The American Occupation of the Philippines 1898-1912 by James H. Blount

The American Occupation of the Philippines
With a Map
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1912
James H. Blount

The Knickerbocker Press, New York


The Author[v]



Pardon, gentles all,

The flat unraised spirit that hath dared

On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth

So great an object.

Henry V.

To have gone out to the other side of the world with an army of invasion, and had a part, however small, in the subjugation of a strange people, and then to see a new government set up, and, as an official of that government, watch it work out through a number of years, is an unusual and interesting experience, especially to a lawyer. What seem to me the most valuable things I learned in the course of that experience are herein submitted to my fellow-countrymen, in connection with a narrative covering the whole of the American occupation of the Philippines to date.

This book is an attempt, by one whose intimate acquaintance with two remotely separated peoples will be denied in no quarter, to interpret each to the other. How intelligent that acquaintance is, is of course altogether another matter, which the reader will determine for himself.

The task here undertaken is to make audible to a great free nation the voice of a weaker subject people who passionately and rightly long to be also free, but whose longings have been systematically denied for the last fourteen years, sometimes ignorantly, sometimes viciously, and always cruelly, on the wholly erroneous [vi]idea that where the end is benevolent, it justifies the means, regardless of the means necessary to the end.

At a time when all our military and fiscal experts agree that having the Philippines on our hands is a grave strategic and economic mistake, fraught with peril to the nation’s prestige in the early stages of our next great war, we are keeping the Filipinos in industrial bondage through unrighteous Congressional legislation for which special interests in America are responsible, in bald repudiation of the Open Door policy, and against their helpless but universal protest, a wholly unprotected and easy prey to the first first-class Power with which we become involved in war. Yet all the while the very highest considerations of national honor require us to choose between making the Filipino people free and independent without unnecessary delay, as they of right ought to be, or else imperilling the perpetuity of our own institutions by the creation and maintenance of a great standing army, sufficient properly to guard overseas possessions.

A cheerful blindness to the inevitable worthy of Mark Tapley himself, the stale Micawberism that “something is bound to turn up,” and a Mrs. Jellyby philanthropy hopelessly callous to domestic duties, expenses, and distresses, have hitherto successfully united to prevent the one simple and supreme need of the situation—a frank, formal, and definite declaration, by the law-making power of the government, of the nation’s purpose in the premises. What is needed is a formal legislative announcement that the governing of a remote and alien people is to have no permanent place in the purposes of our national life, and that we do bona fide intend, just as soon as a stable government, republican in form, can be established by the people of the Philippine Islands, to turn over, upon terms which [vii]shall be reasonable and just, the government and control of the islands to the people thereof.

The essentials of the problem, being at least as immutable as human nature and geography, will not change much with time. And whenever the American people are ready to abandon the strange gods whose guidance has necessitated a new definition of Liberty consistent with taxation without representation and unanimous protest by the governed, they will at once set about to secure to a people who have proven themselves brave and self-sacrificing in war, and gentle, generous, and tractable in peace, the right to pursue happiness in their own way, in lieu of somebody else’s way, as the spirit of our Constitution, and the teachings of our God, Who is also theirs, alike demand.

After seven years spent at the storm-centre of so-called “Expansion,” the first of the seven as a volunteer officer in Cuba during and after the Spanish War, the next two in a like capacity in the Philippines, and the remainder as a United States judge in the last-named country, the writer was finally invalided home in 1905, sustained in spirit, at parting, by cordial farewells, oral and written, personal and official, but convinced that foreign kindness will not cure the desire of a people, once awakened, for what used to be known as Freedom before we freed Cuba and then subjugated the Philippines; and that to permanently eradicate sedition from the Philippine Islands, the American courts there must be given jurisdiction over thought as well as over overt act, and must learn the method of drawing an indictment against a whole people.

Seven other years of interested observation from the Western Hemisphere end of the line have confirmed and fortified the convictions above set forth.

If we give the Filipinos this independence they so [viii]ardently desire and ever clamor for until made to shut up, “the holy cause,” as their brilliant young representative in the American House of Representatives, Mr. Quezon, always calls it, will not be at once spoiled, as the American hemp and other special interests so contemptuously insist, by the gentleman named, and his compatriot, Señor Osmeña, the Speaker of the Philippine Assembly, and the rest of the leaders of the patriot cause, in a general mutual throat-cutting incidental to a scramble for the offices. This sort of contention is merely the hiss of the same old serpent of tyranny which has always beset the pathway of man’s struggle for free institutions.

