Oration of President Garcia at the Necrological Services for Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison

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His Excellency Carlos P. Garcia
President of the Philippines
At the Necrological Services for Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison

[Delivered on December 5, 1957]


IN LIFE, Francis Burton Harrison was often compared with great empire builders and colonial administrators like Pizarro and Cortez, Cecil Rhodes, and Lord Curzon. By his death and his legacy of achievements, he has proved himself worthy of being paired with no less than that uniquely great human liberator, Marquess de la Fayette. When in 1824 the venerable La Fayette sailed away from the United States back to France, following a triumphal visit to the rising nation for whose independence he had gallantly fought as a young man, side by side with George Washington, he took with him among his cargo a big box of American soil. Upon his death ten years later, in accordance with his express wish, this earth he held precious was packed around his coffin so that his mortal remains might rest in eternity next to American soil, just as his memory was forever linked with America’s struggle for liberty.

Francis Burton Harrison, in accordance with his last wish, is to rest forever in Philippine soil, even as his spirit will always be one of the inspirations of Philippine liberty. He has now come back to us from his weary travels at the end of his earthy journey so that his mortal remains may eternally become part of our Motherland. He has perhaps even surpassed La Fayette in the love of the country whose liberty he helped to secure. For while the Frenchman remained burried in his native France in a thin layer of American soil, Francis Burton Harrison, American by birth, American and Philippine by citizenship, and by his own admission, Filipino in heart, has come back to us to become an integral part of the land that was once an American territory but which, to a great extent, through his courageous work, is now a free and sovereign Republic.

We are gathered here today to pay our last tribute to this benefactor and friend before his mortal remains are committed to its final resting place. It is most fitting that we do so, and I am positive that in this sad task, we Filipinos feel both sincerely grateful and profoundly bereaved. We are also highly honored, for he is the first and perhaps the only American Governor-General of our country in whose funeral rites we have the welcome opportunity to participate. To the American people and to his grieving widow and children, I should like to convey the heartfelt sympathy of our people and of myself for our own common irreparable loss. In the death of Francis Burton Harrison we have lost a dear friend and benefactor, and understanding interpreter of America’s Philippine policy, a liberal administrator, and a beloved statesman.

Yet, in a paradoxical but true sense, Francis Burton Harrison has served our people even in death. Not only that he has come home to stay with us forever; his great work on our behalf, now divested of mortal personality and standing alone on its undeniable merit, has become beyond dispute, a monumental contribution to human liberation. Always associated with it will be the Philippines and the Filipinos and how they served as the basic foundation of this immortal achievement.

In the Philippines, and for that matter in the whole Asia, America increased the area of human liberty by creating a new democracy, and in this work Francis Burton Harrison was perhaps her most enlightened proconsul, her most effective instrumentality, certainly the best-beloved of all. By her work in our country, America also rendered European colonialism obsolete, especially in Asia. To this priceless result, this thoughtful and beloved leader was likewise the greatest contributor and propagandist. More conscious of the libertarian and humanitarian character of his role in the Philippines than most of his contemporaries— indeed, protecting and defending it against the opposition of most of them—he once said the following:

“The conquest of Asia by Europe in modern times has been conducted upon quite a different theory (than the Roman or the Greek concept of governing other peoples): it is the holding of distant peoples in perpetual subjugation, upon an acknowleged basis of political and personal inferiority, for purposes of exploitation. This was the first article of faith, the unquestioned rule of white domination of Asiatics until the United States entered the field with her Philippine policy. The results of our stay have been far-reaching, and have shaken seriously the colonial offices of Great Britain, of France, and of Holland; they have also brought hope and inspiration to millions of patient brown and yellow men who find in the new ideas of America a promise of the future.” Thus Francis Burton Harrison, by his profoundly wise, farsighted, and faithful concept of America’s mission in the Philippines, and the humanitarian and farsighted deeds he accomplished in its context, has erected a monument to his memory that will forever live in the hearts of Filipinos and other Asian peoples, and loom ever more massive in its significance throughout the ages.

His contributions to our political, economic, and social development already elaborated upon by other speakers cannot be exagerated in their importance and significance. For nearly eight years, he actively and wisely helped our people accelerate the fulfillment of the condition for complete independence imposed by the Jones Law. In demonstrating his absolute faith in our capacity for self-government by broadening our autonomy and Filipinizing the government service beyond the purview of the organic law, he enabled us to win the faith of others. Nor did he neglect to lay down, with our active cooperation, the firm foundation of our economic, educational, and social growth.

And his faith stemmed from a genuine affection for our people. Francis Burton Harrison was indeed more than a friend. He was a brother. Possessing a humanity transcending race and color, he saw the Filipinos as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and liberty, fellow-heirs to the freedoms won with human sweat, life, and blood over the centuries, from the Magna Charta of King John to the Doctrine of Self-Determination of President Woodrow Wilson. Performing his mission and discharging his responsibility among us as his fellow-men and equals, he divested Philippine-American relationship of the last taint of imperialism and colonialism, placed it on a basis of equality and cooperation, and made the accident of history that had brought Americans and Filipinos together an enduring foundation of true friendship.

The work of Francis Burton Harrison has become a landmark in the history of both the Philippine and the American nations. His memory and his statesmanship will henceforth constitute an imperishable bond of understanding and friendship between the Philippine and the American republics, and the American and the Filipino peoples. Its enduring strength will forever serve both nations as an ever-present inspiration to cooperation in time of normalcy, as a firm link indestructible as gravity, in time of crisis.

Thus, in a larger Sense, Francis Burton Harrison is not dead. Though his mortal remains may turn back to dust, his spirit lives. It lives as part of our existance, as an element of the atmosphere in which we thrive, as an essence of our Motherland. From this day on, no great deed can be added to the cumulative achievement of our race without being suffused with his own achievements; no liberty shall we enjoy without gratefully realizing that it is founded on the liberties he helped us to win; no great joy will lift our souls without sharing it with his spirit to the full; no prayer of thanksgiving Will pass our lips without linking it to his deathless memory.

Great-hearted Benefactor, we loved you living, we love still. With heartfelt grief we bid your mortal remains sad parting, but the soul of this nation will be with your immortal spirit forever.

SourceUniversity of the Philippines, College of Law Library

Garcia, C. P. (1957). President’s oration at the necrological services for Governor-General Francis Burton Harbison, December 5, 1957. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 53(23), 8527-8530.