The Jones-Shafroth Act

Woodrow Wilson

When the Jones-Shafroth was first enacted, it offered things which help to further establish Puerto Rican political and economic life. Signed in 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson, the Jones Law of Puerto Rico (Jones-Shafroth Act) was amended to the Organic Act of Puerto Rico which also created the previous law known as the Foraker Act of 1900.

The Puerto Rican Government

Reverently, the Puerto Rican government and its citizens, according to the Jones-Shafroth Act, were conferred to the status of U.S citizens. In addition to that, the Puerto Rican government structure looked similar to that of the U.S. The Puerto Rican government also had laws which observed civil rights, but, the trial by jury in the civil system was nonexistent.

The Puerto Rican Legislature

The Jones-Shafroth Act established the local Puerto Rican elected legislature. The Senate contained 19 members while the House of Representatives contained 39 members. The legislative acts could be vetoed by the Puerto Rican government; however, any veto could be overridden by a two thirds majority margin. The U.S president had the power to make the final decision.

The Resident Commissioners

In matters relating to franchise and concessions, the Public Service Commission would deal with them. The Public Service Commission consisted of the executive department, auditor and two commissioners who were elected. The Resident Commissioner represents Puerto Rico in the U.S House of Representatives. The only thing about the Resident Commissioner is the lack of a vote.

Puerto Rican Executive Departments and the U.S President

There were six executive departments comprised. They were the departments of labor and justice, education, finance, interior and agriculture. The U.S president appoints the attorney general, governor and commissioner of education with Senate approval. Attorney General Howard Kern was appointed Governor of Puerto Rico in 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson. The president had power to always appoint the governor of Puerto Rico, but never in the United States of America.

Puerto Rican and American Political Jurisdictions

The Puerto Rican governor had department heads which were subjected to approval by the Puerto Rican Senate. In retrospect, all officials of the Puerto Rican cabinet had to be approved by members of the U.S Senate. Meanwhile, U.S Congress had the right to veto any law which was passed by the Puerto Rican legislature. All matters of fiscal and economic control, immigration, mail services and defense were maintained through the U.S federal government in Washington D.C.

The U.S Constitution forbids Puerto Ricans from casting electoral votes because that is allowed to U.S citizens, but were allowed to join the U.S military. There were Puerto Ricans who did serve in the military during World War I. And later on, some portions of Jones-Shafroth Act would be superseded sometime during 1948. Then in 1952, the Puerto Ricans were allowed to draft their own national constitution which resulted in better autonomy when it became a commonwealth.


  1. The Disenchanted Island: Puerto Rico and the United States in the Twentieth Century, Second Edition. Published by Praeger Paperback; 2 ed. (March 30, 1996). ISBN-10: 0275952274