Imperial vision: William Howard Taft and the Philippines, 1900-1921
Burns, Adam David
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This thesis seeks to establish William H. Taft’s influence over the U.S. experiment with empire in the Philippines. It shows how a politician who is often characterised as a loyal servant of Theodore Roosevelt, at least before 1909, was in fact a key driver of policy decisions. Taft’s views of empire may have been built on the ideas of others, but his own synthesis of these ideas and the career path he followed during this period single him out as one of the most influential figures in U.S.-Philippine relations. Taft saw the Philippine relationship as a long-term prospect and foresaw a future where the islands would eventually become a dominion of a United States, like the relationship between Great Britain and Canada. This, it is argued here, was Taft’s distinct “imperial vision.” This thesis reassesses the role of Taft in the American imperial experiment in the Philippines between the years 1900 and 1921. During this period Taft was the highest-profile figure arguing consistently for a permanent imperial relationship with the Philippine Islands. Various historians have covered Philippine affairs during this period, but none has made such a detailed analysis of Taft as a leader in guiding Philippine policy toward retention. Taft held a number of high-level roles during the period 1900-1913 – when the Republican Party continuously controlled Philippine policy – which allowed him to maintain a permanent influence over the nature of U.S.-Philippine relations. After this period Taft had less direct influence, but utilised his experience, reputation and contacts to speak out against the Democratic Party’s policy for the islands and became the figurehead of a campaign to retain the Philippines.