Saturday, April 27, 2013

Did Andrew Carnegie Offer 20 Million Dollar for Philippine Independence?

Foto courtesy of
by Alan S. Cajes

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), who is considered as the fourth richest man in the world for all time, was born to a poor family in Scotland. Years after immigrating to the United States, he became a steel magnate and one of the wealthiest businessmen of the United States. In 1901, he sold Carnegie Steel to John Pierpont Morgan, another industrialist in the United States, for $480 million (about $310 billion in modern dollars[i]). After retiring as a businessman, Carnegie spent his time doing philanthropic work[ii].

But on June 15, 1898, before Carnegie sold his company, the American Anti-Imperialist League was “formed to fight U.S. annexation of the Philippines, citing a variety of reasons ranging from the economic to the legal to the racial to the moral.”[iii] Carnegie was among the leaders of the league, which included famous men like Mark Twain and William James. He was also a member of the Philippine Independence Committee.

Treaty of Paris. Photo courtesy of
On October 1, 1898, representatives of the United States and Spain met in Paris “to produce a treaty that would bring an end to the war after six months of hostilities. The American peace commission consisted of William R. Day, Sen. Cushman K. Davis, Sen. William P. Frye, Sen. George Gray, and the Honorable Whitelaw Reid. The Spanish commission was headed by Don Eugenio Montero Rios, the President of the Senate. Jules Cambon, a French diplomat, also negotiated on Spain's behalf.”[iv]

Spain through her “commissioners argued that Manila had surrendered after the armistice and therefore the Philippines could not be demanded as a war conquest, but they eventually yielded because they had no other choice, and the U.S. ultimately paid Spain 20 million dollars for possession of the Philippines.”[v] Although a treaty was signed on December 10, 1898, it required ratification by the United States Senate.
News Item about the Treaty of Paris. 
Photo courtesy of

Believing that the Treaty of Paris was an imperialist gesture on the part of the United States, Carnegie tried to secure independence for the Philippines. Accordingly, he was so passionate about this cause that he offered $20 million to purchase the independence of the Philippines.[vi] Evidences for such an offer include the following accounts:

“Carnegie gained much good will in 1898 when he offered $20 million to the government of the Philippines. He was an opponent of the American acquisition of the islands and hoped the Filipinos could purchase their independence.”[vii]

“Some prominent Americans, such as former President Grover Cleveland, the writer Mark Twain and industrialist Andrew Carnegie, also opposed the ratification. The latter even offered to buy the Philippines for US $20 million and give it to the Filipinos so that they could be free; he believed the U.S. should exercise global economic power but avoid annexing colonies.”[viii]

“That Andrew Carnegie’s opposition to Philippine annexation was strong enough to lead him to make an offer of $20,000,000 to prevent it has just been disclosed in an article written by President George F. Seward of the Fidelity and Casualty Company for the monthly bulletin published by that company. Some time ago Mr. Carnegie, in an article in The North American Review, referred to an interview he had with President McKinley at the time the occupation of the Philippines by the United States was under discussion, after which interview President McKinley, he says, remarked that Mr. Carnegie “did not understand the question.” A fuller account of this interview is now made public by Mr. Seward, to whom the facts were given by Mr. Carnegie. Mr. Seward says: 'Mr. Carnegie went to Mr. McKinley when the Spanish treaty was pending, and said to him that America was in face of war in the Philippines; that our people and the Filipinos would soon be killing one another, and he asked to be sent to Manila with the fullest authority to declare that America desired good things for the little brown men and would soon recognize their independence. He said to Mr. McKinley further, that, he had the matter so much at heart that, if sent on such mission, he would himself pay the $20,000,000 called by the treaty.' According to Mr. Seward, Mr. Carnegie told him of this conversation shortly before he sailed for Europe a few weeks ago.”[ix]

Carnegie explained his opposition to the annexation of the Philippines by the United States in an article that was originally published in the North American Review in August 1898. The article was entitled “Distant Positions: The Parting of the Ways”. Excerpts are presented below.

