Admiral Dewey on the Philippines

In his dispatch to Washington of June 27, 1898, Admiral Dewey made the following report:

Aguinaldo, insurgent leader, with thirteen of his staff, arrived May 19, by permission, on Nanshan, establishing himself at Cavite, outside the arsenal, under the protection of our guns, and organized his army. I have had several conversations with him, generally of a personal nature. Consistently I have refrained from assisting him in any way with the force under my command, and on several occasions I have declined requests that I should do so, telling him the squadron could not act until the arrival of the United States troops. At the same time I have given him to understand that I considered insurgents as friends, being opposed to a common enemy. He has gone to attend a meeting of insurgent leaders for the purpose of forming a civil government. Aguinaldo has acted independently of the squadron, but has kept me advised of his progress, which has been wonderful. I have allowed to pass by water recruits, arms and ammunition, and to take such Spanish arms and ammunition from the arsenal as he needed. Have advised frequently to conduct the war humanely, which he has done invariably. My relations with him are cordial, but I am not in his confidence. The United States has not been bound in any way to assist insurgents by any act or promises, and he is not, to my knowledge, committed to assist us. I believe he expects to capture Manila without my assistance, but doubt ability, he not yet having many guns. In my opinion these people are far superior in their intelligence and more capable of self-government than the natives of Cuba, and I am familiar with both races.

Admiral Dewey repeated this in his communication to the Paris Peace Commissioners, dated August 9; "further intercourse with them has confirmed me in this opinion."

The Rev. Clay Macauley, a missionary in Japan, visiting Manila in July, 1899, wrote an account of interviews he had held with Admiral Dewey and General Otis. The former said to him: "Rather than make a war of conquest upon the Filipino people I would up anchor and sail out of the harbor." General Otis, he reports, "expressed regret that there was not a better knowledge of the situation among the Washington legislators than there seemed to be. He impressed me deeply by his declaration, `I was ordered to this post from San Francisco. I did not believe in the annexation of these islands when I came here, nor do I believe in their annexation now.'"

General Joseph Wheeler, in an interview in San Francisco March 7, 1900, upon his return from the Philippines, said:

"So far as their capacity for self-government is concerned, I think that the Filipinos are capable of it under certain restrictions.

"The few experiments already made in civic governments throughout the provinces have been very successful, and I think they ought to have authority to make their own laws and govern themselves under a system similar to that known as our territorial system.

"This they practically had under the Spanish regime, and they did very well. There are a great many more intelligent and educated men among them than is generally supposed."

As every utterance of the conqueror of Manila Bay has peculiar significance in this connection, we quote this from the interview between the Naples correspondent of the London Daily News and Admiral Dewey, dated August 21, 1899:

Conversation then, after some remarks from Admiral Dewey on the United States navy and on the various episodes of the battle of Cavite, turned to the question of the Philippines. "Do you think, Admiral, that the islands are likely to be pacified soon?" The admiral replied as follows:

"I have the question of the Philippines more at heart than any other American, because I know the Filipinos intimately, and they know that I am their friend. The recent insurrection is the fruit of the anarchy which has so long reigned in the islands. The insurgents will have to submit themselves to law after being accustomed to no form of law. I believe and affirm, nevertheless, that the Philippine question will be very shortly solved. The Filipinos are capable of governing themselves. They have all the qualifications for it. It is a question of time; but the only way to settle the insurrection and to assure prosperity to the archipelago is to concede self-government to the inhabitants. That would be the solution of many questions and would satisfy all, especially the Filipinos, who believe themselves worthy of it, and are so."

"Self-government for the Philippines has, however, not many partisans in America, "I remarked.

"I have never been in favor of violence toward the Filipinos," replied, or rather continued the admiral. "The islands are at this moment blockaded by a fleet, and war reigns in the interior. This abominable state of things should cease. I should like to see autonomy first conceded, and then annexation might be talked about. This is my opinion, and I should like to see violence at once suppressed. According to me, the concession of self-government ought to be the most just and the most logical solution."

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