Executive Secretary

Dec. 10, 1898:  Last joint session of the Treaty of Paris. Attendees (LEFT to RIGHT) are:  Senator William Frye, John Moore (Secretary), Senator George Gray, Senator Cushman Davis, Judge William Day, Whitelaw Reid, General Rafael Cerero, Wenceslao Ramirez de Villa-Urrutia, Jose de Garnica, Buenaventura de Abarzuza, Eugenio Montero Rios, Arthur Ferguson (interpreter), and Emilio de Ojeda.  For more go to …

Fergusson was the first Executive Secretary


March 1, 1902: Chief clerk, executive bureau.

September 1, 1903: Assistant executive secretary.

February 1, 1908 to December 15, 1913: Executive Secretary.

Exhibit A.


The Government Of The Philippine Islands,

Executive Bureau, Manila,

October 1,1902.

Hon. Wm. H. Taft, Civil Governor of the Philippine Islands, Manila.

Sir: In the absence of the executive secretary, Hon. A. W. Fergusson, now en route to the United States on leave of absence, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the executive bureau during the period commencing July 16, 1901, the date of its establishment, to September 30, 1902, inclusive.

As created by act No. 167, United States Philippine Commission, the function of the executive bureau is ” to assist the civil governor in his executive duties.” Its officers are the executive secretary, who is the bureau chief, and the assistant executive secretary. In addition to the duties naturally arising within the field of executive action, these officials are charged with certain other obligations. The executive secretary, who by law is required to possess the qualification of speaking and writing fluently the English and Spanish languages, “shall act as interpreter at the public sessions of the Commission when that body desires his presence, and shall supervise, at its request, the translation of its laws.” He is also required by law, “in addition to his other duties,” to “act as custodian of the ayuntamiento,” the building in which are located the offices of the civil governor, Philippine Commission, heads of executive departments, and several important bureaus. The executive secretary furthermore must accompany the governor, not only upon official tours throughout the archipelago, but at all banquets, receptions, and other occasions when the services of an interpreter may be needed by the latter.

It is the duty of the assistant executive secretary to act, by direction of the civil governor, upon matters relating to the personnel of the classified service and such questions concerning the internal administration of the various bureaus which require the attention of central authority. He is required, in addition to his other duties, “to receive estimates for appropriation and to prepare and forward forms of the appropriation bills for the consideration of the Commission,” and, in the absence of the bureau chief, takes over the duties of the executive secretary, except those of interpreting and translating.

Under military government the civil affairs of the archipelago were administered through the office of the secretary to the military governor, except in so far as the courts and the Philippine Commission, upon assuming their functions, took over the judicial and legislative powers at first vested in the military governor. There were on duty in that office about June 30, 1901, the following officials: The secretary (brigadier-general, U. 8. Volunteers), 5 assistants (1 major and judge-advocate, O. S. Army, 1 captain and quartermaster, U. S. Army, and 4 commissioned officers, U. S. Volunteers), and a law clerk at $3,000 per annum. On July 4, 1901, upon the inauguration of the civil governor, the office of the secretary to the military governor ceased, and its purely civil duties, employees, and records were taken up by the executive bureau, as were also many duties theretofore pertaining to the office of the secretary of the Philippine Commission.

Upon the division of the several bureaus between the executive departments, it was deemed expedient to leave the Philippine civil-service board, the insular purchasing agent, and the office of the improvement of the port of Manila, as well as the provincial and municipal governments, under the direct control of the civil governor. In the interest of good administration it has been found necessary to require official correspondence between other branches of this government and the Federal Government to pass through this office, which is also the point of official contact of the United States army in the Philippines, the consular representatives of other nations,

the Roman Catholic Church, and the general public with central insular authority. In addition to his multitudinous duties as chief executive the civil governor in practice takes over the duties of absent heads of executive departments, as he has at this time those of the secretary of commerce and police. Yet the executive is but one phase of the dual official capacity in which the governor is required to act, for he is also the president of the Philippine Commission. He, therefore, must devote a considerable portion of his time to the sessions of the legislative branch of government, and furthermore receive at all times the public and officials of all degrees.

From all these conditions it is but natural that the executive bureau has become in practice the office of the civil governor, and as the period of organization and reconstruction gradually gives way to that of established perfected government, it is believed that to a greater degree than at present may this bureau “assist the civil governor in his executive duties,” and in no small measure lift from his shoulders the burden of detail work.

