I was sent by President Quezon from Washington as a member of the Philippine delegation to the Eighth Conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations at Mont Tremblant Lodge, Mont Tremblant, Province of Quebec.
On the train, I shared a compartment with Resident Commissioner J. M. Elizalde and was vastly entertained by his account of “palace politics” in the entourage of President Quezon. “Mike” and I talked so late that we overslept in our compartment and were carried on to the wrong station in Montreal; without any breakfast we had to take a taxi in the frozen slush for four miles to catch the little one-horse single-track train northwards. On the train, crammed in like “sardines in a tin,” we went through an endurance test for five hours at ten miles an hour, up snowy hills.
These physical discomforts are mentioned to show how thoroughly the management of the Institute of Pacific Relations carried out their agreement with the governments represented at the conference that absolutely no newspaper reporters should attend. I believe this understanding was rigorously carried out.
My account of the proceedings which follows is exactly as it was written in pencil upon yellow paper at the time. This is mentioned to excuse the informal and perhaps indiscreet nature of the communication.
On the little train, a relic, I suppose of the seventies, I sat next to an Indian, whom I later found to be head of their delegation. Sir A. Ramaswami Mudaliar. Told him he was the first Indian gentleman I had ever met–when I was in his country the Government of India had taken jolly good care that I should meet no Indians. He smiled. Told me he had lunched recently with King George; was frequently in England–member of British War Cabinet etc.; but always delighted to get over to France where there was no colour line and he could have a nice long talk with anybody he chanced to run across. I asked him whether the trouble in India was not largely social? He assented. Whether it had not been much worse since the English had brought their ladies over with then? Answered “yes.” To my question whether Churchill would last after the war, he replied: “Not one day!”
At Mont Tremblant Station, we got into a sleigh with a mixed bag of foreigners. Driving up to the Lodge I observed that when I was younger I used to come to this region at this same season to hunt caribou. The man opposite asked me if the caribou were still here? “Yes,” I replied “some of those I shot at certainly are.”
On arrival at the Lodge, found ourselves parcelled out in various little chalets–bare walls–typical skiing resort–one bathroom per chalet–standing in line to shave and to get to W.C. Picturesque but d-d uncomfortable.
Dr Jessup (Philip C.), the Chairman of the Pacific Council sent for me and told me that rules of the Institute did not allow one not native-born to be part of a delegation–asked me if I would not be willing to sit as a member of the United States delegation. I replied: “No–because I haven’t been invited.” He said: “I invite you.” So I said I should be equally happy on either delegation. That left the Philippine delegation to consist of Resident Commissioner J. M. Elizalde, Arturo B. Rotor, Secretary to the President of the Philippines, Urbano A. Zafra, Commercial Adviser to Resident Commissioner of the Philippines, and Sebastian Ugarte, a Basque mestizo, Legal Adviser to the Resident Commissioner–who was secretary of the delegation. We all sat together at the table for meals, and were usually joined by Chinese, a Siamese, Indians, a Korean, etc., and Dr. Ralph Bunche, an intelligent and agreeable American Negro.
English was the tongue of all the meetings. I only had to talk French with the delegate from France, Professor Paul Rivet, formerly head of the Musee de I’homme in Paris–now head of the Ethnological Institute of Columbia in Bogota, whence he had come by plane. He is noted for his ability to distinguish racial traits by studying one’s head and face. I asked him to diagnose me–he took one look and said “purement anglais.” (I have often read his article on ethnology).
There were more than one hundred delegates present from 13 different countries, vizt.: Australia, Canada, China, Fighting France, India, Korea, Netherlands, Netherlands Indies, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States. To these must be added an international secretariat of at least fifty more–many of whom sat as delegates at the round tables.
The Institute meets every three years. Heretofore, government officials have been banned. This time, nearly all those present were connected in some way or other with governments in esse or in exile. This added a grim note of reality to the discussions which, I believe, are usually conducted by professors of one sort or another. Instead of a research committee of philanthropists, it had become a political meeting, pure if not simple. In fact, the round tables and even the plenary sessions sometimes broke out into all-out verbal wrestling matches, with no holds barred.
