Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

So, I'm finally up-to-date with the timeline. I'm going to assume that Bryan's presidency showed that left-wing (or at least left-leaning) politics is possible in the US, but his failure to do much pushes his more left-wing constituency to the SDP and SLP.
We shall see! I'll just say that quite a lot happens in the next couple years of the timeline that further skews it.
 
Part 3: Chapter VII

Albert J. Beveridge, 26th President of the United States - Source: Wiki Commons

Part 3: Half-Staff

Chapter VII: To Pacific Shores: Beveridge and Imperial Normalcy



Upon learning of his defeat at the hands of the very symbol of imperialist expansion, President William J. Bryan was profoundly devastated. Bryan believed that he could not fail as long as the public supported him, and often said he deserved to fail without their support. Once the total presidential popular vote count confirmed his loss by several hundred thousand votes, Bryan had no choice but to accept that his position was not favored by the American public he so relied on. In a short and nonchalant concession address, the president stated, "My faith lies in popular democracy, and this faith is unshaken.

Eugene Debs, who like Bryan depended entirely on mass public support, learned that regardless of the size of his audiences and his tireless association of democratic socialism with a fulfillment of American democratic promise, the Social Democrats were unable to circumvent the reality of the electorate. He arrived in a distant fourth place in the election, behind Prohibitionist John Woolley, and collected a subpar 103,000 votes. He officially ended his candidacy with a bittersweet message. "Thus closes the campaign - and the results show that we got everything except votes. I am serene for two reasons: 1st. I did the very best I could for the party that nominated me and for its principles. 2nd. The working class will get in full measure what they voted for. And so we begin the campaign of 1904."

Three groups in particular were ecstatic over the final election results: The Republican Old-Guard, the Bourbon Democrats, and the big business community. Republicans, as one may imagine, were thrilled to win back control over the federal government for the first time since Grover Cleveland took office in 1893. They celebrated the occasion as a return to rational normality: a reactionary beckoning of past greatness. To Republican politicians and voters, the back-to-back terms of Cleveland and Bryan proved the chaotic and incapable nature of Democratic rule as opposed to the sagacious GOP.

For the Bourbons, analogous sentiment was shared. Holding such a degree of quiet disdain for President Bryan and the turmoil he had unleashed onto their once-Jeffersonian political party, conservative Democrats had even more reason to celebrate than the Republicans. Bourbons were indisputably significant in the toppling of Bryan from his Washington residence and they attributed immensely to the fundraising efforts by the Beveridge Campaign. Mark Hanna's enormously successful solicitation for campaign funds was matched by former Treasury Secretary John G. Carlisle and former Wisconsin Senator William F. Vilas, who similarly worked to sway entrepreneurial types like Andrew Carnegie to participate in the political game. Due to the work of Carlisle, Vilas, and others in that vein, it is estimated that Bourbons contributed almost one half of Beveridge's entire war chest in the 1900 election.

Indeed, even affluent members of the American Anti-Imperialist League like Andrew Carnegie and John Carlisle preferred an expansionist like Beveridge to the populist mania of Bryan. In fact, the entire corporate community rallied hard behind the Republican candidate from the get-go, and, as such, they were positively ecstatic when news arrived of Bryan's downfall. The stock market leaped in reaction to the election results as industrialists excitedly awaited their new overseas opportunities. Although, as previously inferred, the economy did not plummet whatsoever once Bryan ascended to the presidency, it did certainly rocket upward with Beveridge taking office.

Albert J. Beveridge was officially inaugurated as the 26th President of the United States on March 4th, 1901. Once completing the Oath of Office, as administered by Chief Justice Fuller, the new president unleashed a powerful speech to a captive audience.

The next great business reform we must have to steadily increase American prosperity is to change the method of building our tariffs. The tariff must be taken out of politics and treated as a business question instead of as a political question. Heretofore, we have done just the other thing. That is why American business is upset every few years by unnecessary tariff upheavals and is weakened by uncertainty in the periods between. [...] Our greatest fiscal need is a genuine, permanent, non-partisan tariff commission.
Child labor in factories, mills, mines and sweat-shops must be ended throughout the Republic. Such labor is a crime against childhood because it prevents the growth of normal manhood and womanhood. It is a crime against the Nation because it prevents the growth of a host of children into strong, patriotic and intelligent citizens. Only the nation can stop this industrial vice.
Another market for our surplus requires no reciprocity except decent international treatment; and yet it is the greatest unexploited market on the globe - the market of China and the Orient. To that market we are carried by the development of another principle as natural as that of industrial combination - the principle of expansion. It is a principle universal, and manifests itself in the life of every individual, the progress of every business firm and sweeps onward through the whole range of human activity to the policies of nations.
As the old Whig party resisted American expansion of California, and went to its death; so the late Democratic party resisted American expansion over sea and went to its death. And now [the Democrats] demand that America turn away. Why should we, then, in the very hour when Commercial expansion is swiftly becoming our mortal need, abandon this prospect; give up the mastery of the Pacific and the control of the Orient? It is a policy of decrepitude, a proposition of disgrace.
We will be consoled, too, with the fact that opposition has confronted every onward movement of the Republic from its opening hour until now, but without success. The Republic has marched on and on, and its step has exalted freedom and humanity. We are undergoing the same ordeal as did our predecessors nearly a century ago. We are following the course they blazed. They triumphed.
Albert Beveridge, Inaugural Address Excerpt, March 4th, 1901
 
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Inauguration Ceremony for President Beveridge - Source: Wiki Commons

Confident as ever, newly inaugurated President Beveridge swiftly grew accustomed to his D.C. abode. His late wife, Katherine Langsdale, tragically died of tuberculosis roughly one year prior to the swearing-in, so Beveridge moved into the White House with no spouse nor children. At 38, the Hoosier became the second-youngest president in American history, following his predecessor. According to presidential historians like Ackerman, however, the elected leader did not seem to demonstrate any traits indicating political naivety.

