If Mindanao Became a German Colony

What if Mindanao became a German colony after the Americans ceded to the Danes in exchange for Greenland and the Danish West Indies.

During the late 19th century, most of the world was already colonized by European colonial powers with the British Empire controlling about three-quarters of the globe. In Asia, France has already got Indochina, the Netherlands controlled the Dutch East Indies, and Germany getting outposts in China, the various Pacific islands, and New Guinea. By this time, Spain is losing its grip on most of its colonial possessions, especially the Philippines.

Japan jumpstarts its modernization after the United States forced it to open to world trade in 1853. It accelerated its industrialization to catch up with the West so it can keep acquiring new territories expand into China further after winning the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and block further Russian advance into the Far East after a stunning victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. By then, it was the United States who came in late in the scramble for overseas territories. The Americans eventually acquired the Philippines together with Cuba and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Consolidation of its New Territories

Although the Americans inherited the islands after the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Spain, much of the island was not totally under control. They have to send more troops to completely annex the former Spanish colony. In fact, they have to fight another war with the Filipinos, who have already declared their independence on June 12, 1898. The “Philippine Insurrection,” as they called it, was a bloody war that lasted for three years resulting in over 1,000,000 deaths that were further worsened by bloody reprisals, famines, and cholera outbreaks.

For the whole part, much of Mindanao was further insulated from most of the bloodshed as this part of the country was not totally controlled by the Spanish anyway. By the time the Americans came, they still have to ‘pacify’ much of the region in what was called the “Moro Wars” that lasted until 1913.

Trading Game

In geopolitics, China was the real prize of the scramble for territories by Western imperialists. The Philippines was just in a launchpad to control trade with China by those who control it. It won’t be just another coaling station for the US Pacific Fleet. It also opens up a new market for American products. However, Mindanao is a whole different story as the Insular Government has to encourage immigration to this part of the country in order to ‘rebalance’ the demographic. It’s a classic divide-and-conquer strategy in order to relegate the non-Christian population into minorities in their own lands.

Most colonies are treated like trading cards where different colonial power trading it for another. The United States has expanded westwards thanks to careful diplomatic play and adventurous wars with Mexico. It also annexed Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands.

Not a lot of people know that there were also plans for eastward expansion as well. As early as 1867, Secretary of State William Seward, the architect of the Alaska acquisition, has also considered the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland, both Danish territories. They see these potential territories as vital stepping stones to trans-Atlantic trade and exert their influence on European countries.

According to famed Arctic explorer Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, “With the rapid shrinking of distances in this age of speed and invention, Greenland may be of crucial importance to us in the future. Greenland in our hands may be a valuable piece in our defensive armor. In the hands of hostile interests, it could be a serious menace.”

By 1910, American ambassador to Denmark Maurice Francis Egan has proposed the acquisition of Greenland in response to suggestions from his Danish ‘friends.’ As part of the proposal, Greenland and the Danish West Indies (Dansk Vestindien) would be traded in exchange for Mindanao. Should the plan push through, the Americans will strengthen their position on the Atlantic while also securing their control of the Panama Canal with new bases on St. John, St. Croix, and Water Islands together with Puerto Rico that they earlier acquired from Spain. They would still control most of the Philippines while letting the Danes deal with Mindanao. It was also expected that the Danes would trade Mindanao to the Germans in exchange for northern Schleswig.

The diplomatic card game is confusing, isn’t it?

Rise of Germany

The smashing victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 saw the rise of a unified German nation-state. The Germans saw their interest to catch up in the colonial game as well in order to gain their ‘place in the sun’ (Weltpolitik).

By the 1890s, they already established Deutsch-Neuguinea (German New Guinea) with Kaiser-Wilhelmsland (northern Papua New Guinea) as the mainland, Neu-Pomerania (New Britain), Bismarck-Archipel (Bismarck Archipelago), Deutsches Protektorat der Salomonen (German Solomon Islands Protectorate), Karolinen (Caroline Islands), Palau, Marianen (Marianas Islands), Bougainville-Insel (Bougainville Island), Deutsches Marschall-Inseln Protektorat (German Marshall Islands Protectorate), Deutsch-Samoa (German Samoa). They also held outposts in China at Qingdao, Chefoo, and Deutsch-Kiautschou (Jiaozhou Bay concession).


With the acquisition of Mindanao as well as Palawan and other small islands in the area, the new territories would be incorporated as Deutsch-Ostindien (German East Indies). It also expected to host elements of the Ostasiengeschwader (German East Asia Squadron), composed of SMS Scharnhorst, SMS Gneisenau, SMS Emden, SMS Leipzig, and SMS Nürnberg. Key leaders of this squadron like Rear Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, Rear Admiral Otto von Diederichs, and Count Maximilian von Spee would later play key roles in World War I.

Eventual Outcome

Denmark have eventually realized that keeping their West Indies territories are no longer financially-viable so they end up selling it to the United States for $25,000,000 in 1916 after a referendum saw 64% of Danish citizens voting to get rid of the islands. It eventually became the U.S. Virgin Islands. If the Germans would invade Denmark, the islands would have hosted German submarines in the Caribbean. The Americans never pushed through with the Greenland acquisition as the protection of the Panama Canal was of significant importance.

With the intensity of Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare became too bad for Allied shipping, the plan of losing Mindanao to the Germans have become a serious security concern in the region. The Americans have strengthened their grip by developing it further by opening it to homesteaders and immigrants.

After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the 1920 plebiscites (in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles) has transferred northern Schleswig to Denmark.


References:

“Governing the North American Arctic: Sovereignty, Security, and Institutions,” by Dawn Alexandra Berry, Nigel Bowles, and Halbert Jones.

Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, with the Address of the President to Congress. File No. 711.5914/14. Minister Egan to the Assistant Secretary of State.

Encyclopedia Arctica. Volume 11: Territorial Sovereignty and History.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: If Mindanao Became a German Colony
If Mindanao Became a German Colony
What if Mindanao became a German colony after the Americans ceded to the Danes in exchange for Greenland and the Danish West Indies.
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