SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR AND PHILIPPINE RESISTANCE
Outbreak of War, 1898
Spain's rule in the Philippines came to an end as a result of
United States involvement with Spain's other major colony, Cuba.
American business interests were anxious for a resolution--with
or without Spain--of the insurrection that had broken out in Cuba
in February 1895. Moreover, public opinion in the United States
had been aroused by newspaper accounts of the brutalities of
Spanish rule. When the United States declared war on Spain on
April 25, 1898, acting Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt
ordered Commodore George Dewey, commander of the Asiatic
Squadron, to sail to the Philippines and destroy the Spanish
fleet anchored in Manila Bay. The Spanish navy, which had seen
its apogee in the support of a global empire in the sixteenth
century, suffered an inglorious defeat on May 1, 1898, as Spain's
antiquated fleet, including ships with wooden hulls, was sunk by
the guns of Dewey's flagship, the Olympia, and other
United States warships. More than 380 Spanish sailors died, but
there was only one American fatality.
As Spain and the United States had moved toward war over Cuba
in the last months of 1897, negotiations of a highly tentative
nature began between United States officials and Aguinaldo in
both Hong Kong and Singapore. When war was declared, Aguinaldo, a
partner, if not an ally, of the United States, was urged by Dewey
to return to the islands as quickly as possible. Arriving in
Manila on May 19, Aguinaldo reassumed command of rebel forces.
Insurrectionists overwhelmed demoralized Spanish garrisons around
the capital, and links were established with other movements
throughout the islands.
In the eyes of the Filipinos, their relationship with the
United States was that of two nations joined in a common struggle
against Spain. As allies, the Filipinos provided American forces
with valuable intelligence (e.g., that the Spanish had no mines
or torpedoes with which to sink warships entering Manila Bay),
and Aguinaldo's 12,000 troops kept a slightly larger Spanish
force bottled up inside Manila until American troop
reinforcements could arrive from San Francisco in late June.
Aguinaldo was unhappy, however, that the United States would not
commit to paper a statement of support for Philippine
By late May, the United States Department of the Navy had
ordered Dewey, newly promoted to Admiral, to distance himself
from Aguinaldo lest he make untoward commitments to the
Philippine forces. The war with Spain still was going on, and the
future of the Philippines remained uncertain. The immediate
objective was to capture Manila, and it was thought best to do
that without the assistance of the insurgents. By late July,
there were some 12,000 United States troops in the area, and
relations between them and rebel forces deteriorated rapidly.
By the summer of 1898, Manila had become the focus not only
of the Spanish-American conflict and the growing suspicions
between the Americans and Filipino rebels but also of a rivalry
that encompassed the European powers. Following Dewey's victory,
Manila Bay was filled with the warships of Britain, Germany,
France, and Japan. The German fleet of eight ships, ostensibly in
Philippine waters to protect German interests (a single import
firm), acted provocatively--cutting in front of United States
ships, refusing to salute the United States flag (according to
naval courtesy), taking soundings of the harbor, and landing
supplies for the besieged Spanish. Germany, hungry for the
ultimate status symbol, a colonial empire, was eager to take
advantage of whatever opportunities the conflict in the islands
might afford. Dewey called the bluff of the German admiral,
threatening a fight if his aggressive activities continued, and
the Germans backed down.
The Spanish cause was doomed, but Fermín Jaudenes, Spain's
last governor in the islands, had to devise a way to salvage the
honor of his country. Negotiations were carried out through
British and Belgian diplomatic intermediaries. A secret agreement
was made between the governor and United States military
commanders in early August 1898 concerning the capture of Manila.
In their assault, American forces would neither bombard the city
nor allow the insurgents to take part (the Spanish feared that
the Filipinos were plotting to massacre them all). The Spanish,
in turn, would put up only a show of resistance and, on a
prearranged signal, would surrender. In this way, the governor
would be spared the ignominy of giving up without a fight, and
both sides would be spared casualties. The mock battle was staged
on August 13. The attackers rushed in, and by afternoon the
United States flag was flying over Intramuros, the ancient walled
city that had been the seat of Spanish power for over 300 years.
The agreement between Jaudenes and Dewey marked a curious
reversal of roles. At the beginning of the war, Americans and
Filipinos had been allies against Spain in all but name; now
Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the
insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops almost
broke out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from
strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack.
Aguinaldo was told bluntly by the Americans that his army could
not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the
city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant
entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time.
Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear
to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.
Data as of June 1991