Treaty of Paris, its disastrous protocols

Treaties are contracts between two or more States, but before these are signed elaborate negotiations take place between or among its signatories.  Demands and counter demands are embodied in Protocols. According to lawyer-historian Saul Hofileña, Jr: “Protocols serve as reliable evidence of the hidden motives and interests bitterly disputed by the signatories…” In his best-selling book, Under the Stacks (2011), chapter 6 is titled, “Treaty of Paris, Protocols of the ‘dirty little war’”. It reveals what went on between the two powers as they cobbled a treaty in Paris, in 1898.

On 15 February of the same year, during Cuba’s revolution against Spain, the American ship USS Maine was anchored at Havana harbor.  It exploded mysteriously in the dead of night, 266 crewmen perished, the USA accused Spain of sabotage. Some historians insist that it was self-inflicted because the USA needed an excuse to begin its “splendid little war “ in Cuba, against Spain.   On 22 July, Spain’s Minister of State, the Duke of Almodovar del Rio, wrote President William McKinley to ask for conditions that might end the war.  The US Department of State replied rapidly on 30 July,  and after a series of talks and written exchanges, a Protocol was signed by Spain and the USA in Washington, on 12 August 1898. The Protocol stated: Spain must relinquish sovereignty over Cuba, cede Puerto Rico along with possessions in the West Indies and an island in the Ladrones archipelago. As for the Philippine colony, Spain allows the USA the right to occupy and hold the city, bay and harbor of Manila, pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control, disposition and government of the Philippines. The Protocol provided for the appointment of commissioners who would meet in Paris no later than 1 October 1898, to negotiate and conclude a treaty.

Atty. Hofileña mentioned a Protocol No. 10 and a No. 11, the latter was delivered by the USA on 31 October and in effect, the USA wanted the archipelago’s formal surrender. It stated: “Spain that hereby cedes to the United States the archipelago known as Philippine Islands…”

Spain replied with Protocol No. 12, dated 4 November, stating its objection to the inclusion of the Philippine Islands as part of the territories to be ceded to the USA. Spain invoked an earlier Protocol dated 12 August by which it allowed the USA to occupy only the bay, harbor and city of Manila city, pending the conclusion of a treaty and the control and disposition of a government for the Philippines. As far as Spain was concerned, that part about a government for the Philippines “had no meaning”, but when asked for clarification, the USA gave none. Instead, the USA obdurately refused to include the provisions of 12 August 1898, but Spain continued to resist so the conference was adjourned on 9 Nov.

With Protocol no.  15, the USA set as deadline 28 November for the “definite and final acceptance” by Spain of the American proposal with regard to the fate of the Philippines, Cuba,  Puerto Rico, islands in the West Indies and payment of war debts.  Protocol no.  16 dated 28 Nov indicated that Spain surrendered to American demands because “of lack of material means to defend her rights”.  Protocol no.  19 dated 5 Dec 1898 had 8 articles annexed to it. In Article III, “Spain hereby cedes to the US the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands… The United States will pay to Spain the sum of Twenty Million Dollars within three months after the exchange of the ratification of the present treaty.”

On 10 December 1898, the “Treaty of Paris” was read and approved by the commissioners of Spain and the USA. On 21 December, Pres. McKinley issued a proclamation announcing the occupation of the Philippines by the United States of America and ordered Gen. Elwell Otis to convince the Filipinos that the American troops pouring into the islands in shiploads were there “not as invaders but as friends”. What was happening in the Philippines during this frenzied exchange of treacherous Protocols?

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who was in Hong Kong since the Pact of Biak-na-Bato had gotten in touch with the Americans. He returned to the Philippines aboard an American ship to resume the War of Independence. Filipinos won a series of battles against Spain and to consolidate his gains, Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence on 12 June 1898, to which an American was invited because he thought the USA was a true ally. On 18 June, he convened elections for delegates to a Revolutionary Congress.  He formed a cabinet. The Revolutionary Army besieged Intramuros where the colonial forces took a last stand and refused to surrender to  indio Filipinos.  The USA agreed to help Spaniards “save face” by engaging in a mock battle so the latter could surrender to the Americans. (more)