The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence

Shortly after I published this piece I came across a significant piece of information, so standby. Really significant. Don’t go away.

In an article in the Philippine newspaper Inquirer of 13 June 2012, Rodel Rodis wrote: “Dewey, under specific orders from Navy Undersecretary Theodore Roosevelt to not make any commitments to Philippine independence, dispatched an artillery colonel, L.M. Johnson, to represent him….”

Dewey did no such thing. Johnson’s identity has generated a number of fallacies, from being Dewey’s secretary to being a US Army colonel to being a retired US Army veteran. He was none of these, he may not even have been a United States citizen,  and as is often the case with fallacies his real story is far more interesting. In October 1898, for instance, he was arrested for smuggling arms to Aguinaldo. I bet that wasn’t in your history book!

Would a US Army Colonel be a mere secretary to a US Navy Commodore? Vanishingly unlikely.

So what do we really know about a man whose sole claim to fame is that he signed the Philippine Declaration of Independence?

According to RM Taylor’s The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States: “(Aguinaldo sent invitations to Dewey, who did not come to the declaration) It was, however, important to Aguinaldo that some American should be there whom the assembled people would consider a representative of the United States. “Colonel” Johnson, ex-hotel keeper of Shanghai, who was in the Philippines exhibiting a cinematograph [Davis cite here], kindly consented to appear on this occasion as Aguinaldo’s chief of artillery and the representative of the North American nation. His name does not appear subsequently among the papers of Aguinaldo. It is possible that his position as a colonel and chief of artillery was a merely temporary one which enabled him to appear in a uniform which would befit the character of the representative of a great people upon so solemn an occasion.” (Page 55).

Taylor was citing an 1899 book, “Our Conquests in the Pacific by Oscar King Davis, a correspondent for the New York Sun  who arrived in Manila aboard the UST Australia with General Anderson on 1 July 1898. That actual mention of Johnson gives far more information about Johnson, which cross-references with other known information about him and suggests that Taylor was being somewhat disingenuous in his analysis of why Johnson was feted at Malolos and supposedly signed the declaration.

Other than the mention of Johnson in the Declaration of Independence, that is about as far as ever gets into the history books. Taylor is wrong on several counts.

If we follow up Taylor’s citation, from Oscar King Davis’s we find this brief gem of information:

… on the morning of the 6th (July, 1898) we started, five newspaper men, an interpreter, and ” Colonel” Johnson, an American soldier of fortune, who is here as Aguinaldo’s chief of ordnance. He ran a hotel—the Astor House—in Shanghai for a while, and came down here on a cinematograph proposition. Now the insurgents are guarding his machine in Lipa, and he is showing them how to handle smooth-bore cannon here. We had with us Mr. Oharvet, a Frenchman, born in New York, who was Johnson’s partner in the cinematograph. He speaks Spanish fluently”. (Page 107)

By this time, then, the Declaration had been signed – on 12 June – and Johnson was actively fighting the Spanish under Aguinaldo.

So, let’s take a look at Mr. Johnson and how he came to play his role in the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

Continue reading “The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence”


Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 11

And so we reach the final part of the examination of the document that lays at the heart of the Tallano claims, Oct 01-4.  The remainder of the alleged translation continues to present evidence of an incompetent fraud dressed up with a klutzy version of 1960s pseudo-legalistic language, ignorance of Philippine history and the protocols in use at the time.

Let us look at this last section:

Continue reading “Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 11”

Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 9

Before we get into the main body of OCT 01-4 it is perhaps worth a short detour to look at a name in that preamble: Princess  Rowena Maria Elizabeth Overbeck McLeod of Austria. It is, to say the least, odd to find the names Overbeck and McLeod in a document dated 1764, even by the standards of the Tallano canon.

Of course, ‘Princess’ might merely have been her given name. While not unusual in the present-day Philippines it would have been very unusual in the 18th century with its concern with rank and privilege. It may have been a rank acquired when she, if she existed, married the claimant to the throne of the Philippines, but that is unlikely since the ‘of Austria’ indicated she was a princess of Austria. Continue reading “Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 9”

Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 8

As the song goes, in the Sound of Music, let us start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. The very first line of the document indicates a very poor and inaccurate translation, despite assurances of the authenticity of the translation, or a document that is fraudulent and written by someone entirely unfamiliar with British history or the nomenclature in use at the time.

Or that Dawssonne Drake was ignorant of the correct terminology for the period. Certainly, Drake was born far away from Britain, in India, but he was an employee of the East Indian Company, under which auspices he governed Manila and it is unlikely that he would have made such a fluff as to refer, in the very first line of the document, to the ‘Royal Crown of England’.

First, in no formal document invoking any monarch, is the term Royal Crown used. It is simply ‘The Crown’. Since at least the Act of Union in 1707,  the British monarch was, at that time, the king of England, Scotland and Wales.  The term ‘Royal Crown of England’ is, therefore, a glaring anachronism not in use for several centuries before the dating of the document.

Continue reading “Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 8”

Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 7

Sadly, it is not possible to assess the authenticity of the document central to the Tallano claim of ownership of the entire archipelago of the Philippines. It has never been submitted in court proceedings, there is no image of it in court filings and it has never been studied by historians or forensic document analysts. Although an addendum to the 1965 translation says it is authentic it is unclear what ‘authentic’ means in this case. It may mean that the translation entered into court is an authentic copy of what was entered into court, it may mean the original document upon which the translation is based is authentic. In other words, the certification is so ambiguous that it is meaningless.

Continue reading “Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 7”

Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 4

Many, if not most people, think that the Spanish language first appeared in the Philippines with the arrival of Magellan on the Island of Cebu in the early 16th century. In fact the first known Spanish speaker in the islands was a slave called Pazeculan. Since the Filipinos of the time were keen on slave raiding and trading and there was a Spanish presence in South East Asia, including Spanish Muslims escaping from the Peninsula after the fall of Muslim rule with Reconquista just a few decades before Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines and the banning of Islam in Spain.

Of more relevance to our swim through history is the man he belonged to: Prince Aceh of Tondo, the man the Spanish thought ruled the whole of Luzon, until they got to Manila, long after the remains of the Magellan expedition seized Aceh’s boat off Brunei and held him to ransom.

Continue reading “Interrogating Tallano – Is the Philippines the richest country in the world? Part 4”