Chapter 109 - Enomoto's Folly
Enomoto's FollyThe Japanese Minister of the Navy, Enomoto Takeaki, had lived a storied life. One of the loyalist anti-Imperial forces in the Boshin War, Enomoto had taken remnants of the Shogunal Army to establish the Ezo Republic in Hokkaido, where he hoped to resist the Imperials with Russian aid. That had never actually happened because Imperial forces ultimately arrived and defeated him. Although he was arrested for treason, he ultimately escaped the death penalty and due to the nature of Japanese politics at the time (which grew to respect those on the losing side of the Boshin War), slowly became rehabilitated in public eyes. Enomoto easily won a seat in parliament and became one of the most forceful advocates for a larger navy. The Japanese "triumph" at the Battle of Miyako gave huge public support to Enomoto, who quickly became a hero overnight in Japan, as even the surviving admirals credited their relative success only to Enomoto's fierce advocacy for funding the navy.
Enomoto himself also had foreign policy views. He was a fierce advocate of Japanese settlement abroad. Not necessarily imperialism (since he encouraged Japanese emigration to nations in Latin America where Japan had no hopes of exerting political control upon), though the two sometimes went hand-in-hand. The famous Japanese "no" to the Spanish peace offering was authored by Enomoto after he was promoted to Foreign Minister, who became a further hero in Japan as a result. His actual reply was a bit longer and elucidated on why Japan was rejecting the deal. He did not believe Spain would be amenable to Japanese immigrants, but he believed an independent Philippines aided by Japan would be. His letter set forth the Japanese position that Japan was not willing to accept a peace settlement that did not "satisfactorily settle the issue of Filipino independence." Interestingly, Enomoto cited the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro in his response, arguing that the Confederate States of America secured Cuban autonomy even though they had decisively lost the naval war. At the bare minimum, a similar arrangement had to be outlined for the Philippines.
The response blindsided Spanish diplomats, who believed that Japan would be unable to exert influence on the Philippines even if independence were secured. However, Enomoto's mindset was simply too different from colonial powers. He was less interested in expanding Japanese territory or gaining access to natural resources - he wanted land for Japanese to emigrate too (Japan was undergoing a large population boom). As such, he cared little what kind of regime took power in the Philippines, as long as they were friendly to Japan and perhaps even leased out a naval base.
A surge of nationalism enveloped Japan, as common citizens signed up in droves, donating pots, tin cans, and cash in order to quickly support a rapid naval rearmament. When the Japanese began acquiring around for anyone who would be willing to sell old navy ships, the Spanish were alarmed at how quickly they were beginning to rearm. The Spanish began harrassing Japanese trade and fishing ships (coastal batteries doomed plans for an actual blockade) and found incredible resistance even from merchants. Enomoto himself had turned to old friends - the Russians immediately agreed to sell two older battleships to Japan in exchange for also buying the "unsellable" colony. For decades, the Empire of Russia had been trying to sell a money pit colony in Aljaska, their largest, least populated, and least profitable territory. By 1899, the population was probably already plurality Japanese - and it was continuing to bleed money. The deal was mocked abroad as "Enomoto's Folly", but he saw it as a perfectly fine price to pay, especially since he could also encourage further Japanese emigration.
The possible arrival of two Russian battleships quickly turned the tide. Spain threw in the towel, agreeing to negotiate over the political sovereignty of the Philippines. However, that became increasingly challenging because at Japanese insistence, Filipino representatives were invited. And worst of all - none of the Filipino revolutionaries agreed with each other. They were often fiercely opposed to each other. Andres Bonifacio and Emiliano Aguinaldo had fallen out of favor with each other. The whole conference became a mess - and the Treaty of Ensenada became one of the most overly negotiated peace agreements in history. Ultimately, a "Confederacy of the Philippines" based vaguely on the Constitution of the Confederacy of Cuba would be a self-governing dominion of Spain, but the various states of the Philippines would also have their own constitutions, drawn vaguely based on the Confederate constitution.
Ultimately, the representatives of Bonifacio totally abandoned the peace talks, which divided the colony into various self-governing states. Aguinaldo, with Japanese pushing, accepted being relegated to Luzon. Spanish authorities were totally wiped out in Luzon - and Aguinaldo had no real way to expand further. The Free State of Luzon and Free State of Zamboanga, both unfriendly to Spain, were established - and in a quick bid to prevent either from claiming Palawan, the Spanish cleverly transferred all of those territories to the Sulu Sultanate. The Visayas had remained largely loyal, so the Dominion of the Visayas was the only Filipino state that openly, rather than begrudgingly, recognized the Spanish monarchy. Furthermore, the Filipino states were prohibited from restricting Japanese immigration, fulfilling Enomoto's goal. Finally, to maintain parity, the Japanese were required to sell one of the newly purchased Russian battleships to Spain, for a price that was only 73% of what the battleship was purchased for (all Spain could raise) in hopes of maintaining "balance" in the Pacific.
The Treaty of Ensenada immediately led to continuing warfare in Luzon, as forces siding with Bonifacio rejected the Treaty, immediately sparking the Luzonian Civil War. In addition, the Aljaska purchase quickly inflamed a political crisis in one nation: Canada. Canadian newspapers quickly ran omnipresent articles about the "Yellow Peril on our doorsteps", radicalizing many Canadians. Omnipresent anti-Japanese sentiment quickly inspired Canada's parliament to reform the Canadian Militia into a standing army - and the obsession of an invasion from the South (which in fact did happen less than a decade ago), were replaced almost overnight by an obsession with a war against Japan.