The main theme of the conference was whether the “Atlantic Charter” applied to all the world, or whether it was meant only for Europe. Roosevelt and Willkie had maintained recently that those principles of self-determination must apply to all the world. Winston Churchill, on the other hand, had not long ago announced in a speech at Mansion House that “what we have we hold,” and “I did not become Prime Minister of the British Empire to preside over the liquidation of that Empire.” On no occasion in any of the numerous meetings did anybody, even on the U.K. delegation defend Churchill’s speech. In fact, it caused them acute embarrassment. Some even made futile attempts to explain it didn’t mean what it clearly did mean. The Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and many of the Americans barked like the seals on the Golden Gate ledges outside San Francisco. Walter Nash, the vice premier of New Zealand, barked loudest and angriest of all. In vain did such delegates as Arthur Creech Jones, Labour member of Parliament, (and parliamentary secretary to Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour) and Captain D. Gammans, Conservative member of the British Parliament, protest that nobody in Parliament would dream of interpreting the Atlantic Charter as inapplicable to any part of the world–especially Asia!
There stood the vision of the robust figure of Winston Churchill, their Prime Minister, and he was not to be pushed behind the curtain any more than was the Statue of Liberty–rather less so, if anything. So at the end of ten days the English delegation looked like a lot of hens after a raid on the coop–feathers ruffled and the picture of dejection. Sir John Pratt almost in tears.
In this chorus of barking seals I was impressed by the conviction that the assemblage was making the English pay for many generations of arrogance and condescension towards colonials. The Canadians in all this were clearly without any sense of responsibility. All that they were determined to accomplish was to be able to go before their voters and be free from the reproach of “fighting to save the British Empire.”
The Australians did not enjoy quite such supreme self-confidence. For them to help drive the European powers out of Asia was to let down the barricades between themselves and the Asiatics. Neither the Australians nor the New Zealanders really understand that they are Asiatic powers–they are still thinking in terms of the British homeland.
The Dutchmen present were obviously under the wing of the English–one thought of the Royal Dutch-Shell oil alliance. They had come there with two puppet Javanese who were utterly unable to express themselves–one was head of their delegation. They supported the English in everything. Meant to keep as inconspicuous as possible, but we smoked them out from under their leaf. They were forced to produce in the middle of the conference a statement by Queen Wilhelmina promising after the war to give the Netherlands Indies equal partnership with Holland. Her statement was wreathed in Royal Phraseology as to be practically unintelligible to the rest of us. It appears the Dutch Viceroy may be obliged to have his powers somewhat curtailed. No racial discrimination henceforth. Vague references to general elections which are evidently expected to take some time to organize. It appears that Queen Wilhelmina made practically the same commitments in her address before the United States Senate several months ago. When Lord Hailey, who was the chairman of our round table at which such topics were discussed on the second day of the conference, came to the subject of the Netherlands Indies, he was for slipping the subject along the table until perhaps it might fall into a convenient scrap basket. When challenged, some Dutch member present ventured some vague reference to an important announcement about to be made on the matter–I kept insisting that some disclosure as to the nature of this announcement be made during the conference and that we be given the privilege of debating it. At a later round table, my next-door neighbour, Mr G.H.C. Hart, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Netherlands Indies, Curacao and Surinam showed me a long rather obscure telegram from his Government-in-Exile, explaining (?) the scheme; he also had included in the mimeographed reports to the conference a further statement. He seemed convinced that “language is given us to conceal our thoughts.” The Dutch Prime Minister had sent this to him, and it consisted of long passages of “double talk”–in the midst of this jungle of words I detected a statement that “The Queen thinks that perhaps the powers of the Governor General may have to be reduced”!
On my return to Washington, I made an especial (verbal) report to President Quezon on this situation. It is a subject in which he is most particularly interested. For some years, underground conferences between him and “leaders” of the Javanese (who are erroneously supposed to be completely docile–like the two hand-picked specimens the Dutch brought with them to Mont Tremblant). They seem to have some sort of a vague ambition to recreate the old Malay Empire of long ago–to include the Netherlands Indies and the Philippines and parts of British North Borneo.
Quezon did not seem much impressed by the determination of the Dutch to hold on to their rich empire. His comment was that the last time he talked to the Javanese leaders a few years ago, they were all pro-Japanese. He told them this was a very great mistake; for while they could get rid of the Dutch any time they tried, they would never of their own efforts, get rid of the Japanese, once the latter were established in the East Indies.
