The Bates Mission:

The Bates Agreement, August 20, 1899

    Sultan of Sulu arrives to sign the Bates Agreement

    1st Lt. Horace M. Reeve, 23rd Infantry (right), escorts the Sultan (on horseback, carrying a dark-colored parasol) from Asturias Gate to the signing ceremony. The Sultan, who has ridden for three hours from Maibun, is accompanied by a substantial entourage. Afterwards the Sultan celebrated at the local pony races. (Photo: National Archives)

    The Bates Agreement was important in that it detailed a scheme to govern American-Moro relations, apart from that for the rest of the Philippines, and kept the peace between for the next three years. It covered only the Sulu Archipelago and was written in two language versions, English and Jawi, the Arabic script used to express the Tausug language. The terms were published, translated into the other Moro languages, and used as the basis for a series of subsequent verbal agreements and understandings individually reached individually between General Bates and hundreds of Moro chiefs to govern American-Moro relations. The Bates Agreement was controversial from its inception, despite the fact it suited well the needs at the time of both the Moros covered (the Maranaos were not included) and the U.S. In part this was because it was (and still is) widely misunderstood, and deliberately misinterpreted by those who had other agendas. On March 21, 1904, the Bates Agreement was unilaterally abrogated by the United States when a letter proclaiming such was delivered to the Sultan of Sulu and the most powerful datus on the island of Jolo by General Leonard Wood. However, it took another three months to gain recognition of its abrogation by the Sultanate after receiving certain concessions.

    Negotiations took place over two weeks in some rather hard bargaining and for the most part were between General Bates for the Americans and the Sultan's chief advisor, Hadji Butu, and brother and heir, the Rajah Muda. The three photographs below were taken July 24, 1899, at the final negotiating session. Top is the Rajah Muda on horseback on the way to meet with Bates at the Jolo garrison. Third from right on foot is Hadji Butu. In the middle photograph, they are greeted by Lt. Reeve, Dr. Bourns, and the interpreter Charlie Schuck. The Rajah Muda is mounted on the pony just behind Schuck. Behind Dr. Bourns is an "Arab advisor" to the Sultan.

    Seated from left is Hadji Butu, the Sultan's principal advisor, the Rajah Muda, the Sultan's brother and heir apparent, General Bates, and an Arab advisor to the Sultan. Standing second row from left are three guards, Charlie Schuck, Capt. Samuel S. Smiley, Bate's Adjutant, Dr. Frank S. Bourns, and 1st Lt. Horace M. Reeve. Bourns was the Chief Army Surgeon in Manila, and ten years earlier as a graduate student at the University of Michigan ten years had visited Jolo on an ornithology expedition. Bourns was one of very few Americans who had been to Sulu prior to this time.

(Photos from US Army Military History Institute - Dinwiddie Collection)