Petition calls for a permanent government for Guam

The pursuit of self-government and protected civil rights through United States citizenship became a priority among many CHamorus in the first half of the 20th century. Guam leaders sought citizenship and self-government through formal democratic processes common in the US, but relatively new to CHamorus of the early 20th century who had just become subjects of the American empire in 1898.

A common strategy employed was the submission of formal petitions to US Congress. The first petition was drafted on 17 December 1901 less than three year after the Americans established Guam as a US colony. The petition was signed by 32 prominent residents of Hagåtña. It asserted the belief that the conditions instigated by the new naval government and the structure of the government itself were defective. As noted in the petition:

A military government, at best, is distasteful and highly repugnant to the fundamental principles of a civilized government…

Using a rhetoric of loyalty to the United States and a call for political rights, the petition highlighted the supreme power of the naval governor of Guam and the lack of power among CHamorus in the formation of laws or election of officials. The petition ultimately called for the establishment of a permanent government on Guam, rather than what was seen as a transitional and ineffective military government.

First of many

Similar to the 1901 petition, many other petitions were drafted and forwarded to Congress calling for self-government and citizenship. Petitions were signed by residents of Guam in 1917, 1925, 1929, 1933, 1936, 1947, 1949, and 1950. Support grew as the numbers of signatures increased for each petition. The first petition in 1901 contained 32 signatures of support. A petition in 1933 had collected nearly 2,000 signatures.

Despite these repeated efforts over the first five decades of American rule, the petitions went unaddressed in Congress until after World War II. Some petitions were claimed to have been “lost” in the files, were never answered to, were ignored altogether, or completely rejected due to heavy opposition from the US Navy.

The citation for the original 1901 Guam Petition, as provided by the Center for Legislative Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration, was filed here: Originals of Printed House Documents, 57th Congress, 1st Session (1901-1903); Record Group 233, Records of the US House of Representatives. National Archives and Record Administration, Washington, DC.