Except for the brilliant Professor Rivet, who spoke like a brave and vigorous man, the other three “Fighting French” delegates had absolutely nothing to say. They were like three white rabbits. If cornered, they pretended not to “spik English.” They gave the impression of knowing absolutely nothing whatever about the topics under discussion. As a matter of fact I think they were struck dumb by all this talk of giving any power back to any “natives”–they had never heard of such a thing–much less done it. If too much was demanded in their colonies, their custom has been just to shoot a few hundred of them, and not write home about it. They consider that the abolishing of the colour line socially, which is their specialty, is all the “natives” want.
When Indo-China was reached in the geographical review which occupied our first round table, there was a spattering of talk about the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia. The chairman was about to pass on to fresh fields and pastures new, but I insisted on pointing out that there was a very great deal more to Indo-China than what had been said. The Annamites covered the larger past of Annam and Tonkin and they had a Long history of self-government behind them until very recently. The Free French delegate present preserved his mask of immobility. In answer to a question he stated that the French Government General was still functioning in Indo-china, but was very restricted in its powers by the Japanese. M. Baudet was being either unnecessarily secretive, or else was too depressed to care much anyway.
At a later round table, one of the French present admitted that he understood the implications of the Atlantic Charter and that they were ready to apply them. I wonder? There was no use in badgering these poor fellows–they will probably have been forgotten long before one of the multi-coloured French parties emerges as a stable leader. Anyway, were we Americans not bound by our government’s reiterated promises that the French Empire would be restored intact to France? It was only the British Empire that some of our delegates, together with all the Canadians and some of the Australians, were out to disrupt. Walter Nash, the vice premier of New Zealand, was the loudest and easily the most offensive leader of these battling reformers. So far as one could think amidst this shouting and tumult, the principal war aim of the “Allied Nations” was to strip our principal ally of its empire.
The American delegation, some 36 strong, held but two caucuses. The first was opened by a voice on my right, coming so far as I could judge from Mr. Len de Caux, the publicity director of the C.I.O. and editor of the C.I.O. News. He is an educated man of considerable refinement. He started the proceedings by announcing in a clear voice: “We are going to fight to preserve the British Empire.” To my surprise, the chairman, Dr. Jessup, asked for a show of hands on that point, and nearly half of those present voted for the proposition. Then we adjourned!
The most ardent American abolitionist of colonies, however, seems to have been Edwin R. Embree, President of the Justice Rosenwald Fund of Chicago and Vice President of the Division of Human Biology, Rockefeller Foundation. He was reported to have opened the ball at his round table with the “all-out” statement: “I’m for doing away with all colonial governments.” This clear but all-too-sweeping statement exposed him to so much good-natured chaff that he calmed down into a useful and intelligent member of the conference.
The second caucus of our delegation was held to discuss the dilemma in which the United States delegates found themselves. Having somewhat over strained themselves in dismembering the British Empire the Americans were asked by the English what contribution their country was prepared to make to the post-war world? That was a question no American cared to answer after the Republican triumph at the polls the month before. The tables were thus neatly turned. Now we were on the spot. It took us three or four days to regain our customary complacency and to recover some of the ground lost by this counter attack. At our caucus, the chairman asked old Senator Elbert D. Thomas, as the most expert political analyst present to say whether he thought the United States would accept post-war international responsibilities. The old Buddha, after consideration, gave birth to the following important formula: “My state would do so, but I do not think that the states around us would!” Since his state is Utah, with the smallest electoral vote in the Union, the oracle had not completely solved our troubles for us. If he was no more persuasive as a young Mormon missionary to Japan, one is not surprised that the Latter-Day Saints failed to convert the Japanese. We retired in some confusion to our icy bedrooms to sleep over the situation–but la nuit did not porte conseil, and perforce on the succeeding days our ferocity against the English colonial system somewhat abated. Nobody mentioned the name of one Franklin D. Roosevelt, either at our caucus, nor on any later occasion. The November election had wrought wonders. Even Mr. Michael Straight, editor of the New Republic, Mr de Caux, the C.I.O. representative, and Mr Edgar A. Mowrer, who were members of our delegation laid aside their harps, took off their long white robes and dismounted their wings for several succeeding days. There was thus some crumb of comfort, however negative, to be derived from the doldrums in which we Americans found ourselves.
