34-zoomThe Foraker Act, officially known as the Organic act of 1900 was signed into law on April 2, 1900 by U.S. President McKinley.   This law was called the Foraker Act because of the bills’ sponsor (Joseph Benson Foraker) a statesman from Ohio. This new law established civilian government on the island of Puerto Rico, which had been acquired by the United States after the Spanish-American War.

The new government had a governor and an executive council appointed by the President of the United States,  a House of Representatives with 35 elected members,  a judicial system with a Supreme Court and a U.S. District Court,  and a non-voting commissioner  in Congress.  The Executive Council was all appointed. 5 were selected from island residents and the rest were from the President’s top cabinet positions.  The Insular Supreme Court was also appointed.  All Federal laws of the United states were to be in effect on the island. The first governor of the island under the Foraker Act was  Charles H. Allen, inaugurated on May 1, 1900 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


The restrictions on Puerto Rican autonomy caused unhappiness in many quarters and an independence movement developed.  Adding to this pressure was the growth of a sugar industry that was dominated by outsiders.  As more land was set aside for the cultivation of sugar, less land was available for other general agriculture. Puerto Ricans were forced to import many food products and the standard of living declined.

First Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. Image from the Library of Congress

First Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. Image from the Library of Congress

The  Official Language Act (under the Foraker Act) was instituted which declared that in all insular governmental departments, courts, and public offices, English was to be regarded as co-official with Spanish, and when necessary, translations and interpretations from one language to the other would be made so that all parties could understand the proceedings.

This law was superseded in 1917 by the Jones-Shafroth Act.  The Jones Act was passed by congress in 1917, creating territorial status for Puerto Rico and making its people citizens of the United States.