The Annexation Debate & Rebellion of the Philippines

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  • 0:02 Background
  • 1:18 Benevolent Assimilation
  • 2:11 Filipino Rebellion
  • 3:38 Slow March to Independence
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

In this lesson, we'll look at how the Philippines changed following the 1898 Spanish-American War. While the Filipinos may have hoped for independence, the Americans had different ideas. Following the lesson, you can test your knowledge with a quiz.


Imagine that after years of working for a really horrible boss at a restaurant - the kind who fires your friends and makes you a nervous wreck at work - that one day his boss shows up and very publicly fires him. You and your friends can't help but crack a grin as the disgraced boss packs his things and leaves, and you immediately hope for better working conditions from this new boss. After all, this new manager has a reputation of promoting current employees to run the restaurant. It was that feeling of happiness and hope that many Filipinos felt after 1898, when the Americans defeated the Spanish. The Spanish had been horrible, and now the Americans were around. Surely, things would get better.

That's what many Filipinos thought in the summer of 1898, following the June 12 declaration of independence by Filipino nationalist Emilio Aguinaldo. This, in turn, followed the American defeat of Spanish forces in the islands. However, it seems that the Americans had a slightly different idea in mind for the Philippines. Whereas Cuba was put on a sort of fast track to independence, the Filipinos received no straight answers from the American occupiers.

Benevolent Assimilation

This was because the Americans had no such plans to grant the Philippines their independence. They had gone to war to free Cuba, and the Philippines were really just icing on the cake. Furthermore, they really didn't know who this Emilio Aguinaldo was or if he could be trusted. From their perspective, he seemed to be just another dictator, and if the United States was going to install a dictator in another country, it was going to be someone they trusted.

Instead, the United States sought a program of benevolent assimilation, agreeing to protect and administer the Philippines until they were capable of governing themselves. In other words, the Americans were going to stick around until they figured out how to get rid of Aguinaldo. However, plans of the American plot to remain in the Philippines, as well as some derogatory language, reached Aguinaldo, and needless to say, he wasn't happy.

Filipino Rebellion

By 1899, the situation was growing ever tenser by the day, and Filipino nationalists protested more and more for independence, all while the Americans kept trying to turn the Philippines into their own possession. Later in 1899, a full-fledged rebellion broke out, led by none other than Aguinaldo. This conflict is known as the 'Filipino-American War'. Eventually, superior American forces would regain much of the Philippines, and by 1902, a peace was negotiated.

However, the Filipinos were left with a relatively unsure vision of the future. The Americans promised to eventually permit self-governance, but at the same time, were clearly enjoying the advantages of having a major possession so close to China, India and Japan.

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