CHAPTER III. Negotiations
But I and my companions were not to be kept long in our distress, grieving over the bad faith of the Spaniards, for in the month of March of the year referred to (1898) some people came to me and in the name of the Commander of the U.S.S. Petrel asked for a conference in compliance with the wishes of Admiral Dewey.
I had some interviews with the above-mentioned Commander, i.e., during the evening of the 16th March and 6th April, during which the Commander urged me to return to the Philippines to renew hostilities against the Spaniards with the object of gaining our independence, and he assured me of the assistance of the United States in the event of war between the United States and Spain.
I then asked the Commander of the Petrel what the United States could concede to the Filipinos. In reply he said: "The United States is a great and rich nation and needs no colonies."
In view of this reply I suggested to the Commander the advisability of stating in writing what would be agreed to by the United States, and be replied that he would refer the matter to Admiral Dewey.
In the midst of my negotiations with the Commander of the Petrel I was interrupted by letters from Isabelo Artacho and his solicitors, on the 5th April, claiming $200,000 of the money received from the Spanish authorities, and asserting that he (Artacho) should receive this sum as salary due to him while acting as Secretary of the Interior, he having been, it was alleged, a member of the Filipino Government established in Biak-na-bato. These letters contained the threat that failure to comply with the demand of Artacho would result in him bringing me before the Courts of Law in Hongkong. It may make the matter clearer if I mention at this point that Isabelo Artacho arrived at Biak-na-bato and made himself known to and mixed with the officers in the revolutionary camp on the 21st day of September, 1897, and was appointed Secretary of the Interior in the early part of November of that year, when the Treaty of Peace proposed and negotiated by Don Pedro Alejandro Paterno was almost concluded, as is proved by the fact that the document was signed on the 14th of December of that year.
In the light of these facts the unjust and unreasonable nature of the claim of Artacho is easily discernable, for it is monstrous to claim $200,000 for services rendered to the Revolutionary Government during such a brief period.
Moreover, it is a fact that it was agreed between ourselves (the leaders of the Revolution assembled in Biak-na-bato) that in the event of the Spaniards failing to comply with each and every one of the terms and conditions of the Agreement the money obtained from the Spanish Government should not be divided, but must be employed in the purchase of arms and ammunition to renew the war of independence.
It is therefore evident that Artacho, in making this preposterous demand, was acting as a spy for the enemy, as an agent of General Primo de Rivera, for he wanted to extinguish the rebellion by depriving its organizers and leaders of the most indispensable element, the "sinews of war," which is money. This was the view, too, of the whole of my colleagues, and it was resolved by us that I should leave Hongkong immediately and thereby avoid the litigation which Artacho seemed bent upon and thereby afford my companions time and opportunity to remove this new and wholly unexpected barrier to the realization of our cherished plans for the emancipation of our beloved fatherland. I am profoundly pleased to say that they succeeded, Artacho withdrawing the suit through a transaction.
In accordance with the decision of the meeting above referred to, I left Hongkong quietly on the 7th April, 1898, on board the steamship Taisany, and after calling at Saigon I reached Singapore as a passenger by the s.s. Eridan, landing there as secretly as possible on the 21st April. I at once proceeded to the residence of one of my countrymen.
Thus is explained the cause of the interruption of the vitally important negotiations with Admiral Dewey, initiated by the Commander of the Petrel.
But "Man proposes and God disposes" is a proverb which was verified in its fullest sense on this occasion, for, notwithstanding the precautions taken in my journey to avoid identification yet at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the day I arrived at Singapore an Englishman came to the house in which I was residing and in a cautious manner stated that the United States Consul at that port, Mr. Spencer Pratt, wished to have an interview with Don Emilio Aguinaldo. The visitor was told that in that house they did not know Aguinaldo; this being the prearranged answer for any callers.
But the Englishman returned to the house several times and persisted in saying that it was no use trying to conceal the fact of Aguinaldo's arrival for Consul Pratt had received notice from Admiral Dewey of General Aguinaldo's journey to Singapore.
In reply, the Consul said he would telegraph about this matter to Admiral Dewey, who was, he said, Commander-in-Chief of the squadron which would invade the Philippines, and who had, he also stated, full powers conferred on him by President McKinley.