When first the talk in America, after the battle of Manila Bay, about keeping the Philippines, reached the islands, one of the Filipino leaders wrote to another during the negotiations between their commanding general and our own looking to preservation of the peace until the results of the Paris Peace Conference which settled the fate of the islands should be known, in effect, thus: “The Filipinos will not be fit for independence in ten, twenty, or a hundred years if it be left to American colonial office-holders drawing good salaries to determine the question.” Is there not some human nature in that remark? Suppose, reader, you were in the enjoyment of a salary of five, ten, or twenty thousand dollars a year as a government official in the Philippines, how precipitately would you hasten to recommend yourself out of office, and evict yourself into this cold Western world with which you had meantime lost all touch?

The Filipinos can run a far better government than the Cubans. In 1898, when Admiral Dewey read in the papers that we were going to give Cuba independence, he wired home from Manila:[ix]

These people are far superior in their intelligence, and more capable of self-government than the people of Cuba, and I am familiar with both races.

After a year in Cuba and nearly six in the Philippines, two as an officer of the army that subjugated the Filipinos, and the remainder as a judge over them, I cordially concur in the opinion of Admiral Dewey, but with this addition, viz., that the people of those islands, whatever of conscious political unity they may have lacked in 1898, were welded into absolute oneness as a people by their original struggle for independence against us, and will remain forever so welded by their incurable aspirations for a national life of their own under a republic framed in imitation of ours. Furthermore, the one great difference between Cuba and the Philippines is that the latter country has no race cancer forever menacing its peace, and sapping its self-reliance. The Philippine people are absolutely one people, as to race, color, and previous condition. Again, American sugar and tobacco interests will never permit the competitive Philippine sugar and tobacco industries to grow as Nature and Nature’s God intended; and the American importers of Manila hemp—which is to the Philippines what cotton is to the South—have, through special Congressional legislation still standing on our statute books—to the shame of the nation—so depressed the hemp industry of the islands that the market price it brings to-day is just one half what it brought ten years ago.

If three strong and able Americans, familiar with insular conditions and still young enough to undertake the task, were told by a President of the United States, by authority of Congress, “Go out there and set up a [x]stable native government by July 4, 1921,1 and then come away,” they could and would do it; and that government would be a success; and one of the greatest moral victories in the annals of free government would have been written by the gentlemen concerned upon the pages of their country’s history.

We ought to give the Filipinos their independence, even if we have to guarantee it to them. But, by neutralization treaties with the other great Powers similar to those which safeguard the integrity and independence of Switzerland to-day, whereby the other Powers would agree not to seize the islands after we give them their independence, the Philippines can be made as permanently neutral territory in Asiatic politics as Switzerland is to-day in European politics.

James H. Blount.

P.S.—The preparation of this book has entailed examination of a vast mass of official documents, as will appear from the foot-note citations to the page and volume from which quotations have been made. The object has been to place all material statements of fact beyond question. For the purpose of this research work, Mr. Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, was kind enough to extend me the privileges of the national library, and it would be most ungracious to fail to acknowledge the obligation I am under, in this regard, to one whom the country is indeed fortunate [xi]in having at the head of that great institution. I should also make acknowledgment of the obligation I am under to Mr. W. W. Bishop, the able superintendent of the reading-room, for aid rendered whenever asked, and to my life-long friends, John and Hugh Morrison, the most valuable men, to the general public, except the two gentlemen above named, on the whole great roll of employees of the Library of Congress.

J. H. B.[xiii]

1The date contemplated by the pending Philippine Independence Bill, introduced in the House of Representatives in March, 1912, by Hon. W. A. Jones, Chairman of the Committee on Insular Affairs.




Chapter I

Mr. Pratt’s Serenade     1–15

Spencer Pratt, Consul-General of the United States at Singapore, in the British Straits Settlements, finding Aguinaldo a political refugee at that place at the outbreak of our war with Spain, April 21, 1898, arranges by cable with Admiral Dewey, then at Hong Kong with his squadron, for Aguinaldo to come to Hong Kong and thence to Manila, to co-operate by land with Admiral Dewey against the Spaniards, Pratt promising Aguinaldo independence, without authority. Mr. Pratt is later quietly separated from the consular service.

Chapter II

Dewey and Aguinaldo     16–45

After the battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898, Admiral Dewey brings Aguinaldo down from Hong Kong, whither he had proceeded from Singapore, lands him at Cavite, and chaperones his insurrection against the Spaniards until the American troops arrive, June 30th.

