Opposition to the Philippine-American War

Historical content: 
American Imperialism
Historical skills: 
Contextualization, Sourcing, Use of evidence



Use the sources below and your knowledge of history to answer each of the questions that follow.

Corporal O'Brien's testimony in 1902.
Colonel Funston's letter from the Kansas City Journal.
Source text: 

Document A:  The following is an excerpt from sworn testimony given before the U.S. Senate by Corporal Richard O’Brien in 1902.  O’Brien was called to testify in a Senate investigation of alleged war crimes committed by American soldiers in the Philippine-American War. 

“The first thing we saw was a boy ... and the first sergeant shot at the boy. Everybody fired at him.  That brought the people in the houses out . . . [and] the town was fired on  ... Two old men came out, hand in hand ... they had a white flag, they were shot down.  At the other end of the town we heard screams, and there was a woman there; she was burned up, and in her arms was a baby, and on the floor was another child ... The fighting was continued until everybody had fled or everybody was killed ... There was not a shot fired on the part of the Filipinos.”

Document B: The following is an excerpt from a letter by Colonel Frederick Funston that was published in the Kansas City Journal on April 22, 1899.  Funston, who was a war hero for his extensive service in the Philippine-American War, wrote and spoke often about the Philippine-American War in order to increase public support for American involvement in the conflict.

“I am afraid that some people at home will lie awake [at] night worrying about the ethics of this war, thinking that our enemy is fighting for the right to self-government ... [The Filipinos] have a certain number of educated leaders – educated, however, about the same way a parrot is.  They are, as a rule, an illiterate, semi-savage people who are waging war not against tyranny, but against Anglo-Saxon order and decency . . . I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod good, hard and plenty, and lay it on until they come in to the reservation and promise to be good ‘Injuns.’”

Question 1: Many Americans opposed the war in the Philippines.  How does Document A provide evidence that many Americans opposed the war?

Question 2: How does Document B also provide evidence that many Americans opposed the war in the Philippines?

About the Assessment

This HAT assesses students’ ability to use evidence to support a historical argument.  Students are presented with two documents that provide different perspectives on the war in the Philippines.  Students are then asked to explain how each of these disparate accounts supports the same historical conclusion: many Americans opposed the war in the Philippines.  

This student explains how Funston's letter provides evidence of opposition to the war.