Bureau of Insular Affairs
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The bureau was created 13 December 1898 as the Division of Customs and Insular Affairs within the Office of the Secretary of War. This followed the Spanish-American War, which resulted in the transfer from Spain to the United States of several areas, including the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The word "insular" was already associated with Cuba and Puerto Rico because the Spanish had created autonomous "insular" governments for both islands in February 1898. The bureau supervised the customs and civil affairs of these areas. The placement of the bureau within the War Department reflected the manner in which the territories had been acquired, as well as the view that these areas could be of strategic military importance. In 1900, the name was changed to Division of Insular Affairs. The name "Bureau of Insular Affairs" was adopted in 1902.
The various governments established under the bureau's authority were referred to as insular governments. As a result of the Insular Cases, the U.S. Attorney General issued an opinion in 1915 stating that the insular areas were unincorporated territories of the United States.
From 1898 to 1900 and again in 1909-1934, the Bureau was also responsible for federal administration of Puerto Rico (which was called "Porto Rico" in official U.S. government documents until 1932). Puerto Rico, also an unincorporated territory, was administered under a civil government created by the Foraker Act of 1900, as later amended by the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917. In 1934, the Bureau's functions for Puerto Rico were transferred to the Division of Territories and Island Possessions (later the Office of Territories and still later the Office of Territorial Affairs) within the Department of the Interior.
The bureau's other responsibilities included oversight of the United States' role in Cuba, although those responsibilities were sometimes not clearly defined; briefly in 1904-05, some oversight of the Panama Canal; and administration of the Dominican customs receivership from 1905 to 1939 and the Haitian customs receivership from 1920 to 1924. However, the bureau was never responsible for Hawaii, which was administered pursuant to an Organic Act giving it the status of an incorporated territory, or for American Samoa, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands, all of which were administered during these years by the United States Navy Department.
The bureau was responsible for civil aspects of the Philippine government from 1898 to 1935. A U.S. Military Government was replaced by an Insular Government in 1901.
Befitting its organization within the War Department, the chief of the bureau was always an army general. The longest-tenured chiefs were Brig. Gen. Clarence R. Edwards, who served from 1902 to 1912, and Maj. Gen. Frank McIntyre, who served from 1912 to 1929. Future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter served briefly as a law officer for the bureau beginning in 1911.
Further reading 
- National Archives & Records Service, Inventory No. 3: Records of the Bureau of Insular Affairs (Record Group 350) (1971).
- Pomery, Earl S., "The American Colonial Office," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 521-532 (March 1944).
- Pratt, Julius W., America's Colonial Experiment (New York 1950).