With the odds so heavily against them, nevertheless the British delegation was easily the best there. Headed by old Lord Hailey, forty years in the Indian Civil Service, former Governor of the Punjab and of the United Provinces, in his old age he had shown much liberality in his book African Survey and was filled with genuine concern for undeveloped minorities. It is perhaps this very concern for the minority which has kept the English parliamentary system alive during the centuries.
Hailey enjoyed the undeniable advantage of being the only “Lord” there, but he owed his success at the meeting chiefly to his Irish wit, not to mention a polished parliamentary manner. Add to this his old-world air of authority. His bald head and aquiline features resembled a bust of Julius Caesar. The Old Romans of Queen Victoria’s day governed a large part of the world–and looked it. He confided to me that he hadn’t a bean in the world, except his pension, and was in a hurry to retire so that he could spend the rest of his days sea-trout fishing on the west coast of Scotland.
Hailey opened the first plenary meeting of the conference with a prepared address stating that England was ready to speed-up the progress of all her colonies towards self-government, adding that their policy had never been one of exploitation–but of trusteeship. He said the new watchword was to be partnership with their colonial subjects. He and his colleagues on their delegation were absolutely sincere in this, and were shocked at the lack of appreciation from the “have-not” members present. He described the progress towards self-government as a ladder: some of their colonial peoples had climbed already higher than others up the ladder; Ceylon and Burma were at the top, and were now ready. To the Indians, he turned and said in most decisive tones: “We are ready to accept any constitution for India of whatever form, upon which you can agree.”
He was followed by Dr. Sao-ke Alfred Sze, former Chinese Ambassador in Washington and London. He too, read from a prepared address. He is an amiable and popular man, and the method by which he has gained his popularity was apparent in his speech. He talked for some time and said nothing. He has some nervous disorder which caused his hands to shake so he could hardly follow the paper. The other fourteen Chinese present were gloomy and recalcitrant. They felt they were being neglected–they had moreover positive complaints, to wit: four lend-lease shipments of armaments which had been ear-marked for China had been diverted en route to others of their “allies.” (India?) They wanted all of their territory back–especially the three eastern provinces which make up Manchuria, and Formosa which they had ceded to Japan in 1895. They did not ask for Korea–they wanted to stick the United States with a mandate for that! Especially on the subject of emigration of Chinese they were insistent. This is a really live issue in all near-by parts of the eastern world, and causes the utmost and genuine concern to their neighbours. The spectre of Chinese penetration and economic imperialism haunted us all throughout the conference. Their ardent nationalism of the present day alarms all of their neighbours. They demanded the return of Formosa without any concession as to an international police post–said that could be discussed later. Their delegation showed little teamwork; they seemed to me to be afraid of the two or three delegates who had come by bomber plane from Chungking, and were alarmed at what they might report on their return there. One of them, at a plenary session made a fiery speech, demanding: “Is America fighting for China?”
The most attractive, refined-looking woman present was the lady pilot, Mrs. Hilda Yen, who had flown her plane from Chungking via India and Africa. She had been as a child to school in the United States and could speak English perfectly, free from those humming, explosive noises indulged in by most Chinese when they are said to be talking in English.
Taking it all in all, throughout the conference, the English got the roughest ride, but the Chinese caused the greatest uneasiness to others.
After Dr. Sze had finished his address, the chairman called on the only Korean present, Younghill Kang, who came from the Board of Economic Warfare in Washington. He was formerly Professor of English Literature at New York University. He started off well enough telling how a Presbyterian missionary had helped him to escape from Korea and reach the United States. Then he recited the names of all the masters of English literature to whose works he was addicted. Finally he turned on the tap of self-pity and told us what a hard time he had in getting started. He had worked up from seven dollars a week to fourteen when I went down for the third time. I did not listen to his last ten minutes. My mind went back to my visit to Seoul, the capital of Korea, in 1915. The Japanese Resident Commissioner had done the honors and shown me around, then offered me a drink. He thereupon told me he had been to school in Bridgeport, Conn., and not only spoke American but thought like an American. He had accepted his mission to Korea with exalted notions of how he would up-life them, but, he added bitterly, “I had not been here a month before I wanted to hit these God-damned boobs of Koreans with a club.” No! Delegate Younghill Kang did not sharpen the zest of anybody present for a Korean mandate!
