The U.S. was an awkward colonial master, nowhere near as practiced or comfortable as the European powers, but from the beginning it worked to instill the importance of July Fourth in the Philippines. Though American forces effectively defeated the Filipinos in April 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt waited until July 4, 1902, to declare victory. That's right: the U.S. celebrated independence day that year by taking away the independence of another country; perhaps an early sign that America was not suited for colonialism. But it gave the thousands of American soldiers still in the Philippines two reasons to celebrate the Fourth. In Manila, the 30th U.S. Infantry Regiment held a parade to mark them both.
That same week, the U.S. Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act, which engineered the colonial Philippines' government as a semi-democratic, joint American-Filipino body. The legislature was split between a "Philippine Commission" of White House appointees and a less powerful "Philippine Legislature" of elected Filipinos. But overseeing them both was a Governor-General, hand-picked by the U.S. president. The first Governor-General was William Howard Taft. So, even if actual Filipinos did not observe the Fourth of July, their government certainly did.
But a number of Americans were uneasy with the colonial effort, among them The Atlantic, which that month published a long meditation on the contradiction of celebrating the Fourth of July while revoking another country's independence, and on "the attempts we are making to impose that organization by force upon Asiatic peoples." The unsigned piece argued, "It is plain enough now that we are holding the Philippines by physical force only, and that the brave and unselfish men we have sent there have been assigned to a task which is not only repellent to Americans, but bitterly resented by the supposed beneficiaries of our action." The magazine that had opposed slavery less than 50 years earlier, like many Americans, found colonialism a poor fit.
After five years -- the same time span between the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 2008 election of a presidential candidate who had opposed the war -- President Roosevelt and his government began to give in to public pressure. "We shall have to be prepared for giving the islands independence of a
more or less complete type much sooner than I think advisable," Roosevelt said that year. In Congress, Democrats began discussing a bill to re-write the Philippine Organic Act, giving the Philippines a more independent government and, eventually, actual independence. But Republicans held a majority in the Senate and, in 1908, the former Governor-General of the colony, William Howard Taft, was elected president. Independence would have to wait.
In 1912, President Taft was defeated by Woodrow Wilson, who supported the Democrats' plan. A few months after Wilson took office, the House of Representatives passed a bill with his backing that replaced the Philippines' White House-appointed legislature with a native, democratic one, and made the eventual independence of the island nation official U.S. policy. But negotiations in the Senate took years, and Wilson did not sign it into law until 1916.