“Twice only have the American people been called upon to decide a question of such vital import as that now before them.

“Is the Republic, the apostle of Triumphant Democracy, of the rule of the people, to abandon her political creed and endeavor to establish in other lands the rule of the foreigner over the people, Triumphant Despotism?

“Is the Republic to remain one homogeneous whole, one united people, or to become a scattered and disjointed aggregate of widely separated and alien races?

“Is she to continue the task of developing her vast continent until it holds a population as great as that of Europe, all Americans, or to abandon that destiny to annex, and to attempt to govern, other far distant parts of the world as outlying possessions, which can never be integral parts of the Republic?

“Is she to exchange internal growth and advancement for the development of external possessions which can never be really hers in any fuller sense than India is British or Cochin China French? Such is the portentous question of the day. Two equally important questions the American people have decided wisely, and their flag now waves over the greater portion of the English-speaking race; their country is the richest of all countries, first in manufactures, in mining, and in commerce (home and foreign), first this year also in exports. But, better than this, the average condition of its people in education and in living is the best. The luxuries of the masses in other lands are the necessaries of life in ours. 

“There are two kinds of national possessions, one colonies, the other dependencies. In the former we establish and reproduce our own race. Thus Britain has peopled Canada and Australia with English-speaking people, who have naturally adopted our ideas of self-government. 

“With dependencies it is otherwise. The most grievous burden which Britain has upon her shoulders is that of India, for there it is impossible for our race to grow. The child of English-speaking parents must be removed and reared in Britain. The British Indian official must have long respites in his native land. India means death to our race. The characteristic feature of a dependency is that the acquiring power cannot reproduce its own race there.

“If we could establish colonies of Americans, and grow Americans in any part of the world now unpopulated and unclaimed by any of the great powers, and thus follow the example of Britain, heart and mind might tell us that we should have to think twice, yea, thrice, before deciding adversely. Even then our decision should be adverse; but there is at present no such question before us. What we have to face is the question whether we should embark upon the difficult and dangerous policy of undertaking the government of alien races in lands where it is impossible for our own race to be produced.

“As long as we remain free from distant possessions we are impregnable against serious attack; yet, it is true, we have to consider what obligations may fall upon us of an international character requiring us to send our forces to points beyond our own territory. Up to this time we have disclaimed all intention to interfere with affairs beyond our own continent, and only claimed the right to watch over American interests according to the Monroe Doctrine, which is now firmly established. This carries with it serious responsibilities, no doubt, which we cannot escape. European nations must consult us upon territorial questions pertaining to our continent, but this makes no tremendous demand upon our military or naval forces. We are at home, as it were, near our base, and sure of the support of the power in whose behalf and on whose request we may act. If it be found essential to possess a coaling-station at Puerto Rico for future possible, though not probable, contingencies, there is no insuperable objection. Neither would the control of the West Indies be alarming if pressed upon us by Britain, since the islands are small and the populations must remain insignificant and without national aspirations. Besides, they are upon our own shores, American in every sense. Their defense by us would be easy. No protest need be entered against such legitimate and peaceful expansion in our own hemisphere, should events work in that direction. I am no "Little" American, afraid of growth, either in population or territory, provided always that the new territory be American, and that it will produce Americans, and not foreign races bound in time to be false to the Republic in order to be true to themselves.

