Welfare stories: How history should be written, with an example (early history of Guam)


Note: I don’t have a pro­fes­sional his­tory back­ground, just a mild amount of am­a­teur fa­mil­iar­ity and in­ter­est in the sub­ject. If there is some ex­ist­ing schol­ar­ship which I’m over­look­ing here, I would be happy to learn about it.

His­tory writ­ing is com­plex, with lots of choices about what de­tails to in­clude and em­pha­size. There is a fair amount of im­plicit at­ten­tion given to what is con­sid­ered more or less im­por­tant, and there is plenty of room for dis­agree­ment on that even as­sum­ing agree­ment on the plain his­tor­i­cal facts.

My prob­lem with much his­tory writ­ing is that the em­pha­sis is not weighted well for mak­ing judg­ments on hu­man­i­tar­ian im­pacts. An easy ex­am­ple here is the pres­i­dency of Ge­orge W. Bush. A typ­i­cal his­tory of his pres­i­dency will de­scribe the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in great de­tail (albeit even then in more poli­ti­cal and na­tional terms than global hu­man­i­tar­ian ones) while giv­ing lit­tle or no at­ten­tion to the benefits of his PEPFAR ini­ti­a­tive, which ac­tu­ally seems more im­por­tant. Im­plic­itly, such skewed em­pha­sis can have bad con­se­quences for gen­eral read­ers of his­tory, as their wor­ld­view gets mis­shapen. Ex­plic­itly, such skewed em­pha­sis limits the use­ful­ness of his­tory to the Effec­tive Altru­ist, who will have a hard time us­ing it for mak­ing good judg­ments about the kinds of con­se­quences which can re­sult from var­i­ous ac­tions.

A welfare his­tory would have the fram­ing and em­phases most rele­vant to look­ing at how peo­ple were able to change the qual­ity of life of oth­ers. Key ques­tions to be an­swered would be:

- What were the hu­man con­se­quences of diffuse trends, like eco­nomic growth and the spread of new crops?

- What were the hu­man con­se­quences of var­i­ous ac­tions? In the short run, and in the long run?

- What were the in­ten­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions of the ac­tors who took these ac­tions? What did they know, and what could they have known?

- What other op­tions did they have, and what would the con­se­quences of those have been? (coun­ter­fac­tual his­tory)

Coun­ter­fac­tu­als in par­tic­u­lar are some­thing that schol­ars have largely shied away from, or at least they have shied away from ex­plic­itly dis­cussing them, al­though they are al­ive and well in am­a­teur cir­cles like Alter­nate His­tory.

Of course there is schol­ar­ship that can an­swer these ques­tions in some ways. But col­lect­ing the in­for­ma­tion (some­times from mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines) and pack­ag­ing it in one co­her­ent story is a differ­ent mat­ter. One im­por­tant com­po­nent is to use more mod­ern sci­en­tific knowl­edge to try and in­fer the health and psy­cholog­i­cal con­se­quences of recorded events.

Steven Pinker’s En­light­en­ment Now could be con­sid­ered an ex­am­ple of the right idea, but it seems to em­pha­size a spe­cific nar­ra­tive ar­gu­ment rather than build­ing his­tor­i­cal foun­da­tions. Also it is very broad, whereas one could in­stead look more rigor­ously at nar­row slices of his­tory. Pa­trick Col­li­son and Tyler Cowen have called for in­ter­dis­ci­plinary “progress stud­ies”; the welfare his­tory ap­proach might be con­sid­ered a com­po­nent or pos­si­bly an ideal and com­pre­hen­sive model for this. Gra­ham Alli­son and Niall Fer­gu­son have called for an “ap­plied his­tory” move­ment to look back at les­sons from his­tory for spe­cific cur­rent challenges; a welfare his­tory would not have this re­versed di­rec­tion of in­quiry, but in­vokes a bit of its gen­eral spirit and pur­pose.

There is also work on eco­nomic his­tory; this could be con­sid­ered similar but with a mildly differ­ent scope. Most eco­nomic is­sues have a sig­nifi­cant di­rect im­pact on welfare, but there are many other de­ter­mi­nants of welfare.

