Jones Law (Philippines)

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Congressman William Jones authored the bill which replaced the Philippine Organic Act of 1902.
A poster advertising the passage of the Jones Law

The Jones Law (39 Stat. 545, c. 416), also known as the Jones Act, the Philippine Autonomy Act, and the Act of Congress of August 29, 1916, was an Organic Act passed by the United States Congress. The law replaced the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 and acted like a constitution of the Philippines from its enactment until 1934 when the Tydings–McDuffie Act was passed (which in turn led eventually to the Commonwealth of the Philippines and to independence from the United States). The Jones Law created the first fully elected Philippine legislature.

The law, enacted by the 64th United States Congress on August 29, 1916, contained the first formal and official declaration of the United States Federal Government's commitment to grant independence to the Philippines,[1] and was a framework for a "more autonomous government", with certain privileges reserved to the United States to protect its sovereign rights and interests, in preparation for the grant of independence by the United States. The law provides that the grant of independence would come only "as soon as a stable government can be established", which was to be determined by the United States Government itself.

The law also changed the Philippine Legislature into the Philippines' first fully elected body and therefore made it more autonomous of the U.S. Government. While the 1902 Philippine Organic Act provided for an elected lower house (the Philippine Assembly), the upper house (the Philippine Commission) was appointed.[2] The Jones Law provided for both houses to be elected[2] and changed the name of the Assembly to the House of Representatives. The executive branch continued to be headed by an appointed Governor General of the Philippines, always an American.

Elections were held on October 3, 1916 to the newly created Philippine Senate. Elections to the Philippine Assembly had already been held on June 6, 1916 and those elected then automatically became members of the House of Representatives.

In 1898, the Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States, which subsequently fought the Philippine–American War between 1899 and 1902 and established control over the Philippines.[3]

Evolution of the bill[edit]

In keeping with the idea that the ultimate goal for the Philippines was independence, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt said as early as 1901, "We hope to do for them what has never been done for any people of the tropics—to make them fit for self-government after the fashion of really free nations.[4] " Because of the tendency of the American public to view America's presence in the Philippines as unremunerative and expensive, Roosevelt had concluded by 1907 that, "We shall have to be prepared for giving the islands independence of a more or less complete type much sooner than I think advisable.[4] "

During the election campaign for the 1912 elections which would make him U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson said, "the Philippines are at present our frontier but I hope we presently are to deprive ourselves of that frontier.[4] " Even before the 1912 elections, Congressman William A. Jones, chair of the U.S. House Committee on Insular Affairs, attempted to launch a bill which set a fixed date for Philippine independence.[5] When Jones delayed, Manuel L. Quezon, then one of the Philippines' two resident commissioners to the U.S. House of Representatives, drafted the first of what would eventually be two "Jones Bills". With Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate and with William Howard Taft as President, the bill stood little chance of passage. After the election of Wilson as U.S. President and his appointment of Francis Harrison as President of the Philippine Commission and Governor General of the Philippines, Quezon drafted a second Jones Bill in early 1914. President Wilson had informed Quezon of his hostility to any fixed timetable for independence, and Quezon believed that this draft bill contained enough flexibility to suit Wilson.[6]

Passage into law[edit]

Backed by Harrison, U.S. Secretary of War Lindley Garrison and Wilson, the bill passed the U.S. House in October 1913 and went to the Senate. After amendment by the Senate and further changes in a congressional conference committee, a final version of the bill was signed into U.S. law by President Wilson on August 29, 1916.[6]


Joint session of Philippine Legislature created by the Jones Law, Manila. November 15, 1916

Among the salient provisions of the law was the creation of an all Filipino legislature. It created the Philippine Senate to replace the Philippine Commission, which had served as the upper chamber of the legislature.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In the "Instructions of the President to the Philippine Commission" dated April 7, 1900, President William McKinley reiterated the intentions of the United States Government to establish and organize governments – essentially popular in their form – in the municipal and provincial administrative divisions of the Philippine Islands. However, there was no official mention of any official declaration of Philippine Independence.
  2. ^ a b c Philippine Autonomy Act (Jones Law)
  3. ^ James W. Lowen, Lies Across America: What Our History Sites Get Wrong, New York: Touchstone, 1999, ISBN 0-684-87067-3, page 138.
  4. ^ a b c Ninkovich 2004, p. 75
  5. ^ Kramer 2006, p. 353
  6. ^ a b Kramer 2006, p. 354

External links[edit]