The Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (McFall) to the Director, Bureau of the Budget (Lawton)1

My Dear Mr. Lawton: The Department of State has received your request for its views and comments with respect to House Joint Resolution 430 approving the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which was adopted by the people of Puerto Rico on March 3, 1952. The Department recommends that the President approve this Joint Resolution.

The Department has supported the successive steps which have been taken by the Congress and by the President, with the objective of giving to the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to organize a constitutional [Page 1428] Government in accordance with their own freely expressed wishes. The Department took the following position before the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on May 17, 1950 with respect to S. 3336, “a Bill to provide for the organization of constitutional government by the people of Puerto Rico”, which was enacted into law on July 3, 1950:

“The Department of State believes it to be of the greatest importance that the Puerto Rican people be authorized to frame their own constitution as provided for in S. 3336, in order that formal consent of the Puerto Ricans may be given to their present relationship to the United States. It is believed that, with their own constitution, the high degree of internal self-government which the Puerto Ricans today enjoy in their voluntary association with the United States, will assume for them an added significance. Moreover, such action by our Government would be in keeping with the democratic principles of the United States and with our obligations under Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations to take due account of the political aspirations of the people in our territories and to develop self-government in them. The Department of State feels that the enactment of S. 3336 into law would have great value as a symbol of the basic freedom enjoyed by Puerto Rico, within the larger framework of the United States of America.”

On April 22, 1952 the President transmitted to the Congress for its approval the Constitution which had been drafted by a constitutional convention elected by Puerto Ricans and which had been approved by the people of Puerto Rico by a vote of 374,649 to 82,923. The President declared that the Constitution conformed fully with the applicable provisions of the act of July 3, 1950 and of the Constitution of the United States, that it contained a bill of rights and that it provided for a republican form of Government.

The Department informed the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs by letter dated May 13, 1952 that it recommended the adoption of S. J. Res. 151 approving the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which was adopted by the people of Puerto Rico on March 3, 1952. House Joint Resolution 430 is identical with Senate Joint Resolution 151 with the addition of one exception and three provisos all of which it is understood are acceptable to the Insular Government of Puerto Rico.

Other governments and peoples, particularly of countries having the same cultural and linguistic background as those of Puerto Rico, have taken a keen interest in the relations between the United States and Puerto Rico. The United States has given, in the enactments which have provided an ever-increasing self-government in Puerto Rico, evidence of the sincerity of its devotion to the principles of self-government for dependent peoples, government by the consent of the governed, democracy and freedom. The Constitution of the Commonwealth [Page 1429] of Puerto Rico gives Puerto Rico a status chosen and carefully worked out by Puerto Ricans themselves in accordance with their own conception of the needs of Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States.

The achievement of self-government by Puerto Rico will be a matter of great interest to Members of the United Nations in their discussions of the political progress of non-self-governing territories. It will be a convincing answer to attacks by those who have charged the United States Government with imperialism and colonial exploitation, and it should be warmly welcomed by Members who have a sincere interest in the political advancement of dependent peoples. The new relationship which would be established by the approval of House Joint Resolution 430 would give Puerto Rico the full measure of self-government contemplated in Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations. The people of Puerto Rico themselves have stated, in a resolution adopted by their constitutional convention on February 4, 1952, that this compact entered into by mutual consent would mark Puerto Rico’s attainment of “complete self-government”.

Sincerely yours,

Jack K. McFall
  1. Drafted by the Acting Officer in Charge, Caribbean Affairs (Wellman) and cleared by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann).