The legal luminary…
So extraordinary and spread over such an extended period of time have been George Rogers Harvey’s Masonic activities that, in a short biographical sketch like this one, it is impossible to do more than touch upon the highlights.
Harvey first saw Masonic light in El Paso Lodge No.130 at El Paso, Texas in 1896. In 1907 he joined Corregidor Lodge No. 386 and became its Master in 1909.
From the time of the initiation of Harvey up to his death in 1952, he continued to be a very active worker in Masonry. Even when his Masonic brothers threw rocks of adversity along his path, he did not waver in his devotion. He accepted disappointments with a smile and no rancour in his heart.
His first disappointment was during the Second Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge. The year previous, he was the most active in the organisation of the Grand Lodge and took charge of all details. His legal mind, his love for perfection, all made him the logical leader. At the First Annual Communication, he was elected Deputy Grand Master. When Grand Master Stafford became ill and had to go to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for an operation, Harvey took charge and safely guided the new Grand Lodge to its place in the concourse of Sovereign Grand Lodges in the Masonic world. Harvey must, therefore, be largely credited for the success of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines from its inception and should have been the logical choice for the next Grand Master. But, at the Second Annual Communication, he was unceremoniously left out entirely of the elected line-up.
Such a decision would have disgruntled a smaller man, but not Harvey. He accepted the clear disregard for his magnificent labours with grace. The following year, he received his merited reward, and was elected Grand Master from the floor.
The second disappointment met by Harvey was in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. In 1913 he was honored with his investiture as Knight Commander of the Court of Honor, but thereafter, time after time, was by-passed for further honors. Why? Frederic Stevens has this explanation.
x x x when I became Deputy of the Supreme Council in 1921 I tried to find out why. I found that Bro. Harvey had not been overly enthusiastic about the unification of the so-called Spanish Bodies with the Grand Lodge in 1917. He had been, with Wor. Bro. Elisha Wilbur, very active in having the Filipinos take a more active part in the Grand Lodge. He had helped Bro. Wilbur to form Bagumbayan Lodge No. 4, composed largely a Filipinos. This Lodge created tremendous interest among well-educated Filipinos, such as Francisco A. Delgado, Conrado Benitez, and Jose Abad Santos. Bro. Harvey felt, and history proved he was right, that many of the members of the Spanish Bodies were mere political followers of Bro. Quezon and that the membership as a whole had little conception of what Freemasonry is as fostered by the Anglo-Saxons.
Again, do not misunderstand me. I want to record here that some of the most sincere and active members of our Grand Lodge and Scottish Rite Bodies came from the Spanish Bodies – brethren whom we have honored and do honor as Freemasons of the highest standing. But to blanket in the entire membership without a thorough investigation of each member, was inadvisable, Bro. Harvey thought. “Allow them to put in affiliation blanks in the present lodges and let the ballot rule, not a self- appointed committee,” that was Bro. Harvey’s idea, but it did not prevail.
To rectify the delay in honors, I had the pleasure in 1923 of recommending Bro. Harvey for the dignity of Inspector General Honorary.
Then Stevens asked: “Who can say, if Bro. Harvey had kept quiet in those committee meetings in 1917, that a few years later, when he was proposed for a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court, he might have been given an approval-check by the man (Quezon) who ruled the Philippines at that time?”
Interestingly, after Harvey died, his sons sent his Masonic papers and books to the library of the Scottish Rite Temple in Manila. Stevens carefully sorted out the manuscripts. “I thought I might find perhaps a trace of resentment against the brethren for their action,” Stevens said, “but Bro. Harvey was above that. To him the will of the Brethren was supreme and he took their decision like the good Mason he was.”
In both the Scottish Rite and York Rite of Masonry, too, he was very much at the fore.
He received the 4th to the 32nd degrees in the Scottish Rite Bodies at El Paso, Texas in March 1906. Discovering there were no Scottish Rite Bodies in the Philippines, he worked with Judge Charles S. Lobingier and other Scottish Rite Masons in setting up the Scottish Rite Lyceum in Manila. In 1910, he went to the United States as a member of a committee of three and obtained dispensations from Sovereign Grand Commander Richardson for the organisation of Scottish Rite Bodies in Manila. He then demitted from his Scottish Rite Bodies in Texas to become a member of Mount Arayat Lodge of Perfection in Manila in 1911 and a Charter Member of the other Bodies, which were later organised. He was the first Master of Kadosh in 1911-1912. In 1919-1920, he served as Venerable Master of Mount Arayat Lodge of Perfection. In 1913, for his services to the Scottish Rite, he was made a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor. On October 19, 1923, he received the 33rd and last degree. Finally, in 1950, he was crowned a Sovereign Grand Inspector General.
In the York Rite, .he served as High Priest of Luzon Chapter No.1, R.A.M. in 1934, and as Eminent Commander of the Far East Commandery No.1, K.T. in 1937. Furthermore, he was a member of Oriental Council No.1, R. & S.M., as well as the Senior Past Worthy Patron of Mayon Chapter No.1, OES.
In his chosen vocation, Harvey was Solicitor General of the Philippine Islands from 1908 to 1914, then Judge of the Court of First Instance from 1914 up to his retirement in 1928. After his retirement, he formed a law partnership with another Past Grand Master, Seldon W. O’Brien.
Harvey was known to be a soft-spoken adviser as well as worthy, because truthful, friend. One of his former assistants, Supreme Court Justice Mariano H. de Joya, had this to say about him:
I had the privilege to know Judge Harvey from the year 1908, as one of his secretaries, while he was Solicitor General of the Philippines. Prior to that time, he had served as Assistant Attorney General for the Philippine Constabulary, and had a large share in the pacification campaign against what we now call dissidents, and handled the most important cases against them.
I worked under him, for two years, and during that period I knew him to be a most loveable character, studious, kindly, understanding, most courteous and helpful to his subordinates. He had faith in his fellowmen, and particularly in the rising generations to which he always extended a helping hand. Among the numerous young men that he helped, I can still remember the names of Attorneys Alva J. Hill, Booram, Nesmith and Antonio Villa-Real, who become a Justice of the Supreme Court, and many others.
Judge Harvey could have easily resigned from the Government service, and engaged in the private practice of his chosen profession, and at the same time engage in business, and thus made more money; but the love of service was stronger in him, and he, therefore, continued in the public service.
I was again associated with the late Judge George R. Harvey, in the Court of First Instance of Manila, when he was appointed Judge of the Court, where I served in the same capacity. As a member of the Judiciary, we always found Judge Harvey to be absolutely fair, studious and impartial in the cases entrusted to him; and when he resigned from the Bench and became a member of the prominent law firm of Harvey & O’Brien, I was also associated with him in several cases in the Court of First Instance of Batangas, and I can truly say that as a member of the Bar Judge Harvey could serve as a model for all lawyers, because in the practice of our noble profession he rendered professional services only when compatible with the highest principles for which he had always stood, money consideration being purely secondary. And he was prominently mentioned for appointment to the Supreme Court several times, a position he well deserved.
For his fair and honest dealings with his fellowmen, for the nobility of his character, and for his loyalty to public service, which he honored and loved so well, Judge George Rogers Harvey, we can proudly say, was truly a good man and a great jurist; that he was respected, that he was loved, and honored in his generation.
Harvey was in the United States on vacation when the war broke out in December 1941. Since that time he made his home at Berkeley, California – the place where he died on April 8, 1952 at the age of 84 years.