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Organic Act for Puerto Rico

Organic Act for Puerto Rico/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_027imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


During the Spanish-American War, the United States invaded Puerto Rico to secure a strategic foothold in the Caribbean. When the Treaty of Paris formally ended the conflict in December 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Guam and the Philippines, to the United States.

After governing the island under military rule for two years, the United States attempted to clarify the nature of its jurisdiction over the country in the Foraker Act. Named for Senator Joseph Foraker, the legislation established a governor’s office and an executive council, both composed of presidential appointees. It also created a local house of delegates and a Resident Commissioner in Congress, both elected via popular vote. But Puerto Rico’s self-governance was severely limited because the governor and the executive council had veto power over any legislation passed by the house of delegates.

Drafted to amend the Foraker Act, the Organic Act for Puerto Rico (H.R. 9533) was introduced in the House by Insular Affairs Committee Chairman William Jones. A key provision of the bill extended United States citizenship to residents of Puerto Rico. It expanded the legislature to include a popularly elected senate, but vested veto power with the U.S. President. This is the final version of the bill, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917.

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