The Department of State and Oversight of Puerto Rico, 1900-1909

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

One of the original functions of the Department of State was oversight of the territories.  In 1873, an act of Congress (17 Stat. 484) transferred that function to the Secretary of the Interior.  In 1900, however, territorial responsibility was once again thrust on the Department of State after the United States conquered and seized Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. 

In 1900, under the Organic Act of 1900 (31 Stat. 77), also known as the Foraker Act, the law that established civil government in Puerto Rico, the Department was assigned certain duties for Puerto Rico.  The law required the Governor of Puerto Rico to make an annual report of the transactions of his government to the President of the United States.  He transmitted that report through the Secretary of State.  In July 1909, President Taft, issued an executive order pursuant to an act of Congress (36 Stat. 11), that transferred the Secretary of State’s duties vis-à-vis Puerto Rico to the Secretary of War.

The records retained by the Department of State consist of the following.  None of these records are currently available online.

●FIRST ANNUAL REPORT OF THE GOVERNOR, 1901.  (RG 59 Entry A1-915, NAID 1226307). The manuscript of the first annual report of Governor Charles H. Allen.  By comparing the printed version with this series, one can see how the Government Printing Office (now the Government Publishing Office), created a printed volume from a manuscript.       

●JOURNALS OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, December 3, 1900-March 1, 1902.  3 volumes.  (RG 59 Entry A1-916, NAID 1226308).  Arranged chronologically.  Certified copies of journals of the Puerto Rican executive council.

●JOURNALS OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES, December 3, 1900- March 12, 1908.  7 volumes.  (RG 59 Entry A1-917, NAID 1226310).  Arranged chronologically.  Certified copies of journals of the Puerto Rican house of delegates.

Some of the records

●MINUTES OF THE HOUSE OF DELEGATES, 1901-1903.  3 volumes.  (RG 59 Entry A1-918, NAID 1226311).  Arranged chronologically.  Certified copies of minutes of the Puerto Rican house of delegates.

●ACTS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, 1902 and 1906.  4 volumes.  (RG 59 Entry A1-919, NAID 1226313).  Arranged chronologically.  Certified copies of the acts and resolutions of the Puerto Rican legislative assembly. 

●ORDINANCES GRANTING FRANCHISES IN PUERTO RICO.  1901-1906.  (RG 59 Entry A1-920, NAID 1226909).  Arranged chronologically.  Copies of ordinances of the Puerto Rican executive council granting franchises for railways, telephone lines,  and a landing pier. These ordinances were transmitted to the President of the United States for his approval, as required by section 2 of a joint resolution of May 1, 1900 (31 Stat. 715), amending the act of April 12, 1900, for the government of Puerto Rico.  Letters of transmittal are attached.  The date of approval is indicated for each ordinance.

See this post for information about earlier Department of State territorial records.