It has been the policy of this bureau to ignore no written communication received by it and, so far as possible, to give the writer satisfactory action with the greatest expedition compatible with justice to all concerned. It is endeavored invariably to reply in Spanish to persons using that language only, and in most cases each such letter sent is accompanied by an English translation, in the hope that, in the cases of government offices, at least there may be a rapid progress in the acquisition of a working knowledge of the English language as the medium of official correspondence. One of the Filipino provincial governors now uses this language almost exclusively in his letters to this office, and several other native provincial officials write short and routine communications in English. However, as in the past and must be for sometime in future, the official correspondence requiring translation is considerable in volume and important in character. Four expert translators in this office are constantly engaged in this work, and many routine papers are translated by clerks who have demonstrated capacity therefor.

During its existence the executive bureau has been required to interpret and translate from almost every known language to English. This feature has had to be {riven due consideration in the selection of employees, and at the present time the office is prepared to interpret and translate the French, German, Italian, Latin, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, Hebrew (modern), and Chinese (Amoy) languages and the Ilocano, Pangasinan, Tagalog, Vicol, and Visayan dialects. All communications upon receipt, if not in the English language, are at once translated, in order that there may be greater expedition in action.

The authorized number of employees in the executive bureau is 61, of whom 6 are assigned to the appointment and finance division, 16 to the miscellaneous (action) division, 24 to the record and mailing division, and 15 to the care and police of the ayuntamiento building.

The designation of the appointment and finance division indicates its scope. Applications for appointments are received covering the entire field of government, from the supreme bench to the most menial position in the service, as well as to countless positions which exist only in the imagination of the office seeker. These communications, as well as all others, are acknowledged upon receipt, and such information in the premises as it may be possible to impart is at once furnished. Appointments are made by the chief executive, as provided by law, of officials in the insular government, provincial governments, government of the city of Manila, courts of first instance, of the peace, and municipal organization committees. Charges and complaints against these officers and their resignations are received and acted upon by the civil governor through this bureau. This work is voluminous and of an importance demanding much of the time of the chief executive, notwithstanding the best efforts of the officials of this bureau and carefully trained employees in the preparation of the records of the cases before submission. By way of illustration of the amount of review one case alone may entail, it is sufficient to mention proceedings of provincial Iwards in investigation of charges against municipal officials, a report of which not infrequently covers as many as 750 pages of paper closely written and almost invariably in the Spanish language or native dialect In this division there are also received and acted upon reductions and removals of employees of all classes and grades in the classified service; not infrequently the papers in these cases are voluminous, the highest personal interests of the employee are at stake, and just action calls for an expenditure of effort and time which is obvious.

All appropriation acts of the Commission have been drafted in this bureau, and the immense volume of claims, estimates, and correspondence connected therewith has been a part of the preliminary work incident to each act. Upon the enactment of an appropriation bill extracts thereof are at once furnished by this bureau to the several departments, bureaus, and offices interested. Duplicates of estimates and correspondence upon which the act was based are transmitted to the Philippine Commission for its files, and duplicates of claims are furnished the auditor. All requisitions and certificates for public funds are verified, warrants drawn and mailed with letters of transmittal from this bureau. These warrants have ranged in amounts from $300,000 to 2 cents.

Further, this office is required to appoint committees and inspectors to pass upon damaged and lost public property throughout the archipelago, and to review and pass upon reports in these cases. This work corresponds to that incident to the appointment and review of boards of survey, and to a certain extent of inspectors, in army administration.

The files and records received from the office of the secretary to the military governor date from August 23, 1898, ten days after the occupation of the city of Manila, and purport to cover the subsequent period in so far as the action of insular central authority in civil affairs is concerned. There was naturally at all times, and particularly in the earlier period of military government, an unavoidable intermingling of civil and military factors in almost all correspondence and action. In winding up the affairs of the office of the secretary an effort had been made to withdraw records of matters purely military, and all such were turned over to the office of the adjutant general of the Division of the Philippines as military records prior to the creation of the executive bureau.

The records of the Spanish Government, so far as recovered after the occupation of the city of Manila by United States forces, had been placed in the custody of a force of employees who were carried upon the rolls of the office of the secretary to the military governor, and later by this bureau, until October 21, 1901, when the bureau of archives was created an independent office and its chief assumed the care and control of these public documents.

