Dear Professor Goldsbury,
Thank you for the intellectual rigour you bring to your columns. As a Filipino, I cannot but help react to President McKinley's oft-quoted justification for the annexation of the Philippines, to wit,
to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.
This justification is debatable as, 1) was there a need to "educate", when the Philippines had several universities, one of which (University of Santo Tomas) antedates Harvard by 25 years?
2) was there A need to "Christianize" when the majority of the Filipinos were already Roman Catholics due to 300 years of Spanish Colonialism? 3) was there a need to "civilize" the Filipinos as they already produced several intellectuals and artists of note such as Jose Rizal, Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo? 4) By "uplift" did McKinley mean such acts as the invention of water boarding and the water cure, hamletting, and the order of General Jacob Smith to "kill all Filipinos capable of bearing arms, including males over the age of ten".
Ivie states that Mckinley used his rhetorical genius to mask a complex blend of moral and political motives:
"McKinley's method was to progressively [suggest] a pattern of interrelated themes which provoked the intended response by stimulating fundamental beliefs and implicitly associating them with his proposed colonial policy. In the fashion, he was able to give to imperialism the appearance of a truly moral adventure worthy of the American people"
Indeed, the "frame" for American expansionism may have equipotent drivers in commercialism and nationalism and not just religious-ethical motives, as stated in this article about America's Manifest Destiny:
McKinley disingenuously disavowed the U.S. military action that brought the Philippines under U.S. control, and acknowledged, directly and indirectly, the equally powerful forces of racism, nationalism, and especially commercialism, that shaped American actions
The expansionist drive was continued by McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt, whose policies, according to James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise
were to bring about Japan's own expansionist ambitions which culminated in the conflict that was to give so much trouble for Teddy Roosevelt's nephew, Franklin Roosevelt, in the 1940s.
All the best,