On February 12, 1898, at nine o’clock in the morning, the members of the provisional autonomic cabinet were sworn in by Governor General Manuel Macías. They were Francisco Mariano Quiñones (Orthodox), chairman; Luis Muñoz Rivera (Liberal), secretary of Governance and Justice; Manuel Fernández Juncos (Orthodox), secretary of the Treasury; Juan Hernández López (Liberal), secretary of the Interior; Manuel F. Rossy (Orthodox), secretary of Public Education; and José Severo Quiñones (Liberal), secretary of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry. The first Council of secretaries was sworn in on February 18 and included as sub-secretaries Julián E. Blanco Sosa (Orthodox), for the chairmanship; José De Diego Martínez (Liberal), for Justice, Pardons and Governance; Luis Sánchez Morales (Orthodox), for Treasury; José Celso Barbosa (Orthodox), for Public Education; Cayetano CoIl y Toste (Liberal), for Agriculture, Industry and Commerce; and Félix Matos Bernier (Liberal), for Public Works and Communications.
I. The Council of Secretaries
The second Council of Secretaries took possession on July 22 and consisted of: Luis Muñoz Rivera (Liberal), as Chairman and Governance; Juan Hernández López (Liberal), for Pardons and Justice; Julián E. Blanco (Orthodox), for Treasury; and Salvador Carbonell (Liberal), for Development. They in turn had the following sub-secretaries: José de Diego (Liberal), for Chairman and Governance; Francisco Acosta (Liberal), for Pardons and Justice; Nicolás Daubón (Orthodox), for Treasury; and Tulio Larrinaga (Liberal), for Development.
The elected Administration Council had eight members, the same number that had been designated by the governor general in the name of the king. There were sixteen deputies to the Spanish Cortes and represented the towns of San Juan, Arecibo, Aguadilla, Mayagüez, Utuado, Ponce, Coamo, Guayama, Caguas and Humacao. The Liberal Autonomist and Orthodox members dominated in both bodies but the Unconditionals were also represented as a minority.
Despite many limitations, and its eventual suspension due to the U.S. invasion, the autonomic regime gave Puerto Ricans broad authority over island administration and legislation, while also giving them a vote in the Spanish Cortes.
On the first of March, Governor Macías set the elections for the island representatives for March 27, so that on April 25 the Houses could be constituted through direct election. The support for the autonomists was overwhelming: 98,000 votes, against 2,000 for the Unconditionals. This showed the broad support for this ideology, although it was divided between the Liberal and Orthodox wings.
The beginning of the Spanish-American War led the governor to suspend constitutional guarantees on April 21 and establish the Public Order Law of 1870 in full effect. The next day, a state of war was declared in the Military District of Puerto Rico and the inauguration of the Island Houses was postponed.
It was not until July, with the need to organize the regime, that a decree was issued solemnly inaugurating the House of Representatives and the Administration Council on the 17th. The parliamentary session was very short, opening on the 18th and limited to approving a reform statute reducing the secretaries to four, due to the withdrawal of some provisional members from the Orthodox wing. Also, it was approved a statement of loyalty to Spain against the U.S. hostilities, which was sent by cable to Queen María Cristina in Madrid.
This article was adapted by the Editorial Team
Author: Juan Hernández Cruz
Published: August 25, 2015.
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