Excerpt from Aguinaldo’s Case Against The United States
The Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been a Spanish colony for over 300 years by the 1890s. Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo rebelled against Spanish rule beginning in 1896. When the United States declared war against Spain over events in Cuba in 1898, the U.S. Navy moved against Spanish colonies in the Pacific as well. U.S. Admiral George Dewey and Aguinaldo agreed to cooperate to expel the Spanish from the Philippines, but unbeknownst to Aguinaldo and the Filipino's the U.S. government was negotiating to buy the islands from the Spanish for the U.S. to rule as a colony of its own. The Spanish agreed to surrender to the U.S. on August 13, 1898 in Manila after a staged battle while the Filipino forces were prevented from entering the city.
In 1899 Emilio Aguinaldo wrote the following appeal to citizens of the United States to oppose their country's actions in the Philippines and support Filipino independence. His appeal is interesting in several respects. For one, Aguinaldo does not reject the concept of imperialism or the racial hierarchy that went along with it. Note the reference to "Africans or Mohawk Indians." Instead he argues that the Filipino people are sufficiently civilized to deserve independence. Aguinaldo further claims that while the Philippines may not seem as advanced as the United States or Japan (a nation that was rapidly modernizing at this time), it would only be able to become more advanced through independence as United States and Japan had the opportunity to do. In addressing the U.S. public, there fore Aguinaldo placed himself at their level and validated the imperialist framework, but simply argued that his nation deserved a different place in the hierarchy.
We Filipinos have all along believed that if the American nation at large knew exactly, as we do, what is daily happening in the Philippine Islands, they would rise en masse, and demand that this barbaric war should stop. There are other methods of securing sovereignty — the true and lasting sovereignty that has its foundation in the hearts of the people. Has not the greatest of English poets said:
" Kind hearts are more than coronets,
And simple faith than Norman Wood ? "
And, did America recognize this fact, she would cease to be the laughing stock of other civilized nations, as she became when she abandoned her traditions and set up a double standard of
government — government by consent in America, government by force in the Philippine Islands.
You have been deceived all along the line. You have been greatly deceived in the personality of my countrymen. You went to the Philippines under the impression that their inhabitants were ignorant savages, whom Spain had kept in subjection at the bayonet's point. The Filipinos have been described in serious American journals as akin to the hordes of the Khalifa; and the idea has prevailed that it required only some unknown American Kitchener to march triumphantly from north to south to make the military occupation complete. We have been represented by your popular press as if we were Africans or Mohawk Indians. We smile, and deplore the want of ethnological knowledge on the part of our literary friends. We are none of these. We are simply Filipinos. You know us now in part: you will know us better, I hope, by and by.
I will not deny that there are savages in the Philippine Islands, if you designate by that name those who lead a nomad life, who do not pay tribute or acknowledge sovereignty to any one save their chief. For, let it be remembered, Spain held these islands for three hundred years, but never conquered more than one-quarter of them, and that only superficially and chiefly by means of priest-craft. The Spaniards never professed to derive their just powers from the consent of those whom they attempted to govern. What they took by force, they lost by force at our hands; and you deceived yourselves when you bought a revolution for twenty million dollars, and entangled yourselves in international politics. "Non decipimur specie recti." You imagined you had bought the Philippines and the Filipinos for this mess of pottage. Your imperialism led you, blind-fold, to purchase "sovereignty" from a third party who had no title to give you — a confidence trick, certainly, very transparent; a bad bargain, and one we have had sufficient perspicuity and education to see through.
In the struggle for liberty which we have ever waged, the education of the masses has been slow; but we are not, on that account, an uneducated people, as our records show. Your Senators, even, admit that our political documents are worthy of a place in the archives of any civilized nation. It is the fittest and the best of our race who have survived the vile oppression of the Spanish Government, on the one hand, and of their priests on the other; and, had it not been for their tyrannous "sovereignty" and their execrable colonial methods, we would have been, ere this time, a power in the East, as our neighbors, the Japanese, have become by their industry and their modern educational methods.
You repeat constantly the dictum that we cannot govern ourselves. Macaulay long ago exposed the fallacy of this statement as regards colonies in general. With equal reason, you might have said the same thing some fifty or sixty years ago of Japan; and, little over a hundred years ago, it was extremely questionable, when you, also, were rebels against the English Government, if you could govern yourselves. You obtained the opportunity, thanks to political combinations and generous assistance at the critical moment. You passed with credit through the trying period when you had to make a beginning of governing yourselves, and you eventually succeeded in establishing a government on a republican basis, which, theoretically, is as good a system of government as needs be, as it fulfils the just ideals and aspirations of the human race.
Now, the moral of all this obviously is: Give us the chance; treat us exactly as you demanded to be treated at the hands of England, when you rebelled against her autocratic methods. Deal only with facts in a rational and consistent way. Leave empiricism alone, and address yourselves seriously to the work of seeking the solution that shall be honorable to both parties. We know all the wire-pullers who are at work. We can tell you far more than you know; for we know our country and our countrymen, their past history, and what is necessary for their future good.