariffs would go into effect remained unclear. Early in 1937, Quezon and FDR created the Joint Preparatory Committee (JPC) on Philippine Affairs, composed of Philippine and U.S. economists, to identify and begin addressing troublesome issues that would inevitably accompany independence. Among its many findings, the JPC recommended phasing in full tariff rates over 15 years, giving the Philippine economy five extra years to grow after independence.151
In order to avoid the potential pitfalls in the Tydings–McDuffie Act, FDR sent the JPC report to the Hill and asked Congress to frame legislation around the committee’s recommendations. But the Senate and especially Tydings, who took it as a personal affront, greeted the report with disdain.152 Only after FDR personally lobbied members of the House and Senate did the overseeing committees produce a bill that lengthened the trade window to match the JPC’s recommendations. FDR signed the bill into law on August 7, 1939.153
Despite the changes, not everyone was happy with the final product. For his part, Quezon was not convinced the new law went far enough to solve the problems that would accompany the “economic readjustment” inherent in Philippine independence.154
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_45_ElizaldeOsmenaHausserman_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressResident Commissioner Joaquin M. Elizalde and Philippine Vice President Sergio Osmeña meet with businessman John W. Hausserman (right) in Washington, DC, in 1938.
Economics, of course, was not the only looming concern as independence approached. Philippine citizenship, for one, remained a confusing legal mess. In 1940, when Congress updated federal naturalization provisions, citizenship was limited to whites and African Americans. But legislators inserted a special provision allowing “native-born Filipinos having the honorable service in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard” to become naturalized citizens.155
With independence, however, the rest of the civilian population would cease being U.S. nationals and would become “aliens ineligible to citizenship.”156
The War in the Philippines
Despite its design to help the Philippines transition from colony to independence, the era of the Philippine commonwealth (1934–1944) turned out to be one of the more tumultuous periods in the history of the islands. With the onset of World War II, the Philippines suddenly became one of the most contested regions of the Pacific theater.
For years, American officials had worried that Japan would encroach on the Philippines once America began pulling out, and in December 1941, in a coordinated bombing campaign that targeted Manila and a host of other cities across the Pacific, Japan unleashed the full power of its military. Much of the Philippines’ infrastructure built under the territorial government—new roads, hospitals, ports, and airfields—were lost as the archipelago was captured by Japan and then recaptured by the United States within a three-year period. Along the way, hundreds of thousands died and the commonwealth government was forced to flee to the United States until Allied forces retook Manila.
The first bombs fell on the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor across the International Dateline. Dense fog had delayed the departure of the Japanese air force, but once the skies cleared, planes attacked for five straight days.157
Japan’s decision to attack the Philippines was part of a larger strategy to seize oil reserves in the Dutch East Indies. To do so, however, Japan needed to eliminate the U.S. forces based in the Philippines. Under General Douglas MacArthur, the military had integrated nearly 100,000 Filipino troops and 30,000 American servicemen into the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) that included dozens of bombers, more than 100 fighter planes, and a full complement of warships in the U.S. Navy’s Asiatic Squadron.158
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_46_MacArthurPresentsServicemanCross_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of CongressGeneral Douglas MacArthur presents a Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Jack Dale of the U.S. Army Air Corps in Manila, Philippines, on December 22, 1941.
Japan’s relentless bombing campaign, however, quickly overwhelmed the Philippines. The U.S. Navy withdrew, enabling Japanese forces to land on separate sides of Luzon. As Japanese troops marched toward Manila, U.S. and Filipino forces evacuated to the Bataan Peninsula while MacArthur removed his staff and the commonwealth government to the harbor fortress on Corregidor Island.159
President Quezon scrambled to keep the Philippines out of the conflict and pushed FDR to work out a deal with Japan that, among other things, would grant the islands immediate independence, establish guaranteed neutrality, demilitarize the archipelago, and enact new trade agreements with Japan and the United States. Roosevelt flatly denied Quezon’s request.160
By the spring of 1942, after MacArthur and the commonwealth government were ordered to leave the Philippines for Australia, Japan broke the defensive lines on the island of Bataan, starving out the remaining USAFFE forces before leading them on the Bataan Death March in which thousands of American and Filipino troops died on the way to prison camps or during their incarceration. Following the final Japanese assault on the island fortress of Corregidor, the last organized resistance in the Philippines surrendered.161
/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay1_47_1942FlagDay_LC.xmlImage courtesy of the Library of Congress