CHAPTER XIX. Outbreak of Hostilities

While I, the Government, the Congress and the entire populace were awaiting the arrival of such a greatly desired reply, many fairly overflowing with pleasant thoughts, there came the fatal day of the 4th February, during the night of which day the American forces suddenly attacked all our lines, which were in fact at the time almost deserted, because being Saturday, the day before a regular feast day, our Generals and some of the most prominent officers had obtained leave to pass the Sabbath with their respective families.

General Pantaleon Garcia was the only one who at such a critical moment was at his post in Maypajo, north of Manila, Generals Noriel, Rizal and Ricarte and Colonels San Miguel, Cailles and others being away enjoying their leave.

General Otis, according to trustworthy information, telegraphed to Washington stating that the Filipinos had attacked the American Army. President McKinley read aloud the telegram in the Senate, where the Treaty of Paris of the 10th December, 1898, was being discussed with a view to its ratification, the question of annexation of the Philippines being the chief subject of debate, and through this criminal procedure secured the acceptation of the said Treaty in toto by a majority of only three votes, [7] which were cast simultaneously with a declaration that the voters sided with the "Ayes" on account of war having broken out in these Islands.

This singular comedy could not continue for a great length of time because the Filipinos could never be the aggressors as against the American forces, with whom we had sworn eternal friendship and in whose power we expected to find the necessary protection to enable us to obtain recognition of our independence from the other Powers.

The confusion and obfuscation of the first moments was indeed great, but before long it gave place to the light of Truth which shone forth serene, bringing forth serious reflections.

When sensible people studied the acts of Mr. McKinley, sending reinforcement after reinforcement to Manila at a time after an armistice was agreed upon and even when peace with Spain prevailed; when they took into account that the despatch of the Civil Commission to settle terms of a treaty of amity with the Filipinos was being delayed; when, too, they knew of the antecedents of my alliance with Admiral Dewey, prepared and arranged by the American Consuls of Singapore and Hongkong, Mr. Pratt and Mr. Wildman; when they became acquainted with the actual state of affairs on the 4th February knowing that the Filipinos were awaiting the reply of Mr. McKinley to the telegram of General Otis in which he transmitted the peaceful wish of the Filipino people of live as an independent nation; when, lastly, they riveted their attention to the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the approval of which, in as far as it concerned the annexation of the Philippines, was greeted with manifestations of joy and satisfaction by the Imperialist party led by Mr. McKinley, then their eyes were opened to the revelations of truth, clearly perceiving the base, selfish and inhuman policy which Mr. McKinley had followed in his dealings with us the Filipinos, sacrificing remorselessly to their unbridled ambition the honour of Admiral Dewey, exposing this worthy gentleman and illustrious conqueror of the Spanish fleet to universal ridicule; for no other deduction can follow from the fact that about the middle of May of 1898, the U.S.S. McCulloch brought me with my revolutionary companions from Hongkong, by order of the above mentioned Admiral, while now actually the United States squadron is engaged in bombarding the towns and ports held by these revolutionists, whose objective is and always has been Liberty and Independence.

The facts as stated are of recent date and must still be fresh in the memory of all.

Those who in May, 1898, admired the courage of Admiral Dewey's sailors and the humanitarianism of this illustrious Commander in granting visible aid to an oppressed people to obtain freedom and independence, surely cannot place an honest construction upon the present inhuman war when contrasting it with those lofty and worthy sentiments.

I need not dwell on the cruelty which, from the time of the commencement of hostilities, has characterized General Otis's treatment of the Filipinos, shooting in secret many who declined to sign a petition asking for autonomy. I need not recapitulate the ruffianly abuses which the American soldiers committed on innocent and defenseless people in Manila, shooting women and children simply because they were leaning out of windows; entering houses at midnight without the occupants' permission - forcing open trunks and wardrobes and stealing money, jewellery and all valuables they came across; breaking chairs, tables and mirrors which they could not carry away with them, because, anyhow, they are consequences of the war, though improper in the case of civilized forces. But what I would not leave unmentioned is the inhuman conduct of that General in his dealings with the Filipino Army, when, to arrange a treaty of peace with the Civil Commission, of which Mr. Schurman was President, I thrice sent emissaries asking for a cessation of hostilities.

General Otis refused the envoys' fair and reasonable request, replying that he would not stop hostilities so long as the Philippine Army declined to lay down their arms.

But why does not this Army deserve some consideration at the hands of General Otis and the American forces? Had they already forgotten the important service the Filipino Army rendered to the Americans in the late war with Spain?

Had General Otis forgotten the favours conferred on him by the Filipino Army, giving up to him and his Army the suburbs and blockhouses which at such great sacrifice to themselves the Filipinos had occupied?

