In A War of Frontier and Empire, Silbey traces the rise and fall of President Emilio Aguinaldo, as Aguinaldo tries to liberate the Philippines from colonial rule only to fail, devastatingly, before a relentless American army. He tracks President McKinley’s decision to commit troops and fulfill a divinely inspired injunction to “uplift and civilize” despite the protests of many Americans. Most important, Silbey provides a clear lens to view the Philippines as, in the crucible of war, it transforms itself from a territory divided by race, ethnicity, and warring clans into a cohesive nation on the path to independence.
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The United States had its first experience with people who didn't appreciate being liberated when they took the Philippines from Spain and then faced a native revolt. President William McKinley drew his inspiration for the US policy towards the Philippines during a nighttime revelation, which told him to bring them into the American sphere.