Civil Service

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Like the governing system of the Philippines, US officials in Hawaii similarly worked with native Hawaiians to establish a colonial order. Walter Murray Gibson, pictured here on the left, began his career as a Mormon missionary and became the islands' Minister of Foreign Affairs by the 1880s. Courtesy of Utah Historical Society via Mountain West Digital Library.

The US relied on the obedience, cooperation, and expertise of the people of their new territories to establish order across the Pacific and Caribbean. When the US invaded Puerto Rico, they turned to local scouts to help with the military campaign against the Spanish. Once Spain surrendered, the US rewarded its collaborators, not with independence, but with employment in the territorial government. These appointees were familiar with Puerto Rican traditions and loyal to American interests and facilitated the transfer of power from Spain to the US.

President McKinley appointed a number of American officials to top positions in the colonial government. Before assuming the presidency or presiding as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Howard Taft served as the first US governor of the Philippines. In this role he defined a "policy of attraction" in the Philippines. Most Americans governed alongside native Filipinos, as Taft had imported the concept of American bureaucracy which created thousands of empty jobs to be filled. It is important to note that the Filipinos who staffed the colonial bureaucracy did not represent the whole population. Most were members of an elite, wealthy, and educated class who largely benefited from American rule.

Civil service provided individuals across the empire a chance for self-determination, even as the status of citizen or independence was denied to them.