The Pacific Sphere
Purchase of Alaska, from a Russia sated with expansion,
had given the U.S. more justification for a major role
in the huge Pacific Basin.
Much more pleasant lands beckoned from the South.
In Samoa traders and missionaries descended upon
hapless inhabitants, plying them with wares and prayers.
It would make an excellent coaling station and naval base,
thought the powers, Britain, Germany, and America.
Samoans aside, a triple protectorate
was established. In the end Americans took it over,
with its naval base at Pago Pago. The U.S. also
gathered up widely-spaced tiny islands like
Wake, Midway and Guam.
New England missionaries and traders had long been in Hawaii.
Sugar plantations were set up. The culture and climate were delightful;
miscegenation was common; the Polynesian race was diminishing.
The Hawaiian monarch viewed foreign encroachments with dismay.
Queen Lilinokulani declared "Hawaii for the Hawaiians."
Within two years, resident Americans and dissident natives,
with a leg-up from the American minister and Marines,
upset the Queen and proclaimed a republic, which the
USA promptly recognized. Annexation was the next step,
prompted by a fear of Japan, which had its own
constituents on the islands, too.
War with Spain, implying the need for supportive bases around the
Pacific, brought up quickly a treaty between the haule Republic of
Hawaii and Washington. Then, to avoid any delay whatsoever, for
there were nay-sayers aplenty, the annexors evaded the Senatorial
two-thirds approval required for a treaty and introduced a joint
resolution of Congress, which, signed by the President, had the effect
of a law, but was not a treaty; on July 7, 1898,
it brought the Islands into the Union.
Hawaii became a territory, handily ruled by the
same haules, whose plantations burgeoned under sternly
supervised Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino workers.
(Polynesians, like American Indians, were poor field labor.)
The navy settled into Pearl Harbor, peacefully,
until it was blown from its moorings by a
Japanese air and sea attack on 7 December 1941.
After fifty years, a rainbow coalition of impatient Island interests
got an uncertain Congress to grant statehood. The big underlying
issue had been racism: could Orientals assimilate like Europeans?
A reluctant "yes" was wrung from the planters and merchants.
The labor unions were multi-racial and insular;
if apart, they could threaten the security of the Islands:
better, higher powers thought, to compose a new State.
The Philippine Islands were a tough nut to crack. They were a
diversified world of Christianity, Islam, and aboriginal religions, of a
Spanish culture overlaying many local, Malayan cultures, rife with
rebellion against Spain and with intercultural animosities. A great
soldier named Emilio Aguinaldo led the main Filipino forces against
Spain, and now, when the American invaders refused to get out, he
turned against them, and one of the more
sanguinary guerrilla wars of the age issued.
The Supreme Court conveniently decided in the "Insular Cases"
(1901-3) that "the Constitution did not follow the flag," that is, the
Philippines, just because they were American property, need not
expect American rights. About 20% of the Filipino population died of
war and disease, along with some 5,000 American soldiers. The bitter
experience was to be repeated in Vietnam a mnemonic
After a war every bit as devastating and cruel as the war with Spain,
Aguinaldo was captured by trickery, and the Philippines entered upon
a period of exploitation (excused by a modest scientific and material
development), under an American governor and elected assembly,
until conquered by the Japanese in early 1941.
The USA decided even before World War II that
the Philippines should become an independent democracy.
Political independence finally came, but, too,
multinational corporations from Japan and America,
depleting resources, merging smaller companies,
cooperating with easygoing politicians, and an American naval base
that finally was in the 1990's budged out by nationalists
and a violently eruptive volcano.
The American constitutional system, thus, never had to meet the
challenge of assimilating one or several states of extensive and
growing population and tropical agrarian culture. As for the
hundreds of thousands of Filipino-Americans within the States, they
got along as well as the rest, somewhat poorer and more victimized
by racism, but rapidly exceeding norms in the health occupations.
Like England, France, and Switzerland, America housed
revolutionary exiles, even while extinguishing domestic firebrands.
Karl Marx could dwell peaceably in London, Garibaldi could agitate
for a united Italy from America. Sun-Yat-Sen, the "Father of
Republican China," stayed in the U.S. in 1896, then went on to
Europe. In 1907 he issued a manifesto for "nation, democracy, and
the people's welfare" for China.
Meanwhile, in 1900, President McKinley ordered 5,000 troops from
Manila into China without the consent of Congress. The foreign
powers had been debating whether to cut China to pieces, the better
to devour her, or to adopt America's proposed "Open Door Policy,"
that exhorted all comers to help themselves to whatever they could
find anywhere in China. John Hay, Secretary of State, became
famous in the history books for concocting and espousing the policy,
but it was an old idea suggested by Englishmen, was as
plain as apple pie, and succeeded because no power could expect to
dominate by itself the vast civilization of China.
Sun-Yat-Sen soon became President of the new Chinese Republic.
His daughter became the wife of Chiang-Kai-Shek, the most famous
of the generals tramping up and down and atop China, who was to
be America's chosen instrument for President after World War II,
but who was chased by Mao Tse Tung's communists off the
mainland onto Formosa in the end.
The USA, further, did not believe in the Open Door Policy, when it
came to the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Panama, or anywhere else that
"Old Glory" waved. The policy lasted for a political generation, until
the Japanese made the textbooks ludicrous by invading Manchuria in
1931 and subsequently China proper.