In 1946, the United States freed its largest colony, the Philippines. This article examines the decision-making behind that and argues that the road to freedom was not straight. The 1934 law scheduling independence was motivated mainly by protectionism, racism, and a sense that the Philippines was a military liability. Moreover, it contained many loopholes. Between its passage and the scheduled date for independence, Washington’s original reasons for freeing the Philippines had nearly all vanished, and high-ranking colonial officials sought to derail the independence process. Nevertheless, the Philippines was freed, because Washington regarded this act as central to its attempts to legitimize the postwar world order. Putting Philippine independence in the proper chronological context connects it to the history of decolonization and U.S. global hegemony.

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