Here I provide an ex­am­ple to show what the welfare ap­proach to his­tory could be like. I wrote about the his­tory of Guam be­cause it is (a) a small en­tity, easy to cover in de­tail, (b) par­tially An­glo­phone, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for me to read many pri­mary sources, (c) an oft-for­got­ten topic, mean­ing that I can do more to learn and teach some­thing novel, and (d) rele­vant yet highly ne­glected as a cur­rent is­sue for the United States. How­ever, for rea­sons of time and chang­ing in­ter­ests, I stopped this his­tory at about 1918. I de­cided to post what I have, and if I get enough pos­i­tive feed­back, I will com­plete this pro­ject with the 1919-2019 his­tory, plus some more de­tailed eval­u­a­tion of the Amer­i­can ad­minis­tra­tions of 1899-1918.

It would be more valuable to write a his­tory of a more well-known topic be­cause that would more clearly show­case the differ­ences be­tween welfarist his­tory and a stan­dard his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, and could catch a lot of at­ten­tion if it can re­vise or­tho­doxy. Most no­tably, one could sur­pass the well-known con­tro­versy be­tween tra­di­tional his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives and the New York Times’ 1619 Pro­ject about Amer­i­can slav­ery and more re­cent Afri­can-Amer­i­can his­tory with a ‘third way’ us­ing this welfarist ap­proach. How­ever, that would be a more am­bi­tious pro­ject.

His­tory of Guam up to 1918

Guam is a small is­land in the west­ern Pa­cific. It lies 1,500 miles south of Ja­pan, 1,300 miles east of the Philip­pines, 1,100 miles north of New Guinea, and 3,900 miles west of Hawaii. It sits at the south­ern end of the North­ern Mar­i­anas is­land chain; the smaller is­land of Rota sits be­yond the hori­zon al­most 40 miles away, and Saipan and Ti­nian lie be­yond that.

Guam is boomerang-shaped, 4 miles across at its pinch point in the mid­dle – a two-hour walk. The dis­tance from tip to tip is 30 miles, a day of foot travel if there were a straight road. It has an area of 210 square miles, larger than Malta but smaller than Bahrain.

It is a vol­canic rock and lime­stone plateau with coastal cliffs, mostly be­tween 150 and 600 feet above sea level, with some moun­tains in the south.

The is­land has a trop­i­cal rain­for­est cli­mate with sta­ble warm tem­per­a­tures, heavy rains and pe­ri­ods of rel­a­tive drought. It is vuln­er­a­ble to ty­phoons.

Pre-Con­tact Society

­Aus­trone­sian peo­ple from South­east Asia, with ad­vanced sea­far­ing skills, ar­rived in Guam at around 1,500 BC. Th­ese Gua­ma­nian na­tives later be­came known as the Chamorro peo­ple.

At the time of set­tle­ment, Guam was gen­er­ally cov­ered in for­est. Lit­tle is known about early Chamorro so­ciety, which con­sisted of small, mo­bile pop­u­la­tions, with­out much so­cial strat­ifi­ca­tion. They re­lied mostly on a marine diet, sup­ple­mented by for­ag­ing and sim­ple farm plots. They seem to have been rel­a­tively peace­ful, and would have been just a few hun­dred in num­ber (Ames­bury and An­der­son 2003).

Pop­u­la­tion then in­creased, due to in­trin­sic growth and/​or im­mi­gra­tion. This led to larger set­tle­ments with greater re­li­ance on agri­cul­ture and a more com­plex so­cial struc­ture by about 900 AD.

