As a former president, Benjamin Harrison’s Dec. 14, 1900, speech at University Hall made national headlines when he criticized the federal government’s annexation of Puerto Rico.
Harrison argued that the Constitution follows the flag—that is, that residents of Puerto Rico should be considered American citizens subject to federal taxation. It would be 1917 before Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship.
Harrison also worried aloud that the United States had made a “grave departure” in colonizing a territory fully inhabited with people, rather than sparsely populated land.
Harrison’s speech was one of the last he gave before his death in March 1901.
A Republican, Harrison had previously visited campus on March 23, 1897, when he spoke of the need for corporate and tax law reforms.
Sources: Chicago Daily Tribune, Washington Post
Photo: Library of Congress