Chapter III

Anderson and Aguinaldo     46–66

General Anderson’s official dealings with Aguinaldo from June 30, 1898, until General Merritt’s arrival, July 25th,

Chapter IV

Merritt and Aguinaldo     67–87

General Merritt’s five weeks’ sojourn in the Islands, from July 25, 1898, to the end of August, including fall of Manila, August 13th, and our relations with Aguinaldo during period indicated.[xiv]

Chapter V

Otis and Aguinaldo     88–106

Dealings and relations between, September–December, 1898.

Chapter VI

The Wilcox-Sargent Trip     107–120

Two American naval officers make an extended tour through the interior of Luzon by permission of Admiral Dewey and with Aguinaldo’s consent, in October–November, 1898, while the Paris peace negotiations were in progress. What they saw and learned.

Chapter VII

The Treaty of Paris     121–138

An account of the negotiations, October-December, 1898. How we came to pay Spain $20,000,000 for a $200,000,000 insurrection. Treaty signed December 10, 1898.

Chapter VIII

The Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation     139–151

President McKinley’s celebrated proclamation of December 21, 1898, cabled out to the Islands, December 27, 1898, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris on the 10th, and intended as a fire-extinguisher, in fact acted merely as a firebrand, the Filipinos perceiving that Benevolent Assimilation meant such measure of slaughter as might be necessary to “spare them from the dangers of” the independence on which they were bent.

Chapter IX

The Iloilo Fiasco     152–163

By order of President McKinley, General Otis abstains from hostilities to await Senate action on Treaty of Paris.

Chapter X

Otis and Aguinaldo (Continued)     164–185

Still waiting for the Senate to act.[xv]

Chapter XI

Otis and the War     186–223

Covering the period from the outbreak of February 4, 1899, until the fall of that year.

Chapter XII

Otis and the War (Continued)     224–269

From the fall of 1899 to the spring of 1900.

Chapter XIII

Macarthur and the War     270–281

Carries the story up to the date of the arrival of the Taft Commission, sent out in the spring of 1900, to help General MacArthur run the war.

Chapter XIV

The Taft Commission     282–344

Shows how the Taft Commission, born of the McKinley Benevolent Assimilation theory that there was no real fundamental opposition to American rule, lived up to that theory, in their telegrams sent home during the presidential campaign of 1900, and in 1901 set up a civil government predicated upon their obstinate but opportune delusions of the previous year.

“The papers ’id it ’andsome

But you bet the army knows.”

Chapter XV

Governor Taft—1901–2     345–402

Shows the prematurity of a civil government set up under pressure of political expediency, and the disorders which followed.

Chapter XVI

Governor Taft—1903     403–436

Shows divers serious insurrections in various provinces amounting to what the Commission itself termed, in one [xvi]instance, “a reign of terror”—situations so endangering the public safety that to fail to order out the army to quell the disturbances was neglect of plain duty, such neglect being due to a set policy of preserving the official fiction that peace prevailed, and that Benevolent Assimilation was a success.

Chapter XVII

Governor Taft—1903 (Continued)     437–445

Shows the essentially despotic, though theoretically benevolent, character of the Taft civil government of the Philippines, and its attitude toward the American business community in the Islands.

Chapter XVIII

Governor Wright—1904     446–498

Shows the change of the tone of the government under Governor Taft’s successor, his consequent popularity with his fellow-country men in the Islands, and his corresponding unpopularity with the Filipinos. Shows also a long series of massacres of pacificos by enemies of the American government between July and November, 1904, permitted out of super-solicitude lest ordering out the army and summarily putting a stop to said massacres might affect the presidential election in the United States unfavorably to Mr. Roosevelt, by reviving the notion that neither the Roosevelt Administration nor its predecessor had ever been frank with the country concerning the state of public order in the Islands.

Chapter XIX

Governor Wright—1905     499–514

Shows the prompt ordering of the army to the scene of the disturbances after the presidential election of 1904 was safely over, and the nature and extent of the insurrections of 1905.

Chapter XX

Governor Ide—1906     515–523

Describes the last outbreak prior to the final establishment of a state of general and complete peace.[xvii]

Chapter XXI

Governor Smith—1907–9     524–557

Describes divers matters, including a certificate made March 28, 1907, declaring that a state of general and complete peace had prevailed for the two years immediately the preceding. Describes also the formal opening of First Philippine Assembly by Secretary of War Taft in October, 1907, and his final announcement to them that he had no authority to end the uncertainty concerning their future which is the corner-stone of the Taft policy of Indefinite Tutelage, and that Congress only could end that uncertainty.

Chapter XXII

Governor Forbes—1909–12     558–570

Suggests the hypocrisy of boasting about “the good we are doing” the Filipinos when predatory special interests are all the while preying upon the Philippine people even more shamelessly than they do upon the American people, and by the same methods, viz.: legislation placed or kept on the statute-books of the United States for their special benefit, the difference being that the American people can help themselves if they will, but the Philippine people cannot.

