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.

Between 10 or 12 in the forenoon of the next day the conference was renewed and Mr. Pratt then informed me that the Admiral had sent him a telegram in reply to the wish I had expressed for an agreement in writing. He said the Admiral's reply was - That the United States would at least recognize the Independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. The Consul added that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were in fact equivalent to the most solemn pledge that their verbal promises and assurance would be fulfilled to the letter and were not to be classed with Spanish promises or Spanish ideas of a man's word of honour. In conclusion the Consul said, "The Government of North America, is a very honest, just, and powerful government."

Being informed of what had been said by the visitor I consented to meet Consul Pratt, and had a strictly private interview with him between 9 and 12 p.m. on 22nd April, 1898, in one of the suburbs of Singapore. As soon as Mr. Pratt met me he said that war had been formally declared by the United States against Spain the day before, i.e., on the 21st April.

In the course of the interview alluded to, Consul Pratt told me that as the Spaniards had not fulfilled the promises made in the Biak-na-bato Agreement, the Filipinos had the right to continue the revolution which had been checked by the Biak-na-bato arrangement, and after urging me to resume hostilities against the Spaniards he assured me that the United States would grant much greater liberty and more material benefits to the Filipinos than the Spaniards ever promised.

I then asked the Consul what benefits the United States would confer on the Philippines, pointing out at the same time the advisability of making an agreement and setting out all the terms and conditions in black and white.

Being as anxious to be in the Philippines as Admiral Dewey and the North American Consul - to renew the struggle for our Independence - I took the opportunity afforded me by these representatives of the United States, and, placing the fullest confidence in their word of honour, I said to Mr. Pratt (in response to his persistent professions of solicitude for the welfare of my countrymen) that he could count upon me when I returned to the Philippines to raise the people as one man against the Spaniards, with the one grand object in view as above mentioned, if I could take firearms with me to distribute amongst my countrymen. I assured him that I would put forth my utmost endeavours to crush and extinguish the power of Spain in the islands and I added that if in possession of one battery of a dozen field-guns I would make the Spaniards surrender Manila in about two weeks.

The Consul said he would help me to get over to the Philippines the consignment of arms in respect of which I had made the preliminary arrangements in Hongkong, and he added that he would at once telegraph to Admiral Dewey informing him of this promise in order that the Admiral might give what assistance laid in his power to make the expedition in question a success.

On the 25th April the last conference was held in the United States Consulate at Singapore. I was invited by the Consul to meet him on this occasion and as soon as we met he said he had received a telegram from the Admiral requesting him to ask me to proceed to Hongkong by first steamer to join the Admiral who was then with his squadron in Mir's Bay; a Chinese harbour close to Hongkong. I replied to this proposal in the affirmative, and gave directions to my aide-de-camp to at once procure passages for myself and companions, care being taken that the tickets should bear the assumed names we had adopted on the occasion of our journey from Hongkong to Singapore, it being advisable that we should continue to travel incognito.

On the 26th April I called on Consul Pratt to bid him adieu on the eve of my departure from Singapore by the steamship Malacca. The Consul, after telling me that when I got near the port of Hongkong I would be met by the Admiral's launch and taken from the Malacca to the American squadron (a precaution against news of my movements becoming public property, of which I highly approved), then asked me to appoint him Representative of the Philippines in the United States, there to zealously advocate official recognition of our Independence. My answer was, that I would propose him for the position of Representative of the Philippines in the United States when the Philippine Government was properly organized, though I thought it an insignificant reward for his assistance, for, in the event of our Independence becoming un fait accompli I intended to offer him a high position in the Customs Department, besides granting certain commercial advantages and contributing towards the cost of the war whatever sum he might consider due to his Government; because the Filipinos had already decided such a policy was the natural outcome of the exigencies of the situation and could be construed only as a right and proper token of the nation's gratitude.

But to continue the statement of facts respecting my return to Hongkong from Singapore: I left Singapore with my A.D. Cs., Sres Pilar and Leyba, bound for Hongkong by the s.s. Malacca, arriving at Hongkong at 2 a.m. on the 1st May, without seeing or hearing anything of the launch which I had been led by Consul Pratt to expect to meet me near the entrance of Hongkong harbour. In response to an invitation from Mr. Rounsevelle Wildman, United States Consul at Hongkong, I wended my way to the United States Consulate and between 9 and 11 p.m. of the same day I had an interview with him. Mr. Wildman told me that Admiral Dewey left for Manila hurriedly in accordance with imperative orders from his Government directing him to attack the Spanish Fleet. He was therefore unable to await my arrival before weighing anchor and going forth to give battle to the Spaniards. Mr. Wildman added that Admiral Dewey left word with him that he would send a gunboat to take me across to the Philippines. In the course of this interview with Mr. Wildman I spoke to him about the shipment of arms to the islands which I had previously planned with him, and it was then agreed among ourselves that he (Mr. Rounsevelle Wildman) and the Filipino Mr. Teodoro Sandico should complete the arrangements for the despatch of the expedition, and I there and then handed to and deposited with them the sum of $50,000.

A steam launch was quickly purchased for $15,000, while a contract was made and entered into for the purchase of 2,000 rifles at $7 each and 200,000 rounds of ammunition at $33 and 56/100 per 1000.

A week later (7th May) the American despatch-boat McCulloch arrived from Manila bringing news of Admiral Dewey's victory over the Spanish fleet, but did not bring orders to convey me to Manila. At 9 o'clock that night I had another interview with Consul Wildman, at his request.