Beveridge never viewed himself as a servant among servants. He was a commander right out of the gate, and command he did. His contemporaries affirm the image we have of Mr. Beveridge as a young dragon - eager and ambitious to a T. His personality remained unchanged from the day he arrived to the Senate through his presidency: desirous, arrogant and shameless, but never mean-spirited. He had a flair for self-dramatization, but he took matters of state with utmost seriousness. As once described by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Beveridge was an iron fist in a velvet glove. [...] Bryan figured himself a man guided by divinity to do what was right, always framing every position as a conflict between the moral and the venal. Beveridge rejected this featherbrained notion and took after the Machiavellian model.
H. William Ackerman, Presidents of the Gilded Age, 2016

Beveridge was said, by Republican authorities in the early twentieth century, to have brought order and discipline back to the Executive Mansion. After four years of miserable melancholy under Cleveland and four more years of unbridled chaos with Bryan, it was finally time to modernize the executive branch and bring back stern management. Over half of the White House staff was released upon inauguration, those chiefly being older workers. Some historians speculate that Beveridge held suspicion regarding the loyalty of some of the long-term staff, and, intending to run a tight ship, fired any individual at will should he or she be declared 'unsatisfactory'.

As opposed to his direct predecessor and other former presidents who sought to shape a relatively balanced Cabinet, Beveridge believed his election, the first of its kind in the past thirty years to provide the winner a total majority of the popular vote, a mandate. As thus, he paid no mind to moderate critics who tempted the leader with calls to demonstrate bipartisanship and instead worked to form a league of professionals, supreme in their respective fields, who would align with the specific interests of the president. He did not find it necessary to consult with the national committee or any party elder to find the right persons. He reportedly possessed a list of names from the moment of his ascension to higher office.

There were practically no limits when it came to his final choices, especially none as comparable to Bryan's. Conservative Democrats in the Senate assured the new president that they would back his appointments one-hundred percent, so any fear regarding legislative disapproval was eliminated. First and foremost, the Manifest Destiny ideologue desired a state secretary willing to go the extra mile in terms of justifying and enacting an expansionist foreign policy. Beveridge chose his friend John Milton Hay, a state department official and leader of the Indiana branch of the presidential campaign. In agreement with the president's perspective, Hay sought as his mission to open the Pacific market for the United States and subjugate any territories necessary to achieve this goal.

For Secretary of the Navy, the president decided to select naval officer Alfred Thayer Mahan. This navy strategist and military veteran, known at the time for his Sea Power authorship, solemnly agreed to take his post in the Beveridge Cabinet. Mahan would lead a newfound effort to modernize the creaking and rather neglected U.S. Navy. Mark Hanna, who wrote to the president in support of Hay and Mahan's appointments, made it clear that he would decline any appointment offered to him. Beveridge briefly had considered Hanna for Secretary of the Treasury, but upon Hanna's definitive declination, the president designated Iowa Senator William B. Allison for that role. Any remote suspicion from Republican elders that the new leader would renege on his promise to uphold conservative economic policies vanished when he selected Allison. The senator was a staunch supporter of the gold standard and a high tariff, and when tested during congressional debates, continuously held the party line as others wavered.

At the recommendation of Chairman McKinley, President Beveridge chose Philander C. Knox, President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, as Attorney General. McKinley interacted previously with Knox when the two met at a Republican fundraising event involving Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Carnegie. The Pennsylvanian fostered close ties with each of these aforementioned industrialists, personally serving as a director for the Pittsburgh National Bank of Commerce and a counsel for the Carnegie Steel Company at the turn of the century. Knox himself was not heavily involved in political ventures, but at the bequest of McKinley and President Beveridge, happily complied in serving as the leading authority of the Justice Department.

The sole caveat to Beveridge's personalized shaping of the Cabinet was a deal he struck with Governor Theodore Roosevelt at the time of the Republican National Convention. Roosevelt, although he trusted and truly supported the Indiana senator in his mission to win control of Washington from the Bryan scourge, always had his own agenda in mind. He agreed to endorse Beveridge at the convention and vigorous campaign for his friend with an expectation that he would be rewarded with the Cabinet post he coveted so greatly: Secretary of War. When the election reached its conclusion, the new president approached the governor and made good on his promise. Once Congress confirmed the appointment of Roosevelt and elevated him beyond New York government, Senator Platt wrote,
"It is the greatest relief of my days, the wretched soul shall never more govern our affairs."

