Front Page Titles (by Subject) U.S. Imperialism: Indian & Filipinos - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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U.S. Imperialism: Indian & Filipinos - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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U.S. Imperialism: Indian & Filipinos
“United States Indian Policy and the Debate over Philippine Annexation: Implications for the Origins of American Imperialism.” The Journal of American History 66(March 1980):810–836.
The author argues against the conventional view that American imperialism began in 1898 (annexation of the Philippines and the Spanish-American war), on the grounds that our policy towards annexing the Philippines was set by our treatment of the American Indians. Imperialists themselves made this argument, and Williams suggests historians would do well to take this view seriously.
Williams claims that the Indians were colonized. They were culturally different people who, because of their dissimilarities with most Americans, were not incorporated into the political process but were enveloped by the United States without being given citizenship rights. Such colonization began with a change in Indian status from being regarded as a sovereign nation (as defined by treaty), to that of “domestic dependent nations” or “wards” (as defined by Chief Justice Marshall). By 1871, Congress stopped making treaties with the Indians, and the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could override an old treaty simply by statute. By 1885, the Court held that the Indians were only “local dependent communities” and that those born on the reservations were not granted citizenship rights as defined by the 14th Amendment. By the end of the century, the federal government had virtually unlimited power over the Indians. They were powerless subjects with no rights or treaty guarantees that the government had to respect.
This colonial status of the Indians was used by the imperialist as a model for the alien subject people overseas (in the Philippines). Imperialism abroad was compared to expansionism at home, and since the imperialists favored the former, the stage was set for the argument that annexing the Philippines involved continuity with the past. Since expansionism in the United States meant progress, which in turn meant conquering the Indians, then it followed that incorporation of non-contiguous people as alien subjects was not a dramatic change.
The imperialist argument goes as follows: (1) Alaska was noncontiguous, and neither that territory nor the Indian or New Mexican territories would be states unless Anglo Saxons had populated them. (2) The distance of the Philippines created no problem for government control. When California was annexed in 1848, it was less accessible than the Philippines were in the early twentieth century (given modern technology). Furthermore, the western territories were “colonies” and no different from overseas territories; that is, in both cases Congress had supreme and total power to do with them what they pleased.
The anti-imperialist argued against annexation by insisting that the American form of government involved consent by the governed—hardly the case with the Philippines Islands. The imperialists refuted that statement by using the Indian colonization as a precedent. Most anti-imperialists accepted nonconsensual expansion in Indian lands. As Henry Cabot Lodge, a leading imperialist, commented, if the anti-imperialists are right, then “our whole past record of expansionism is a crime.” Since most anti-imperialists did not view expansionism as a crime, they either denied the Indian analogy or ignored the issue entirely.
Another comparison between the treatment of the Indians and the Filipinos can be seen in both the voting record on Indian policy and foreign imperialism as well as the rhetoric in the Congressional debates. In the former case, there is a strong correlation between Congressmen's votes on Indians and foreign annexation. In the latter case, the rhetoric of civilization versus barbarism was quite strong, as was the belief that both Indians and Filipinos were barbarians. Imperialist rhetoric also affected the 1899–1902 war, which was viewed by most soldiers and officers as an Indian war. Most soldiers and officers who fought in the war had fought in the Indian wars in the west. Because of this, the U.S. army was probably more prepared to fight a guerrilla war at that time than any time subsequently.
Given all the above information, Williams concludes that the events in 1898–1902 did not involve a noted departure in the foreign affairs behavior of the American government.