To turn now to the working of the round tables. Bach was given a special subject, to be discussed by the twenty to twenty-five delegates present. No votes were to be taken–no decisions to be made–only discussion. Ordinary statements to be confined to three minutes. All proceedings deemed confidential except the summary of opinions written up by a rapporteur who was present. Since about half of the delegates sat silent most of the time, the report of the rapporteur could not be taken as a correct summing up of what all members thought.
When a round table had finished its discussions, the rapporteur, looking worried, disappeared for a day or so, to write up the report which he was to read to a plenary session.
The best of the rapporteurs we heard were:
- Professor Ralph J. Bunche from Howard University in Washington. He is a Negro (mulatto), member of the American delegation, and one of the most popular and useful members of the conference.
- Miss ———– (?), an American girl, who came there as a member of the secretariat.
The most important round table at which I sat was that on India. We had six sessions of two hours each. The result was a personal, parliamentary triumph for Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, with whom I had chatted in the train. The Indian delegation was hand-picked and perfectly drilled. No voice was allowed to be raised for Gandhi, Nehru and the Congress party.
There were seven Americans and five Canadians at this round table, and they started off baying in a chorus of discontent with the failure of the Cripps Mission. They all regarded it as of supreme strategic importance to get some kind of settlement of the India question. The complexities of the question finally brought our round table to a peace of exhaustion or perhaps one should say numbness not unaccompanied by headache.
Sir Frederick Whyte started off as the ringleader for his trained Indian performers. For five years he has been President of the Indian Legislative Assembly. Large, bland and parliamentary, he seemed too reasonable to be entirely true. He had intended, I think, to hold the hoop through which the Indians were to jump. After the first session, pale and almost unnerved, with disordered hair and his parliamentary manner shattered, he subsided into innocuous desuetude.
The Indians took charge. Their teamwork was perfect; their manners imperturbable, their modesty and good humour beyond reproach. They ranged in importance all the way from the highest officials down to Mr N. Sivaraj, a representative of the “Depressed Classes” i.e., the untouchables. His manner was as humble as that of the Mad Hatter at Alice’s tea party; his countenance was so black you would have collided with him on a dark night. But like all the rest of them, he had brains and wit. He rather attached himself to me socially, and more than repaid my attentions by his one witticism to me–he called our Philippine experiment, “a policy of inexpediency,” which made me laugh.
The Begum Shah Nawaz, parliamentary Secretary to the Government of the Punjab, was the light forward of the Indian team. It is said that our soldiers now in North Africa have been instructed never to speak to a Mohammedan lady–such orders would be quite superfluous in dealing with the Begum. No man I have ever met could have gotten one word in edgewise with her. She was gifted with a perfect cataract of English speech and possessed the added advantage that we could not understand a word she spoke. Moreover she brought with her an ammunition dump of stupefying statistics.
I think she gained more yards for her team than any of the others. Her star play, however, seemed to pass unnoticed by all but myself. Among the hand-picked Indians who made up their delegation were two partisans of the Indian Congress party–but with sealed lips. One of them was a bearded, rotund jolly lawyer named K. M. Panikkar, whose continual high spirits were infectious–except at the breakfast table. He was the kind of social Indian who stays at the Savoy Annex and dances at the Kit-Kat Club. He had whispered in my ear that he was pro-Congress but pledged me to secrecy.
Having been called before our round table to testify about how easy it would be for the Indian Princes to fit into an independent and federated India–he being the foreign minister of the native state of Bikaner, and thus qualified as an expert–he was uninterrupted during his ten minute statement. When he finished, our chairman, Mr. Edgar J. Tarr, Director of the Bank of Canada, asked Panikkar mildly what he thought of the Congress party–at once a brilliant diversion was created by the Begum: she poured forth a torrent of words to which Mr Tarr listened most courteously. When the Begum paused for breath, it was noticed that Panikkar had disappeared. This was as neat as any forward pass I ever witnessed. When after the meeting I charged Panikkar with this maneuver, he denied it vehemently, but I noticed that his face twitched slightly.
