What Will He Do?!

This 1898 political cartoon from the Minneapolis Tribune (author unknown) depicts President McKinley with a “savage child,” labeled as The Philippines. McKinley is trying to decide whether to keep the child or give it back to Spain, which the cartoon indicates is akin to throwing it off a cliff. An anthropomorphized world looks on, indignantly.

The little savage child representing The Philippines depicts the typical image many Americans had for groups deemed to be racially inferior. The author made the native a child, referencing the child-like tendencies those classified as inferior were supposed to possess. It also is a nod to the United State’s attitude at the time towards countries they were annexing: that these countries (such as Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico etc) needed to be taught how to be civilized.

The end of the nineteenth century signaled the beginning of the United State’s imperialism. In the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the United States received the Philippines from Spain. The above cartoon is a question many Americans had as to what the government would do with the nation: Take it under its wing and bestow up them the gifts of civilization and democracy or throw them into the bottomless Catholic pit of Spain? This is where the man-earth figure in the image comes into play. The Minneapolis Tribune’s cartoonist uses this figure with his inquiring look to indicate that the correct action would be to save the savage child from the ‘Pit’ of Spain. This reflects the feelings at the time of animosity towards Spain due to the Spanish-American War and Catholicism.  Obviously, giving The Philippines independence was not an option for either the cartoonist or the American government. When it became obvious that the U.S. wasn’t going to give the native Filipinos their own government, revolt broke out. [source]

Though hotly debated, the Philippines was finally given independence through the Hare-Hawes Cutting act in 1945, of course not before the country had been physically and economically devastated by World War II. [source]

Lagniappe:

Future President Taft was Governor-General of the Philippines. Here he is on a water buffalo: 

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