The Beveridge Cabinet

President - Albert J. Beveridge
Vice President - Chauncey Depew
Sec. of State - John M. Hay
Sec. of Treasury - William B. Allison
Sec. of War - Theodore Roosevelt
Attorney General - Philander C. Knox
Postmaster General - Charles Emory Smith
Sec. of the Navy - Alfred Thayer Mahan
Sec. of Interior - Edward O. Wolcott
Sec. of Agriculture - James Wilson​
 

The White House Cabinet Room, 1901- Source: Wiki Commons

President Beveridge, having at his disposal an amenable Congress, prepared a legislative course of action and moved to enact his agenda. He had no patience for a middle-ground approach or any true method of compromise, believing that the majority-Republican House would gaslight any opposition and thereby eliminate it. Speaker Cannon wrote to the president declaring his intent to "do everything possible to [make up for] the last eight years." Cannon and Beveridge shared the same general conservative ideology, so captaining bills conducive to their whims would hardly prove an arduous task. "We must contribute," wrote Cannon, "to the stability and longevity of the Republic [...] and undo all that madman thrust upon us."

Unfortunately for the president, the congressional session timetable meddled with his legislative plans. Unless he intended on calling the new 57th Congress in for a rare specialized session, the first official session was not scheduled to meet until December of 1901. This effectively placed any and all moves to conduct domestic reform on the figurative back-burner. In the interim, Beveridge begun work toward a far more ambitious project.

In the initial few weeks of his presidency, Albert Beveridge met with military strategists, amicable businessmen, and political intellectuals regarding how best to pursue the Pacific markets. The president, though naturally wary of mediation, appeared open to other perspectives. Opponents of traditional colonialism suggested the president enter the foreign markets peacefully in a purely commercial manner. Secretary Hay belonged squarely in this group. Although he believed in the cause of expanding the economy of the United States into the Pacific, he hoped to persuade Beveridge to enact "Open Door" diplomacy in order to avoid any loss of American life whilst maintaining de facto ruler-ship in the desired markets.

Beveridge, who previously declared, "the Pacific is our ocean," was hesitant to hear out any theorem apart from unambiguous U.S. dominance, yet he nonetheless listened to the words of his advisor. He understood that carrying out the profound task of expansion could not be accomplished in a fortnight. The president also knew, however, that the so-called "people's mandate" that elevated him to the presidency was inspired primarily by the concept of modern imperialism and overseas growth of the United States. The pursuit of Hay's Open Door Policy was a plausible path ahead in fulfilling the commercial objectives of imperialism, however Beveridge maintained that any doors closed off to the United States would be battered down at any cost.

These defenseless independent nations, Beveridge thought, were destined to be ruled by larger, militarized forces. He determined that these countries, ill-suited to defend their own people from an outside invasion, had no business governing themselves. In further justification of overseas expansion, the champion of the "White Man's Burden" envisioned the United States as a biblical savior for these other populations. "The Great Republic, he announced, "before I die will be the acknowledged lord of the world's high seas. And over them the republic will hold dominion, by virtue of the strength God has given it, for the peace of the world and the betterment of man." To Beveridge and others of his white supremacist mindset, U.S. dominance was not subjugation, it was civilization.

The first key to realistically implementing modern imperialism would arise in the form of private investment companies. Small groups of wealthy U.S. investors began establishing commercial relations in the Pacific, Caribbean, and Latin American regions over the previous decade. Once Puerto Rico was released by Spain, for instance, their government eagerly accepted a high-interest loan issued by the New York-based Porto Rico Improvement Company. One loan grew into three loans, then four. Gradually, the company covered the entire internal debt of the sputtering island nation.

Finding U.S. holdings in jeopardy, Secretary Hay, immediately upon his confirmation, arranged for the Puerto Rican government, under President José Conrado Hernández, to settle the loans. The U.S. Minister to Puerto Rico hastily met with the local delegation and, together, they charted an ominous reimbursement plan. From June of 1901 until the debt was repaid, the United States would collect customs at every port in Puerto Rico. 60% of all customs would be commandeered to service debts to the Porto Rico Improvement Company, and the U.S. Navy would be stationed at each port to, as merchant documents state, "observe and report" each day's events and sums to Washington. For all intents and purposes, the United States now controlled the economy of Puerto Rico.
 

Raising the American Flag at the Government House in Honolulu, May 10th, 1901 - Source: Wiki Commons

The Beveridge Administration, in order to achieve their ends concerning foreign policy, pointed to the Monroe Doctrine as justification. Monroe's 1823 statement concluded that the United States needed to deter Europe from intervening in or colonizing the Western Hemispheric nations. Although the doctrine was initially established in the context of Latin American countries seeking to gain complete independence from Portugal and Spain, the current Republican president utilized its principles for his own purposes. Beveridge metamorphosed the Monroe Doctrine to more generally claim the right of U.S. intervention.

Secretary Roosevelt provided a statement on the matter, declaring that, "It is incompatible with international equity for the United States to refuse to allow other powers to take the only means at their disposal of satisfying the claims of their creditors and yet to refuse, itself, to take any such steps." The War Secretary found that the only available means to deter European powers from taking hold of small island nations was for the United States to seize authority. "The adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine," he said, "may force the United States, however reluctantly, to the exercise of an international police power." What started as a defense mechanism against direct European intrusion was refined into a broad excuse for U.S. conquest.

Beveridge, as some feared he would, called for a special session of Congress in April of 1901. The order of the day had been finalizing annexation of the Hawaiian Republic and reaffirming U.S. dominance in that island chain. An effort completing the acquisition of Hawaii was painstakingly blockaded by presidents Cleveland and Bryan through the latter part of the 1890s, but such an era now drew to a close. In the impromptu gathering of the national legislature, congressional Republicans introduced a resolution to formally add Hawaii as a territorial possession of the United States. This, the Cullom Resolution, passed both houses with extraordinarily little opposition by the month's end.

