William McKinley Quote

“We could not leave them to themselves -- they were unfit for self-government -- and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was ... there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.”

~ William McKinley

1899, on the Filipinos, following the U.S. invasion of the Philippines in 1898. During the invasion and occupation, U.S. forces killed an estimated 200,000 Filipino civilians. Address to the Methodist Episcopal Church; cited in Olcott, The Life of William McKinley (1916), v. 2, p. 110; estimate of civilian casualties from U.S. Library of Congress, "The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War," 1998.

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

Murderous-war-hate-power mongers often try to justify their atrocities by hiding behind a facade of an otherwise moral existence. The referenced imperializing mayhem could not, can not, be justified by claiming an attempt to uplift, civilize, or Christianize an already noble segment of the Family of Man.

E Archer, NYC

This is what the US government has become -- an arrogant, imperialist power no better than the old British or Communnists. Christians should remember, 'as you sow, so shall you reap'. Americans have somehow made themselves the world's 'savior' -- but who will protect them from us? Hypocrites all.

Ken, Allyn, WA

I know several Filipinos. Most realize that their society is better than it would have been under Spanish colonial rule or if they had been left to fight it out amongst themselves. Most are appreciative for our efforts in WWII and beyond. On the other hand, like all people, they did not like having their lives controlled by foreigners. It has long been a love/hate relationship, but on balance they seem to prefer Americans to anyone else in the world. I will give this a couple of stars for the pragmatic truth in the statement that came from having to choose between two bad choices.

  • Reply
EGL, LA    3/8/07

America's typical patriarchal view of peoples who they see as less civilized and socially enlgihtened as they think themselves to be, makes me sick. It is only becasue we are actually novices in the game of statecraft that we are so self righteous. No less true of any group of peole we have earmarked for the need to be 'christianized, democratized, and americanized" the Filipinos may now think their country preferable to the colonized or pre-conlonized state they once were, but like Iraq, they should have been left to achieve transformation through their own loss of life and treasure. In Manila there is one of only three US national cemeteries that is maintained overseas by our national parks system (one other in Mexico City and the other at Normandy)-over sixty thousand americans died and are buried there, tens of thousands more in unmarked graves. Like Arlington writ large.

Ken, Allyn, WA

Should we care whether Africans are killing each other with war, disease, and starvation? Is it any of our business? Should we care if our neighbor is beating his wife or abusing his children? Is that any of our business either? Maybe it's just cultural differences, after all, and we all know all cultures are equal. Each of the soldiers in those cemeteries decided for himself whether he was willing to pay the price. You or I may believe the price was too high, but it was ultimately their decision.

  • Reply
    Bec    4/15/09

    This quote may not have even been said by McKinley. There's only one person who "remembered" it and his account is dubious as best.


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