From Before Bataan and After: A Personalized History of Our Philippine Experiment by Frederic S. Marquardt.
On July 13, 1931, the Filipinos staged their greatest independence demonstration. It was a parade in honor of Senator Harry B. Hawes of Missouri, who had gone to the Philippines to learn for himself “whether the Filipinos really wanted independence.”
The police estimated that two hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children turned out for the gigantic affair, either marching in the parade or being spectators on the side lines. Hawes and his party stood on the steps of the Legislative Building, and the paraders marched down Padre Burgos and swung out onto the Luneta. The whole open area between the Legislative Building and the walls of Old Manila was densely packed with thousands upon thousands of Filipinos, many of them carrying banners.
When the demonstration was at its height late in the afternoon, I walked from the Manila Hotel, up past the Legislative Building and on to the Post Office, cutting straight through the great crowd which was spread out for more than a mile. I looked into the faces of the Filipinos who were taking part in that demonstration, and any doubt I ever had about the ardent desire of the average Filipino to see country independent was removed by what I saw.
I sensed not slightest animosity against the Americans. No one paid the slightest attention to me as I shoved my way through the milling masses. Later on, after the speeches were over and the crowd was breaking up, some hoodlums invaded the grounds and swimming pool of the Army and Navy club, on the Luneta, and threw rocks at the American officers who were swimming there. As they have a habit of doing, American newspapers seized upon this dramatic “angle” of the day’s demonstration, and “ played” it in the headlines of their accounts of the parade. But it was an isolated incident, the reason for which has never been completely explained. If there had been any real anti-American feeling in that great independence celebration, I could never have walked alone through the demonstrators from one end of the crowd to the other.
There had been a saying in the days of Governor General Wood that only a handful of Filipino politicians wanted independence; that the masses of the people were not interested. I had never subscribed to that theory, and I definitely disproved it, to my own satisfaction, on the day of the parade for Hawes. The people I saw were the poor people, and the faces I looked into had been lined by years of work and worry. The spectators and the marchers may have been brought to Manila at the expense of a well-heeled political organization, but there was no mistaking their sincerity as they took part in this unprecedented demonstration. Thirteen of them were injured in that great crush of humanity, and one was killed. Many fainted and others dropped from sheer exhaustion brought on by the heat and the ceaseless pushing. Traffic was tied up for hours; streetcars became islands in a sea of surging people. It wasn’t a fiesta, and the quiet seriousness of the paraders and the spectators had nothing of the holiday spirit to it. That night, after it was all over, I told myself that the fight for independence had been won. I felt sure that the combination of a determined Filipino people and the odd assortment of idealism and selfishness which was making its weight felt in Congress would result, in the near future, in the enactment of independence legislation.
The thirty-year-old experiment in nation-building was about to enter its final phase. Whether the experiment would succeed or fail would depend in large measure on the sort of law that would come out of Washington.
The man who was most responsible for the passage of an independence act, although an odd quirk of politics prevented his name from being placed on the measure, was Senator Harry Barstow Hawes. It was for him that the Filipinos staged their mammoth demonstration, and it was largely because of him that Congress enacted Philippine independence legislation.
As young man Hawes had worked for the annexation of Hawaii by the United States. Now, as a United States Senator, he was working heart and soul for the severance of the ties which bound another and far larger island possession to the United States.
Hawes apparently became interested in the Philippine question at the first meeting of the Senate Committee on Insular Affairs, which he attended as a member. Hiram Bingham of Connecticut was chairman of the committee, and the cold imperious way in which Bingham disposed of Filipino aspirations for independence missions and to advocate Philippine independence in the Senate.
There were, of course, other explanations for Hawes’ interest in the Philippine question. He had, at one time, represented some cordage interests in legal matters, and an attempt was made to link his name with the desire of rope manufacturers to erect a tariff against Philippine twine and rope. The attempt failed, however, and those who knew Hawes were certain that he had no ulterior motives in advocating Philippine independence.
The first time I interviewed him, in May or June of 1931, Hawes pulled out a National Geographic map of the Pacific and pointed to the Japanese-mandated islands which virtually surrounded the Philippines.
