In 1902, The Atlantic Monthly published a speech that Woodrow Wilson, newly appointed president of Princeton University, had recently given on the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton. In “The Ideals of America,” Wilson argued that just as the Battle of Trenton prepared the way for American independence, so the Battle of Manila in 1898 had opened the way for Philippine independence—but with this difference: Filipinos, he argued, were not yet ready for liberty and would need to be tutored in the arts of self-government. “They,” Wilson declared, “can have liberty no cheaper than we got it. They must first take the discipline of law, must first love order and instinctively yield to it … We are old in this learning and must be their tutors.” Just to be clear about his meaning, Wilson rephrased his argument in these terms: “In brief, the fact is this, that liberty is the privilege of maturity, of self-control, of self-mastery and a thoughtful care of righteous dealings—that some peoples may have it, therefore others may not.”1 As a constitutional scholar and theorist of American imperialism, Wilson had few contemporary rivals. But imperialism would require more than theory; it would require careful design and implementation. It is precisely this world of imperial design that Rebecca Tinio McKenna explores in her illuminating study of Baguio, the summer capital and resort that American colonial authorities built in Luzon Province, about 154 miles north of Manila and 5,000 above the tropical heat and humidity that was proving insufferable for U.S. government officials as they set out to transform the Philippines into a market hub for American imperialism in Asia. As McKenna notes at the outset of her book, U.S. imperial authorities had wasted little time learning from their European rivals about the importance of establishing “hill stations” as refugees from the heat and disease that swept colonial capital cities. The French had located their imperial retreat in Vietnam at Dat Lad, while the British had constructed two “hill stations” in India at Darjeeling and Shimla. As they fought to quell the raging fires of Filipino resistance to the American occupation, American colonial officials began planning their own pastoral enclave and invited one of America’s leading architects and urban planners, Daniel Burnham, to travel to the Philippines both to redesign Manila and to build a brand new imperial city in the highlands of Luzon. Burnham, of course, was no stranger to imperial projects: he had been the director of works for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and had been hired in 1901 to extend and augment Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for Washington, DC by giving the nation’s capital city a new look appropriate to America’s new stature as a global power. As he set to work on his plan for Baguio, Burnham’s mind blazed with the prospect of extending his work for the 1893 exposition, with its monumental, but temporary, Beaux- Arts structures, to a design for a permanent City Beautiful that would reflect the sense of “privilege” that Wilson had written about only a couple of years before. The transformation in the built environment on the sparsely populated Luzon plateau would be spectacular. As McKenna describes the landscape: “Where many Filipinos and Igorots lived in cramped quarters and portable nipa huts,” Burnham envisioned a complex of massive government buildings that would become “the audacious occupiers of large, permanent spaces, as if the conspicuous consumption of space proved, even generated, the eminence of the colonial government” (97). Gazing into the future, Burnham imagined the city would eventually grow to 25,000 and become nothing less than an “American imperial pastoral” landscape uniting longstanding American sensibilities of regeneration associated with proximity to nature with a “righteous” (to use one of Wilson’s descriptions) awareness of America’s emergence as a world power. Let me be clear. McKenna’s book is not a traditional history of architecture or urban planning. Her analysis follows recent scholarship that examines geographies of power (David Harvey) and the spatial production of power (Edward Soja)—scholarship that leads her to devote a chapter to considering the Baguio project in terms of colonial labor relations.2 McKenna particularly zeros in on the construction of the Beneguet Road that foreshadowed the construction of the Panama Canal as one of the most challenging engineering projects undertaken anywhere by any colonial power. Designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the twenty-five-mile road snaked its way up mountainsides, and required more than two years to build using the labor of about two thousand Filipino, Japanese, Malaysian, and Javanese workers, many of whom suffered from disease, fell off cliffs, or were injured by powerful dynamite blasts that loosened rocks. “Few days pass without casualties,” wrote one high-ranking American official (56). As McKenna explains, the road, while a marvel of engineering prowess, was also a vital communication corridor for advancing American economic interests and political control of the islands. In addition, it became an outdoor industrial school for Filipinos, a form of tutelage in adapting to the forces of modern industrial capitalism that would discipline Asian workers. “This,” McKenna tells us, “was colonial schooling in free agency and in the dignity of labor” (71). For McKenna’s argument, the road functions as a vital center for her examination of the ways U.S. colonial policies involving forest conservation (which were less about preserving pristine forests than furnishing lumber for American construction projects in Baguio and Manila and for forcing indigenous people off the land) followed from and helped to shape Progressive-era thinking back in the United States. As good as it is, American Imperial Pastoral could have been even better with greater attention to the evolution of Baguio across the twentieth century. To be fair, McKenna does conclude by briefly noting how, during the Second World War, the Japanese captured the American imperial dream city of Baguio and transformed what had been intended as a hill-city pastoral refuge for America’s colonial authorities into a prison camp for American soldiers. And she does note how the American imperial dream of remaking the Philippines into an emporium for American trade faded and left in its wake an independent nation that today rests no small amount of its economy on the export of temporary workers around the globe. The entwined pathways of neoimperialism and neoliberalism that evolved in the Philippines are well worth pondering at greater length and scholars interested in exploring these developments will be grateful that McKenna has paved the way for exactly this kind of study. In her conclusion, McKenna offers the tantalizing idea that American imperial designs in and toward the Philippines can best be understood as a series of palimpsests. I would suggest that her book can be read in exactly the same way with each chapter revealing overlays of architecture, political economy, political insurrection, and economics. This is no small achievement and one that should inspire others to consider the methodological implications of this approach for their own studies of the American imprint on the modern world. Footnotes 1 Woodrow Wilson, “The Ideals of America,” The Atlantic Monthly 90 (December 1902): 728, 730. 2 David Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Toward a Spatial Geography (New York, 2001); Edward Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London, 1989). © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Diplomatic History – Oxford University Press
Published: May 24, 2018
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