Chapter XXIII

“Non-Christian” Worcester     571–586

Professor Worcester, the P. T. Barnum of the “non-Christian tribe” industry, and his menagerie of certain rare and interesting wild tribes still extant in the Islands, specimens of which you saw at the St. Louis Exposition of 1903–4; by which device the American people have been led to believe the Igorrotes, Negritos, etc., to be samples of the Filipino people.

Chapter XXIV

The Philippine Civil Service     587–594

Showing how imperatively simple justice demands that Americans, who go out to enter the Philippine Civil Service should, after a tour of duty out there, be entitled, [xviii]as matter of right, to be transferred back to the Civil Service in the United States, instead of being left wholly dependent on political influence to “place” them after their final return home.

Chapter XXV

Cost of the Philippines     595–603

In life, and money, together with certain consolatory reflections thereon.

Chapter XXVI

Congressional Legislation     604–622

Showing how a small group of American importers of Manila hemp—hemp being to the Philippines what cotton is to the South—have so manipulated the Philippine hemp industry as to depress the market price of the main source of wealth of the Islands below the cost of production; also other evils of taxation without representation.

Chapter XXVII

The Rights of Man     623–632

Industrial slavery to predatory interests and physical slavery compared.

Chapter XXVIII

The Road to Autonomy     633–646

Shows how entirely easy would be the task of evolving the American Ireland we have laid up for ourselves in the Philippines into complete Home Rule by 1921, the date proposed for Philippine independence in the pending Jones bill, introduced in the House of Representatives in March, 1912.

Chapter XXIX

The Way Out     647–655

Shows how, by neutralization treaties with the other powers, as proposed in many different resolutions, of both [xix]Republican and Democratic origin, now pending in Congress, whereby the other powers should agree not to annex the Islands after we give them their independence, the Philippines can be made permanently neutral territory in Asiatic politics exactly as both Switzerland and Belgium have been for nearly a hundred years in European politics.

Index     657[xxi]




The Capture of Aguinaldo, March 23, 1901—The Central Fact of the American Military Occupation     Frontispiece
From the Drawing by F. C. Yohn
Copyright by Charles Scribner’s Sons

Bird’s-eye View of the Philippine Archipelago, Showing Preponderating Importance of Luzon     228

Outline Sketch of the Theatre of Operations in Luzon, 1899     232

Sketch Map of the Philippines     At End[1]


The American Occupations of the Philippines

Chapter I

Mr. Pratt’s Serenade

Had I but served my God with half the zeal

I served my king, he would not in mine age

Have left me naked to mine enemies.

King Henry VIII., Act III., Sc. 2.

Any narrative covering our acquisition of the Philippine Islands must, of course, centre in the outset about Admiral Dewey, and the destruction by him of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on Sunday morning, May 1, 1898. But as the Admiral had brought Aguinaldo down from Hong Kong to Manila after the battle, and landed him on May 19th to start an auxiliary insurrection, which insurrection kept the Spaniards bottled up in Manila on the land side for three and a half months while Dewey did the same by sea, until ten thousand American troops arrived, and easily completed the reduction and capture of the beleaguered and famished city on August 13th, it is necessary to a clear understanding of the de facto alliance between the Americans and Aguinaldo thus created, to [2]know who brought the Admiral and Aguinaldo together and how, and why.

The United States declared war against Spain, April 21, 1898, to free Cuba, and at once arranged an understanding with the Cuban revolutionists looking to co-operation between their forces and ours to that end. For some years prior to this, political conditions in the Philippines had been quite similar to those in Cuba, so that when, two days after war broke out, the Honorable Spencer Pratt, Consul-General of the United States at Singapore, in the British Straits Settlements, found Aguinaldo, who had headed the last organized outbreak against Spain in the Philippines, temporarily sojourning as a political refugee at Singapore, in the Filipino colony there, he naturally sought to arrange for his co-operating with us against Spain, as Gomez and Garcia were doing in Cuba. Thereby hangs the story of “Mr. Pratt’s Serenade.” However, before we listen to the band whose strains spoke the gratitude of the Filipinos to Mr. Pratt for having introduced Aguinaldo to Dewey, let us learn somewhat of Aguinaldo’s antecedents, as related to the purposes of the introduction.

The first low rumbling of official thunder premonitory to the war with Spain was heard in Mr. McKinley’s annual message to Congress of December, 1897,1 wherein he said, among other things:

The most important problem with which this government is now called upon to deal pertaining to its foreign relations concerns its duty toward Spain and the Cuban insurrection.

