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26 June, 2013
Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare
The Official Attitude of the Army


What was the official attitude of the army toward the people of the Philippine Islands? How did they carry out the order

to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them, in every possible way, that full measure of individual rights which is the heritage of free people,... substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule?


On Sept. 30, 1901, General Chaffee, then in command, wrote from Manila to General Hughes:

As a rule, I would not trust fifty percent of the male population; and they must not be trusted. It is our duty to suspicion every male inhabitant in these islands; and the proof of any error in this regard must rest with them, not so much in words as by action, which cannot be misunderstood.

While I do not urge inhuman treatment of any person on these islands, it is necessary that we be stern and inflexible; and both officers and men must be cordially supported in their duty in this regard. There is one thing necessary; and that is the wholesome fear by these people of the army, and that every hostile motion of any inhabitants toward the troops will be quickly and severely punished.... It is to our interest to disarm these people and to keep them disarmed, and any means to that end is advisable.


What did General Chaffee mean when he spoke of "inhuman treatment"? It was singular language for a commander-in-chief to use. "While I do not urge inhuman treatment." It is very different from saying, "Inhuman treatment of any person is strictly forbidden." This letter urged the army to be stern and inflexible, to inspire fear, and left subordinate military officers to decide whether any "inhabitant" had made a "hostile motion," and to punish "quickly and severely," promising that officers and men doing this duty would be supported. Is not this order exactly in line with the determination of the War Department as declared by the Boston Daily Advertiser?

This order came from the War Department to the Senate. Did Secretary Root ever disapprove it or in any way suggest that such orders could not be reconciled with the "inviolable rules" imposed "upon every division and branch of the government of the Philippines" to which he pointed in his Youngstown speech, of which the first was that

no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law?

Did he ever point out how this method of suspecting everybody in patient millions of men, and confiding to any subordinate officer the right to punish non-combatants, was to be distinguished from "Spanish tyranny"?

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