Another Indian who contributed to the gaiety of nations was Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Judge of the Federal Court of India. I had supposed he did not speak English, so silent and judge-like was his demeanor for several days. Finally we reached a point where Lord Hailey was betraying his usual anxiety over the minorities. He was asking what would become of the aboriginal inhabitants of Formosa if it were given back to China. There was a pause and then the Indian Judge said in deep and solemn tones: “Minorities are more interested in self-indulgence than in self-government.”
To return now to the discussions at the India round table. Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, who was their spokesman, opened by stating that the Cripps Mission had failed because Sir Stafford dealt only with Gandhi and Nehru. That Gandhi would not negotiate with England because he believed the United Nations were already licked. That “Mahatma” Gandhi, (in slightly sarcastic tones) had tremendous influence on the Congress party, but that many of his followers could not swallow his non-violent resistance. There was little to be done while Gandhi and Nehru lived, but each had now reached their alloted “three score and ten.” He insisted they were not now “in jail” but only under detention. Meanwhile voluntary enlistment of Indian soldiers was going ahead at a greatly increased rate. Most Indians wanted to fight–and certainly did not want the Japanese. If the Western powers believed they could bring about a mediation, they would be most welcome to try. The Committee of Mediation should have the power to settle the dispute or else the Indians would not accept it. He wished for an independent dominion form of government for India, but within the framework of the British Empire.
Sir Frederick Whyte, who had been sadly jolted by the sand-papering he had undergone from the Canadian-American bloc at the table broke in to say that the Americans had disqualified themselves from sitting on such a mediation board because they were so soaked in Gandhi propaganda. Explosive denials by several Americans. Then someone suggested “Let the Chinese do it!” Thereupon the Begum was understood to reply “China has been as much exposed to Gandhi propaganda as America.”
Then the subject of Pakistan, or Mohammedan separation was introduced, and quite a lively wrangle ensued between Hindus and Moslems. There were few, if any, dull moments in the conference.
A mild and scholarly American, W. Norman Brown, Professor of Sanskrit at what they are pleased to call the University of Pennsylvania, had a constructive proposal to make. He has served in India for years as a Professor of English, but neither his voice nor his manner were sufficiently aggressive to dominate the tumult–which sounded like the zoo at meal time. Brown’s blond head sank back quite disconsolately. What he proposed was that the Government of India should give “responsible government” to the Viceroy’s Executive Council. I managed to get the floor to support his proposal, citing how President Wilson had sent me to the Philippines in 1913 to break the governmental deadlock there. My predecessor had failed to get the budget passed by the Filipino Assembly. I did. Instead of repressive measures, we gave the Filipinos more concessions, beginning with a majority in the Commission, or Upper House. Shortly afterwards, I added, the First World War broke out. The prelude was the United States withdrawing its army and navy from the Philippines for more needed use elsewhere. The Filipinos were left to take care of American interests in the Islands. The last act of this drama was the recent battle of Bataan where 20,000 young Filipinos laid down their lives to protect not only their own liberties, but also the American flag.
Towards the end of our long session on India, Mr. Len de Caux, the C.I.O. representative, wanted to bring in a discussion of the American poll tax!
As the only representative of a poll tax state (Virginia) present, I stated that if given an opportunity I would vote to amend the constitution of Virginia to abolish the poll tax, but that I differed from my colleague both as to the nature and implications of the poll tax. Mr. Tarr, the chairman, intervened to rule the poll tax out of order. Mr de Caux, in the next plenary session, complained he had been “shut up” on the poll tax question.
It may thus be seen that the machinery at the India round table was running down–whirring and knocking noises were, by now, quite audible. Injured combatants were quietly licking their wounds. Sir Rasmaswami was allowed the last half hour almost without interruption. He acquitted himself with dignity and composure. Altogether a notable parliamentary triumph for him. No votes were taken and no decisions reached. Nevertheless, those of us who had for the first time debated with Indian leaders left the Council chamber with vastly increased respect for their race, and with much greater hopes for the future of India. Later I asked Panikkar whether the Indians would believe the word of an Englishman. “Absolutely,” he replied “but it’s damned hard to get them to give their word!”
During almost the whole course of this “round table” four representatives of the American State Department had sat side by side with a dyspeptic expression. They were not wearing striped pants due I suppose to the deep snow through which they had to walk to the meeting. All four looked as if they had had their faces lifted.