In that very month of December, 1897, Aguinaldo was heading a formidable insurrection against Spanish [3]tyranny in the Philippines, and the Filipinos and their revolutionary committees everywhere were watching with eager interest the course of “The Great North American Republic,” as they were wont to term our government.

The Report of the First Philippine Commission sent out to the Islands by President McKinley in February, 1899, of which President Schurman of Cornell University was Chairman, contains a succinct memorandum concerning the Filipino revolutionary movement of 1896–7, which had been begun by Aguinaldo in 1896, and had culminated in what is known as the Treaty of Biac-na-Bato,2 signed December 14, 1897. This treaty had promised certain reforms, such as representation in the Spanish Cortez, sending the Friars away, etc., and had also promised the leaders $400,000 if Aguinaldo and his Cabinet would leave the country and go to Hong Kong. “No definite time was fixed,” says President Schurman (vol. I., p. 171), “during which these men were to remain away from the Philippines; and if the promises made by Spain were not fulfilled, they had the right to return.” Of course, “the promises made by Spain” were not fulfilled. Spain thought she had bought Aguinaldo and his crowd off. “Two hundred thousand dollars,” says Prof. Schurman, “was paid to Aguinaldo when he arrived in Hong Kong.” But instead of using this money in riotous living, the little group of exiles began to take notice of the struggles of their brothers in wretchedness in Cuba, and the ever-increasing probability of intervention by the United States in that unhappy Spanish colony, which, of course, would be their opportunity to strike for Independence. They had only been in Hong Kong about two months when the Maine blew up [4]February 15, 1898, Then they knew there would be “something doing.” Hong Kong being the cross-roads of the Far East and the gateway to Asia, and being only sixty hours across the choppy China Sea from Manila, was the best place in that part of the world to brew another insurrection against Spain. But Singapore is also a good place for a branch office for such an enterprise, being on the main-travelled route between the Philippines and Spain by way of the Suez Canal, about four or five days out of Hong Kong by a good liner, and but little farther from Manila, as the crow flies, than Hong Kong itself. Owing to political unrest in the Philippines in 1896–7–8, there was quite a colony of Filipino political refugees living at Singapore during that period. Aguinaldo had gone over from Hong Kong to Singapore in the latter half of April, 1898, arriving there, it so chanced, the day we declared war against Spain, April 21st. He was immediately sought out by Mr. Pratt, who had learned of his presence in the community through an Englishman of Singapore, a former resident of Manila, a Mr. Bray, who seems to have been a kind of striker for the Filipino general. Aguinaldo had come incognito. Out of Mr. Pratt’s interview with the insurgent chief thus obtained, and its results, grew the episode which is the subject of this chapter.

A word just here, preliminary to this interview, concerning the personal equation of Aguinaldo, would seem to be advisable.

While I personally chased him and his outfit a good deal in the latter part of 1899, in the northern advance of a column of General Lawton’s Division from San Isidro across the Rio Grande de Pampanga, over the boggy passes of the Caraballa Mountains to the China Sea, and up the Luzon West Coast road, we never did [5]catch him, and I never personally met him but once, and that was after he was captured in 1901. He was as insignificant looking physically as a Japanese diplomat. But his presence suggested, equally with that of his wonderful racial cousins who represent the great empire of the Mikado abroad, both a high order of intelligence and baffling reserve. And Major-General J. Franklin Bell, recently Chief of Staff, United States Army, who was a Major on General Merritt’s staff in 1898, having charge of the “Office of Military Information,” in a confidential report prepared for his chief dated August 29, 1898, “sizing up” the various insurgent leaders, in view of the then apparent probability of trouble with them, gives these notes on Aguinaldo, the head and front of the revolution: “Aguinaldo: Honest, sincere, and * * * a natural leader of men.”

Any one acquainted with General Bell knows that he knows what he is talking about when he speaks of “a natural leader of men,” for he is one himself. Our ablest men in the early days were the first to cease considering the little brown soldiers a joke, and their government an opera-bouffe affair. General Bell also says in the same report that he, Aguinaldo, is undoubtedly endowed in a wonderful degree with “the power of creating among the people confidence in himself.” He was, indeed, the very incarnation of “the legitimate aspirations of” his people, to use one of the favorite phrases of his early state papers, and the faithful interpreter thereof. That was the secret of his power, that and a most remarkable talent for surrounding himself with an atmosphere of impenetrable reserve. This last used to make our young army officers suspect him of being what they called a “four-flusher,” which being interpreted means a man who is partially successful [6]in making people think him far more important than he really is. But we have seen General Bell’s estimate. And the day Aguinaldo took the oath of allegiance to the United States, in 1901, General MacArthur, then commanding the American forces in the Philippines, signalized the event by liberating 1000 Filipino prisoners of war. General Funston, the man who captured him in 1901, says in Scribner’s Magazine for November, 1911, “He is a man of many excellent qualities and * * * far and away the best Filipino I was ever brought in contact with.”

