Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another R.C. Bowman Cartoon on the Interwebs

One of the most viewed of my blog entries has consistently been this one, where I posted cartoons by turn-of-the-century editorial cartoonist for the Minneapolis Tribune R. C. Bowman about the Philippines. At the time those cartoons were drawn, 1900, the Philippines were an American colony, seized from Spain in the Spanish-American War.

Tracking back through the searches people were undertaking to find that blog post, I've found that a number of sites have posted the cartoon at left. Most of those sites probably found the cartoon at this Wikipedia page about the history of the Philippines.  While someone callously removed the cartoonist's signature, and it is therefore unattributed except to the Minneapolis Tribune, I'm fairly confident that this is yet another example of R.C. Bowman's work.

The American pretext for war with Spain centered on Cuba rather than the Philippines, but with the American declaration of war on April 25, 1898, Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt ordered Admiral Dewey's fleet to attack the Spanish ships at the Philippines. U.S. forces had begun arriving in Cuba four months earlier; the McKinley administration had been agitating for Cuban independence since November, 1897. I would guess that this cartoon had to have been drawn between January 25 and April 25, 1898.

I have to wonder what McKinley means to do within the context of the cartoon. Surely he doesn't mean to push the Philippines over the edge into the Spanish abyss. Nor does it make sense that McKinley is holding the Philippines back from jumping into it.

Indeed, the character most in danger of falling off the cliff would appear to be Mr. Globe there, whose heels are right on the edge, and whose head is so disproportionately huge relative to the rest of his body that the first little sneeze is likely to sending him toppling backwards.

I suppose another interpretation of the cartoon would be that it was drawn after Spain ceded the Philippines to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris in December, but General Aguinaldo had already proclaimed Filipino independence on June 12. The McKinley administration opposed Aguinaldo's provisional government, but had no clear intention for the Philippines otherwise. Even if this cartoon were drawn in 1899, I still doubt that anyone in America or the Philippines seriously entertained the notion of returning the Philippines to Spanish rule.


Here's one additional bit of Filipino and presidential trivia: the first American governor of the Philippines, appointed in 1899, was none other than future American president William Howard Taft.

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