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26 June, 2013
Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare
One of Mr. Root's Statements Tested


On the 25th of October, 1900, after he had been in office more than a year, and more than twenty months after the Philippine War began, when all the facts connected with its outbreak were familiar to him, Mr. Root made a speech at Youngstown, Ohio, in which he said:

On the 4th of February, the day before the Senate approved the treaty, an army of Tagalogs, a tribe inhabiting the central part of Luzon, under the leadership of Aguinaldo, a Chinese half-breed, attacked, in vastly superior numbers, our little army in the possession of Manila, and after a desperate and bloody fight was repulsed in every direction.


And again:

The day was not then, but it came on the 4th of February, when a body of Filipino troops marched under cover of night, swiftly and silently, through our lines, regardless of the sentry's challenge; and, when he fired, volleys of musketry and roar of cannon upon every side commenced the proposed destruction of our army.


This speech, from which other passages will be quoted, was made to the people when the policy of the administration was on trial before them, and was intended to influence their votes. The language just quoted was skilfully devised to arouse their passions by making it appear that the Filipino army, led by Aguinaldo himself, began the war by making a deliberate and unprovoked attack on out forces.

The official report of General Otis thus states the facts:

An insurgent approaching the picket [of a Nebraska regiment] refused to halt or answer when challenged. The result was that our picket discharged his piece [killing the Filipino], when the insurgent troops near Santa Mesa opened a spirited fire on our troops there stationed.... During the night it was confined to an exchange of fire between opposing lines for a distance of about two miles.... It is not believed that the chief insurgents wished to open hostilities at this time.


After daybreak General Otis attacked the Philippine forces, and a battle ensued, lasting till 5 P.M., of which he says in his report:

The engagement was one strictly defensive on the part of the insurgents and of vigorous attack by our forces.


The later official report, dated February 28, 1899, of General MacArthur, who commanded the American forces engaged, first gives a correspondence between him and the officer in command of the Filipino outposts, in which General MacArthur complains that some of the Filipinos have passed the line of demarcation fixed by agreement between the commanders; and the Filipino officer replies:

This is foreign to my wishes, and I shall give immediate orders in the premises that they retire,


which orders were given and obeyed on February 3, as the report states.

The report then proceeds:

About half-past eight P.M., on February 4, an insurgent patrol, consisting of four armed soldiers, entered our territory at Blockhouse No. 7, and advanced to the little village of Santol, which was occupied from the pipe-line outpost of the Nebraska regiment.... The American sentinel challenged twice; and then, as the insurgent patrol continued to advance, he fired (killing two of the Filipinos), whereupon the patrol retired to Blockhouse No. 7, from whence fire was immediately opened by the entire insurgent outpost at that point."


Must we assume that the Secretary of War was ignorant of the official records when this unlucky patrol becomes in his mouth "an army of Tagalogs ... under the leadership of Aguinaldo," attacking, "in vastly superior numbers, our little army in possession of Manila"? Or could they properly be described "as a body of Filipino troops" marching

under cover of night, swiftly and silently, through our lines, regardless of the sentry's challenge?



His charge that this attack was "under the leadership of Aguinaldo" is met by the simple words of General Otis:

It is not believed that the chief insurgents wished to open hostilities at this time.


The official report contradicts Mr. Root's statement at every point.

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