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Statement on Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

March 26, 1931

THE PEOPLE OF Porto Rico have made magnificent progress in self-government and the establishment of democratic institutions. The government is ably conducted by Porto Rican-born citizens and there are today only three or four important officials upon the island who were not born there. I am advised from every quarter in the island that there would not be a popular vote of 5 percent in favor of independence.

The people are making progress from the effects of hurricane, drought, and the business depression, all of which were imposed upon a century-old poverty. They are showing great courage and initiative in this rehabilitation. They will this season in large degree have recovered their crops.

The devastating effect of the hurricane is still represented in the thousands of one-room shacks housing whole families. The most constructive contribution of the Federal Government is to continue and expand the present policies of aid to and cooperation with their institutions in education, health, better adaptation of agriculture, and expansion of industry and markets.

The Virgin Islands may have some military value sometime. Opinion upon this question is much divided. In any event, when we paid $25 million for them, we acquired an effective poorhouse, comprising 90 percent of the population

The people cannot be self-supporting either in living or government without the discovery of new methods and resources.

The purpose of the transfer of the administration from the naval to a civil department is to see if we can develop some form of industry or agriculture which will relieve us of the present costs and liabilities in support of the population or the local government from the Federal Treasury or from private charity.

Viewed from every point except remote naval contingencies, it was unfortunate that we ever acquired these islands. Nevertheless, having assumed the responsibility, we must do our best to assist the inhabitants.

Herbert Hoover, Statement on Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/211890

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