“To reduce it to the concrete, the question is: Shall we attempt to establish ourselves as a power in the far East and possess the Philippines for glory? The glory we already have, in Dewey's victory overcoming the power of Spain in a manner which adds one more to the many laurels of the American navy, which, from its infancy till now, has divided the laurels with Britain upon the sea. The Philippines have about seven and a half millions of people, composed of races bitterly hostile to one another, alien races, ignorant of our language and institutions. Americans cannot be grown there. The islands have been exploited for the benefit of Spain, against whom they have twice rebelled, like the Cubans. But even Spain has received little pecuniary benefit from them. The estimated revenue of the Philippines in 1894-95 was £2,715,980, the expenditure being £2,656,026, leaving a net result of about $300,000. The United States could obtain even this trifling sum from the inhabitants only by oppressing them as Spain has done. But, if we take the Philippines, we shall be forced to govern them as generously as Britain governs her dependencies, which means that they will yield us nothing, and probably be a source of annual expense. Certainly they will be a grievous drain upon revenue if we consider the enormous army and navy which we shall be forced to maintain upon their account.

“Let another phase of the question be carefully weighed. Europe is to-day an armed camp, not chiefly because the home territories of its various nations are threatened, but because of fear of aggressive action upon the part of other nations touching outlying "possessions." France resents British control of Egypt, and is fearful of its West African possessions; Russia seeks Chinese territory, with a view to expansion to the Pacific; Germany also seeks distant possessions; Britain, who has acquired so many dependencies, is so fearful of an attack upon them that this year she is spending nearly eighty millions of dollars upon additional war-ships, and Russia, Germany, and France follow suit. Japan is a new element of anxiety; and by the end of the year it is computed she will have sixty-seven formidable ships of war. The naval powers of Europe, and Japan also, are apparently determined to be prepared for a terrific struggle for possessions in the far East, close to the Philippines -- and why not for these islands themselves? Into this vortex the Republic is cordially invited to enter by those powers who expect her policy to be of benefit to them, but her action is jealously watched by those who fear that her power might be used against them.

“It has never been considered the part of wisdom to thrust one's hand into the hornet's nest, and it does seem as if the United States must lose all claim to ordinary prudence and good sense if she enter this arena and become involved in the intrigues and threats of war which make Europe an armed camp.

“What it means to enter the list of military and naval powers having foreign possessions may be gathered from the following considerations. First, look at our future navy. If it is only to equal that of France it means fifty-one battle-ships; if of Russia, forty battle-ships. If we cannot play the game without being at least the equal of any of our rivals, then eighty battle-ships is the number Britain possesses. We now have only four, with five building. Cruisers, armed and unarmed, swell the number threefold, Britain having two hundred and seventy-three ships of the line built or ordered, with three hundred and eight torpedo-boats in addition; France having one hundred and thirty-four ships of the line and two hundred and sixty-nine torpedo-boats. All these nations are adding ships rapidly. Every armor- and gun-making plant in the world is busy night and day. Ships are indispensable, but recent experience shows that soldiers are equally so. While the immense armies of Europe need not be duplicated, yet we shall certainly be too weak unless our army is at least twenty times what it has been -- say five hundred thousand men. Even then we shall be powerless as against any one of three of our rivals -- Germany, France, and Russia.

“This drain upon the resources of these countries has become a necessity from their respective positions, largely as graspers for foreign possessions. The United States to-day, happily, has no such necessity, her neighbors being powerless against her, since her possessions are concentrated and her power is one solid mass.

“To-day two great powers in the world are compact, developing themselves in peace throughout vast conterminous territories. When war threatens they have no outlying possessions which can never be really "possessed," but which they are called upon to defend. They fight upon the exposed edge only of their own soil in case of attack, and are not only invulnerable, but they could not be more than inconvenienced by the world in arms against them. These powers are Russia and the United States. The attempt of Britain to check Russia, if the wild counsels of Mr. Chamberlain were followed, could end in nothing but failure. With the irresistible force of the glacier, Russia moves upon the plains below. Well for Russia, and well for the world, is her advance over pagan China, better even for Britain from the standpoint of business, for every Russian to-day trades as much with Britain as do nine Chinamen. Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, are all vulnerable, having departed from the sagacious policy of keeping possessions and power concentrated. Should the United States depart from this policy, she also must be so weakened in consequence as never to be able to play the commanding part in the world, disjointed, that she can play whenever she desires if she remain compact.

