Diary of Francis Burton Harrison

Sunday, November 29, 1942

Shoreham Hotel.

Quezon is looking in better health and spirits than I have observed this year. He told me that I am to go with Resident Commissioner Elizalde to represent the Philippines at the international meeting soon to be held in Canada, under the Institute of Pacific Relations.

He added that hereafter, he will really have some work for me to do, for he is setting up an office of “public relations,” i.e., propaganda, and wants someone there who really knows the Philippines, since he is dissatisfied with the present organization.

As to the coming gathering in Canada, I raised at once the question of the future of India, in order to know his own present attitude.

He then gave me at length an account of the most interesting debate he recently had with the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax, in the United Nations Pacific War Council on the subject of India. He began by telling me that after the first four or five meetings of the Council which he had so far attended, at which he had sat silent, he began to believe that the Council was largely a farce; but that it was at least desirable to have the Philippines represented on it to show the world that they had equality with other nations of the Pacific.

One day at the Council, Mr. Nash of New Zealand was holding forth, as he usually does, at great length “laying down the law” about strategy, and expressing dissatisfaction with the present situation. Then Quezon took up the debate and said: “I think there is nobody at this table who is more interested in the war in the Pacific than myself, since my country, is already under the heel of the Japanese. But, in view of the ‘global strategy’ of the day, I am constrained to be reconciled. I feel that there are some countries today which are of more importance than others in that aspect. I refer particularly to India.” He then asked President Roosevelt to tell them about India. Roosevelt said he knew little more than the British censors allowed him to learn, so he turned to Halifax who replied that the situation was all right–that the Indians had refused to accept responsibility; Hindus and Moslems could not agree.

Then Quezon resumed, stating: “I know nothing myself about India; I have been there twice only–as a tourist. I do not know the Viceroy, I do not know Gandhi, I do not know Nehru. I believe that if I were there now, I could find out. Let me tell you a story, and you shall draw your own conclusions, for I shall draw none. Prior to the year 1896, some young Filipinos who had been educated in Europe began to press the Spanish Government in Manila for liberal concessions to the Philippines. The leader of these was Dr. Jose Rizal. The Spanish in the Philippines said to themselves: ‘If we execute Dr Rizal, the ignorant, uneducated masses in the Philippines will cease to be interested in this movement.’ So, on December 30, 1896, they executed Rizal. Within three months, the whole of the Philippines was in a blaze of insurrection. The Spanish finally paid Aguinaldo and his leaders 400,000 pesos to remove to Hong Kong. Dewey, after his naval victory, brought Aguinaldo back to help him take Manila. But when McKinley decided to assert American sovereignty over the Islands, Aguinaldo led an insurrection against the Americans. The Americans said: ‘It is only the Tagalogs–if we suppress them, the rest of these ignorant, uneducated people will settle down.’ But it took them four years, an army of 180,000 men and more than $600,000,000 to accomplish this. And then what really reconciled the Filipinos was the school system set up by the American Army officers. Even when in 1916 the Jones Law was passed, they were not entirely convinced. It took the agreement between President Roosevelt and myself in 1934, and the setting up of the Commonwealth to do that. When President Coolidge had told the Filipino delegation to Washington that the matter had been settled for two or three generations, they paid no attention to that, and kept right on with their political campaign.

“Meanwhile, almost every American in the Islands had constantly maintained that the Christian and Mohammedan Filipinos could never get on together; that as soon as American rule ceased, the Moros would cut off the heads of all the Christian Filipinos–but since the inauguration of Filipino self-government there has been far less war between them and the Moros than under the Americans.

“I have said that personally I know nothing of India, but if, when I left the Philippines I had not been so ill, I would have liked to go there, even if President Roosevelt forbad it, and I think I could have found out what is the matter supposing the English had not seized me and executed me!”

When Quezon ended, Lord Halifax replied: “Nobody around this table can admire more than I do the character, the courage and the ability of the Philippine President. I believe, however, that if he had gone there, as he says, he would have found on closer inspection that the problem is far more complicated than he thinks–even if the authorities had not ‘executed him.'”

Quezon replied: “The Ambassador seems to misunderstand me. I said I knew nothing about India but that I believed that I could find out. And why? Because as a Filipino, the leaders of Indian life would have had faith in me, and told me frankly their ideas and purposes. The Indians, however, do not have faith in the English as the Filipinos had faith in the Americans and thus they cannot unite to solve their problems as we did. I refuse to believe that the Indians are so unpatriotic as simply to decline to share the responsibility. I believe that there must be very many patriotic men among them, and we should know what it is they mean. The situation has been misrepresented to us by the official reports of the Government of India–not intentionally, of course, but certainly so. And I venture to assert that I could have found out what the real trouble was if I had gone there.”

Then Roosevelt pacified the situation by telling a story of Al Smith’s ability to handle human relations–how he addressed a labour crowd which was expressing great discontent. Smith said that he was their friend and hoped they were his friend. That he really wanted to find out what the trouble was, and he believed that as men of good will, they could settle it all if the men would select a few representatives to join him around a table where they could smoke some really good cigars, have a drink, and talk it all over as friends.

And then Roosevelt adjourned the meeting of the Pacific War Council.

Next Quezon told me of a recent correspondence with Lord Halifax. When Quezon was last in New York, he read a telegram he proposed to send to Gandhi and Nehru over the telephone to the President’s lady secretary and asked her to enquire of Roosevelt whether he had any objection to Quezon’s sending it. Quezon did not disclose to me the contents of the telegram. Immediately Roosevelt telegraphed Quezon heartily approving of his sending the message. So it was sent. No answer.

Shortly afterwards, a letter came to Quezon from Halifax, saying that he had been instructed by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to express the regret of the Government of India that they had been unable to deliver the message, since both Gandhi and Nehru were in jail, and communication with them was not permitted. All very courteous and correct in Halifax’s letter.

I asked Quezon how he got on with his Dutch colleague on the Pacific War Council. He said he had nothing much to do with him. Asked whether he thought the Dutch would have their empire restored after the war, he said he didn’t know–but it it were, it would only be a matter of thirty years at most.

He then added that what he believed the Indians wanted was a greater share in their government–that they did not wish for direction of India’s military effort. He added that the present situation was much more likely to turn India over to the Japanese.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>