1899 — 1902

The Philippine-American War, fought from February 1899 to July 1902, claimed 250,000 lives and helped establish the United States as a power in the Pacific. On June 12, 1898, a young Filipino general, Emilio Aguinaldo, proclaimed Philippine independence and established Asia’s first republic. He had hoped that the Philippines would become a US protectorate, but pressure on President William McKinley to annex the Philippines was intense. On February 4, 1899, fighting erupted between American and Filipino soldiers leaving fifty-nine Americans and approximately 3,000 Filipinos dead. American commanders hoped for a short conflict, but in the end more than 70,000 would fight in the archipelago. Unable to defeat the United States in conventional warfare, the Filipinos adopted guerrilla tactics. The war was officially declared over in July 1902, but fighting continued for several years.

The Philippine War convinced the United States not to seize further overseas territory. More than 4,000 American soldiers and about 20,000 Filipino fighters died. An estimated 200,000 Filipino civilians died during the war, mainly of disease or hunger. Reports of American atrocities led the United States to turn internal control over to the Philippines to Filipinos in 1907 and to pledge to grant the archipelago independence in 1916. The 1916 Jones Act, however, delayed Philippine independence until a "stable government" was established. US leaders tried to transform the country into a showcase of American-style democracy in Asia, but there was a strong undercurrent of condescension. US President William Howard Taft, who had served as governor-general of the Philippines, called the Filipinos “our little brown brothers.” The Philippines were finally granted independence in 1946.

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