Dec. 21, 1898: Mckinley issues “Benevolent Assimilation” Proclamation
On Dec. 21, 1898, President McKinley issued the BENEVOLENT ASSIMILATION PROCLAMATION, announced in the Philippines on Jan. 4, 1899, which stated the U.S.’ “altruistic” mission in acquiring the Philippines.
The U.S. have “come, not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and religious rights.”
Moreover, the U.S. wanted to “win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”
On Jan. 5, 1899, Aguinaldo issued a counter-proclamation to Mckinley’s “Benevolence”. He warned that his government was prepared to fight any American attempt to forcibly take over the country.
This sounded like a declaration of war to the American military although Aguinaldo had no wish to get into a war with the United States. He knew that war would only cause untold suffering to the Filipino people.
He was still hopeful that the situation could be saved by peaceful negotiations between him and the American military leaders in the Philippines.
During the period Jan. 9-29, 1899, the Philippine Government negotiated with General Otis.
The Filipino panel was composed of Manuel Arguelles, Ambrosio Flores, and Florentino Torres; their American counterparts were Brig. Gen. Robert P. Hughes, provost-marshal-general of Manila and inspector-general ; Col. Enoch H. Crowder, judge-advocate-general; and Col. (later Gen.) James F. Smith, of the 1st California Volunteers. [Arguelles, Flores and Torres later abandoned Aguinaldo and became founding members of the pro-American Partido Federal on Dec.23, 1900].
All this while, however, Otis was merely waiting for six regiments of the U.S. army to arrive to supplement his forces against the Filipino army. When they did come in late January, the seventh negotiation session was forthwith called off.
Otis thought he was now ready to carry out President Mckinley’s mandate to move on from Manila to occupy all of the archipelago.