In the time of the Spanish American war, a lot of things were going on that could influence or fuel public opinion to go to war with Spain, there was an exaggerated form of journalism called yellow journalism which helped shape American opinion in this era, and often the paper promoted exaggerated stories, this journalism wrote about things such as a letter called the de Lôme’s letter, which an opinion about the Spanish involvement in Cuba and US President McKinley’s diplomacy was shared to the U.S. public.
The public was enraged and to fuel it, even more, there was an accident concerning the USS Maine, which was a ship sent to protect interests in Cuba.
The ship exploded from a supposed bomb from a board consensus, but wasn’t discovered until later, that it was an accident aboard the ship, the ship sank quickly and most of the crew was killed, this and the yellow journalism fueled public opinion.
However, in this scenario that seems either black and white especially in the context of, if the U.S. annexation of the Philippines was right or not, there seems to be one answer, either the U.S. should have annexed them or not. But it could be argued from each side with equal validity which is why it is best to not cherry-pick reasons to support arguments which is an already made decision, rather than a scientific consensus where opinion is an emergent truth after a repeatable and falsifiable statement.
Two perspectives that will be here will be politics, the distribution of power, and then psychology, which deals with how individuals think about themselves and others.
In the context of politics, political power is the ability to control or influence the behavior of people, and the bigger your sphere of influence, the more political power you attain. And “the influence of the government will be felt in the most legitimate manner in maintaining an armed navy…” (Ferraro, 2010).
The power you have overseas is very effective in a world which is 75% water by land area, the British knew this, and the Spanish did as well. A powerful quote that shows just how powerful some empires were, is “the empire on which the sun never sets” which means these assets were all around the world.
This shows that the U.S. should have annexed the Philippines because it would’ve given us a larger sphere of power and influence. However, you could argue this larger sphere of power is bad because this is what got the Spanish in the conflict in the first place, the more land they occupied, the more revolutions from the people, and the annexation of the Philippines did in fact cause a revolt and a more deadly one, 4,200 Americans and over 20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed, and 200,000 Filipinos civilians were killed from famine, disease, and violence.
Then in the context of psychology, there’s a justification that we should not have annexed the Philippines because of America’s morals and ideals which is purely psychological.
The American Anti-Imperialist League says, “We hold with Abraham Lincoln, that “no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. When the white man governs himself, that is self-government, but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government – that is despotism (rule by tyrant)” (Norton, 1997).
This quote shows people trying to promote American ideals, saying that the U.S. should not be an imperialist empire because it conflicts with the American ideals, however, the same could be said about the other side of the argument, a common belief called Anglo Saxonism was a belief that said white people were more superior compared to other races, and many could argue, at least back then, that this was an American ideal and that the U.S. should have upheld it, a quote that shows the U.S. or at least the speaker wanting to spread its religious influence is, “-I don’t know how it was but it came: … that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could buy them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died.” (Rusling, 1903).
This shows William McKinley supports the idea that says the U.S. should push opinions into another person’s mind. This idea was an idea of its time, and was considered normal in the western world.
The notion that these choices like, should the U.S. have annexed the Philippines or not, is not entirely black and white, this is known as a black and white fallacy, where if A is not true, then B is, which is not always the case, they could be both wrong or both right, then the case if it’s just in between the options.
Then there’s the appealing to authority fallacy which is, if this authority says so, then it must be true, however, authorities can be false. “Imperialism finds no warrant in the Bible. The command, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” has no Gatling gun attachment…” (Bryan, 1900).
This thinking is faulty logic and should not be used in either argument no matter what side it chooses, this appeal to authority is different from the others, like Abraham Lincoln or McKinley, the appealing to the authority of God, in this case, is something relativistic, which is something no one can agree on definitely.
The authorities in the other quotes are authorities who can be reasoned with and rationalized with, they’re human beings, and their wills can be understood, however, god, in this case, is something that can never be understood and god should not be used as an authority to appeal to.
It’s difficult to find the truth when the supposed answers are propped on something that is labeled as good and evil, there are some things that are generally accepted as good and evil but these are relativistic terms and mean different things to different people, people will never be able to agree on relativistic terms, and this thinking does not apply to the real world, the annexation of the Philippines cannot be considered good or evil.
The annexation of the Philippines was controversial, but you could argue from both sides of the spectrum of the argument, and thus an agreement will never be made. That is why you must argue without fallacy and in a scientific manner so that nobody can refute something solely based on their ideals.
W.W. Norton Publishing. (1997, February 4). Platform of the anti-imperialist league: October 1899.
Retrieved on October 16, 2007, from http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/workbook/ralprs30a.htm
McKinley speech to a group of clergymen in the Christian Advocate, 1903; an interview by James Rusling
Bryan, William Jennings. Speech. “Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism”.(August 8, 1900).
Ferrer, V. (2010, February 1). Alfred T. Mahan on Sea Power. Retrieved on November 28, 2010,
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