Even anti-imperialist Bryan Democrats found difficulty in opposing the incorporation of Hawaii into the United States' sphere of influence. Bryan supported it to an extent, although he stopped short of endorsing full annexation, and conservative Bourbons disinterested in an American Empire found the idea appropriate considering the archipelago's convenient Pacific location. On May 10th, officials representing both the Hawaiian Republic and the Beveridge Administration held a formal state transfer ceremony on the steps of the Iolani Palace in Honolulu. During this symbolic procession, the flag of Hawaii was lowered for the last time, and in its place rose the Stars and Stripes.

Passage of the Cullom Resolution was, without a doubt, a resolute victory for the power-hungry, imperialist president. Hawaii was commonly referred to as a "Gateway to the Pacific," so naturally it was a significant piece of the imperial puzzle, yet the journey to Pacific conquest lied far beyond. Once American dominance of its lands was undisputed, Roosevelt and Mahan began stationing huge quantities of ships, ammunition, weaponry, and other military supplies on a lagoon harbor in Oahu - later known as the Pearl Harbor Pacific Naval Base. [...] Secretary Mahan authorized the establishment of military fortifications on the islands of Jarvis, Howland and Baker. By Beveridge's strict instruction, Mahan ordered his forces to seize control over the Palmyra Atoll territory and Wake Island in the Pacific. By the summer solstice, the U.S. captured the abandoned Spanish territory of Guam. All prizes for the new empire.
Thomas O'Conner, A Radical History of American Politics: Vol. 4, 2014

Similarly to the situation in Puerto Rico, investment and trading companies consciously explored the Philippine Republic from the moment it attained independence, although American business activity existed in the area long before Spain fled the region. From the onset, these companies discovered profitable economic success. It is estimated that from 1895 to 1901 American enterprises invested millions into building its presence and millions more issued in serviceable loans. Reports started to arise from local depots, however, that the Emilio Aguinaldo government was increasingly antagonistic to American traders arriving from Hawaii. Several investment companies relayed verbal threats handed down from officials in the capital city of Manila.

Beveridge consulted with his Cabinet and thereabout settled on a plan of action. He craved dominance over the Philippines, but realized the spark needed to be a touch more inconspicuous than outright war over unsubstantiated threats. He chose to authorize Mahan's idea to send an envoy to Manila with the express purpose to survey the area and ensure the "protection of American life and property." They would consult with city officials and work out a short-term diplomatic agreement to allow for unimpeded U.S. commerce rights. At the insistence of Roosevelt, Beveridge also ordered a minor naval fleet to patrol the Western seas on the outskirts of the archipelago.

The USS Montgomery, an unprotected Navy cruiser, was dispatched to the Bay of Manila with a small team of emissaries onboard. It arrived in the region by June 4th and sailed toward a dock within the Port of Manila. Then, in a shocking turn of events, an explosion erupted, causing the ship to be engulfed in flames. Attempts to extinguish the fireball were for naught, and the vessel sank into the sea that afternoon. Two-hundred died, including all six civilian diplomats. In a span of two hours, the accompanying patrol changed course, redirecting itself to Manila Bay.
 

USS Montgomery, circa 1899 - Source: Wiki Commons

News of American deaths in the Bay of Manila was met with significant outrage. As most understood it, the cruiser's mission was one of peacekeeping and to protect the maintenance of burgeoning commercial endeavors in the Philippines. It appeared as though the Philippine Republic authorized a covert strike on the ship and delivered two hundred men to their untimely graves. The press focused profusely on the event, lauding the heroism of the diplomats and sailors whilst scorning the actions of the Aguinaldo government. As Harper's Weekly described, "[Aguinaldo's] regime is beyond redemption. Justice shan't be served until it is brought to its knees."

For the avid imperialists like President Beveridge, the only thinkable atonement for the sinking of the USS Montgomery was for the Philippine government to be toppled and replaced with U.S. oversight. His administration trashed any plans to subvertly gain a foothold within these territories, either by purposefully bankrupting their governments or supplanting local trade authorities. Beveridge, brash and independent as ever, declared his intent to see justice done for those lives lost. He announced, "In the ideal circumstance, I would rather take part in organizing our colonial system than to do anything else on this earth. I would rather map out and advocate the imperial policy of the Republic than to have been the leading statesman of a war. Upon June the Fourth, a day of tragedy and unwarranted destruction, I would have no greater pleasure than to lead the mission for justice and humanity."


The sinking of the USS Montgomery is a sorrowful affair, but it's the consensus today that the fate of that creaking ship was not a result of aggression on the part of the Philippine government, nor was it a tragic accident. Photographic evidence in the mid-1970s revealed to American naval experts that the explosion was, undoubtedly, a deliberate and nefarious operation conducted the United States military. The fire conclusively spread inside of the vessel's coal bunker, presumably sparked by a small mine placed in a tactically advantageous location. Every victim who perished aboard the Montgomery lost their lives, or rather, were intently sacrificed, as part of an imperialist plot to initiate the inevitable capitalist takeover of the Philippines from the Filipinos.
Benjamin McIntyre, The Workers' Struggle: The Birth of a Columbian International, 2018

What started as a commercial expedition to, presumably, seek the continuation of American strategic and economic interests in the Philippines was now refined into direct military intervention. The whole ordeal was skillfully utilized by the president to further prove his point that the Filipinos could not enact peaceful democracy, and worse, that their "chimera of a republic" threatened the livelihood of the United States. Therefore, the president immediately approved of a sizable increase to the Pacific-based military (conveniently much of it was already stationed at the aforementioned newly incorporated bases). For now, he was already supplied with adequate funding as allocated by Congress during its special session, although the glutenous Beveridge ensured additional appropriations be directed to military expenditures when the Congress met in December.

