Taft Commission

views updated


TAFT COMMISSION. President William McKinley appointed the Taft Commission on 16 March 1900 to supervise the adjustment of the Philippine Islands' government from military command to civil rule. The five-member commission assumed legislative authority on 1 September 1900, less than two years after Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States following the Spanish-American War of 1898. On 4 July 1901, William Howard Taft, president of the commission, became the Philippines' first civilian governor.

The commission defined its mission as preparing the Filipinos for eventual independence, and focused on economic development, public education, and the establishment of representative institutions. The commission went on to establish a judicial system, organize administrative services, and create a legal code that included laws regarding health, education, agriculture, and taxation.

On 1 September 1901, three Filipinos were appointed to the Taft Commission, and each American member became an executive department head. However, unstable economic conditions became a catalyst for the creation of a Filipino resistance movement dedicated to achieving immediate independence. To quell growing opposition, the United States promulgated a Sedition Law on 4 November 1901, making the advocacy of independence punishable by death or long imprisonment.

In July 1902, a legislature was established that included a popularly elected Lower House and the Taft Commission, which was also known as the Second Philippine Commission. Five years later, the reorganization went into effect and elections for the assembly took place, but franchise was limited to owners of substantial property who were also literate in English or Spanish.

After considerable Filipino lobbying and the capture of resistance leader Emilio Aguinaldo, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed. It provided for a ten-year period of "Commonwealth" status, beginning in 1935. On 4 July 1946, the United States granted the Philippines complete independence.

James T.Scott