On This Day
1900 – The United States Congress passes the Foraker Act, giving Puerto Rico limited self-rule.
The Foraker Act, Pub.L. 56–191, 31 Stat. 77, enacted April 12, 1900, officially known as the Organic Act of 1900, is a United States federal law that established civilian (albeit limited popular) government on the island of Puerto Rico, which had recently become a possession of the United States as a result of the Spanish–American War. Section VII of the Foraker Act also established Puerto Rican citizenship. President William McKinley signed the act on April 12, 1900 and it became known as the Foraker Act after its sponsor, Ohio Senator Joseph B. Foraker. Its main author has been identified as Secretary of War Elihu Root.
The new government had a governor and an 11-member executive council appointed by the President of the United States, a House of Representatives with 35 elected members, a judicial system with a Supreme Court and a United States District Court, and a non-voting Resident Commissioner in Congress.
The Executive council was all appointed: five individuals were selected from Puerto Rico residents while the rest were from those in top cabinet positions, including attorney general and chief of police (also appointed by the President). The Insular Supreme Court was also appointed. In addition, all federal laws of the United States were to be in effect on the island. The first civil governor of the island under the Foraker Act was Charles H. Allen, inaugurated on May 1, 1900 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This law was superseded in 1917 by the Jones–Shafroth Act.
Born On This Day
1647 – Maria Sibylla Merian, German-Dutch botanist and illustrator (d. 1717)
Maria Sibylla Merian (2 April 1647 – 13 January 1717) was a German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator, a descendant of the Frankfurt branch of the Swiss Merian family. Merian was one of the first European naturalists to observe insects directly.
Merian received her artistic training from her stepfather, Jacob Marrel, a student of the still life painter Georg Flegel. Merian published her first book of natural illustrations in 1675. She had started to collect insects as an adolescent and at age thirteen she raised silk worms. In 1679 Merian published the first volume of a two-volume series on caterpillars, the second volume followed in 1683. Each volume contained 50 plates engraved and etched by Merian. Merian documented evidence on the process of metamorphosis and the plant hosts of 186 European insect species. Along with the illustrations Merian included a descriptions of their life cycles.
In 1699 Merian travelled to Dutch Surinam to study and record the tropical insects. In 1705 she published Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Few colour images of the New World were printed before 1700 and thus Merian’s Metamorphosis has been credited with influencing a range of naturalist illustrators. Because of her careful observations and documentation of the metamorphosis of the butterfly, she is considered by David Attenborough to be among the most significant contributors to the field of entomology. She was a leading entomologist of her time and she discovered many new facts about insect life through her studies.
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