“Another ‘Large Draft on our Credulity’…”

August 9, 1902

William A. Rogers

“Another ‘Large Draft on our Credulity’…”

Colonialism/Imperialism; U.S. Foreign Policy; Wars, Philippine-U.S. War;

Aguinaldo, Emilio; Stephens, Alexander; Washington, George;


No caption

In the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States acquired several overseas territories, including Cuba and the Philippines.  Carl Schurz, a former senator and secretary of the interior, was a leading anti-imperialist who strenuously opposed America's annexation of foreign lands.  Here, the cartoonist mocks Schurz for allegedly worshipping Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of a Filipino rebellion against American rule, as a present-day George Washington.

Emilio Aguinaldo was born in Kawit, Philippines, in 1869, and dropped out of school in 1886 to work in his family's sugar cane and trading business.  Over the next decade, beginning at the age of 17, he was elected to local political offices, including mayor.  In 1895, he joined Katipunan, a secret organization dedicated to securing independence for the Philippines from Spain.  When the Spanish authorities learned of the independence movement, they placed the capital of Manila and seven provinces, including Aguinaldo's, under martial law on August 19, 1896.  Ten days later, the freedom fighters launched their first attack against government forces, but were unsuccessful.  By the end of the month, Aguinaldo had resigned his political office and joined the revolution, winning several battles as a rebel army commander.  

In March 1897, a rebel convention named Aguinaldo provisional president of the revolutionary government.  A rival faction set up its own government, but its leader was captured, tried, and executed.  In November, the revolutionary government adopted a constitution establishing an elected assembly and independent judiciary, and Aguinaldo was formally elected president.  However, in December the rebels reached a settlement with the Spanish.  Aguinaldo and other rebel leaders were paid a substantial sum of money in return for exile in Hong Kong.  (Notice the coins labeled "Spanish bribe" in the cartoon).

Continued dissatisfaction with Spanish rule provoked a series of uprisings across the Philippines in early 1898.  Edward Wood, a U.S. naval commander, urged Aguinaldo to return to the Philippines to lead a full-scale rebellion.  With assurances of independence if the Filipinos joined the American war against Spain, Aguinaldo and 13 other rebel leaders returned aboard the U. S. S. McCulloch on May 19, 1898.  After forcing a Spanish surrender of Manila, Aguinaldo declared himself dictator (soon called "president") and announced Philippine independence on June 12, 1898.

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris granted the United States the former Spanish colonies of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.  American troops occupied the Philippines, and on December 21, President William McKinley declared the American mission there was one of "benevolent assimilation."  Deteriorating relations culminating in a shooting incident on February 4, 1899, between American and Filipino soldiers, prompted Aguinaldo to declare war against the United States.  

In April 1899, the U.S. government proposed an elected Filipino assembly with an American governor-general having the power of absolute veto.  Several battles occurred over the summer and fall, and then in November, Aguinaldo replaced regular army tactics with guerrilla warfare.  In March 1900, a commission headed by William Howard Taft began the process of establishing an American government in the Philippines.  In late June, General Arthur MacArthur issued a general amnesty and a monetary inducement to Filipinos who would lay down their arms, but the fighting continued.

On March 23, 1901, American troops captured Aguinaldo, forcing him to swear allegiance to the United States, renounce his revolutionary activity, and publicly encourage his comrades to do the same.  On July 4, 1901, the U.S. military handed civilian authority over to the American government officials.  The war ended in 1902, although sporadic guerrilla attacks continued for several years.  In the three years of the war, 10,000 Americans were killed and 200,000 Filipinos died of war-related fighting, disease, or pestilence.

Carl Schurz had opposed what he considered to be the aggressive and expansionist foreign policies of President Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870s and Secretary of State and Republican presidential nominee James Blaine in the 1880s.  As calls for American expansion overseas became more strident in the 1890s, Schurz emerged as one of the nation's leading anti-imperialists.  After six years as editor of Harper's Weekly, he resigned in 1898 when his stance on the Spanish-American War clashed with the views of the journal's publishers.  Schurz reluctantly supported the military effort against Spain, but opposed annexation of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.  

Schurz's anti-expansionist pronouncements were consistent over the decades, combining democratic principles with cultural bias.  He believed that the United States should never govern any land undemocratically; therefore, any newly acquired colonies should immediately be granted independence (his preference) or statehood.  Schurz considered the lands under consideration for annexation--from Santo Domingo in the 1870s to the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii in the 1890s--to be too alien in culture to be absorbed into the United States without undermining its character as a constitutional republic.  In his estimation, second-class citizenship would hurt the native peoples and undermine America's principles and reputation, while first-class citizenship would corrode the American republic.  

Schurz was angriest over the situation in the Philippines, which he labeled "a war of barefaced, cynical conquest," and called the Republican president, William McKinley, a liar when the administration blamed the Filipinos for the undeclared war.  Schurz explained to an anti-imperialist meeting in October 1899 that his loyalty was to America's democratic institutions, not to any particular president.    

During the first five months of 1902, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Philippines held hearings regarding alleged cruelties inflicted on Filipino prisoners by American servicemen.  That summer, General Jacob H. Smith, commander of American troops on the Philippine island of Samar, was convicted by a court martial for encouraging his troops to "kill and burn" indiscriminately.  On July 1, 1902, Congress passed a bill formally establishing a Philippine government, including an elected assembly, under the auspices of the United States.  William Howard Taft was already on his way to the islands to act as governor.  

The letter posted on the wall in this cartoon refers to correspondence from Schurz and other anti-imperialists to McKinley’s successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, in which they skeptically accepted the president's assurances concerning the implementation of democratic government in the Philippines.  It was not until 1934, however, that the U.S. Congress designated the Philippines as a U.S. commonwealth, setting it on the road to independence. 

Meanwhile, Aguinaldo retired to his farm after the American authorities released him.  In 1920, the Philippine government granted him a pension, but rescinded it in 1935.  When the Japanese occupied the Philippines in 1942, they named Aguinaldo to the governing council, and he made radio broadcasts calling on Filipinos to surrender to Japanese forces.  Following World War II, the Philippines became independent in 1946.  Two years later, Aguinaldo was appointed to the new nation's Council of State.  He died in 1964 at the age of 95.

Robert C. Kennedy

“Another ‘Large Draft on our Credulity’…”
July 14, 2024

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