Aguinaldo was born in 1869. To-day, 1912, he is farming about twenty miles out of Manila in his native province of Cavite; has always scrupulously observed his oath of allegiance aforesaid; occasionally comes to town and plays chess with Governor-General Forbes; and in all respects has played for the last ten years with really fine dignity the rôle of Chieftain of a Lost Cause on which his all had been staked. He was a school-teacher at Cavite at one time, but is not a college graduate, and so far as mere book education is concerned, he is not a highly educated man. Whether or not he can give the principal parts of the principal irregular Greek verbs I do not know, but his place in the history of his country, and in the annals of wars for independence, cannot, and for the honor of human nature should not, be a small one. Dr. Rizal, the Filipino patriot whose picture we print on the Philippine postage stamps, and who was shot for sedition by the Spaniards before our time out there, was what Colonel Roosevelt would jocularly call “one of these darned literary fellows.” He was a sort of “Sweetness and Light” proposition, who only wrote about “The Rights of Man,” and finally let the Spaniards shoot him—stuck his head in the lion’s mouth, so to speak. Aguinaldo was a born [7]leader of men, who knew how to put the fear of God into the hearts of the ancient oppressors of his people. Mr. Pratt’s own story of how he earned his serenade is preserved to future ages in the published records of the State Department.4 We will now attempt to summarize, not so eloquently as Mr. Pratt, but more briefly, the manner of its earning, the serenade itself, and its resultant effects both upon the personal fortunes of Mr. Pratt and upon Filipino confidence in American official assurances.

It was on the evening of Saturday, April 23, 1898, that Mr. Pratt was confidentially informed of Aguinaldo’s arrival at Singapore, incognito. “Being aware,” says Mr. Pratt, “of the great prestige of General Aguinaldo with the insurgents, and that no one, either at home or abroad, could exert over them the same influence and control that he could, I determined at once to see him.” Accordingly, he did see him the following Sunday morning, the 24th.

At this interview, it was arranged that if Admiral Dewey, then at Hong Kong with his squadron awaiting orders, should so desire, Aguinaldo should proceed to Hong Kong to arrange for co-operation of the insurgents at Manila with our naval forces in the prospective operations against the Spaniards.

Accordingly, that Sunday, Mr. Pratt telegraphed Dewey through our consul at Hong Kong:

Aguinaldo, insurgent leader, here. Will come Hong Kong arrange with Commodore for general co-operation insurgents Manila if desired. Telegraph.

Admiral Dewey (then Commodore) replied:

Tell Aguinaldo come soon as possible.


This message was received late Sunday night, April 24th, and was at once communicated to Aguinaldo. Mr. Pratt then did considerable bustling around for the benefit of his new-found ally, whom, with his aide-de-camp and private secretary, all under assumed names he “succeeded in getting off,” to use his phrase, by the British steamer Malacca, which left Singapore for Hong Kong, April 26th. In the letter reporting all this to the State Department, Mr. Pratt adds that he trusts this action “in arranging for his [Aguinaldo’s] direct co-operation with the commander of our forces” will meet with the Government’s approval. A little later Mr. Pratt sends the State Department a copy of the Singapore Free Press of May 4, 1898, containing an impressive account of the above transaction and the negotiations leading up to it. This account describes the political conditions among the population of the Philippine archipelago, “which,” it goes on to say, “merely awaits the signal from General Aguinaldo to rise en masse.” Speaking of Pratt’s interview with Aguinaldo, it says:

General Aguinaldo’s policy embraces the independence of the Philippines. * * * American protection would be desirable temporarily, on the same lines as that which might be instituted hereafter in Cuba.

Mr. Pratt also forwards a proclamation gotten up by the Filipino insurgent leaders at Hong Kong and sent over to the Philippines in advance of Admiral Dewey’s coming, calling upon the Filipinos not to heed any appeals of the Spaniards to oppose the Americans, but to rally to the support of the latter. This manifesto of the Filipinos is headed, prominently—for all we know it may have had a heading as big as a Hearst newspaper [9]box-car type announcement of the latest violation of the Seventh Commandment—: “America’s Allies.”

