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Imperialism is the complete ruling over a lesser portion of society for its growth and/or abuse of its resources. American Imperialism in the Philippines had both positive and negative effects on the natives and their ways of life. For example, their government was made more stable which allowed for an all around better way of life. While this is a good thing, the cons of America’s occupation of the Philippines seem to outweigh the good: the discrimination, slavery, forced-upon beliefs, loss of traditions and culture and the overexploitation of natural resources that occurred are just some of the negative aspects of American Imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
By using evidence from Edith Moses’ journal entries in The Filipinos Are Like Children, articles such as “What Are We Going to Do with These Additional Millions of Negros?” by Varina Davis, “They All Breathe an Utter Contempt ‘for the Niggers”” by Julius F. Taylor, and the speeches “The Pacific Is Our Ocean” by Albert J.
Beveridge, “The Colonies Are Not Necessary for the Expansion of Trade” by Carl Schurz, and “Doing Our Duty by Them” by William McKinley, this essay will examine the pros and cons of American imperialist expansion in the Philippines.
The treatment of the native Filipinos by American Imperialists was completely condescending and showed no respect for their existing cultures and customs which is one of the reasons the indigenous people resisted so heavily against the Americans’ efforts. For example, in The Filipinos Are like Children by Edith Moses, the very title of these journal entries is condescending.
She even goes on to describe how those Filipinos with Cholera are quarantined and how she feels “an intense pity for those poor people who are being “civilized’ by main force” (Moses 123). The fact that she explains their separation from the rest of their society due to their illness as being “civilized” just goes to show this American attitude that everyone who is different is almost inhuman. Other Americans such as Varina Davis were against the U.S. acquiring the Philippines purely for discriminatory reasons. In her 1900 article “What Are We Going to Do with These Additional Millions of Negroes?,” she makes it clear that she does not think the United States should make the Philippines an American territory solely because there is a large concentration of Indians and blacks. She thinks that civilizing the people would be too much effort when there is still a domestic racial issue. She says “You might bring all the processes of civilization to bear upon the negro, and you may educate him; … but you cannot make him thrifty. After the negro has acquired knowledge, he usually does not know how best to apply it” (Davis 110). Although Davis was against imperialism in the Philippines, she is only against it for discriminatory reasons. She does make a valid point, however, that since there is already racial prejudice that exists at home, America is unprepared to deal with the native people who make up the vast majority of the population. This racist ideal that the natives must be “civilized” in order to be respected is one of the reasons they resisted so heavily against America whose goal was to strip the culture, language and traditions of the people in order to Americanize them. This resistance led to violence and death among both the Filipinos and Americans and culture was lost in the midst, which are two more cons of imperialism.
Though many Americans believed or at least said that their goal was to help the Philippines, the U.S.’s greed for wealth overpowered their motives to actually improve these nations. Albert J. Beveridge, a republican advocate of imperialism in the Philippines bluntly stated these motives in his “The Pacific Is Our Ocean” speech when he explains how “No land in America surpasses in fertility the plains and valleys of Luzon. Rice and coffee, sugar and cocoanuts, hemp and tobacco, and many products of the temperate as well as the tropic zone grow in various sections of the archipelago.” (Beveridge 97). This is another con of American imperialism because the natural resources of the islands were overexploited without any means to conserve them. In addition to this massive consumption of materials, there was a heavy demand for labor to raise crops such as tobacco, hemp, rice etc. that resulted in slavery of the native people. If the citizens were unhappy with their living conditions before Americans arrived, things certainly did not get better which is why Julius F. Taylor states in his newspaper article “They All Breathe an Utter Contempt ‘for the Niggers,” that “no negro possessing any race pride can enter heartily into the prosecution of the war against the Filipinos, and all enlightened negroes must necessarily arrive at the conclusion that the war is being waged solely for greed and gold and not in the interest of suffering humanity” (Taylor 105). The imperialists viewed the Philippines simply as an upper hand against other countries such as England to make tradable products to introduce to Chinese markets. Taylor thinks it is unethical to use an already suffering nation to exploit their resources and gain trade with another in order to become wealthier. Others were opposed to making the Philippines a U.S. colony such as Carl Schurz, who wrote in “Colonies Are Not Necessary for the Expansion of Trade,” that “colonies are not necessary for the expansion of trade, and that, as proved by Great Britain, colonies do not protect a nation against a loss of trade” (Schurz 106). Schurz further goes on to explain that the higher quality of the products offered by America is what will make them valuable to China and therefore more profitable.
Despite all of these negative aspects, imperialism in the Philippines did lead to political stability through a democratically elected government, which is one pro of imperialism. William McKinley stated in his speech “Doing Our Duty by Them” that with American guidance, the Philippines would “be aided in every possible way to be a self-respecting and self-governing people, is as true as that the American people love liberty and have an abiding faith in their own government and in their own institutions” (McKinley 92). By helping the Philippines establish a secure government, America helped develop defense support internationally. This defense support helped to keep the Philippines safe during times of conflict with other nations such as Spain through providing resources and instruction. This also helped the Philippines to develop into a more modern country at a faster pace than what it would have on its own.
The Philippines saw great loss of life due to violence, loss of culture and loss of liberty during American imperialist expansion. The inhumane treatment of the Filipinos and the invalidation of their religions and customs are just a few cons of imperialism. The nation did, however, gain political stability with a democratically elected government introduced by America. It is important to understand that annexing a nation that is already in ruins for its resources and location is not a good motive. Instead of entering the nations with the attitude that the natives must assimilate to American culture, American’s should have been more compassionate and less ignorant in the way they treated the people. Had they done this, there would have most likely been significantly less resistance and violence, allowing for America to easily make the Philippines their colony.
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