The Insular Government of the Philippine Islands was a territorial government of the United States of America created in 1901 in what is now the Republic of the Philippines. The name reflects the fact that it was a civilian administration under the authority of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, in contrast to the United States Military Government of the Philippine Islands that it replaced. The government was originally organized in the newly acquired territory by the executive branch of the American government in order to replace military governance with civilian.
The Tready of Paris, formally ending the Spanish-American War, had been signed by the United States and Spain on December 10, 1898. In Article III, Spain ceded the Philippine archipelago to the United States for the sum of $20,000,000. On November 7, 1900, Spain and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Washington, clarifying that the territories relinquished by Spain to the United States included any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, but lying outside the lines described in the Treaty of Paris. That treaty explicitly named the islands of Cagayan Sulu and Sibutu and their dependencies as among the relinquished territories.
The Philippines is an archipelago composed of about 7,641 islands with a total land area, including inland bodies of water, of 115,831 square miles (300,000 square kilometers). Its 22,549 miles (36,289 km) of coastline makes it the territory with the fifth longest coastline in the world. The Philippine Islands are located between 116° 40′, and 126° 34′ E longitude and 4° 40′ and 21° 10′ N latitude and is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea to the west, and the Celebes Sea to the south. The island of Borneo is located a few hundred kilometers southwest and Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are located to the south-southwest and Palau is located to the east of the islands.
Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical rainforest and volcanic in origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It measures up to 9,692 feet (2,954 meters) above sea level and is located on the island of Mindanao. The Galathea Depth in the Philippine Trench is the deepest point in the country and the third deepest in the world. The trench is located in the Philippine Sea. The longest river is the Cagayan River in northern Luzon. Manila Bay, upon the shore of which the capital city of Manila lies, is connected to Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, by the Pasig River. Subic Bay, the Davao Gulf, and the Moro Gulf are other important bays. The San Juanico Strait separates the islands of Samar and Leyte but it is traversed by the San Juanico Bridge.
Situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The Benham Plateau to the east in the Philippine Sea is an undersea region active in tectonic subduction. Around 20 earthquakes are registered daily, though most are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
There are many active volcanoes such as the Mayon Volcano, Mount Pinatubo, and Taal Volcano. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the twentieth century. Not all notable geographic features are so violent or destructive. A more serene legacy of the geological disturbances is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, the area represents a habitat for biodiversity conservation, the site also contains a full mountain-to-the-sea ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.
Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, mineral deposits are abundant. The country is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world. It is also rich in nickel, chromite, and zinc. Despite this, poor management, high population density, and environmental consciousness have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely untapped.
The Philippines was named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, during his expedition in 1542, named the islands of Leyte and Samar Felipinas after the then-Prince of Asturias. Eventually the name Las Islas Filipinas would be used to cover all the islands of the archipelago. Before that became commonplace, other names such as Islas del Poniente (Islands of the West) and Magellan’s name for the islands San Lázaro were also used by the Spanish to refer to the islands.
The official name of the Philippines has changed several times in the course of its history. During the Philippine Revolution, the Malolos Congress proclaimed the establishment of the República Filipina or the Philippine Republic. From the period of the Spanish–American War (1898) and the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) until the Commonwealth period (1935–46), American colonial authorities referred to the country as the Philippine Islands, a translation of the Spanish name. From the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the name Philippines began to appear and it has since become the country’s common name. Since the end of World War II, the official name of the country has been the Republic of the Philippines.
In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition arrived in the Philippines, claimed the islands for Spain and was then killed at the Battle of Mactan. Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first Hispanic settlements in Cebu. After relocating to Panay island and consolidating a coalition of native Visayan allies, Hispanic soldiers and Latin-American mercenaries, the Spaniards then invaded Islamic Manila, therein they put down the Tondo Conspiracy and exiled the conspirators to Guam and Guerrero. Under Spanish rule, they established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571.
