Confirming governors for territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, 1901

A primary source by Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt to William H. Hunt, September 26, 1901 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)President Theodore Roosevelt wrote this letter to William H. Hunt, the governor of Porto Rico (as Puerto Rico was known at the time), just twelve days after he assumed the presidency following President William McKinley’s assassination. In it, Roosevelt seeks to promote stability and continuity in the government.

During this transitional period, Roosevelt assured Hunt, the territorial governors would be given the “largest liberty of action possible, and the heartiest support on my part” and sought advice on appointing a secretary of state. “[I]t was the intention of President McKinley to appoint Mr. Charles Hartzell. He had tendered the place to him and it had been accepted. Naturally I desire to carry out this intention, but before doing so would wish to ask whether you know of any objection to it – and in asking you for your opinion I am sure I am doing precisely as the late President intended to do.” Apparently not learning anything objectionable about Hartzell, Roosevelt did appoint him secretary of state.

Hunt was recalled from Puerto Rico in 1904 and made a judge on the US district court in Montana and later on the Ninth Circuit of the court of appeals. The territorial governors of two other Spanish possessions taken during the Spanish American War, the Philippines and Cuba, were William H. Taft and Leonard Wood. Taft ably administered the Philippines, despite an on-going insurgency that continued until 1916, and returned to join Roosevelt’s cabinet as secretary of war in 1904. Leonard Wood led a controversial reorganization of Cuban government and society during his governorship, which lasted until 1902. He later went to the Philippines and in 1906 was the leader of one of the largest massacres of insurgents in the Moro Province, where 600 men, women, and children became casualties. Despite the controversy surrounding Wood, Taft would appoint him Army chief of staff in 1910.

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