The History of Puerto Rico

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Under civil government the entire reorganization of the life of the people is being rapidly effected. The agricultural status of the island was never so hopeful. The commercial activity is greatly increased. The educational awakening is universal and healthy. Notwithstanding the disastrous cyclone of 1898, and the confusion incident to a radical governmental reorganization, the wealth per capita has increased, the home life is improved, and the illiteracy of the people is being rapidly lessened.

President McKinley declared to the writer that it was his desire "to put the conscience of the American people into the islands of the sea." This has been done. The result is apparent. Under wise and conservative guidance by the American executive officers, the people of Puerto Rico have turned to this Republic with a patriotism, a zeal, an enthusiasm that is, perhaps, without a parallel.

In 1898, under President McKinley as commander-in-chief, the army of the United States forcibly invaded this island. This occupation, by the treaty of Paris, became permanent. Congress promptly provided civil government for the island, and in 1901 this conquered people, almost one million in number, shared in the keen grief that attended universally the untimely death of their conqueror. The island on the occasion of the martyr's death was plunged in profound sorrow, and at a hundred memorial services President McKinley was mourned by thousands, and he was tenderly characterized as "the founder of human liberty in Puerto Rico."

The judgment of the American people relative to this island is based upon meager data. The legal processes attending its entrance into the Union have been the occasion of much comment. This comment has invariably lent itself to a discussion of the effect of judicial decision upon our home institutions. It has been largely a speculative concern. In some cases it has become a political concern in the narrowest partizan sense. The effect of all this upon the people of Puerto Rico has not been considered. Their rights and their needs have not come to us. We have not taken President McKinley's broad, humane, and exalted view of our obligation to these people. They have implicitly entrusted their life, liberty, and property to our guardianship. The great Republic has a debt of honor to the island which indifference and ignorance of its needs can never pay. It is hoped that this record of their struggles during four centuries will be a welcome source of insight and guidance to the people of the United States in their efforts to see their duty and do it.

M. G. BRUMBAUGH. PHILADELPHIA, _January 1, 1903_.


Some years ago, Mr. Manuel Elzaburu, President of the San Juan Provincial Atheneum, in a public speech, gave it as his opinion that the modern historian of Puerto Rico had yet to appear. This was said, not in disparagement of the island's only existing history, but rather as a confirmation of the general opinion that the book which does duty as such is incorrect and incomplete.

This book is Friar Inigo Abbad's Historia de la Isla San Juan Bautista, which was written in 1782 by disposition of the Count of Floridablanca, the Minister of Colonies of Charles III, and published in Madrid in 1788. In 1830 it was reproduced in San Juan without any change in the text, and in 1866 Mr. Jose Julian Acosta published a new edition with copious notes, comments, and additions, which added much data relative to the Benedictine monks, corrected numerous errors, and supplemented the chapters, some of which, in the original, are exceedingly short, the whole history terminating abruptly with the nineteenth chapter, that is, with the beginning of the eighteenth century. The remaining 21 chapters are merely descriptive of the country and people.

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