Spanish rule eventually contributed significantly to bringing political unity to the fragmented states of the archipelago. From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as a territory of the Mexico-based Viceroyalty of New Spain and then was administered directly from Madrid after the Mexican War of Independence. The Manila galleons, the largest wooden ships ever built, were constructed in Bicol and Cavite. The Manila galleons were accompanied with a large naval escort as it traveled to and from Manila and Acapulco. The galleons sailed once or twice a year, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In 1767, the first post office was established in the city of Manila, which was later organized under a new postal district of Spain, encompassing Manila and the entire Philippine archipelago, in 1779. The postal district was reestablished on December 5, 1837. A year later, Manila became known as a leading center of postal services within Asia. Early mails to Manila were carried by the Acapulco galleon from Mexico. This service was interrupted by the rebellions in Central and South America and the route via Asia and Africa was run on a casual basis.
When Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in 1841, mail was routed through that colony. From 1854, stamps of India were available in Manila and were used to pre-pay postage by the merchants. In 1863, these were replaced by stamps of Hong Kong which were available until 1873 when Straits Settlements adhesives were available, except for mail to the United States for which Hong Kong stamps continued to be used. The use of foreign stamps ceased in 1877 when the Spanish colonies joined the Universal Postal Union.
On December 7, 1853, Spanish Governor General Antonio de Urbiztondo issued a circular whereby he ordered the establishment of prepaid postage compulsory for all mail matters circulating within the Philippine Islands whether addressed from one province to another or between the towns of the same. The first stamps were issued on February 1, 1854, and were of four denominations — 5 quartos, 10 quartos, 1 real, and 2 reales (Scott #1, 2, 4, and 5). These stamps depicted the profile of Spanish Queen Isabela II.
Until 1872, all the stamps used in the islands were identical with those issued in the other colonies of Spain. That year, a set of stamps was issued which bore the figure of Spanish King Amadeus and the words CORREOS FILIPINAS (Scott #43-47). Three years later, a new set of stamps were issued. They bore the figure of King Alfonso XIII (Scott #52-58). In 1891, postage stamps showing the picture of Alfonso XIII as a child of about three years and the words FILIPINAS were issued. These Alfonso XIII stamps were the last ones to be circulated by the Spanish Government until its fall in 1898 (Scott #140-180).
Unlike our present practice of affixing stamps in the upper right hand corner of the envelope, stamps during the Spanish period were in some instances, pasted on the upper left hand corner of the cover. During those times also stamp sellers received a commission from their sales as shown by the following provisions of Urbiztondo’s Circular: “The chief of the province in charge of the issuance of stamps and the Administrator of the Estancadas of Tondo with the consent of the superintendent are given 10% commission on the sales of stamps as remunerations and to cover the expenses that they may incur in the performance of their work, labor, and the consequent responsibilities”.
Revolutionary sentiments were stoked in 1872 after three priests — Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as Gomburza) — were accused of sedition by colonial authorities and executed. This would inspire a propaganda movement in Spain, organized by Marcelo H. del Pilar, José Rizal, and Mariano Ponce, lobbying for political reforms in the Philippines. Rizal was eventually executed on December 30, 1896, on charges of rebellion. As attempts at reform met with resistance, Andrés Bonifacio in 1892 established the secret society called the Katipunan, who sought independence from Spain through armed revolt.
Bonifacio and the Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution in 1896. A faction of the Katipunan, the Magdalo of Cavite province, eventually came to challenge Bonifacio’s position as the leader of the revolution and Emilio Aguinaldo took over. In 1898, the Spanish–American War began in Cuba and reached the Philippines. On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines at his house in Cavite El Viejo. Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista wrote the Philippine Declaration of Independence, and read this document in Spanish that day at Aguinaldo’s house. On June 18, Aguinaldo issued a decree formally establishing his dictatorial government. On June 23, Aguinaldo issued another decree, this time replacing the dictatorial government with a revolutionary government (and naming himself as President).
On August 13, 1898, with American commanders unaware that a ceasefire had already been signed between Spain and the United States on the previous day, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish in the Battle of Manila. The battle started when Admiral Dewey’s ships bombarded Fort San Antonio Abad, a decrepit structure on the southern outskirts of Manila, and the virtually impregnable walls of Intramuros. In accordance with the plan, the Spanish forces withdrew while U.S. forces advanced. Once a sufficient show of battle had been made, Dewey hoisted the signal “D.W.H.B.” (meaning “Do you surrender?), whereupon the Spanish hoisted a white flag and Manila was formally surrendered to U.S. forces.
This battle marked the end of Filipino-American collaboration, as the American action of preventing Filipino forces from entering the captured city of Manila was deeply resented by the Filipinos. This later led to the Philippine–American War, which would prove to be more deadly and costly than the Spanish–American War.
