National Geographic : 1904 Jun
VOL. XV, No. 6 WASHINGTON JUNE, 1904 THIS ^NATIONAL THE WORK OF THE BUREAU OF INSULAR AFFAIRS* BY COLONEL CLARENCE R. EDWARDS, U. S. ARMY, CHIEF OF BUREAU OF INSULAR AFFAIRS IN the month of August, 1898, after the capitulation of the Spanish forces at Santiago de Cuba, the War Department was brought face to face with a unique problem, i. e., the establishment of a properly qualified civil government under military control in the surrendered territory-a territory that speedily included Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippine Archipelago. The functions of an organized government, in harmony with American methods, had to be established in an unpromising field. Officers of the Army were, as a rule, placed in charge, and they became, therefore, for the time being, civil serv ants ; collected taxes, governed munic ipalities, enforced sanitary measures, established schools, adjusted claims, and, in short, performed almost every function of civil government. In a day, almost, they were called upon to govern more than twice as many people as in habited the United States at the close of the Revolution. The War Department found itself without adequate machinery to handle this new work. Its bureaus were re stricted to military requirements, while the new conditions extended to all classes of governmental affairs. The most important business which presented itself to the Department im mediately after the organization of San tiago was the collection and disburse ment of customs revenues. On August 23, 1898, the Secretary of War directed that all matters relating to the customs duties and taxes to be levied and col lected as a military contribution upon the occupation and possession of any ports and places by the forces of the United States, under the several orders of the President, as published by the War Department, should be referred to the Assistant Secretary of War for his consideration and report. The Chief Clerk of the War Depart ment states that, for the sake of ready reference, the first of the Cuban cus toms cases that reached his desk were * An address to the National Geographic Society, January 22. 1904.