How do we assess the motives of persons involved in the imperial projects of the past? Can their written word be taken at face value? Are their recorded acts so transparent as to enable us to read clearly the purposes behind their actions? To what extent can the lives of individuals be disentangled from the broad colonial projects in which they were direct participants? Grappling with these questions are the articles in this issue, which examine the lives of officials at different levels of the Spanish and North American colonial administrations.
Shelton Woods directly confronts these questions in the life of John Early who, through many twists and turns, arrived in the Philippines in 1906 to serve as a school teacher but found himself appointed as lieutenant governor of the subprovince of Amburayan in 1909 and of Bontoc in 1910 and later as governor of the Mountain Province in 1922. Woods presents Early as acting with respect and compassion toward the colonized, and thus did not conform to the racist profile of US officials usually adduced in historical studies. But rather than portray him as the antithesis of the racist—although Early did take steps to repudiate official policy he deemed inimical to the Igorot—Woods suggests that a close look at Early would show him to be a complex character who exemplified gray, rather than white, love—someone not neatly categorizable as either vicious or virtuous.
A central figure in US-Philippine history, William Howard Taft served as the first US civil governor of the Philippines (1901-1903); he went on to become US president (1909-1913). Adam Burns narrates Taft's "benevolent" conviction that independence was not in the best interest of the Philippines and no promise of a future grant of independence ought to be made. Burns reinscribes the significance of the period after 1913 when Taft—presenting [End Page 127] himself as postpolitical and disinterested—became de facto leader of a campaign to retain the islands as US territory. Although the movement failed, the narrative insinuates that Taft's projection of a nonpartisan self helped his dream to gain a seat in the US Supreme Court, which was fulfilled in 1921 when he became chief justice, the only former president to have done so.
Occupied by Spain in 1668, the Mariana Islands were governed from Manila until 1898. Alexandre Coello focuses on the period 1700 to 1720 when, amid the relative isolation of the Marianas, the Spanish governors lorded it over their subjects and treated the islands as their private fiefdom. Coello shows that structural features of Spanish colonial administration abetted the indiscriminate exploitation of the Chamorros and the flourishing of "bad greed"—seen most vividly in the governorship of Juan Antonio Pimentel (1709-1720) that Jesuit missionaries denounced. Coello argues, however, that Pimentel's legal problems were precipitated not by his abuse of power but by his amicable relations with English corsairs, an act that could be explained not just by greed but also by Spain's weak system of defense in the Pacific.
The Maura Law of 1893 was meant to reform municipal governance in the Spanish Philippines, a topic Glòria Cano discussed in the previous issue of this journal. A central part of the reform dealt with the electoral process, which sought to remove the "moral influence" of the provincial governor who intervened directly in the election of the gobernadorcillo, a post that was given the new title of municipal captain. The law also gave propertied native elites greater electoral participation. The practical outworking of reform is analyzed by Juan Antonio Inarejos through a case study of San Isidro de Tubao in La Union province, where local Spaniards maneuvered to control the town's headship. Ultimately the governor's and the local Spaniards' corrupt manipulation of the successive elections held in 1894 and 1895 was put in check—to prevent greater disaffection with Spain, Inarejos says. But time was not on the side of the Maura Law and its good intentions, as the Philippine Revolution against Spain soon redirected the course of history.
For many years now Philippine historiography has attended to Filipinos. The articles...