Rizal as a Patriot, Author, and Scientist

Francis Burton Harrison, Governor-General 1915-21


[Of all the governor-generals the Philippines have had, Mr. Harrison was the most beloved by the islanders. He seemed to have an instinctive sympathy with them and after his retirement from office testified to their worth in a remarkable book, "The Cornerstone of Philippine Independence." The comments that follow are extracts from an address he delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of Rizal Hall, Philippine University, December 15,1919.]

Addressing a university audience, I have selected three points in the life and writing of Dr. Rizal for your consideration. First is his patriotism. This university must devote its best efforts to teaching the students of to-day and those of coming generations that form of pure and unselfish patriotism that we find in the writings and sayings of Dr. Rizal. We have been gratified to follow the course in debate an in action of the students of this university in devoting their attention in a purely non-partizan way to the consideration of public questions of the day, but I address myself to the faculty as well as to the students for consideration of the form which that patriotism should take. In the days of my grandfather young men in America went to Germany to study at universities. That was the golden age when the teachings and memory of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, and Heine inspired the youth of the land and brought about a political movement that was crushed and ended in 1848 in the death of liberalism and the beginning of modern autocracy. Those of us that were educated in German literature can scarcely understand the Germany of the last three decades, and yet, in my opinion, their devotion to the religion of brutality and force is to be found in the teachings of their modern university professors - an example that has terrified all mankind and threatened the liberties of the world. So I say the teaching of pure patriotism must always be dedicated to the promotion of liberties, the liberty of thought, of the individual, to the care of the welfare of the common people, and for the progress and advancement in modern science of learning of the people of the Philippine Islands.

The literary aspect of Rizal's works should commend itself to each of you as an inspiration to do your own duty. I think no man can read Rizal's novels without feeling his powerful impulse of sympathy for and understanding of the people of this country. We can be moved not only by his profound reading of human nature, but we can also be inspired to emulate, if we may, the high level of talent for which his name will ever be famous in the history of literature. Here in the Philippines I would, if I could, arouse you to more earnest devotion to a literary career. You have natural advantages second to no country in the world. Your history is replete with incidents and romance and your present latter-day development is a true inspiration to the youth of the world in all countries. Last winter when I returned to New York for my first vacation home I remember one particularly dark and gloomy day when the people on the streets, which are nothing more than cañons between high buildings of stone and glass, were jostling one another without a spark of human sympathy or appreciation, conscious competitors in the struggle for the survival of the fittest; and my mind went back to those scenes of every-day life in the Philippines, to this land of lofty mountains, of clear water running to the sea, the sunsets across Mariveles Mountain, the dawn over Mount Arayat, the blue haze upon the rice-fields in the evening-all the familiar scenes and sounds of a life animate by the sun and made happy by the richness of nature. As I remembered the deep tender lights of the coconut groves and the busy industry of our daily life, I said to myself, "There is a country which could inspire any man to literary efforts with all its wealth of romance." When I recall the history of the Philippine Islands, the coming of the Christians with the sword and flaming cross, the coming of the Mohammedans, with the crescent and the crooked creese and their cry in many a hardfought battle, the enterprise of the Spaniard in spiritual teachings as well as in material investments, the shouts of Legaspi's sailors across Manila Bay, the guns of Dewey so many generations later, the efforts of our country to establish here our principles of democracy, it seems to me that any young man or woman born upon this soil and inspired by ideas has an opportunity to take a place in the very foremost ranks of literature and history and show to the world not only what has been done here in education but what the world may expect of the Filipino people when they take their rank as an independent member of the brotherhood of nations.

In the scientific aspect of his teachings Rizal ranked high in public appreciation, higher indeed in other countries than at that time he was allowed to rank here. He was recognized for his scientific work in ethnology, in zoology, and in botany in England and in the leading universities of Germany. Upon his death, the most distinguished scientist in Germany of that Professor Virchow, stated that this was a murder of the most prominent scientist that Spain possessed. In my opinion Rizal's greatest services to the cause of the human race were those scientific impulses which he gave to the world of his duty, and the martyrdom which he suffered was but another example of the determination of organized society in every age to eliminate those that by the pure processes of reason have arrived at new theories for the conduct and welfare of mankind. From the day of Socrates, who was put to death by the citizens of Athens for teaching the young men to think for themselves, down to that morning in December, 1896, when Rizal was done to death by the firing-squad at Bagumbayan, the pages of history have run red with the murder of men of science. In Europe of the Middle Ages the names of Roger Bacon, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Agrippa, Campanella, Kepler, Lavoisier, of Priestly, and many others of less distinction in the annals of history have shown what struggles the human mind has been called upon to endure and to what stress the human body has been put in the efforts of science to liberate the human mind....

Bearing all these things in mind, it seems to me that we can justly appreciate Rizal's love of science and his final martyrdom as the greatest contribution to the freedom of thought ever given by any one man to the Filipino people. This hall which we are about to dedicate, reserved as it is to be for the study of science, is the most fitting monument to the name of Rizal that could be devised. Here he alive to-day I have no doubt he would feel an infinitely greater inspiration in the thought that his name was to be attached to this great edifice and that his memory was to be preserved by the study of young Filipinos, men and women, in the natural sciences than he would be in that splendid statue erected down there on the Bagumbayan to perpetuate the memory of his patriotic death.

Now, my friends, in dedicating this edifice to progress, I believe that it will stand for progress as long as the Filipino people themselves remain progressive and as long as you will fight the battle for liberty of thought and of reason, and, I believe, also, that Dr. Rizal, if he has any conscious knowledge in those ethereal spaces to which his soul has been summoned, will summon the youth of his beloved country to dare all, to endure all, and, if needs be, to suffered all that he himself had dared, endured, or suffered in order that science may not perish from the face of the earth.

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created: October 21, 1996
updated: March 20, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger