Capitalism Was Behind American Colonization of Puerto Rico
The platform upon which the United States was built, freedom, was erected in response to the oppressive nature of colonialism. On July Fourth, 1776, the original thirteen colonies declared their independence, because the weight of Great Britain’s colonial restrictions proved to be too burdensome. The Constitution was signed shortly thereafter to protect American citizen’s rights from being abridged in the future. America was created as a direct response to the harmful nature of colonialism, however it soon forgot its idealistic birth. Freedom for all became a free for all, under America’s capitalistic system. When America was confronted with the question of what it should do with Puerto Rico it had three choices: accept it as a state, give it it’s freedom, or use it for profit. Capitalistic America saw Puerto Rico as an easily exploitable market, and enabled America to overlook the inconsistencies colonization presented in constitutional terms, or the widespread suffering colonization would cause. Thus, capitalism was the deciding factor in America’s decision to withhold from Puerto Rico its freedom.
Originally Puerto Ricans had high expectations regarding their future under American guidance. Puerto Rico wanted nothing “but American law, leaving no trace of Spanish legislation” (Trias -Monge 36). Under their new parent country, Puerto Rico hoped to receive universal male suffrage, American citizenship, elective mayors, free trade, and the right to elect a delegate to Congress, all of which had been denied them by Spain (Trias-Monge 36). Originally, implementing a system which would allow the maximum possibilities for Puerto Ricans to govern themselves was thought to be the proper way for America to proceed. This was consistent with American history, in that it too was founded on the right to self determination. A congressional advisor said it should be America’s primary goal to implement in Puerto Rico “an effective administration, that simultaneously provided the largest degree of self government” (Fernandez 20). Puerto Ricans were highly inexperienced in government, as the American forefathers had been a little more than a hundred years before, but were hopeful in their ability to adjust and grow.
The optimism surrounding Puerto Rico’s chances of a self determined future soon faded. America had been in pursuit of sources of cheap labor ever since a small, but growing vacancy in the Southern labor supply had been created by Emancipation. The majority of congressmen were in favor of exploiting Puerto Rico for this means, and sought interpretations of the Constitution which would allow colonization. One congressman felt the Constitution “created a government empowered to acquire countries throughout the world to be governed by different rules...in the exercise of unrestricted power,” (Trias-Monge 49). Another felt “the Constitution allowed two types of territories,...