Francis Burton Harrison

Francis Burton Harrison

Francis Burton Harrison (December 18, 1873–November 21, 1957) was an American statesman who served in the United States House of Representatives and appointed Governor-General of the Philippines by President of the United States Woodrow Wilson. Harrison was a prominent advisor to a commonwealth president and the first four Presidents of the Philippines.

Early life

Harrison was born in New York City to Burton Harrison, a lawyer and private secretary to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Constance Cary Harrison, novelist and social arbiter. Through his mother, Harrison was great-grandson of Virginia-planter, Thomas Fairfax, the ninth Baron Fairfax of Cameron. Through Fairfax in birth and marriage, Harrison was also relative to United States founding fathers: Gouverneur Morris (his great-great-uncle), Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, the Randolphs, the Ishams, and the Carters.

A member of the secret society Skull and Bones, Harrison graduated from Yale University in 1895 and from the New York Law School in 1897. From 1897 to 1899, Harrison was an instructor in the Evening Division at New York Law School. He later left to serve in United States Army during the Spanish-American War, first as captain and later as assistant adjutant general.


Harrison's first wife was California railroad and mining heiress Mary Crocker, married on June 7, 1900. She died five years later in an automoblie accident leaving Harrison to raise two small daughters. Harrison would marry and divorce five more times to: Mabel Judson Cox, Elizabeth Wrentmore, Margaret Wrentmore and Doria Lee. Maria Teresa, a young Filipino woman, outlived Harrison.


A member of the Democratic Party, Harrison was elected to the United States House of Representatives for the Thirteenth Congressional District of New York, serving from March 4, 1903 to March 3, 1905. In 1904, Harrison ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of his state.

Harrison left the House of Representatives after his term finished to practice law. He later returned to Congress in 1907, having been elected from the Sixteenth Congressional District of New York. This tenure was noted for the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act on December 17, 1914. This time he served several terms, resigning on September 1, 1913 to become chief executive of the Philippines.

During his service in the Far East, Harrison was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 1920 presidential election. He lost the nomination to Governor of Ohio James M. Cox at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.


A member of the Woodrow Wilson Administration, Harrison became Governor-General of the Philippines from 1913 to 1921. Under his administration, the Governor-General's mansion called Malacañang Palace was expanded with the construction of an executive building. Departing from the position, Harrison lived in Scotland until being recalled to the Philippines in 1934. The Philippines would be transitioned from United States territory to commonwealth with an elected Filipino government.

Manuel L. Quezon became the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and Harrison was asked to be Quezon's principal advisor in November 1935. He served in that capacity for ten months. Harrison would return to the position upon Quezon's request in May 1942, when Filipino and American troops surrendered the Philippines during World War II. Harrison would serve the government-in-exile.

From November 1946 to February 1947, Harrison served as Commissioner of Claims in the civil service of the United States Army in Manila. He later served as an advisor to the first four presidents of the newly proclaimed Philippine Republic after their independence was granted in 1946.

After his service to the Philippines at Malacañang Palace, Harrison retired to Spain for six years, then chose to move to Califon, New Jersey in August 1957.


Harrison died in Flemington, New Jersey, and was interred in the Manila North Cemetery in La Loma, Manila.

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