The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography - Vol. 1

By Henry F. Pringle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
NO TAWDRY RULE OF KINGS

DRUMS punctured the shimmering heat on the morning of July 4, 1901. The Cathedral Plaza in Manila was festooned with flags; their stars and stripes gleamed in the white sunlight but their folds lay inert in the quiet tropical air. A covered pavilion had been built in the center of the square. Massed in front of the stand were thousands of Filipinos. Most of them were garbed in white, the civilian dress in equatorial countries. But many were native tribesmen from the hills. Signal fires had flashed across the mountains and had called the Negritos, the Igorots and the other strange people to watch the inaugural of their first civil governor. A Filipino band had for weeks been practicing the furious music of America. Now, as the hour for the inauguration approached, the musicians blew an occasional experimental note as though to be certain that the high reaches of "The Star-Spangled Banner" could actually be achieved.

At his home on the Calle Real, soon, to be abandoned for the elaborate and yet dingy Malacanan Palace, William Howard Taft fingered a cable which had just arrived from the President of the United States.

"I extend to you my full confidence and best wishes for still greater success in the larger responsibilities now devolved upon you," Mr. McKinley said, "and the assurance not only for myself but for my countrymen of good will for the people of the islands and the hope that their participation in the government, which it is our purpose to develop among them, may lead to their highest advancement, happiness and prosperity. . . ."

Taft hastily inserted the message into the text of the speech he would soon make. He then drove to the Ayuntamiento, the building which contained the offices of the Philippine Commission and where Taft had now been laboring for more than a year. The Ayuntamiento faced Cathedral Plaza; from his office Taft could

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