“We can’t defend the Philippines,” he told me. “The only thing to do is to get out.”
He had, of course, the other stock arguments. The Filipinos had been promised their independence. It was time to make good on the promise. They could survive the economic shock of the loss of the American market better now than later. The real obstacle in the way of Philippine progress, he declared, was uncertainty, and he wrote a book called Philippine Uncertainty, in which he advocated the setting of a date for Philippine independence in order to end the great uncertainty once and for all.
In carrying out his announced mission of learning whether the Filipinos really wanted independence, the Senator asked literally hundreds of people of all walks of life one question: “Do you want independence?”
In every instance, according to Hawes, the answer was “Yes.” The Senator didn’t ask them under what conditions they wanted independence, or whether they would accept it if it was certain to impoverish their country or lay them open to foreign aggression. He had his answer, and that was what he had come to get.
Whenever anyone told Hawes that the Philippines needed twenty years in which to make the economic changes required by the status of an independent nation, he would answer brusquely, “That’s graveyard independence. You figure you will be dead in twenty years, and when you are in the graveyard it won’t matter what is done about independence.”
After he retired from the Senate and became a Washington lawyer Hawes was retained by the Philippine Sugar Association as a lobbyist to look after its interests in the national capital. Since Philippine sugar was the one industry whose doom was irrevocably sealed by the independence law, cynics thought that hiring him after the law had been passed was a lot like locking the barn door after the horse was stolen. But from my personal friendship with Hawes, I am sure that at the time he was working for the enactment of independence legislation he thought that the measure he advocated was the best possible one from every standpoint.
In later years he altered his view considerably. The ten years he had provided for economic readjustments suddenly became much too short a period to prepare for the loss of the American market. A twenty-year transition period no longer looked like “graveyard” independence. And the international aspects of an independent Philippines caused him more concern than at the time he was pressing for the passage of the independence law. In the summer of 1941, not many months before Pearl Harbor, I talked with Hawes in his Washington law offices, and he was genuinely worried about the situation in the Philippines, both from an economic and military standpoint.
Hawes’ independence plan, later incorporated in the Hare-Hawes-Cutting independence law and eventually in the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie law which became the charter of Philippine independence, called for the establishment of an autonomous Philippine Commonwealth under a constitution to be drawn up by the Filipinos. This government was exist for ten years, and soon as it began to function the amounts of Philippine sugar, coconut oil and rope which could be exported to the United States in any one year would be limited to certain fixed quotas. Beginning with the sixth year of the autonomous government, export taxes were to be placed on Philippine goods shipped to the United States, equivalent to five percent of the United States tariff the sixth year, ten percent the seventh year, fifteen percent the eighth year, and so on. After the tenth year the complete independence of the Philippines would be proclaimed, and all Philippine goods entering the United States would have to pay the same tariff rates applied to any other foreign country. Pending the grant of complete independence, the Philippines would receive an immigration quota of fifty a year. Thereafter they would be treated as a foreign country, presumably coming under the Oriental exclusion laws. During the life of the Commonwealth a United States High Commissioner to the Philippines was to represent American interests and see to it that the Commonwealth remained solvent. Ultimate authority remained with the President of the United States, and American sovereignty over the islands was to be unchanged during the Commonwealth period.
The United States reserved the right to maintain military bases in the Philippines after the grant of independence, and the question of naval bases was to be settled in negotiations between the two countries within two years after the grant. The President of the United States was “requested” to attempt to secure a treaty providing for “the perpetual neutralization” of the Philippines.
It took no John Stuart Mill to realize that the economic provisions of the independence bill outlined by Hawes would result in the financial ruin of the Philippines, nor did it require an Admiral Mahan to foretell that the military problems of an independent Philippines had by no means been solved. But the Filipinos wanted independence, and Hawes was showing them a way to get it. Their drastic economic provisions were not evidence—as has been claimed—that they were unwilling to pay the price of independence. They were simply evidence that the Filipinos were attempting to get the best bargain they could, just as any other nation does in its international relations.
