The Philippine Indepenence Act

(Tydings-MeDuffie Act)

   Also known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act (24 March 1934), the Philippine Independence Act 1 was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Its authors were Senator Millard Evelyn Tydings of Maryland and Representative John McDuffie of Alabama. Both were Democrats in the 73d United States Congress.2

   The Act which offered Philippine independence from the United States after a period of ten years ultimately created the path for self-government of the Philippines. On 1 May 1934, the Philippine Senate approved the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Under the provisions of the act, the Constitution of the Philippines was drafted and became law upon approval by FDR on 23 March 1935, thereupon establishing the Commonwealth of the Philippines.3

   Besides the road to independence, there were other provisions in place, pending the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippine Islands.

   Sec.2. (a) (12): The Philippine recognizes … upon order of the President, to call into the service of such armed forces all military forces organized by the Philippine government. Another provision, Sec.10. (a) & (b), allowed the United States President to discuss matters in regards to letting U.S. naval reservations and fueling stations placed in the Philippines after two years of independence.

   Sec.8. (a) (1) & (2): For the purposes of the Immigration Act of 1917, the Immigration Act of 1924  (except section 13 (c) ), … citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they were aliens….shall have a quota of fifty. An exception was provided to meet the needs of the industry of the Territory of Hawaii. Of note, the allocation of fifty is half the minimum quota that the 1924 Immigration Act established for all other non-Asian nationalities.4


   Various factions confronted the United States Congress with regards to the Philippines (e.g., labor unions, business, the marketplace, as well as economic and military benefits, and anti-immigrant and racists sentiments). Underlying the above was the traditional American value of self-determination as fundamental to policy. It was recognized in the Schurman Commission established 3 January 1899. Citing Thomas Jefferson’s precedent in the Louisiana Purchase on unorganized territories, the end goal is “complete self-government.”5

   President Theodore Roosevelt echoed the sentiment to Congress in 1901, envisioning “self-government after the fashion of really free nations.” In 1902, the Philippine Organic Act prohibited any sizeable U.S. investment in agriculture, banking, or money. And in 1916, Congress went further and passed the Philippine Autonomy Act, which established a legislature, extended the vote to all literate adult males, and announced plans to grant independence as soon as possible.6

   In conflict with ideal American values were the racial discriminatory practices encountered by Philippine immigrants and other ethnic groups. Following the 1875, 1882, Chinese exclusion laws of 1902 and 1904, voluntary restrictions on Japanese immigration of the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907-1908, the 1917 and the Immigration Act of 1924 (the National Origins Act), virtually all immigrations, save from the Philippines, from the region of Asia were denied.7

  Decades of racist sentiments manifested itself in social control of space through restricted immigration laws. In the words of Senator Tydings McDuffie, “It is absolutely illogical to have an immigration policy to exclude Japanese and Chinese and permit Filipinos en masse to come into the country … they will come in conflict with white labor … and increase the opportunity for more racial prejudice and bad feelings of all kinds.” It did not matter that it was the United States, following Spain that colonized the Philippines; it did not matter that it was American companies that initially recruited and employed Philippine workers.8

   In coalition with the anti-immigration forces but for a different reason, the nationalists of the Philippines had sent from 1919 to 1933 twelve Independence Missions to the United States campaigning for recognition of Philippine Independence. To that objective, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act of 1933 (HHC) was passed over the veto of President Herbert Clark Hoover. Brought home by the Os-Roxas Mission (Senate President pro tempore Sergio Osmeña, Jr. and House Speaker Manuel Acuña. Roxas), it was rejected by the Philippine Legislature in October 1933. The Act permitted the United States to retain too much political and military power, and restrictions placed on Filipino agricultural products and immigrant labor.9

   In November, 1933, Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, President of the Philippine Senate, successfully led the twelfth mission to Washington, D.C., securing in the process a better independence act than the HHC. The timing was historically on point. In the milieu of the Great Depression, the anti-immigrants sentiments forged in a coalition of ethnic, cultural, and economic protectionists and by Philippine Nationalists, the Philippine Independence Act became a reality.10

   In many respect debate over the “Philippine problem” had been as divided over granting independence to the Philippines as it had been in debating whether to colonize the islands three decades earlier. One solution to the exclusion of Philippine immigrants lay in the passing of Philippine independence. This concern readily dovetailed with the pressure of U.S. industry and labor unions. To give it credibility, the decision by the policy-makers provided ostensibly a sense of reasoned scientific authority, in a geopolitically informed eugenic discourse.11

   The Tydings-McDuffie Act was a “significant attempt to uniformly ban Asian immigration and redefine America’s notion of ‘Asia.”12 In its development and rationale, the provisions reflect the design to balance labor considerations, nation-building, white supremacy, racial ideology, the pragmatic economic and military benefits derived from the Philippines,13 as well as  ideals of American democracy.

 In the final analysis, an unlikely coalition of exclusionists, anti-colonialists, and Filipino nationalists managed to band together to promote the passage of the Act.14 Thus, on 8 July 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed Proclamation 2695 on the Independence of the Philippines.15

                                                                                                 ---Ian Crueldad and Kaibigan


(1) Philippine Independence Act (24 March 1934), Pub. L. 73-127, Sess. 2, ch. 84, 48 Stat. 456.

(2) Larry A. Grant, “Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934,” edited by Kathleen R. Arnold, Anti-Immigration on the United States: Historical Encyclopedia, rpt. (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011), 473-4.

(3) Grant, Ibid.; G. L. Lamborn, Arms of Little Value: The Challenge of Insurgency and Global Instability in the Twenty-First Century (Havertown, PA: Casmate Pubs., 2012), 154.

(4) The immigration quota for the Philippines was less than that for Monaco, a country whose total populations was only 2,030. Sid Amores Valledor, The Original Writings of Philip Vera Cruz, foreword by Joaquin L. Gonzalez III, Ph. D. and afterword by E. San Juan, Jr., Ph. D. ( Indianapolis: Dog Ear Pub., 2006), 37-8.

(5) Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, American Umpire (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2013), 175.

(6) Ibid.

(7) James Tyner, Oriental Bodies: Discourse and Discipline in U.S. Immigration Policy, 1875 – 1942, annotated edition (Lanham, MD: Lexington Bks., 2006), 84; Grant, Ibid.

(8) Tyner, Ibid.

(9) Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act (17 January 1933), Pub. L. 72-311, 47 Stat. 761; Maria Christine N. Halili, Philippine History, rpt. (Manila: Rex Bookstore, Inc., 2004), 186-7; Grant, Ibid.

(10) Halili, Ibid.; Grant, Ibid; Tyner, Ibid.

(11) Tyner, Ibid., 77, 83.

(12) Tyner, Ibid., 85.

(13) Ibid., 83

(14) Bill Ong Hing, Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy: 1850 – 1990 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1994), 35

(15) A.P. Sames Blaustein, Jay Adrian Sigler and Benjamin R. Beede, Independence documents of the world, v. 2 (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Pub., 1977), 571.

Images (from left to right);

     * Library of Congress: Herbert Clark Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

     * Library of Congress: Millard Evelyn Tydings

     * Library of Congress: John McDuffie

     * Library of Congress: Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina

     * Library of Congress: Harry S. Truman