On August 14, 1898, two days after the capture of Manila, the United States Military Government of the Philippine Islands was established, with General Merritt acting as military governor. During military rule (1898–1902), the U.S. military commander governed the Philippines under the authority of the U.S. President as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. After the appointment of a civil Governor-General, the procedure developed that as parts of the country were pacified and placed firmly under American control, responsibility for the area would be passed to the civilian.
The revolutionary government known as the First Philippine Republic or the Malolos Republic was formally established with the proclamation of the Malolos Constitution on January 23, 1899, in Malolos, Bulacan, On February 4, 1899, Aguinaldo declared “That peace and friendly relations with the Americans be broken and that the latter be treated as enemies, within the limits prescribed by the laws of war.” On June 2, 1899, the Malolos Congress enacted and ratified a declaration of war on the United States, which was publicly proclaimed on that same day by Pedro Paterno, President of the Assembly.
The Revolutionary Government issued its own postage stamps. As a symbol of its new found freedom, the young Republic made its stamp in the shape of a triangle, perhaps to signify the French Revolution’s LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY. The Filipino rebels issued in all 14 different stamps. There were three regular varieties for postage. one for registration, one for newspapers, seven for revenues and two for telegraphs. These stamps, however, were indiscriminately used by the people so that a letter sometimes had two or more of these stamps affixed on its envelope.
Under the U.S. military government, an American-style school system was introduced, initially with soldiers as teachers; civil and criminal courts were reestablished, including a supreme court; and local governments were established in towns and provinces. The first local election was conducted by General Harold W. Lawton on May 7, 1899, in Baliuag, Bulacan. General Merritt was succeeded by General Otis as military governor, who in turn was succeeded by General MacArthur.
The American military government issued regular United States stamps overprinted with the word PHILIPPINES for postal purposes beginning on June 30, 1899 These were used up to August 1906 (Scott #212-240).
As before when fighting the Spanish, the Filipino rebels did not do well in the field. Aguinaldo and his provisional government escaped after the capture of Malolos on March 31, 1899, and were driven into northern Luzon. Peace feelers from members of Aguinaldo’s cabinet failed in May when the American commander, General Ewell Otis, demanded an unconditional surrender. In 1901, Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States, marking one end to the war.
Major General Adna Chaffee was the final American military governor of the Philippines.
The Insular Government evolved from the Taft Commission, or Second Philippine Commission, appointed on March 16, 1900. This group was headed by William Howard Taft, and was granted legislative powers by President William McKinley in September 1900. The commission created a judicial system, an educational system, a civil service, and a legal code. The legality of these actions was contested until the passage of the Spooner Amendment in 1901, which granted the U.S. President authority to govern the Philippines.
The Insular Government saw its mission as one of tutelage, preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. On July 4, 1901, Taft was appointed “civil governor”, who also named his cabinet at his inaugural address. Military Governor Adna Chaffee retained authority in disturbed areas. On July 4, 1902, the office of military governor was abolished, and Taft became the first U.S. Governor-General of the Philippines.
In 1902, the United States Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act, which formally organized the Insular Government and served as its basic law, or organic act, similar to a constitution. This act provided for a Governor-General of the Philippines appointed by the President of the United States, as well as a bicameral Philippine Legislature with the appointed Philippine Commission as the upper house and a fully elected, fully Filipino elected lower house, the Philippine Assembly. The organic act also disestablished the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines as the state religion. In 1904, Taft negotiated the purchase of 390,000 acres of church property for $7.5 million. This land was resold to tens of thousands of peasants, who received low-cost mortgages.
On September 8, 1906, 14 new stamps were issued bearing the inscription PHILIPPINE ISLANDS / UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and bearing a mix of Filipino and American subjects such as portraits of Jose Rizal, William McKinley, Abraham Lincoln, and the arms of Manila (Scott #241-254).
After the completion and publication of a census, a general election was conducted in 1906 for the choice of delegates to a popular assembly. An elected Philippine Assembly was convened in 1907 as the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the Philippine Commission as the upper house. Every year from 1907, the Philippine Assembly (and later the Philippine Legislature) passed resolutions expressing the Filipino desire for independence.
