CARPENTER DESTROYS BOX A.

CARPENTER DESTROYS BOX A.

 Walter Robb, Editor, Chamber of Commerce Journal, American Chamber of Commerce, Manila, P. I June, 1929.

 The monument to Arthur W. Fergusson, first American executive secretary, who was so much a part of the early civil regime; stands on Plaza Fergusson in Ermita. A plaque perpetuates the name of Taft, on Taft avenue, being erected at the junction of the avenue with calle Padre Burgos, and trees planted by Taft and Mrs. Taft are growing on the old Luneta, General Wood having caused them to be protected with iron railings. Dewey is remembered in the city’s most elegant boulevard, a thoroughfare which one day may unite the city he blockaded with the city where he raised the American flag aloft May 1, 1898-old Cavite.

One landmark in old Manila has an intimate connection with Arthur Fergusson, whose work would have been less conspicuously brilliant had he failed of learning the Spanish language. The place of his contact with Spaniards and Spanish-speaking friends, daily, year after year, is the Palma de Mallorca, a hostelry in yellow paint on calle Real, of course in old Manila. At a little round table here, among cronies of his genial kidney, Fergusson held forth daily-in an atmosphere as stimulating as that of an oldtime English coffeehouse. Among the habitués of the place, and a guest at the round table, was Fergusson’s assistant, who succeeded him as executive secretary, Frank W. Carpenter, Governor Forbes’s amanuensis, and real source of accurate information, in the preparation of his book on the Philippines.

 These reliable servants of the Philippine government owed their effectiveness to their acquisition of the language; and Carpenter did not stop with Spanish as a second mother-tongue, but mastered Tagalog too, if not several other dialects. This information is imparted for what it is worth; at least it shows that the educated American can become a versatile polyglot, when he wishes to, and make it pay. Men of the Fergusson and Carpenter type had a chivalry of their own making. All during his service in the government, Carpenter kept Box A, into which he tossed a copy of every document he handled (and they were thousands, of the most important) and notes of his own on special incidents and the character and conduct of men and officials-notes showing when they wobbled, when they failed to play the game, or maybe when they did play it magnificently the good and the bad together, all in the telltake Box A.

 This, altogether, was a priceless record, an exhaustless treasure for the historian and the novelist alike, and for the biographer. And what, in the end, did Frank Carpenter do with Box A? Upon leaving Manila, or somewhere upon his route home to Boston, he opened it up and destroyed, personally, so that he would know that it was done, every paper it contained! Some of the information was too devastating, and he concluded that the fairest way was to consign it all to limbo without discrimination. So, though there is much of history left in Manila, there is no Box A; and as a consequence, many a reputation, otherwise perilous, is secure of historical renown.

 The old-timers were about the last of the Victorians, not the early of Albert’s happy days, but the late, of the God-fearing widow-of that contemporary American period that doted upon Howells and started Teddy trust-busting. They had a certain code to which they held, a peculiar mixture of sin and saintliness that dated them with the period the internal-combustion engine put an end to. Such were the Americans who occupied Manila and stayed to found the new community. A toast to their pluck and their virtues. As to their vices, if such they had or have-for many are our neighbors still, and many seek nepenthe of Manila days in the homelandoverboard with Box A! If there are permanent American objects of history in Manila, they are mostly of their building. It is very hard to write even a little, reminiscently, without digressing to pay them deserved honor. The above was hastily prepared, hence its discursiveness, as an address to the Manila Sojourners’ Club, May 28.-Ed.

 http://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/philamer/AAJ0523.1928.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext

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