It begins thus:

Compatriots: Divine Providence is about to place independence within our reach. * * * The Americans, not from mercenary motives, but for the sake of humanity and the lamentations of so many persecuted people, have considered it opportune * * * etc. [Here follows a reference to Cuba.] At the present moment an American squadron is preparing to sail for the Philippines. * * * The Americans will attack by sea and prevent any reinforcements coming from Spain; * * * we insurgents must attack by land. Probably you will have more than sufficient arms, because the Americans have arms and will find means to assist us. There where you see the American flag flying, assemble in numbers; they are our redeemers!5

For twelve days after his letter to the State Department enclosing the above proclamation, Mr. Pratt, so far as the record discloses, contemplated his coup d’état in silent satisfaction. Since its successful pulling off, Admiral Dewey had smashed the Spanish fleet, and Aguinaldo had started his auxiliary insurrection. The former was patting the latter on the back, as it were, and saying, “Go it little man.” But nobody was patting Pratt on the back, yet. Therefore, on June 2d, Mr. Pratt writes the State Department, purring for patting thus:

Considering the enthusiastic manner General Aguinaldo has been received by the natives and the confidence with which he already appears to have inspired Admiral Dewey, it will be admitted, I think, that I did not over-rate his importance and that I have materially assisted the cause of the United States in the Philippines in securing his co-operation.6


A glow of conscious superiority, in value to the Government, over his consular colleague and neighbor, Mr. Wildman, at Hong Kong, next suffuses Mr. Pratt’s diction, being manifested thus:

Why this co-operation should not have been secured to us during the months General Aguinaldo remained awaiting events in Hong Kong, and that he was allowed to leave there without having been approached in the interest of our Government, I cannot understand.

Considering that in his letter accepting the nomination for the Vice-Presidency two years after this Mr. Roosevelt compared Aguinaldo and his people to that squalid old Apache medicine man, Sitting Bull, and his band of dirty paint-streaked cut-throats, Mr. Pratt’s next Pickwickian sigh of complacent, if neglected, worth is particularly interesting:

No close observer of what had transpired in the Philippines during the past four years could have failed to recognize that General Aguinaldo enjoyed above all others the confidence of the Filipino insurgents and the respect alike of Spaniards and foreigners in the islands, all of whom vouched for his high sense of justice and honor.

In other words, knowing the proverbial ingratitude of republics, Mr. Pratt is determined to impress upon his Government and on the discerning historian of the future that he was “the original Aguinaldo man.” A week later (June 9th) Mr. Pratt writes the Department enclosing copies of the Singapore papers of that date, giving an account of a generous outburst of Filipino enthusiasm at Singapore in honor of America, Admiral Dewey, and, last, if not least, Mr. Pratt. He encloses duplicate copies of these newspaper notices [11]“for the press, should you consider their publication desirable.” His letter begins:

I have the honor to report that this afternoon, on the occasion of the receipt of the news of General Aguinaldo’s recent successes near Manila, I was waited upon by the Philippine residents in Singapore and presented an address. * * *

He then proceeds with further details of the event, without self-laudation. The Singapore papers which he encloses, however, not handicapped by the inexorable modesty of official correspondence, give a glowing account of the presentation of the “address,” and of the serenade and toasts which followed. Says one of them, the Straits Times:

The United States consulate at Singapore was yesterday afternoon in an unusual state of bustle. That bustle extended itself to Raffles Hotel, of which the consulate forms an outlying part. From a period shortly prior to 5 o’clock, afternoon, the natives of the Philippines resident in Singapore began to assemble at the consulate. Their object was to present an address to Hon. Spencer Pratt, United States Consul-General, and, partly, to serenade him, for which purpose some twenty-five or thirty of the Filipinos came equipped with musical instruments.

First there was music by the band. Then followed the formal reading and presentation of the address by a Dr. Santos, representing the Filipino community of Singapore. The address pledged the “eternal gratitude” of the Filipino people to Admiral Dewey and the honored addressee, alluded to the glories of independence, and to how Aguinaldo had been enabled by the arrangement so happily effected with Admiral Dewey by Consul Pratt to arouse 8,000,000 of Filipinos to take up [12]arms “in defence of those principles of justice and liberty of which your country is the foremost champion” and trusted “that the United States * * * will efficaciously second the programme arranged between you, sir, and General Aguinaldo in this port of Singapore, and secure to us our independence under the protection of the United States.”