What we know of this later Chamorro so­ciety is based on ar­chae­ol­ogy, Chamorro oral lore, and the ac­counts of the first Euro­pean vis­i­tors in the 16th and 17th cen­turies. The peo­ple were or­ga­nized around large ex­tended fam­i­lies liv­ing in close prox­im­ity. So­cial iden­tity was founded upon fam­ily mem­ber­ship. Fam­i­lies were ma­tril­ineal, so the fe­male line con­trol­led land and other re­sources. Women did not have ex­clu­sive au­thor­ity, how­ever. The Chamor­ros fol­lowed an avun­cu­late prac­tice, where the mother’s brother was the prin­ci­pal au­thor­ity within a house­hold. A man had less do­mes­tic au­thor­ity than his wife, but could ex­er­cise au­thor­ity in his sisters’ house­holds.

Mul­ti­ple fam­i­lies were con­nected into clans, which formed a ba­sic poli­ti­cal unit shar­ing in­ter­nal re­sources and go­ing to war to­gether. Author­ity within the clan was di­vided by gen­der, with the old­est brother ad­ju­di­cat­ing work, prop­erty, dis­pute re­s­olu­tion and ex­ter­nal af­fairs, as the se­nior woman had au­thor­ity over women’s ac­tivi­ties. The Chamorro leg­end of the shap­ing of Guam de­scribed women solv­ing a prob­lem af­ter an amus­ing failure by armed men, un­der­scor­ing sep­a­rate but not very un­equal gen­der roles.

Clans were largely au­tonomous, with no cen­tral gov­ern­ment over them, but they formed al­li­ances with each other for war­fare, mar­riages, trade, and gifts.

Clans were also sep­a­rated into castes. All land be­longed to the high-rank­ing chamorri caste, who granted ten­ancy in less de­sir­able ar­eas to the low-class man­achang. Chamorri ex­tracted rents in the form of share­crop­ping. Manachang ap­peared smaller and darker than chamorri, ei­ther due to racial differ­ences (one or the other be­ing an im­mi­grant group) or due to mal­nour­ish­ment and sun ex­po­sure. Manachang were also for­bid­den from fish­ing on the open sea, rely­ing on fresh­wa­ter fish­ing to sup­ple­ment agri­cul­ture; this di­vi­sion was fa­cil­i­tated via su­per­sti­tion. Fish­ing grounds were di­vided up for use by spe­cific clans. Vio­la­tion of these rules was pun­ish­able by death. Manachang had to show strong defer­ence to chamorri, and could be kil­led for dis­re­spect. But a Span­ish friar who lived on Rota, Juan Po­bre de Zamora, said the man­achang were treated well by their su­pe­ri­ors. Since they were free to seek ten­ancy on any land, chamorri had an in­cen­tive to keep them satis­fied.

Mar­riage was in­tra­caste but only made out­side the clan, as there was a taboo against in­cest. Mar­riage was ar­ranged by el­ders, but were ac­tu­ally easy to dis­solve. Men suffered worse con­se­quences for di­vorce than women. Mar­riage was monog­a­mous, but adultery still oc­curred; women could prac­tice it with less so­cial penalty.

De­spite monogamy and the in­cest taboo, other as­pects of Chamorro so­ciety sug­gest that they would be mod­er­ately high on the Kin­ship In­ten­sity In­dex. Other Aus­trone­sian so­cieties scored higher than Europe but lower than most Afri­can and Asian so­cieties.

In keep­ing with in­tense kin­ship, there was a strong el­e­ment of com­mu­nal­ism, and it was typ­i­cal for peo­ple to vol­un­tar­ily as­sist many rel­a­tives and neigh­bors. Zamora ob­served that the Chamorro were more lov­ing and car­ing than the peo­ple of Spain at the time. They did not prac­tice cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment on their chil­dren. Un­mar­ried Chamor­ros of­ten had sex.

Clans com­peted for sta­tus through ath­letic com­pe­ti­tions, de­bates, sto­ry­tel­ling, and dis­plays of gen­eros­ity. The chenchule’ prac­tice of re­cip­ro­cal gift ex­change con­ferred pres­tige upon men who pro­vided the most gifts to oth­ers. Chamorro so­ciety was fairly ma­te­ri­al­ist.