Rear Admiral Winfield Schley, a strategist during the Spanish-American War, controlled the small fleet patrolling the archipelago at the time of the Montgomery's sinking. He captained the effort to sail toward Manila, rescuing the sparse survivors of the explosion in that process. On explicit orders from Roosevelt, Schley carried out a swift blockade of the region and fired upon several small ships believed to be Philippine Republican Navy vessels. By August, the admiral's forces grew substantially as they were joined by a swathe of warships carrying 15,000 U.S. troops. The naval leadership reportedly sent correspondence to Aguinaldo requesting negotiation, but he declared his unwillingness to discuss terms with an "aggressor nation fueled by an appetite for slavery and a lust for conquest."

In all but name, the United States declared war on the Philippines with a de facto end-goal of complete annexation. August 23rd saw the first major assault on the Philippine Republic as the American fleet drove in to seize control of Manila Bay. They unleashed a barrage upon the city and cleared all visible harbors to dock safely. Led by Generals Elwell S. Otis, Loyd Wheaton, and Arthur MacArthur, ground troops poured into the streets of Manila. The American invasion of the capital city was met with stark resistance from the locals, who organized in rag-tag militias and hoped to defend their homes from total destruction. Trained city guards and police stationed throughout the city returned fire onto the U.S. forces, although they proved unable to hold off the superior weaponry and tactics of Otis' brigades.

The initial fighting escalated throughout the evening until hundreds lied dead in the streets. President Aguinaldo, horrified over the ruthlessness of General Otis and fearing for the lives of his people, sent an emissary to the Americans requesting a ceasefire. Once it was received, Otis responded with a definitive refusal. He wrote, "Our ultimate purpose is redemption for these poor souls you claim to preside over. God shall shine his light over this land, by fire and blood if it must be. [...] We shall not agree to any condition apart from unconditional surrender."

Urban warfare accelerated dramatically with scores of additional troops sent to reinforce the fleet at Schley-controlled Manila Bay. The army pushed through to the Malate district of the city as they pressed onward, firing upon all in their way, combatant and civilian alike. At this point, proceeding rapidly through the swiftly abandoned city streets, the United States forces encountered scant resistance from ill-equipped Filipino guardsmen and civilian forces. The Philippine Republican Army worked heartily to hold off the assault but they too were outmatched. Otis' brigades captured the Malacañang Palace on November 17th and, with it, President Aguinaldo.

The leader of the opposing nation was arrested and the palace drowned in flame. Military forces relocated Aguinaldo to the Plaza Moriones, haphazardly repurposed into the infamous Santiago Detention Facility. This U.S.-occupied encampment quartered off Filipino prisoners-of-war in barbed wire fencing and conducted some of the most brutal treatment during the war. Prisoners were routinely tortured and starved at the whims of American overseers with no regard for their humanity. Aguinaldo was walked to a cell within this complex.

By all accounts, Aguinaldo was kept in disdainful conditions no different than any other prisoner on-site. He had been under the impression upon capture that either Secretary Hay or General MacArthur would be sent to negotiate peace terms. On the contrary, however there was no consultation and zero expectation to release the Philippine president. Aguinaldo, judging by his own writing while imprisoned, came to realize that the Americans sought to keep him detained indefinitely.
 
That's hardly going to be the end of resistance, I wonder if it gets as brutal as it did OTL. Like, the US rounded up civilians into concentration camps and then basically killed anyone outside of them. Here the Philippines have had a real taste of independence and are probably more organized.
 
Part 3: Chapter VIII

"Incorrigible," Philippines War Propaganda, 1902 - Source: US National Archives

Chapter VIII: Invasion Vengeance: Crumbling of a Presidency

Once the 57th Congress finally met on December 2nd, 1901, the premier item on the agenda was coordinating a legislative response to the war effort. The Republicans in Congress vastly approved of the ongoing military adventure in the Philippines, as did many Democrats who viewed the conflict as justice for the USS Montgomery. Senator John T. Morgan (D-AL), a Southern Bourbon, relayed his assessment of the war at the start of appropriations debate. Speaking to a colleague from Alabama, he stated "We will burn that damned n***** country to the ground if that is what it must take to achieve adequate retribution. Take the ports, take the cities, do all that is necessary until our flag flies affixed above their capital."

Anti-imperialist hardliners like Representative William Sulzer, in stark disagreement with the administration, attempted to organize a collective move to filibuster expanded military spending. Sulzer believed that Beveridge's call for additional funds was not conceived out of a desire to swiftly end the war, but to establish a permanent American colony in the archipelago. Former President Bryan authored an editorial expressing similar concerns, writing that forced dominion of overseas territory would denote exponentially higher military costs and an unprecedented loss of personnel. He urged his fellow Democrats block the measure and push back against the war before it devolved into deadly calamity. Bryan Democrats, in general, proved divided on the issue of increasing the military presence in the Philippines and, ultimately, did not grant Sulzer sufficient support to push ahead with the delay.

