Early in 1902 Beekman Winthrop sent a letter to William Howard Taft complaining about the conflict amongst American military and civil authorities for control in Manila. At the time Taft, the Civil Governor and chair of the Philippine Commission, was in Washington to appear before the Senate Committee on the Philippine Islands.  Winthrop, a Harvard member of Taft’s clubs, was Assistant Executive Secretary of the Philippine Commission and soon to become governor of Porto Rico.

The Commanding General in the Philippines, Adna Chaffee, wrote of the Filipinos that they professed “friendship for us, while we know that without a doubt they are intensely hostile.” Many officers questioned the ability of the civil government to govern. Winthrop saw it in it the interests “a few second lieutenants arbitrary power over some pueblos,” and further their military careers

Manila Ayuntamiento

The debate was held even within the army intelligence community. Ralph Van Deman wrote in his FINAL MEMORANDUM that the Army Military Intelligence Division in Manila “discovered an active plot for an attack on Manila and for the proposed assassination of all of the important military officials in the city,” The Department of War was receiving other information, Col. Clarence Edward, chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs hearing that such information was coming “from our own back door,” according to a civilian agent in the MID.

What was at stake was differing orientations to intelligence, was it for gathering information or for using information? In his FINAL MEMORANDUM Van Deman recounts a run he had with Gen J Franklin Bell, who at the time was Provost Marshall-General of the City of Manila.  Van Deman stamped confiscated documents as property of the MID before returning them.  Bell didn’t want that. Understanding or intimidation?

James LeRoy asked of an apparent similar event, reputed attempts to assassinate Gen Otis and other officers in Manila, “why make out this attempted rising to be a grave matter, one constituting a serious menace to American power in Manila. Whoever was back of it, first and last, it was more like a lot of children’s doings than anything else; the men concerned talked big and did very little.”

LeRoy was secretary to Philippine Commission member Dean C. Worcester. He was commenting on Capt. J.R.M. Taylor’s compendium of insurgent documents, which seemed to him lacking, The American Army Command in Manila were at odds with the Philippine Commission in Manila at a number of levels.


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