• [Spanish-American War] George Boutwell Urges Gen. Nelson To Reject McKinley's Imperialistic Philippine Policies

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    Offering a superb 2 ¼ pp, 8 ½ x 11, TLS marked “Personal and Confidential,” Boston, MA, Nov. 22, 1898, from George Boutwell to Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles expressing strong opposition to American involvement in the Philippines, action that led Boutwell to abandon the Republican Party.  After Spain was defeated in the Spanish-American War, it ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate on February 6, 1899.  Just before ratification, however, fighting broke out between American forces and Filipino nationalists who sought independence rather than a change in colonial rule.  Boutwell was founder and first president of the American Anti-Imperialist League and would promote Philippine independence until his death. In this letter, Boutwell seems highly concerned about America’s involvement in foreign nations and is quietly trying to influence Miles not to express support for the country’s involvement in a foreign land.

     

     “Except for the question contained in your letter of Nov. 19 I should not burden you with another communication.  The question contains an implication of facts which do not correspond with the knowledge that is public. First of all our army in the Philippines has not under its control a population much in excess of the population of the city of Manila, which, upon the best authority, contains not more than 300,000 inhabitants. 

     

    “Next I would say that neither the president nor anybody else in authority had the right to guarantee protection to the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands. Our forces are there as an army of conquest by sea and by land, and the people of the Islands, by international law and by unbroken usage, are enemies and they are protected only as conquered cities and provinces are for the time being protected by military authority, and neither the head of our army nor the commander of our fleets had any authority to guarantee any protection in excess of that which I have already mentioned.  Beyond that, Gen. Merritt has said publicly that since his arrival there no promise of protection of protection has been given either by him or by Gen. Otis, disclaiming, however, in that connection, any knowledge of what had been done previous to his arrival.

     

    “The pledge that was made to the country by Congress and the President at the opening of the war has been distinctly violated, and those in authority will not be able to escape responsibility, although judgment may be deferred and penalties imposed at a later period. The country will not submit to heavy taxation, to large armies, to a fleet corresponding to that of Great Britain and to military exaction imposed upon the people, without a revolt at the polls which will dispose summarily and at a time not far distant, of those who are responsible for these proceedings.

     

    “It was my hope that you would keep yourself free from all declarations concerning the political events as they are transpiring. If your services as commander of the army are required in the West Indies or in the Philippines your duty will require you to serve. Nobody will expect any act on your part to the contrary, nor would any act to the contrary be approved by the people. The political questions are not decided and I think it would have been wise on your part to have kept yourself free from any entanglement concerning them. To my mind it is plain that in 1900, if there is enough of the Republican party left to justify a nomination of a candidate for the presidency, a new candidate will be sought for and he must be one who is not committed to the seizure and appropriation of provinces thousands of miles away. The pretext that they are to be permitted to govern themselves as soon as they are able, will not satisfy the country, who are to be called upon to contribute by taxation and by service in the army for the protection of people in whom they have no interest, and concerning whom they can have no expectation that they will be able to govern themselves during the life of any person in the United States who is now living.

     

    “Respectfully yours,

     

    “George S. Boutwell”

     

    BOUTWELL (January 28, 1818 – February 27, 1905) was a politician who served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Ulysses S. Grant, 20th Governor of Massachusetts, a U.S. Senator and Representative from Massachusetts, the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue under President Abraham Lincoln and a leader in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.  Boutwell was a strong abolitionist who, as a Senator, sponsored the Civil Rights Act of 1875. 

     

    MILES (August 8, 1839 – May 15, 1925) was an American military general who served in the Civil War, Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War. He was named Commanding General of the United States Army in 1895, a post he held during the Spanish-American War. Miles commanded forces at Cuban sites. After the surrender of Santiago de Cuba by the Spanish, he led the invasion of Puerto Rico.  He served as the first head of the military government, established on the island, acting as heads of the army of occupation and the administrator of civil affairs.

     

    The letter appears to be Boutwell’s retained copy, but it contains edits in his hand and is signed by him. Even toning, mailing folds, small pin attachment holes to the upper left, affecting nothing. 

     

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