The US and the Philippines

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How and why did the United States take control of the Philippines in 1898?

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The McKinley Administration believed that, in ending Spanish rule of the Philippines, they were striking a blow for freedom against imperialism. Successive US governments evaluated imperialism in traditional terms—as the kind practiced by European powers such as Spain, France, and Great Britain. They had no real understanding that American control...

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The McKinley Administration believed that, in ending Spanish rule of the Philippines, they were striking a blow for freedom against imperialism. Successive US governments evaluated imperialism in traditional terms—as the kind practiced by European powers such as Spain, France, and Great Britain. They had no real understanding that American control over the Philippines would itself represent a species of imperialism, albeit one that was very different from that practiced by the Spanish.

In taking charge of the Philippines, the McKinley Administration believed that it could have the best of both worlds: America would now be in control of a strategically important part of the globe while at the same time posing as an anti-imperialist power which had brought freedom to a subjugated people.

Driving out the Spanish from the Philippines coincided with the end of Spanish Cuba. Spanish colonial rule over Cuba had been deeply unpopular with the American people for many years, not least because imperial rule in the United States' own backyard was considered an affront to the American tradition of freedom and independence. Once the United States ended Spanish colonial rule in Cuba, it was able to reassert itself in the Americas, bringing the old Monroe Doctrine throughly up to date.

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The United States wanted to become a world power by the end of the 1800s. We went to war with Spain to help accomplish this goal. The United States became concerned about how the Spanish were treating the people of Cuba. After a series of events, including the sinking of a U.S. warship (for which we blamed Spain), the United States went to war against Spain in 1898. The Spanish had colonies in several parts of the world. Not only did we fight the Spanish in Cuba, we attacked their possessions in the Pacific, including the Philippines. The United States was able to win the war fairly quickly.

As a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the United States gained land from Spain. Cuba became independent, and we paid Spain $20 million for Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. While the people of the Philippines were hoping to be granted their independence, this did not happen. The people of the Philippines, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, resisted control by the United States and fought against the United States military for several years. This conflict was very costly for the people of the Philippines, with over 220,000 Filipinos being killed in battle or from other effects related to the conflict. The U.S. ruled the Philippines until 1946 when the Philippines became independent.

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