t the of the nineteenth century, the United States embarked
a new stage in its career. By seizing the Philippines and
Puerto Rico in the wake of the Spanish-American War, it became
an overseas colonial empire not unlike England, France, or Spain.
But America’s new colonialists nonetheless fashioned their project
as distinct. They declared that, rather than only governing Puerto
Rico and the Philippines, they would also transform them. They
would give their colonial subjects lessons in self-government and
teach them the ways of American-style democracy. Supposedly, nei-
ther Puerto Ricans nor Filipinos were yet fit for democratic self-
government. ‘‘While they deal in high sounding phrases concerning
liberty and free government,’’ asserted William Howard Taft, the
first governor of the Philippines, about the Filipinos, ‘‘they have very
little conception of what that means.’’∞ Tutelary colonialism would
fill the gap. It would enable Puerto Ricans and Filipinos to ‘‘assimi-
late American ideas and American institutions’’ and learn ‘‘our best
American thought and methods of administration.’’≤
Keeping with the rhetoric, American officials built extensive pub-
lic school systems. They also set up American-styled elections and
governmental forms modeled after territories at home. They re-
tained ultimate control for themselves but let Puerto Ricans and
Filipinos vote, hold local office, and formulate legislation in national
Previous Page Next Page