As he desired, President Beveridge was granted an expanded military budget by Congress. With Emilio Aguinaldo captured and U.S. forces pushing through the capital city of Manila, it seemed as if American victory was assured. However, by the end of 1901 General Miguel Malvar and Brigadier General Pío del Pilar assumed control of the Philippine Republic. Malvar, an offensive-minded military tactician, disbanded all remaining regular army units and reorganized Filipino forces into undetectable bands of guerrilla armies. The U.S. Army ground forces were not trained in combating guerrilla offensives as opposed to customary formations, and Generals Otis and MacArthur struggled in maintaining the consistency of U.S. dominance.


When I first started in against these rebels, I believed Aguinaldo's troops represented only a fraction. I did not like to believe that the whole population [...] was opposed to us. I have been reluctantly compelled to believe that the Filipino masses are loyal to Aguinaldo and the government which he leads. The Filipinos are keeping up the struggle, and the people align against us. Our only option is to make the state of war insupportable.
Arthur MacArthur, Jr., Quoted in The Service of General MacArthur, 1977

For MacArthur, and the other high-ranking officials stationed within or on the outskirts of the Philippines, the turning of the tide toward guerrilla warfare was a disaster in the making. Thus far, Otis' brigades proved capable when encountering minimal irregular resistance, but the prospect of enacting total war against the Filipino citizenry was a daunting one. Their answer, plain and simple, was to keep the population in a state of persistent fear and apprehension. "Our only chance," said MacArthur, "was to keep living conditions unbearable." This meant destroying every resource and targeting all able-bodied civilians.

Starting around January of 1902, Beveridge, Hay and Roosevelt held a series of private Cabinet meetings exclusively regarding how best to end hostilities in an orderly fashion. Secretary Hay extensively disapproved of the malicious tactics being authorized behind the scenes and implored the president to ignore the pleas to utilize such tactics. Secretary Roosevelt partially agreed, explaining that the progress of the war, along with the capture of Aguinaldo, already guaranteed a favorable outcome in peace negotiations. By this point, the U.S. captured the cities of Iloilo, Ilagan, and Tacloban. All three fell in a sea of fire delivered by naval warships. Though nearly as fervently imperialistic as Beveridge, Roosevelt even admitted that complete annexation of the country would require intense suppression of the population.

The president tepidly agreed with his Cabinet, finding their presumptions valid. He thereby issued an order to begin diplomatic talks with Aguinaldo. Malvar may have gained the trust of the nation as a resistance figure, but Aguinaldo, as the first president of the Philippine Republic, remained the undisputed leader. Perhaps a bloodless return to power would lead to partial U.S. economic jurisdiction of Manila ports in a Puerto Rico-like scenario. Beveridge sent notice to the frayed opposition leader that an envoy would remove him from the Santiago Detention Facility.

On February 19th, about two hours after the aforementioned lurch to negotiate, Beveridge retracted the order. "John Hay verified his historical footprint as a fool's fool when he trusted in the word of the American Nero," wrote Benjamin McIntyre. "Never was a man so deluded to believe that Albert Beveridge possessed the sheer mind-power to humanize the Filipinos. He spat out the racist jargon himself. 'We must never forget that in dealing with the Filipinos we deal with children.' He did not view their independent republic as legitimate, so how on God's green earth could famed enlightened progressives like TR and Hay fail to see the contradiction, the fallacy, in Beveridge's pledge to negotiate. President Aguinaldo realized his fate from the moment of his shackling. His very existence thwarted the imperialist claim that brown people could not foster a republic all their own."

Under the guise of diplomatic discussion, Aguinaldo was relocated to an undisclosed location and was subsequently executed by hanging. President Beveridge claimed ownership of the order to execute the captured Philippine president, flatly proclaiming that the only presidential sovereignty he recognized over the Philippines was his own.
 
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US Troops Entrenched Against Filipinos, April 5th, 1902- Source: Wiki Commons

Fueled by rage upon the execution of their national leader, the Filipino forces dug further in the war effort and doubled down on retaliatory action. Filipino commanders, long since utilizing guerrilla war tactics by the spring of 1902, began organizing surprise attacks on Americans. One strategy, famously enacted in the Giporlos municipality, was to wait until the American camp settled in for the night before unleashing a deadly assault. Among those slain in such strikes included scores of armed men, but also chaplains, medical workers, and wounded soldiers.

The Americans were no less brutal in committing violent atrocities. As the war dragged on, the U.S. Army expanded their scope beyond city guardsmen and company regulars. Every Filipino was a target. Residential areas across the archipelago melted in the aftermath of Navy firebombing. Over half of Manila had been reduced to cinders, with no exception for places of worship or local medical facilities. Following each military advance, U.S. troops were ordered to kill every survivor - men, women and children alike.

Arguably the single most controversial Army officer of the war, General Jacob H. Smith routinely forced his brigades to commit such horrendous deeds. "I want no prisoners," he once screamed. "I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States." He then affirmed that all persons "ten years" or older were to be considered hostile. In recognition of his intent to turn the archipelago into a "howling wilderness", Jacob was nicknamed "Howling Jake" by the press. Others referred to the general as "Hell Roaring Jake" Smith.

Considering the extent to which the U.S. garrison refused to make the distinction between civilian and combatant, General Smith's sentiment was undoubtedly shared by the entire officer class of the Army. The Americans occasionally attempted to isolate the populace from the belligerents in a system of 're-concentration' - that is, herding masses of people into a specified zone and firing upon anyone outside of said zone. More so than not, however, soldiers followed the orders of their superiors and indiscriminately shot all on sight.

