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Executive Order

January 20, 1899


My communication to the Secretary of War dated December 21, 1898, declares the necessity of extending the actual occupation and administration of the city, harbor, and bay of Manila to the whole of the territory which by the treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898, passed from the sovereignty of Spain to the sovereignty of the United States and the consequent establishment of military government throughout the entire group of the Philippine Islands.

While the treaty has not yet been ratified, it is believed that it will be by the time of the arrival at Manila of the commissioners named below. In order to facilitate the most humane, specific, and effective extension of authority throughout these islands and to secure with the least possible delay the benefits of a wise and generous protection of life and property to the inhabitants, I have named Jacob G. Schurman, Rear-Admiral George Dewey, Major-General Elwell S. Otis, Charles Denby, and Dean C. Worcester to constitute a commission to aid in the accomplishment of these results.

In the performance of this duty the commissioners are enjoined to meet at the earliest possible day in the city of Manila and to announce by a public proclamation their presence and the mission intrusted to them, carefully setting forth that while the military government already proclaimed is to be maintained and continued so long as necessity may require, efforts will be made to alleviate the burdens of taxation, to establish industrial and commercial prosperity, and to provide for the safety of persons and of property by such means as may be found conducive to these ends.

The commissioners will endeavor, without interference with the military authorities of the United States now in control of the Philippines, to ascertain what amelioration in the condition of the inhabitants and what improvements in public order may be practicable, and for this purpose they will study attentively the existing social and political state of the various populations, particularly as regards the forms of local government, the administration of justice, the collection of customs and other taxes, the means of transportation, and the need of public improvements.

They will report through the State Department, according to the forms customary or hereafter prescribed for transmitting and preserving such communications, the results of their observations and reflections, and will recommend such executive action as may from time to time seem to them wise and useful.

The commissioners are hereby authorized to confer authoritatively with any persons resident in the islands from whom they may believe themselves able to derive information or suggestions valuable for the purposes of their commission, or whom they may choose to employ as agents, as may be necessary for this purpose.

The temporary government of the islands is intrusted to the military authorities, as already provided for by my instructions to the Secretary of War of December 21, 1898, and will continue until Congress shall determine otherwise. The commission may render valuable services by examining with special care the legislative needs of the various groups of inhabitants and by reporting, with recommendations, the measures which should be instituted for the maintenance of order, peace, and public welfare, either as temporary steps to be taken immediately for the perfection of present administration or as suggestions for future legislation.

In so far as immediate personal changes in the civil administration may seem to be advisable, the commissioners are empowered to recommend suitable persons for appointment to these offices from among the inhabitants of the islands who have previously acknowledged their allegiance to this Government.

It is my desire that in all their relations with the inhabitants of the islands the commissioners exercise due respect for all the ideals, customs, and institutions of the tribes and races which compose the population, emphasizing upon all occasions the just and beneficent intentions of the Government of the United States.

It is also my wish and expectation that the commissioners may be received in a manner due to the honored and authorized representatives of the American Republic, duly commissioned, on account of their knowledge, skill, and integrity, as bearers of the good will, the protection, and the richest blessings of a liberating rather than a conquering nation.


William McKinley, Executive Order Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/205931

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