Philippine nationalists led by Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña enthusiastically endorsed the draft Jones Bill of 1912, which provided for Philippine independence after eight years, but later changed their views, opting for a bill which focused less on time than on the conditions of independence. The nationalists demanded complete and absolute independence to be guaranteed by the United States, since they feared that too-rapid independence from American rule without such guarantees might cause the Philippines to fall into Japanese hands. The Jones Bill was rewritten and passed Congress in 1916 with a later date of independence.
The law, officially the Philippine Autonomy Act but popularly known as the Jones Law, served as the new organic act for the Philippines. Its preamble stated that the eventual independence of the Philippines would be American policy, subject to the establishment of a stable government. The law maintained an appointed governor-general, but established a bicameral Philippine Legislature to replace the elected Philippine Assembly (lower house); it replaced the appointive Philippine Commission (upper house) with an elected senate.
Filipinos suspended the independence campaign during the First World War and supported the United States and the Entente Powers against the German Empire. After the war they resumed their independence drive with great vigor. On March 17, 1919, the Philippine Legislature passed a “Declaration of Purposes”, which stated the inflexible desire of the Filipino people to be free and sovereign. A Commission of Independence was created to study ways and means of attaining liberation ideal. This commission recommended the sending of an independence mission to the United States. The “Declaration of Purposes” referred to the Jones Law as a veritable pact, or covenant, between the American and Filipino peoples whereby the United States promised to recognize the independence of the Philippines as soon as a stable government should be established. American Governor-General of the Philippines Francis Burton Harrison had concurred in the report of the Philippine Legislature as to a stable government.
On April 4, 1919, a pioneering American flyer by the name of Ruth Law made some exhibition flights over Manila. To honor the unusual occasion, special cards were postally cancelled by the Bureau of Posts, thus inaugurating the first aerial mail service in the Islands.
Spanish aviators Edwardo Gallarza and Joaquín Loriga arrived in Manila on May 13, 1926, following a 39-day flight from Madrid. Postal authorities commemorated the event by the overprinting of all values of the 1917-1927 regular issues with the inscription AIRMAIL MADRID MANILA 1926. These were the first airmail stamps released in the Philippines,
The Philippine Legislature funded an independence mission to the United States in 1919. The mission departed Manila on February 28 and met in America with and presented their case to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, in his 1921 farewell message to Congress, certified that the Filipino people had performed the condition imposed on them as a prerequisite to independence, declaring that, this having been done, the duty of the U.S. is to grant Philippine independence. The Republican Party then controlled Congress and the recommendation of the outgoing Democratic president was not heeded.
After the first independence mission, public funding of such missions was ruled illegal. Subsequent independence missions in 1922, 1923, 1930, 1931 1932, and two missions in 1933 were funded by voluntary contributions. Numerous independence bills were submitted to the U.S. Congress, which passed the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Bill on December 30, 1932. U.S. President Herbert Hoover vetoed the bill on January 13, 1933. Congress overrode the veto on January 17, and the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act became U.S. law. The law promised Philippine independence after 10 years, but reserved several military and naval bases for the United States, as well as imposing tariffs and quotas on Philippine exports. The law also required the Philippine Senate to ratify the law. Quezon urged the Philippine Senate to reject the bill, which it did. Quezon himself led the twelfth independence mission to Washington to secure a better independence act. The result was the Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934 which was very similar to the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act except in minor details. The Tydings–McDuffie Act was ratified by the Philippine Senate. The law provided for the granting of Philippine independence by 1946.
The Tydings–McDuffie Act provided for the drafting and guidelines of a constitution for a ten-year “transitional period” as the Commonwealth of the Philippines before the granting of Philippine independence. On May 5, 1934, the Philippines Legislature passed an act setting the election of convention delegates. Governor-General Frank Murphy designated July 10 as the election date, and the Convention held its inaugural session on July 30. The completed draft Constitution was approved by the Convention on February 8, 1935, approved by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt on March 23, and ratified by popular vote on May 14. The first election under the new 1935 constitution was held on September 17, and on November 15, 1935 the Commonwealth was put into place.