With the Pacific war falling into utter disarray, a far-cry from the "orderly" conflict against Spain, the American press pounced on the controversies. William R. Hearst, in particular, highlighted the daily tragedies taking place in the Philippines. He described the horrific crimes perpetrated by United States officers in profound detail, categorizing them as a "natural result" of "black heart imperialism." Hearst placed responsibility squarely at the feet of President Beveridge, often attributing increased tension in the war to his unnecessary execution of Aguinaldo. One article asked, "... and who is to blame? As unharvested crops decay in the fields and homes burn while children cry alone in the city streets, we cannot help but wonder, 'For whom do we fight?'"

Reports recollecting the atrocities in the Philippines inflamed the concerns of anti-imperialists. They were enraged and distraught by the dehumanizing treatment of the Filipinos at the hands of American soldiers. To them, the American military clearly abandoned its tenants to fight for freedom and liberation and now operated solely as a tool of the expansionists. Anti-imperialists frequently compared the role of America in Cuba versus the Philippines, questioning why one nation had the right to govern its own affairs while the other did not.

Not every critic of Beveridge's expansionist foreign policy cited capitalist profit-seeking as a root cause for the war, but leaders of the American Left certainly did. Eugene Debs combined the seemingly disparate causes of socialism and anti-imperialism in an Appeal to Reason editorial.

Every consideration of civilization, every interest of humanity, commands us to cultivate the arts of peace and to discourage the horrors of war, and thus fulfill our national destiny by furnishing a model for the emulation of other nations of the earth. The commercial spirit, born of the capitalist system, has birthed the drive for Pacific expansion. War, all war, is the result of the conquest of capitalism. The exploitation of the Philippines and all the cruel atrocities she is suffering are inflicted by capitalism — the ruling class, the world over, here as elsewhere. With the end of capitalism war will cease. Then it will be in order to “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,” and the nations of the earth will dwell together in peace forevermore.
Eugene V. Debs, "A Start to Peace", May 29th, 1902
 

"Foreign Entanglements," Winsor McCay Cartoon, 1902 - Source: Wiki Commons

Over the span of 1902, the Philippine-American War transitioned from an ostensibly inevitable success for the United States to a muddled, disgraceful mess. The American military, at least from the perspective of an onlooker, firmly controlled several major cities in the archipelago, in addition to Manila, due primarily to its clear technological and military advantage. During daylight hours, U.S. patrols found little contention in the streets as they continuously rounded up civilians and suspected combatants alike. The Americans advanced through the cities in a greater move northward toward Tuguegarao City: Malvar's headquarters and the base of the Philippine Republican Army.

General Malvar, as well as fellow high-ranking army official Artemio Ricarte y Garcia and widower First Lady Hilaria del Rosario de Aguinaldo, reorganized their resistance fighters and employed new raid tactics when conventional warfare no longer seemed applicable. The Filipinos themselves, perhaps inspired by the martyrdom of Emilio Aguinaldo, persisted in employing such strategies as months of occupation drained American morale. The Philippine Army initiated a series of 'Dusk Ambushes' on the occupying forces starting in June, notably targeting prison centers to free their captured citizenry. Unlike prior attacks like the massacre in Giporlos, the Filipinos now took far more care in sparing non-combatants during these hectic raids.

The operations of the Philippine Republican Army evolved in its level of sophistication in order to counter the well-funded American war machine. Between nightly setbacks as a result of the raids and the mental strain on soldiers ordered to murder civilians indiscriminately, U.S. forces started to lose ground. Confidence in the war plummeted on the home front. Generals MacArthur, Otis and Smith, once figures worthy of adoration and praise, were now viewed by all but the most jingoistic Americans as savage and unruly beings. As was written by a contributor to Hearst's Journal, "The Spanish Butcher [General Weyler] is a saint compared with Howling Jake."

Conduct of war overseas also tested the Beveridge Administration. President Beveridge, with his arbitrary order to execute the leader of the Philippine Republic, revealed just how uncaring and flippant he acted toward his own Cabinet. "Not once," according to H. William Ackerman, "did Beveridge discuss the prospect of execution with Secretaries Hay, Roosevelt or Mahan. Obviously, should the matter have arisen, they would have promptly rejected it on the grounds of losing an essential prisoner and bargaining piece. State Secretary Hay, having endured almost one full year dealing with the lone-wolf president, angrily resigned from his position. He did so on February 20th, exactly 24 hours after the president issued his order to hang Aguinaldo."

John M. Hay, several weeks following his resignation, privately authored a letter to his friend, former vice presidential nominee Whitelaw Reid. In this document, Hay teared into Beveridge's many character flaws, referring to his quarrelsome nature and "rat-like" attention span during attempts to conduct foreign policy. The former state secretary had expected that the positive results emanating from Puerto Rico would deter the militaristic leader from instigating war, or that he could sway Beveridge to reassign General Smith. Yet, in all cases, his words reached deaf ears. "I fear [Beveridge's] presidency shall irreparably harm our national image should the war go on. Appropriate measures must be taken to save the party."

Secretaries Roosevelt and Mahan did not resign, although they certainly disapproved of the president's direction and refusal to coordinate his orders with them. Roosevelt expressed to Beveridge his passionate plea that the war must not go on if it failed to retain popular support. He relented, especially in his later years, that the condoning of U.S.-initiated atrocities threatened American moral superiority, and, as thus, the fate of the entire expansionist project. President Beveridge disagreed, insinuating that Filipino atrocities justified any retaliatory action by the occupying forces. Still, the leader acknowledged a gradual loss in public support and, subsequently, concluded that the narrative required adjusting. Just as he once accomplished in his contest against Bryan, Beveridge looked to dramatically shift the tide in his favor.
 