On the 15th of the same month the McCulloch again arrived at Hongkong from Manila, this time bringing orders to convey me and my companions to Manila. I was promptly notified of this by Consul Wildman who requested that we go on board the McCulloch at 10 o'clock at night on 16th May. Accompanied by Consul Wildman, the Captain of the McCulloch, and Mr. John Barrett (who then usually styled himself "ex-Secretary of the United States Legation in Siam") we boarded an American steam launch and proceeded to Chinese Kowloon Bay, where the McCulloch was anchored. While bidding us adieu Mr. Barrett said he would call on me in the Philippines, which he did later on in Cavite and Malolos.

Mr. Wildman strongly advised me to establish a Dictatorship as soon as I arrived in the Philippines, and he assured me that he would use his best endeavours to have the arms already contracted for delivered to me in the Philippines, which he in fact did. [It is to be observed, though, that the first expedition having been conducted satisfactorily, the arms reaching me in due course, I was naturally grateful and had confidence in the sincerity and good faith of Consul Wildman, and there was nothing surprising therefore in the fact that I asked him to fit out another expedition and caused the sum of $67,000 to be deposited with him for that purpose. I regret to state, however, that Mr. Wildman has failed to comply with my request and I am informed that he refuses to refund the money.]

The McCulloch left Hongkong at 11 a.m. on the 17th May and arrived off Cavite (Manila Bay) between noon and 1 p.m. on the 19th idem. No sooner had the McCulloch dropped anchor than the Admiral's launch, carrying his Adjutant and Private Secretary, came alongside to convey me the flagship Olympia, where I was received with my Adjutant (Sr. Leyba) with the honours due to a General.

The Admiral ushered me into his private quarters, and after the exchange of the usual greetings I asked whether it was true that he had sent all the telegrams to the Consul at Singapore, Mr. Pratt, which that gentleman had told me he received in regard to myself. The Admiral replied in the affirmative, adding that the United States had come to the Philippines to protect the natives and free them from the yoke of Spain. He said, moreover, that America is exceedingly well off as regards territory, revenue, and resources and therefore needs no colonies, assuring me finally that there was no occasion for me to entertain any doubts whatever about the recognition of the Independence of the Philippines by the United States. Then Admiral Dewey asked me if I could induce the people to rise against the Spaniards and make a short, sharp, and decisive campaign of it.

I said in reply that events would speak for themselves, but while a certain arms expedition (respecting which Consul Wildman was duly informed that it would be despatched from a Chinese port) was delayed in China we could do nothing, because without arms every victory would assuredly cost us the lives of many brave and dashing Filipino warriors. The Admiral thereupon offered to despatch a steamer to hurry up the expedition. (This, be it borne in mind, in addition to the General orders he had given the Consul to assist us to procure arms and ammunition.) Then he at once placed at my disposal all the guns seized onboard the Spanish warships as well as 62 Mausers and a good many rounds of ammunition which had been brought up from Corregidor Island by the U.S.S. Petrel.

I then availed myself of an early opportunity to express to the Admiral my deep gratitude for the assistance rendered to the people of the Philippines by the United States, as well as my unbounded admiration of the grandeur and beneficence of the American people. I also candidly informed the Admiral that before I left Hongkong the Filipinos residing in that colony hold a meeting at which the following question was fully discussed, namely, the possibility that after the Spaniards were defeated, and their power and prestige in the islands destroyed, the Filipinos might have to wage war against the United States owing to the American Government declining to recognize our independence. In that event the Americans, it was generally agreed, would be sure to defeat us for they would find us worn out and short of ammunition owing to our struggle with the Spaniards. I concluded by asking the gallant Admiral to excuse me for an amount of frankness that night appear to border on impudence, and assured him of the fact that I was actuated only by a desire to have a perfectly clear understanding in the interest of both parties.

The Admiral said he was very glad to have this evidence of our earnestness and straightforwardness and he thought the Filipinos and Americans should act towards one another as friends and allies, and therefore it was right and proper that all doubts should be expressed frankly in order that explanations be made, difficulties avoided, and distrust removed; adding that, as he had already indicated, the United States would unquestionably recognize the Independence of the people of the Philippines, guaranteed as it was by the word of honour of Americans, which, he said, is more positive, more irrevocable than any written agreement, which might not be regarded as binding when there is an intention or desire to repudiate it, as was the case in respect of the compact made with the Spaniards at Biak-na-bato. Then the Admiral advised me to at once have made a Filipino National Flag, which he said he would recognize and protect in the presence of the other nations represented by the various squadrons anchored in Manila Bay, adding, however, that he thought it advisable that we should destroy the power of Spain before hoisting our national flag, in order that the act would appear more important and creditable in the eyes of the world and of the United States in particular. Then when the Filipino vessels passed to and fro with the national flag fluttering in the breeze they would attract more attention and be more likely to induce respect for the national colours.

I again thanked the Admiral for his good advice and generous offers, giving him to understand clearly that I was willing to sacrifice my own life if he would be thereby more exalted in the estimation of the United States, more honoured by his fellow-countrymen.

I added that under the present conditions of hearty co-operation, good fellowship and a clear understanding the whole nation would respond to the call to arms to shake off the yoke of Spain and obtain their freedom by destroying the power of Spain in all parts of the archipelago. If, however, all did not at once join in the movement that should not cause surprise, for there would be many unable to assist owing to lack of arms and ammunition, while others, again, might be reluctant to take an active part in the campaign on account of the loss and inconvenience to themselves and families that would result, from open hostility to the Spaniards.

Thus ended my first interview with Admiral Dewey, to whom I signified my intention to reside for a while at the headquarters of the Naval Commandant of Cavite Arsenal.