Hawes was always the best possible company, and we enjoyed many amusing nights together in Manila. He saw the cockfights and went to the cabarets and enjoyed the gay life of Manila.
I remember one night when his daughter Peyton, who had accompanied Hawes to Manila, asked me to take her and her army escort to one of the more low-brow cabarets. She was determined to see the real Manila night life, not just the tourist spots. When we entered the cabaret, she said she wanted to talk to a bailarina, and I called one over, wondering in some embarrassment what would happen if the Senator ever found out that I had taken his daughter to this place. The bailarina, who was dancing in order to put herself through college, joined us at the table, looked around brightly, picked out Miss Hawes and said, “I know who you are. I’ve seen your picture in the paper. I also know who your father is. He was out here last night and I danced with him.”
After that I stopped worrying and began to enjoy myself.
Hawes made one error in judgment on his arrival in Manila. He failed to all on Governor General Davis, which, as a Senator and a fellow St. Louisan, he should have done the first thing. Instead, he went to the Philippine Columbian Club and met some of the more radical independence leaders. It was a breach of etiquette which not even the political differences between Hawes and Davis could excuse.
Hawes didn’t confine his studies of the independence question to Manila. He traveled far and wide through the provinces. Once, after he had been as far south as Zamboanga, I was having a drink with Hawes and some other friends at the Manila Hotel. Ralph Busick, who had worked with me on the Free Press, asked the Senator if he had learned any Spanish on his trip south.
“Only two words,” said the Senator.
“What are they?” Busick asked.
“Mabuhay and yellow,” he replied.
Mabuhay is the Tagalog equivalent of “Banzai,” or “Hail.” But yellow had us stumped. A few minutes later Hawes called the boy and said, “Bring me some more yellow for this whisky-soda.” Then we realized he meant hielo, the Spanish word for ice.
After two or three months in the Philippines Hawes was glad to leave for the United States. “It’s damn hot here, and it’s damn expensive,” he said with feeling. “But I’ve learned what I came out to learn.”
In that same year of 191 another Washington official went out to Manila to observe conditions for himself. He was Patrick J. Hurley, the dashing Secretary of War who went through the islands at such a clip that he actually wore out three aides. Hurley talked to the same people Hawes did, and looked at the same statistics. He was wined and dined in much the same fashion. Yet the conclusions he reached were diametrically opposed to Hawes’.
Hawes returned to Washington convinced that the only solution of the Philippine problem was the setting of a date for independence. Hurley declared that the United States was not legally committed to Philippine independence, beyond the pledge to grant it when the time was appropriate and the Filipinos were ready. And he was firmly convinced that the time was not appropriate and the Filipinos were not ready.
Hurley said so in a letter to Senator Bingham; I remember when we first received a copy of the letter in the Free Press office. Ramon Navas, our star Filipino reporter, read it over and said, almost with tears in his eyes, “That settles the Philippine independence question. Independence won’t come in our lifetime.
He was wrong, of course, just as Arsenio Luz, the outstanding showman of the Philippines, had been wrong in a Rotary Club speech in which he had said that “independence is dead.” Within a month of his speech the question was being debated in Congress and the problem was on its way to solution.
The reason that Hawes and Hurley came to such divergent conclusions, of course, was because they set out with fixed objectives in mind. Hawes as a member of Congress, represented the pressure blocs which felt that Philippine competition was ruining American interests. Hurley, as a representative of the Administration, had his eye on the international factors involved in independence, especially on the naval conference soon to be held in London where a rearming Japan could logically demand naval equality with the United States if this country had no territory to protect in the Far Pacific.
As a matter of fact, I doubt if a single Congressman or Administration official or newspaperman ever had his point of view on Philippine independence changed by a visit to the islands. Their information was expanded and their outlook was broadened, but those I knew had made up their minds before sailing from San Francisco, and they very seldom changed their opinions.
I remember a dinner one night at which some of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Manila were trying to convince a Midwestern Congressman of the trade advantages which lay in continued retention of the Philippines.
“Hell’s bells,” he said, “you’re wasting your time talking to me. I know what the people back home want, and that’s the way I vote.”