My next round table was the “Political-Military”–a review of the political situation in the Far East, with consideration of the strategic implications involved. In the room next to us sat the “Military-Political” round table, where questions, similar to ours, but with the stress laid on the military features were debated. All the Generals, Admirals and Air Chief Marshals present sat, of course, at the latter table. Judging from their typical style of debate, as observed in other meetings, we could easily picture what was going on at this adjoining round table. Major General V. W. Odium, recently Commander 2nd Division Canadian Army in England, barked out his words by two and threes, apparently ordering us all to go over the top. Our own more suave Admiral Harry E. Yarnell, U.S.N., adopted the quiet technique appropriate to the quarter-deck. His was the “You may fire ready, Gridley” style. Major General Frank McCoy, resting after his recent arduous duties of condemning a lot of German spies to death, was suave and reticent. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longmore had plenty of time during the discussions to think over the more congenial days he had lived through in the distant past before this war. Judging from private conversations I had with him at meal times, his mind dwelt often on grouse-shooting, tho one of his most pleasant memories was of a night long ago at St. Tropez, where they bought the dance band, and didn’t get home until the next afternoon.
We were credibly informed that the Military-Political table dismissed our own deliberations in the next room as freshman-sophomoric; saying that we spent all our time up in the stratosphere, without sufficient oxygen.
In the Political-Military round table I sat between Lord Hailey and Mr G. H. C. Hart, the brains of the Netherlands’ delegation. This was enjoyable. While the Chinese were indulging in some big talk about the unreasonableness of asking for an “international security post” on Formosa after the war–explaining that it could only be intended against Japan–who would be disarmed anyway–Hailey and I were whispering together about the siege of our legations in Peking by the Boxers! While Dr Sze, the leading Chinese delegation, was denouncing the opium traffic, I told Hailey that I had demanded and received the recall of the Chinese Consul General at Manila [because he was personally involved in the opium smuggling ring]. I think Hailey enjoyed it, too, for he invited me to join him in sea-trout fishing on the west coast of Scotland; meanwhile, as a first installment, he invited me to lunch with him.
The chairman of our Political-Military debate was Mr. H. B. Butler, C.B., LL.D., Minister and Director General of British Information Service, British Embassy, Washington. He was a fair and discreet presiding officer, hut gave out very little light and heat.
Lord Hailey was, as usual, the central figure of the discussions. He exhibited his usual concern over untutored minorities. Mentioned more than once the headhunters of Borneo. Was told that after a head-hunter had completed his collection of heads he wasn’t such a bad sort of chap at all, and much like other people. Being considerably badgered by several Americans at the round table Hailey showed what a sting he had in his tail. He remarked in a dreamy voice that he had said somewhere recently–thought it was in the House of Lords–that he was sometimes thankful he was not an American–look at Puerto Rico–when the people there asked for bread, the United States gave them the vote! I joined in the loud laugh, but happened to glance at the faces of my fellow Americans present–they looked like graven stone images.
We Americans were being pushed about as usual at this conference because we criticized others and had nothing constructive to offer. Finally, Dr. Stanley K. Hornbeck of the State Department expressed the opinion that the United States would join the International Police after the war. I added my opinion to the same end. Embree and Tyler Dennett, former President of Williams College, said ditto. Our views were well received. Old Senator Thomas had gone home, anyway! The only persons present who did not look particularly gratified were, as it seemed to me, the Chinese. But perhaps I did them an injustice. They have the shape of countenance which cannot express pleasure without grinning–and they were certainly not grinning at the moment.
I improved the occasion to drive the point home by announcing that before the battle of Bataan, President Roosevelt had wired President Quezon, that all the man power of the United States and all their resources would be back of his promise to regain the independence, and to secure it. “To that extent at least,” I added, “the United States is determined to stay in the Far East after the war.” I listened carefully for three rousing cheers from the Chinese, but do not now recollect to have heard even one cheer. Still, one never knows, they may have their own quaint way of expressing a delirium of pleasure.
The most serious issue of immediate post-war concern was, of course, Hong Kong. Did the Chinese insist upon its return after a century as a British colony? Was not the matter also of great importance to the trade of all the nations in the Western Pacific? Could we afford to lose this great free trade post? One of the English delegates put the matter very objectively and with much restraint. There was no answer from the Chinese. They sat silent, with poker faces. The foreign concessions at Shanghai present an almost equally thorny problem. A great imperial city has grown up on the mud flats so contemptuously given the European merchants long ago. In recent years, the Chinese have shown a decided intention to get them back, with all the fabulous riches which have been built up there.