President Beveridge in Philadelphia, September 17th, 1902- Source: LOC

In order to challenge anti-war sentiment and drive up jingoist patriotism, President Beveridge chose to embark on a three-month whistle-stop tour in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. He hoped to have the opportunity to do so sooner in his presidency, but the complexities of organizing operations in the Philippines sidetracked the president from the project. Now, as anti-imperialists and opponents to aggressive expansion appeared to gain the upper hand in the realm of public opinion, it was of utmost importance for the president to make his case.

On September 6th, Beveridge departed the Executive Mansion alongside Senator Henry C. Lodge and Secretary Roosevelt. The heavily-publicized federal express carried the party out of D.C. and toward the Exposition Auditorium in Philadelphia. This venue, where Beveridge had solidified the Republican presidential nomination two years prior, held the premier "Our March Goes On" conference. To a crowd of political enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and Pennsylvania GOP officials, the Hoosier presented his featured presentation. Not too dissimilar from his other nationalistic speeches, the stump speech delivered by the president characterized the task of conquest as "world opportunity, world duty, and world glory."

Beveridge dove into the fray directly, citing the gross irresponsibility of the American press to report "misinterpreted fables" as fact. He remarked that the pro-Filipino stories stemming from Hearst, Pulitzer, and others in their league disregarded the conditions that led to the creation of the re-concentration system (albeit, he referred to these men in a broad sense and did not name names). Without hesitation, the president denounced information concerning torture camps and mass murder of civilians as "falsified accounts not worthy of the ink they are printed upon", and furthermore warned his audience to avoid being captivated by "yellow sins."

He assured the crowd that peace would arrive soon and, with it, vast economic opportunity. According to Beveridge, the dramatic entrance of the United States into the lucrative markets of the Pacific practically guaranteed a permanent Pax Americana. He predicted that immense commercial growth could afford Americans an unprecedented degree of prosperity, one that would not be limited to a wealthy minority as was the case in the Gilded Age. "The American race shall have more than enough to supply every human being beneath the flag. There ought not to be in this Republic a single day of bad business, a single unemployed workingman, a single unfed child." Low wages and joblessness, as well as monetary uncertainty, stood to vanish upon successful colonization of the Philippines and the incorporation of American enterprise into the region. For Beveridge, such a utopia was within the grasp of the nation.

My friends, we must press on. Today, our duty is to rise to the occasion. With victory, we may begin our saving, regenerating, and uplifting work. Bloodshed will cease when these deluded children of our islands learn that this is the final word of the of the American people and its representatives in Congress assembled. [...] Every holy memory that glorifies the flag is of those heroes who have died that its onward march might not be stayed. It is the nation's dearest lives yielded for the flag that makes it dear to us; it is the nation's most precious blood poured out for it that makes it precious to us. That flag is woven of heroism and grief, of the bravery of men and women's tears, of righteousness and battle, of sacrifice and anguish, of triumph and of glory. It is these which make our flag a holy thing.
Albert Beveridge, "Our March Goes On" Speech, September 18th, 1902

Beveridge won ravenous applause in Philadelphia upon the end of his address, and he would continue to garner warm receptions in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago as the whistle-stop tour moved on. As famously documented by a journalist from the Chicago Tribune, however, the president repeatedly refused to respond to questions concerning mismanagement of the war. Several local reporters, first at the Chicago Coliseum then again at Columbia College, asked the elected leader to speak to anti-imperialist accusations of criminal atrocities perpetrated by American generals. Beveridge brushed them off. To save face in the aftermath, Secretary Roosevelt asserted, "The accusation that there had been anything resembling systematic or widespread cruelty by our troops was false."

Energized and prepared for the home stretch of the speaking tour, Beveridge delivered a stump speech outside of the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois on November 2nd. Attendance, by historical accounts of the event, far exceeded any political ceremony that year, with 35,000-man crowd spanning far beyond the perimeter of the venue. He completed the address to resoundingly positive reception, and, accompanied by Senator Lodge, Mayor John L. Phillips, Governor Richard Yates, Jr., and former War Secretary Robert Todd Lincoln, returned to his horse-drawn carriage parked nearby. While the president strolled to the cart, shaking hands with presumed supporters along the trail, a man suddenly leaped from the dispersing crowd and opened fire with four ear-piercing shots.

Two individuals were struck by the assailant's bullets, including President Beveridge, who promptly collapsed into the arms of Lodge and Yates. Several men tackled the shooter before he could fire off a fifth shot, beating him nearly to an unconscious state. The general area was swiftly cornered off by local police and the Secret Service, the smirking shooter was taken into custody, and the president was lifted off in a hospital-bound emergency vehicle. Lodge, in a state of shock and disbelief, recalled the president whispering, "By God's graces, be sure the devil is hanged."

Doctors soon discovered that Beveridge had stopped breathing along route to Springfield Hospital. Once the man arrived and was prepped for emergency surgery, the medical staff hurriedly began operating on the president to save his life. Fearing the worst, they incessantly worked to resuscitate the executive, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Surgeons found a bullet lodged in his right lung and determined the shot undoubtedly fatal. Just like that, in the span of an otherwise ordinary afternoon, Albert Beveridge, at only 40 years old, became the third president to be felled by an assassin's bullet.
 
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