For Sale at Raab: Original Document Ordering the Transfer of Puerto Rico to the US

The Raab Collection announces that it is offering for sale a rare and important historical document that marked the beginning of a new era for the United States and for Puerto Rico. Bearing President William McKinley’s bold signature and written from the White House, this order from 1898 authorized the evacuation of Spanish colonial forces from Puerto Rico after centuries of occupation and heralded the transfer of power to the US. The document is valued at $75,000.   

William McKinley autograph

In this original, signed document, McKinley directs the commission to oversee the withdrawal of Spanish troops and ensure compliance with the key terms of the peace treaty:

“I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to cause the Seal of the United States to be affixed to the commissions and full powers of Major General John R. Brooke, U.S.A., Rear Admiral Winfield S. Schley, U.S.N., and Brigadier General W.W. Gordon, U.S.V., as United States Commissioners to arrange and carry out the details of the immediate evacuation by Spain of Porto Rico and the islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, except Cuba and adjacent Spanish islands. Dated this day and signed by me, and for so doing this shall be his warrant.”

The Spanish had controlled the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico (and Cuba) since the days of Christopher Columbus, but at the tail end of the nineteenth century, the US sought to change that by forcing them out of the region. Tensions between the two countries culminated in the sinking of the USS Maine, one of the first American battleships, under mysterious circumstances in February 1898. Two months later, the Spanish-American War began.   

Spain’s loss was quick and decisive. The peace treaty compelled them to relinquish their claim on Cuba and cede sovereignty over Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the US. Both Guam and Puerto Rico remain US territories today. This remarkable document thus paved the way for American geopolitical dominance in the Western Hemisphere at the dawn of the twentieth century.

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