Two of the fears in the back of the minds of many Asiatic delegates were Chinese imperialism and American imperialism! One delegate let slip the statement that the people of the United States were imperialists and didn’t know it themselves. Perhaps he referred to our “Good Neighbour” policy towards South America which is compounded of an equal mixture of self-defense and exploitation. However, there is no need at present to worry about that since everyone knows that people seldom stay bought. There were no delegates present from any of the South American States which front on the Pacific!
Of the four delegates from the Philippines, it can be said that they won good opinions on all sides because of their modesty and excellent manners. They knew that after the battle of the Philippines their race had won universal good will from the United Nations. They were, indeed, “sitting pretty,” and unlikely to mar the picture by any demands or aggressiveness. Commissioner Elizalde went home on the third day; Rotor and Ugarte three days later. The latter two had never attended an international conference before. Dr. Zafra stayed to the end and came back with me. He had been at the “sugar conference” in London several years before, and is thoroughly grounded in economic facts and figures concerning the Philippines.
Zafra was at the Economic round table and reported that it had degenerated into a cross fire of arguments between half a dozen of the so-called economists present. Their terminology was so obscure that it was not certain that they even understood one another. The rest of those present had little idea what the debate was about. The rapporteur, Mr. J. B. Condliffe, Professor of Economics at the University of California, and of several English institutions, made what seemed to me a comic report of the proceedings to the plenary session. It thus becomes apparent, as I had always suspected, that economics is not an exact science–or else its high priests have not yet agreed upon a common prayer book.
The last plenary session ended on a note of bitter wrangling between the delegates from the British Dominions and those from Great Britain. The ghost of Winston Churchill’s Mansion House speech had not been laid. Walter Nash, New Zealand Minister to the United States, and a member of the Pacific War Council made a rousing stump speech taking great patches of skin off the English delegation. It was a thoroughly embittered and masterly address. Various of the English present answered him, maintaining the complete sincerity of their offers, and the good faith of the English Government and especially of the House of Commons on the question of gradual freedom for the component parts of their empire. Mr. Arthur Creech Jones, M.P., parliamentary secretary to Hon. Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, made an answer of passionate sincerity and deep feeling to Nash’s attack. Pool old Sir John Pratt, Chairman of the Central Chinese Railways–a slender, tall mestizo of some ancestry hard to analyze–almost broke into tears. He acknowledged that he had come to this conference to aid in offering most substantial concessions to present world opinion on the subject of colonial imperialism, but that he would leave with a miserable feeling of defeat and utter failure. Then there was some more sandpapering of the American delegation because of our failure to promise more substantial post-war co-operation. Mr. Michael Straight, the youngest American delegate, finally presented a resolution offering such co-operation as the rest of us could not now dare to propose. This won goodwill, and considerably raised Straight’s batting average. His chief impediment throughout was his delivery–he talks as if he had a hot potato in his mouth.
The closing ceremonies that night were given to amiable discourses from delegates selected by the management. The storm had blown itself out.
Dr Zafra made a modest and humorous little address which was well received. Dr Stanley K. Hornbeck, (representing the Department of State) closed for the Americans. He tried to offer post-war co-operation without committing himself to anything definite. The mountain groaned in labour, and “mus ridiculus exit”--in other words, he is not proficient in the art of walking on egg shells.
As for myself, having been the first proponent thirty years ago of the gift of self-government to a “native race,” I had to rub my eyes and look around to make sure it was not all a dream. Where were all of these fiery apostles of freedom a quarter century ago? Which one of these Americans had approved my policy in the Philippines and had backed me up when I most needed it? Not one. I remembered the visit of Clyde Tavenner to the Philippines when I was in my eighth year as Governor General. He had been a former colleague of mine in Congress and was on my side of these problems. When he came to say good-bye at Malacañan, he told me that in his tour of the Philippines he had met only one American who believed in Philippine independence. “Who’s that?” I eagerly inquired. “Yourself” he replied.
Whatever may be the satisfaction one may feel in seeing in his own time a large part of world opinion swing around to the thesis on which he wrecked his own political career, nevertheless it is a sad fate to be a whole generation ahead of the times.