Why should General Otis make such a humiliating condition a prime factor or basis of terms of peace with an Army which stood shoulder to shoulder with the American forces, freely shedding its blood, and whose heroism and courage were extolled by Admiral Dewey and other Americans?

This unexplained conduct of General Otis, so manifestly contrary to the canons of international law and military honour, is eloquent testimony of his deliberate intention to neutralize the effects of Mr. Schurman's pacific mission.

What peace can be concerted by the roaring of cannon and the whizzing of bullets?

What is and has been the course of procedure of General Brooke in Cuba? Are not the Cubans still armed, notwithstanding negotiations for the pacification and future government of that Island are still going on?

Are we, perchance, less deserving of liberty and independence than those revolutionists?

Oh, dear Philippines! Blame your wealth, your beauty for the stupendous disgrace that rests upon your faithful sons.

You have aroused the ambition of the Imperialists and Expansionists of North America and both have placed their sharp claws upon your entrails!

Loved mother, sweet mother, we are here to defend your liberty and independence to the death! We do not want war; on the contrary, we wish for peace; but honourable peace, which does not make you blush nor stain your forehead with shame and confusion. And we swear to you and promise that while America with all her power and wealth could possibly vanquish us; killing all of us; but enslave us, never!!!

No; this humiliation is not the compact I celebrated in Singapore with the American Consul Pratt. This was not the agreement stipulated for with Mr. Wildman, American Consul in Hongkong. Finally, it was not the subjection of my beloved country to a new alien yoke that Admiral Dewey promised me.

It is certain that these three have abandoned me, forgetting that I was sought for and taken from my exile and deportation; forgetting, also, that neither of these three solicited my services in behalf of American Sovereignty, they paying the expense of the Philippine Revolution for which, manifestly, they sought me and brought me back to your beloved bosom!

If there is, as I believe, one God, the root and fountain of all justice and only eternal judge of international disputes, it will not take long, dear mother, to save you from the hands, of your unjust enemies. So I trust in the honour of Admiral Dewey: So I trust in the rectitude of the great people of the United States of America, where, if there are ambitious Imperialists, there are defenders of the humane doctrines of the immortal Monroe, Franklin, and Washington; unless the race of noble citizens, glorious founders of the present greatness of the North American Republic, have so degenerated that their benevolent influence has become subservient to the grasping ambition of the Expansionists, in which latter unfortunate circumstance would not death be preferable to bondage?

Oh, sensible American people! Deep is the admiration of all the Philippine people and of their untrained Army of the courage displayed by your Commanders and soldiers. We are weak in comparison with such Titanic instruments of your Government's ambitious Caesarian policy and find it difficult to effectively resist their courageous onslaught. Limited are our warlike resources, but we will continue this unjust, bloody, and unequal struggle, not for the love of war - which we abhor - but to defend our incontrovertible rights of Liberty and Independence (so dearly won in war with Spain) and our territory which is threatened by the ambitions of a party that is trying to subjugate us.

Distressing, indeed, is war! Its ravages cause us horror. Luckless Filipinos succumb in the confusion of combat, leaving behind them mothers, widows and children. America could put up with all the misfortunes she brings on us without discomfort; but what the North American people are not agreeable to is that she should continue sacrificing her sons, causing distress and anguish to mothers, widows and daughters to satisfy the whim of maintaining a war in contravention of their honourable traditions as enunciated by Washington and Jefferson.

Go back, therefore, North American people, to your old-time liberty. Put your hand on your heart and tell me: Would it be pleasant for you if, in the course of time, North America should find herself in the pitiful plight, of a weak and oppressed people and the Philippines, a free and powerful nation, then at war with your oppressors, asked for your aid promising to deliver you from such a weighty yoke, and after defeating her enemy with your aid she set about subjugating you, refusing the promised liberation?

Civilized nations! Honourable inhabitants of the United States, to whose high and estimable consideration I submit this unpretentious work, herein you have the providential facts which led to the unjust attack upon the existence of the Philippine Republic and the existence of those for whom, though unworthy, God made me the principal guardian.

The veracity of these facts rests upon my word as President of this Republic and on the honour of the whole population of eight million souls, who, for more than three hundred years have been sacrificing the lives and wealth of their brave sons to obtain due recognition of the natural rights of mankind - liberty and independence.

If you will do me the honour to receive and read this work and then pass judgment impartially solemnly declaring on which side right and justice rests, your respectful servant will be eternally grateful.

(Signed) Emilio Aguinaldo.

Tarlak, 23rd September, 1899.


[1] A kind of sword - Translator.

[2] Of their own free will and accord - Translator.

[3] Suspension bridge. - Translator.

[4] Philippine Local Exhibition. - Translator.

[5] Short sword - Translator.

[6] The "Black Hole" of Manila.

[7] Many of the American papers reported that the majority was one vote only in excess of the absolutely requisite two-thirds majority.