The record system of the office of the secretary to the military governor was^hat of card index and file copies, a form of what is currently termea “card record system.” This method has been followed to the present time in the executive bureau, and the results are such as to warrant its continuance.

Upon the establishment of the four executive departments (act No. 222, September 6, 1901), it was decided to centralize their records in one office in the interests of Itoth economy and utility, and the executive bureau was made the office of record for those departments.

There have been recorded in the bureau since its establishment 28,880 written communications, and sent out by mail or messenger 31,101 such papers. During the same period there have been received and distributed more than 200,000 printed publications. In addition there have been delivered by the messengers of this bureau several thousand notices of public sessions of the Commission and other official functions.

Since the establishment of the printing plant, requisitions for all public printing required for the insular and provincial governments and the municipality of Manila have passed through the executive bureau for recording after approval by the civil governor or head of executive department prescribed by law. Almost the entire time of an American employee of this office has been taken up in looking after these requisitions, many of which have had to be returned for completion correction, or revision, such action so far as possible having been taken informally in the interests of expedition. The printing plant commenced operations June 1, 1902, and during the subsequent period covered by this report 1,331 requisitions have been recorded and placed in the hands of the printer within a few hours after receipt almost without exception.

The work required of the employees of this bureau has been hard and without relaxation. There have been frequently recurring urgent demands for great expedition in order that important and bulky correspondence might catch a steamer about to leave for the States. The steady increase in the business of the office has taken up any margin of personnel that seemed about to become available for emergency demands of the service, such as absences on account of sickness, and assistance of other offices whose organization may be pending or incomplete for any reason. A high standard of efficiency has been exacted, and as a result several changes in the personnel of the clerks have occurred.

During the past year the local supply of American clerks has notably decreased both in quantity and quality. Except by importation from the United States it is now practically impossible to secure the services of a competent American clerk, unless by transfer from another bureau or appointment from the Army. While it is undoubtedly true that for some years we must rely upon Americans to fill certain difficult clerical positions, it is believed that most satisfactory results will be secured by the appointment of Filipinos to the lower clerical positions in which individuals will demonstrate capacity for work of a higher character and as their knowledge of the English language and adoption of American methods of thought and work increase, personnel will not be lacking from which to fill vacancies at the most difficult desks. For some months the plan has been followed of filling vacancies above $900 per annum as far as possible by promotion and the appointment of Filipinos only to the resulting vacancies, such appointees being required to possess a fair knowledge of typewriting and the English language, and a good local school education in Spanish, in addition to the usual certificate of the civil-service board. It is not the experience of this office that the Filipino as a class is unwilling to or incapable of work. When given just compensation and treatment he displays industry and capacity which are most creditable; if accorded the same treatment as the American employee he quickly recognizes the fact and shows a disposition to enter into competition, apparently as willing as the Caucasian to work for results flowing from individual merit if he feels he suffers no racial handicap. There is no reason to doubt that adequate salaries and fair treatment will secure for the government of the Philippine Islands a competent force of native employees of all grades within a few years.

Collectively and individually the clerks and messengers of the executive bureau have exhibited most commendable industry in the performance of their several duties, to which they have brought a disposition of well-disciplined, original thought that has enabled each in his respective sphere to perform his whole duty. It would be manifestly unfair to commend any particular individuals unless it were the stenographers, who have worked cheerfully without exception Saturday afternoons and every evening until after 6 o’clock, often until 7 or later, and the men assigned to the record division, who have not only done a vast amount of work exceptionally well, but, month after month, without prospect of relief, have kept at the most tiresome drudgery comprised within the work of an office.

It is believed that during the ensuing year this bureau will be able in a greater degree than heretofore to relieve the civil governor and the heads of the four executive departments from the volume of detailed administrative work, thus allowing these officials more opportunity for the expedition of weighty matters—legislative and executive—arising in their dual offices. Very respectfully,

Beekman Winthrop,

Acting Executive Secretary.


Report of the Philippine commission to the secretary of war … 1900 …, Part 1

Secretary of State Root with his right hand man, in 1904.  In 1900 Root was McKinley’s Secretary of War when Taft was appointed to the Philippine Commission.


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