“Whether the United States maintain its present unique position of safety, or forfeit it through acquiring foreign possessions, is to be decided by its action in regard to the Philippines; for, fortunately, the independence of Cuba is assured; for this the Republic has proclaimed to the world that she has drawn the sword. But why should the less than two millions of Cuba receive national existence and the seven and a half millions of the Philippines be denied it? The United States, thus far in their history, have no page reciting self-sacrifice made for others; all their gains have been for themselves. This void is now to be grandly filled. The page which recites the resolve of the Republic to rid her neighbor, Cuba, from the foreign possessor will grow brighter with the passing centuries, which may dim many pages now deemed illustrious. Should the coming American be able to point to Cuba and the Philippines rescued from foreign domination and enjoying independence won for them by his country and given to them without money and without price, he will find no citizen of any other land able to claim for his country services so disinterested and so noble.

“We repeat, there is no power in the world that could do more than inconvenience the United States by attacking its fringe, which is all that the world combined could do, so long as our country is not compelled to send its forces beyond its own compact shores to defend worthless possessions. If our country were blockaded by the united powers of the world for years, she would emerge from the embargo richer and stronger, and with her own resources more completely developed. We have little to fear from external attack. No thorough blockade of our enormous seaboard is possible; but even if it were, the few indispensable articles not produced by ourselves (if there were any such) would reach us by way of Mexico or Canada at slightly increased cost.

“From every point of view we are forced to the conclusion that the past policy of the Republic is her true policy for the future; for safety, for peace, for happiness, for progress, for wealth, for power -- for all that makes a nation blessed.

“Not till the war-drum is silent, and the day of calm peace returns, can the issue be soberly considered.

“Twice have the American people met crucial issues wisely, and in the third they are not to fail.”

Inspite of the strong and loud opposition by the league, the United States Senate ratified the treaty. Two days before the ratification, on February 4, 1899, “fighting broke out between American forces and Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo who sought independence rather than a change in colonial rulers.”[x]

The Treaty of Paris moved British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling to write a poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.”
Rudyard Kipling (public domain)

“Take up the White Man’s burden—

Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives' need

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child

Take up the White Man’s burden

In patience to abide

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple

An hundred times made plain

To seek another’s profit

And work another’s gain

Take up the White Man’s burden—

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better

The hate of those ye guard—

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah slowly) to the light:

"Why brought ye us from bondage,

“Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden-

Have done with childish days-

The lightly proffered laurel,

The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years,

Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,

The judgment of your peers!”[xi]

One of the replies to Kipling’s poem was a poem entitled “The Black Man’s Burden”:

“Pile on the Black Man’s Burden.

'Tis nearest at your door;

Why heed long bleeding Cuba,

or dark Hawaii’s shore?

Hail ye your fearless armies,

Which menace feeble folks

Who fight with clubs and arrows

and brook your rifle’s smoke.

Pile on the Black Man’s Burden

His wail with laughter drown

You’ve sealed the Red Man’s problem,

And will take up the Brown,

In vain ye seek to end it,

With bullets, blood or death
Better by far defend it

With honor’s holy breath.”

The answer was written by African-American clergyman and editor H. T. Johnson. It was published in April 1899. An organization called “Black Man’s Burden Association” was also formed “with the goal of demonstrating that mistreatment of brown people in the Philippines was an extension of the mistreatment of black Americans at home.”[xii]

Admittedly, the Americans were somewhat divided on the decision to colonize the Philippines. An article from the U.S. Department of State explained that:

“The decision by U.S. policymakers to annex the Philippines was not without domestic controversy. Americans who advocated annexation evinced a variety of motivations: desire for commercial opportunities in Asia, concern that the Filipinos were incapable of self-rule, and fear that if the United States did not take control of the islands, another power (such as Germany or Japan) might do so. Meanwhile, American opposition to U.S. colonial rule of the Philippines came in many forms, ranging from those who thought it morally wrong for the United States to be engaged in colonialism, to those who feared that annexation might eventually permit the non-white Filipinos to have a role in American national government. Others were wholly unconcerned about the moral or racial implications of imperialism and sought only to oppose the policies of President William McKinley's administration.”[xiii]