On February 15, 1935, the first stamps of the Philippines depicting historical events were issued. This set of pictorial stamps consisted of fourteen different values (Scott #383-396). Five of these stamps — the 10 cents Fort Santiago, the 16 cents Magellan, the 30 cents Blood Compact, 1 peso Barasoain Church, and the 2 pesos Battle of Manila Bay, commemorated unforgettable chapters in the hectic history of the Philippines. Upon the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government on November 15, 1935, a set of five stamps were released inscribed UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES (Scott #397-401).
Scott #396 is the highest value of the final issue released by the U.S. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands, issued on February 15, 1935. The 5 peso green and black engraved stamp, perforated 11, depicts the first President of the United States, General George Washington atop a white horse (either Prescott or Nelson) receiving a salute on the field of Trenton after a painting (oil on canvas) by John Faed, R.S.A., and originally engraved by William Holl. The print the stamp is based upon was first published by the Kendall Bank Note Company of New York, circa 1860. It depicts Washington on horseback, holding his hat in one hand and sword in the other.
George Washington is popularly considered the driving force behind the establishment of the United States of America and came to be known as the “father of the country,” both during his lifetime and to this day. Washington was widely admired for his strong leadership qualities and was unanimously elected president by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Washington’s incumbency established many precedents still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. President. His retirement from office after two terms established a tradition that lasted until 1940 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. The 22nd Amendment (1951) now limits the president to two elected terms.
He was born on February 22, 1732, into the provincial gentry of Colonial Virginia to a family of wealthy planters who owned tobacco plantations and slaves, which he inherited. In his youth, he became a senior officer in the colonial militia during the first stages of the French and Indian War. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress commissioned him as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution. In that command, Washington forced the British out of Boston in 1776 but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City.
In early December 1776, American morale was very low. The Americans had been ousted from New York by the British and their Hessian auxiliaries, and the Continental Army was forced to retreat across New Jersey. Ninety percent of the Continental Army soldiers who had served at Long Island were gone. Men had deserted, feeling that the cause for independence was lost. Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, expressed some doubts, writing to his cousin in Virginia, “I think the game is pretty near up.”
At the time a small town in New Jersey, Trenton was occupied by three regiments of Hessian soldiers (numbering about 1,400 men) commanded by Colonel Johann Rall. Washington’s force comprised 2,400 men, with infantry divisions commanded by Major Generals Nathanael Greene and John Sullivan, and artillery under the direction of Brigadier General Henry Knox.
To end the year on a positive note, Washington devised a plan to cross the Delaware River on the night of December 25–26 and surround the Hessian garrison. Because the river was icy and the weather severe, the crossing proved dangerous. Two detachments were unable to cross the river, leaving Washington with only 2,400 men under his command in the assault. The army marched nine miles (14 km) south to Trenton.
The Battle of Trenton took place on the morning of December 26, 1776. After Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton the previous night, the general led the main body of the Continental Army against the Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton. The Hessians had lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, and had no long-distance outposts or patrols. Washington’s forces caught them off guard and, after a short but fierce resistance, most of the Hessians surrendered, with negligible losses to the Americans. Almost two thirds of the 1,500-man garrison was captured, and only a few troops escaped across Assunpink Creek.
The battle significantly boosted the Continental Army’s flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments. With the success of the revolution in doubt a week earlier, the army had seemed on the verge of collapse. The dramatic victory inspired soldiers to serve longer and attracted new recruits to the ranks.
Having defeated the British at Trenton and Princeton, Washington retook New Jersey and restored momentum to the Patriot cause. His strategy enabled Continental forces to capture two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. Historians laud Washington for the selection and supervision of his generals; preservation and command of the army; coordination with the Congress, state governors, and their militia; and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was repeatedly outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies.
After victory had been finalized in 1783, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief rather than seize power, proving his opposition to dictatorship and his commitment to American republicanism. Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which devised a new form of federal government for the United States. Following his election as president in 1789, he worked to unify rival factions in the fledgling nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton’s programs to satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a national bank. In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. He remained non-partisan, never joining the Federalist Party, although he largely supported its policies. Washington’s Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue, warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. He retired from the presidency in 1797, returning to his home and plantation at Mount Vernon.
Upon his death on December 14, 1799, Washington was eulogized as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen” by Representative Henry Lee III of Virginia. He was revered in life and in death; scholarly and public polling consistently ranks him among the top three presidents in American history. He has been depicted and remembered in monuments, public works, currency, and other dedications to the present day.