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Special Message to the Congress on Puerto Rico.

October 16, 1945

To the Congress of the United States:

It is the settled policy of this Government to promote the political, social and economic development of people who have not yet attained full self-government, and eventually to make it possible for them to determine their own form of government.

It is our pride that this policy was faithfully pursued in the case of the Philippines. The people of the Philippines determined that they desired political independence, and the Government of the United States made provision to this effect.

It is now time, in my opinion, to ascertain from the people of Puerto Rico their wishes as to the ultimate status which they prefer, and, within such limits as may be determined by the Congress, to grant to them the kind of government which they desire.

The present form of government in the Island appears to be unsatisfactory to a large number of its inhabitants. Different groups of people in Puerto Rico are advocating various changes in the present form of government.

These advocated changes include different possibilities: (1) the right of the Puerto Ricans to elect their own Governor with a wider measure of local self-government; (2) Statehood for Puerto Rico; (3) complete independence; and (4) a Dominion form of government.

Each of these propositions is bring urged in the Island, and each has its own advocates. Uncertainty has been created among the people as to just what the future of Puerto Rico is to be. These uncertainties should be cleared away at an early date.

To this end, I recommend that the Congress consider each of the proposals, and that legislation be enacted submitting various alternatives to the people of Puerto Rico. In that way, the Congress can ascertain what the people of Puerto Rico themselves most desire for their political future.

However, in the interest of good faith and comity between the people of Puerto Rico and those of us who live on the mainland, Congress should not submit any proposals to the Puerto Ricans which the Congress is not prepared to enact finally into law. We should be prepared to carry into effect whatever options are placed before the people of Puerto Rico, once the Puerto Ricans have expressed their preference.

I hope that this problem can be considered by the Congress at an early date, and that appropriate legislation be enacted designed to make definite the future status of Puerto Rico.

HARRY S. TRUMAN

Note: A bill providing for the organization of a constitutional government by the people of Puerto Rico (S. 3336), as enacted July 3, 1950, is Public Law 600, 81st Congress (64 Stat. 319). H.J. Res. 430 approving the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as enacted July 3, 1952, is Public Law 447, 82d Congress (66 Stat. 327), which became effective on July 25, 1952.

Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress on Puerto Rico. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230220

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