Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Tomohisa Hattori

Subject Categories

International Economics | International Law | International Relations | International Trade Law | Latin American Studies | Political Economy


Jones Act, Jones Act of Puerto Rico, Colonialism, American Colony, Cabotage Law


After the Spanish-American War that ended in 1898, Puerto Rico was given to the United States by Spain as a war booty, becoming a US colony. The first law ever created by the United States to control Puerto Rico was the Foraker Act (also known as the Organic Act of 1900). This established a civilian government in Puerto Rico. It also extended the federal government rulings to the island. After its creation, the Puerto Rican population began to wonder what their political status was since nothing was concretized until the Jones Act was signed. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the Jones Act, is the foundation for protectionist cabotage laws that administer shipping in the United States and it is imposed in the mainland territories across the globe (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and Alaska). “Cabotage” refers to the shipping of goods between two points within a country. The Jones Act had two purposes: it declared that Puerto Ricans were American citizens; and at the same time, it limited Puerto Rico’s commerce by only allowing it to sell its products to the United States. Even though Puerto Ricans are lawfully American citizens, they hold a second-class American citizenship in a social aspect. This thesis is going to examine why and how the Jones Act came into existence.