This Day in the Law
March 2

Jones-Shafroth Act Passed (1917)

On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed, granting United States citizenship to all citizens of Puerto Rico. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Act which also revised the system of government in Puerto Rico.

This legislation came about because Puerto Ricans did not have any internationally recognized citizenship. However, their local government was wary of creating citizenship, and turned to the United States. The understanding was that the United States would help Puerto Rico get on their feet, and then grant them independence once they were stable and established.

The Jones-Shafroth Act not only granted U.S. citizenship to all citizens of Puerto Rico on March 2, 1917, but it also recognized certain civil rights. Interestingly, the right to a trial by jury was not included in these civil rights.

In addition, the Act revised the system of government to resemble that of a state of the United States, with powers being separated among executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The Act also established a bicameral legislature similar to the United States. However, the United States maintained the power to veto any laws passed by the new Puerto Rican government, and retained control over fiscal and economic issues.

In 1948, U.S. Congress allowed Puerto Rico to draft its own Constitution which was then implemented in 1952. This established Puerto Rico as a Commonwealth of the United States, which it still remains today.