Mr. Pratt arose and “proceeded speaking in French,” says the newspaper—it does not say Alabama French, but that is doubtless what it was—“to state his belief that the Filipinos would prove and were now proving themselves fit for self-government.” The gentleman from Alabama then went on to review the mighty events and developments of the preceding six weeks, Dewey’s victory of May 1st,

the brilliant achievements of your own distinguished leader, General Emilio Aguinaldo, co-operating on land with the Americans at sea, etc. You have just reason to be proud of what has been and is being accomplished by General Aguinaldo and your fellow-countrymen under his command. When, six weeks ago, I learned that General Aguinaldo had arrived incognito in Singapore, I immediately sought him out. An hour’s interview convinced me that he was the man for the occasion; and, having communicated with Admiral Dewey, I accordingly arranged for him to join the latter, which he did at Cavite. The rest you know.

Says the newspaper clipping which has preserved the Pratt oration: “At the conclusion of Mr. Pratt’s speech refreshments were served, and as the Filipinos, being Christians, drink alcohol,7 there was no difficulty in arranging as to refreshments.”

Then followed a general drinking of toasts to America, [13]Dewey, Pratt, and Aguinaldo. Then the band played. Then the meeting broke up. Then the Honorable Spencer Pratt, Consul-General of the United States, retired to the seclusion of his apartments in Raffles Hotel, and, under the soothing swish of his plunkah, forgot the accursed heat of that stepping-off place, Singapore, and dreamed of future greatness.

A few days later the even tenor of Mr. Pratt’s meditations was disturbed by a letter from the State Department saying, in effect, that it was all right to get Aguinaldo’s assistance “if in so doing he was not induced to form hopes which it might not be practicable to gratify.”8 But it did not tell him to tell the Filipinos so. For Aguinaldo was keeping the Spaniards bottled up in the old walled city of Manila on short and ever shortening rations, and American troops were on the way to join him, and the shorter the food supply grew in Manila the readier the garrison would be to surrender when they did arrive, and the fewer American soldiers’ lives would have to be sacrificed in the final capture of the town. Every day of Aguinaldo’s service under the Dewey-Pratt arrangement was worth an American life, perhaps many. It was too valuable to repudiate, just yet. July 20th, the State Department wrote Mr. Pratt a letter acknowledging receipt of his of June 9th “enclosing printed copies of a report from the Straits Times of the same day, entitled ‘Mr. Spencer Pratt’s Serenade,’ with a view to its communication to the press,” and not only not felicitating him on his serenade, but making him sorry he had ever had a serenade. It said, among other things:

“The extract now communicated by you from the Straits Times of the 9th of June has occasioned a feeling of disquietude and a doubt as to whether some of your acts [14]may not have borne a significance and produced an impression which this government would feel compelled to regret.”9 Hapless Pratt! “Feel compelled to regret” is State Department for “You are liable to be fired.”

The letter of reprimand proceeds:

“The address * * * discloses an understanding on their part that * * * the ultimate object of our action is * * * the independence of the Philippines * * *. Your address does not repel this implication * * *”.

The letter then scores Pratt for having called Aguinaldo “the man for the occasion,” and for having said that the “arrangement” between Aguinaldo and Dewey had “resulted so happily,” and after a few further animadversions, concludes with this great blow to the reading public of Alabama:

“For these reasons the Department has not caused the article to be given to the press lest it might seem thereby to lend a sanction to views the expression of which it had not authorized.”

“The Department” was very scrupulous about even the appearance, at the American end of the line, of “lending a sanction” to Pratt’s arrangement with Aguinaldo, while all the time it was knowingly permitting the latter to daily risk his own life and the lives of his countrymen on the faith of that very “arrangement,” and it was so permitting this to be done because the “arrangement” was daily operating to reduce the number of American lives which it would be necessary to sacrifice in the final taking of Manila. The day the letter of reprimand was written our troop-ships were on the ocean, speeding toward the Philippines. And Aguinaldo and his people were fighting the Spaniards with the pent-up feeling of [15]centuries impelling their little steel-jacketed messengers of death, thinking of “Cuba Libre,” and dreaming of a Star of Philippine Independence risen in the Far East.

Such are the circumstances from which the Filipino people derived their first impressions concerning the faith and honor of a strange people they had never theretofore seen, who succeeded the Spaniards as their overlords. Mr. Pratt was subsequently quietly separated from the consular service, and doubtless lived to regret that he had ever unloosed the fountains of his Alabama French on the Filipino colony of Singapore.[16]

1Congressional Record, December 6, 1897, p. 3.

2Split Rock.

3Senate Document 62, p. 381.

4See pages 341 et seq.Senate Document 62, part 1, 55th Cong., 3d Sess., 1898–9.

5Senate Document 62, p. 346.

6Ib., 349.

7The natives in and about Singapore are Mohammedans, forbidden by their religion to use alcoholic beverages.

8Senate Document 62, p. 354.

9Senate Document 62, p. 356.


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