The term Benevolent Assimilation refers to a proclamation that is about the Philippines issued on December 21, 1898 by U.S. President William McKinley during the Philippine-American War, which followed the defeat of Spain during the Spanish-American War. The proclamation reads in part:
Finally, it should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration 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 and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.
The proclamation was sent to General Elwell Otis, U.S. military commander in the Philippines. Otis sent Emilio Aguinaldo a version of the proclamation that he had bowdlerized by removing mention of U.S. sovereignty "to stress our benevolent purpose" and not "offend Filipino sensibilities," by substituting "free people" for "supremecy of the United States," and deleting "to exercise future domination." Aguinaldo had proclaimed an insurgent dictatorial government in the Philippines on May 24, 1898, proclaimed Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898, and changed the dictatorial government to a revolutionary one on June 23, 1898.
However, General Otis had also sent an unaltered copy of the proclamation to General Marcus Miller in Iloilo City who, unaware that an altered version had been sent to Aguinaldo, passed a copy to a Filipino official there. The unaltered version eventually made its way to Aguinaldo.
Otis later explained,
After fully considering the President's proclamation, and the temper of the Taglos, with whom I was daily discussing political problems and the friendly intentions of the U.S.A. Government toward them, I concluded that there were certain words and expressions therein such as "sovereignty," "right of cessation" and those which directed immediate occupation and so forth, which though most admirably employed and tersely expressive of actual conditions, might be advantageously used by the Tagalog. The ignorant classes had been taught to believe that certain words such as "sovereignty," "protection," and so forth had peculiar meanings disastrous to their welfare and significant of future political domination, like that from which they had been recently freed.
- McKinley's Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation
- Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982), Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903 (4th edition, reprint ed.), Yale University Press, p. 52, ISBN 978-0-300-03081-5
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