U.S. President William McKinley.
Photo courtesy of
President William McKinley, however, defended “his decision to support the annexation of the Philippines.” He explained:

“I have been criticized a good deal about the Philippines, but don’t deserve it. The truth is I didn’t want the Philippines, and when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them. When the Spanish War broke out, Dewey was at Hong Kong, and I ordered him to go to Manila and to capture or destroy the Spanish fleet, and he had to; because, if defeated, he had no place to refit on that side of the globe, and if the Dons were victorious, they would likely cross the Pacific and ravage our Oregon and California coasts. And so he had to destroy the Spanish fleet, and did it! But that was as far as I thought then.

“When next I realized that the Philippines had dropped into our laps I confess I did not know what to do with them. I sought counsel from all sides—Democrats as well as Republicans—but got little help. I thought first we would take only Manila; then Luzon; then other islands, perhaps, also. I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And one night late it came to me this way—I don't know how it was, but it came: (1) That we could not give them back to Spain—that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) that we could not turn them over to France, or Germany—our commercial rivals in the Orient—that would be bad business and discreditable; (3) that we could not leave them to themselves—they were unfit for self-government—and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was; and (4) 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 by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died. And then I went to bed, and went to sleep, and slept soundly, and the next morning I sent for the chief engineer of the War Department (our map-maker), and I told him to put the Philippines on the map of the United States [pointing to a large map on the wall of his office], and there they are, and there they will stay while I am President!”[xiv]

Going back to the question posed in this article, did Andrew Carnegie offer $20 million to save the Philippines? David Nasaw, author of the 2006 book entitled “Andrew Carnegie” ventured an answer:

“…A vote for the treaty was a vote to ratify the sale of the Philippines to the United States, preliminary to formal annexation.

“The treaty was ratified by a one-vote margin when Bryan refused to marshal any votes against it. In the years to come, it would be claimed (without proof) that soon after the ratification vote, Carnegie visited with President McKinley and offered to buy the Philippines for $20 million (the amount the Americans had given Spain) and set the islands free. The claim is not credible. Carnegie did not have anywhere near that sum to spend – and would not until he sold Carnegie Steel, an event that was several years in the future. He never mentioned any such offer in his Autobiography or any of his letters, but he never denied the rumor either, preferring perhaps to let it stand as testimony to his commitment to peace.”[xv]

[ii] See (accessed at 12:30 a.m. on April 28, 2013) and (accessed at 12:35 a.m. on April 28, 2013)

[iii] (Accessed at 3:39 a.m. on April 28, 2013)

[iv] (Accessed 3:00 a.m., April 28, 2013)

[v] Ibid.

[vii] (Accessed 2:18 a.m., April 28, 2013)

[x] (Accessed at 1:54 a.m. on April 28, 2013)

[xi] Source: Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden: The United States & The Philippine Islands, 1899.” Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1929). (Accessed 2:10 a.m., April 28, 2013)

[xii] Source: H.T. Johnson, “The Black Man’s Burden,” Voice of Missions, VII (Atlanta: April 1899), 1. Reprinted in Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., Black Americans and the White Man’s Burden, 1898–1903 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press), 1975, 183–184. (Accessed 2:05 a.m., April 28, 2013)

[xiii] (Accessed at 1:54 a.m. on April 28, 2013)

[xiv] William McKinley. Annexing the Philippines. Copyright © by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Also refer to General James Rusling, “Interview with President William McKinley,” The Christian Advocate 22 January 1903. (Accessed 2:00 a.m., April 28, 2013)

[xv] David Nasaw. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Group, 2006 on page 559.

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