War­fare oc­curred fre­quently, and of­ten broke out from petty dis­putes. Cor­re­spond­ingly, it was more of a rit­u­al­is­tic form of dis­pute re­s­olu­tion, milder than Euro­pean war­fare. A truce would gen­er­ally be ne­go­ti­ated af­ter just one or a few deaths. Vic­tors would mock the defeated, and then a for­mal offer­ing would se­cure the peace. But feuds and re­sent­ments could linger.

Chamorro tools ap­pear sound though un­ex­cep­tional. They fash­ioned tools and weapons from the bones of their en­e­mies. Chamorro fish­ing tech­nol­ogy could be fairly so­phis­ti­cated, al­though lower class men perform­ing fresh­wa­ter fish­ing had to set­tle for clubs and sticks. Sailing tech­nol­ogy was par­tic­u­larly ad­vanced; an English mariner in 1686 would de­clare that their proas “sail the best of any boats in the world.” Chamorro agri­cul­ture was en­tirely plant-based, and seem­ingly sim­ple: the soil was worked with wooden sticks, and there is lit­tle ev­i­dence of agri­cul­tural earth works. They had nei­ther wheels nor ploughs, in­no­va­tions of rel­a­tively low value in their en­vi­ron­ment. But they ap­par­ently had some aware­ness of soil mod­ifi­ca­tion. The cul­ti­va­tion of bread­fruit, ba­nanas, and var­i­ous tu­bers would have pro­vided an ad­e­quate sta­ple diet. Rice was adopted rel­a­tively late, some­time be­tween 1000 and 1521, prob­a­bly as a pres­tige food rather than as a sta­ble (Hunter-An­der­son et al 1995). The up­per classes lived in grander dwellings than those of Mex­i­can, Filipino or Ja­panese na­tives. The wooden struc­tures were erected atop latte stone plat­forms.

The Chamor­ros ap­peared ro­bust and healthy to Euro­pean vis­i­tors, and were larger than con­tem­po­rary Spa­niards. Th­ese ac­counts seem to have been bi­ased by the se­lec­tion of Chamor­ros – speci­fi­cally the chamorri – who would ven­ture out on boats to meet them. Even they were some­times beg­ging as much as trad­ing. Ar­chae­olog­i­cal records do show that the Chamor­ros were larger in stature than con­tem­po­rary Euro­peans. How­ever, nu­mer­ous skele­tons ex­hibit diet in­suffi­ciency. The Mar­i­anas Is­lands may have been a pop­u­la­tion sink – re­ceiv­ing im­mi­grants while ex­pe­rienc­ing in­trin­sic pop­u­la­tion de­cline. In the 16th-17th cen­tury, they suffered un­der the strain of the Lit­tle Ice Age.

Chamor­ros suffered from dis­eases like dropsy, yaws, arthri­tis and ane­mia. Chamorro heal­ing prac­tices were a mix of herbal and spiritual treat­ments. The func­tional effi­cacy of Chamorro herbal medicines is pretty du­bi­ous, but the pro­vi­sion of green leafy veg­eta­bles could have pro­vided a use­ful dietary sup­ple­ment, and the heal­ers ap­pear to play a benefi­cial psy­chother­a­peu­tic role (McMakin 1978).

Chamorro body mod­ifi­ca­tion in­cluded tooth stain­ing for pres­tige. The stain­ing pro­cess took up to two weeks per tooth; the sub­ject could not eat or drink dur­ing this time ex­cept via a fun­nel, caus­ing great tor­ment. A more in­va­sive pro­ce­dure was tooth etch­ing, but it was rare. One ac­count de­scribes the Chamorro as sharp­en­ing their teeth as well.

Christoph Carl Fern­berger, vis­it­ing in 1623, re­ported be­ing told by a Chamorro that they would kill eight of their own peo­ple in a rit­ual sac­ri­fice. Without a cen­tral au­thor­ity on the is­land, this would pre­sum­ably have been done at the village or clan level, but may not have been a prac­ticed by oth­ers.

It is un­clear how many of these prac­tices were shared by early Chamorro so­ciety, and more difficult to say what caused changes. The adop­tion of rice (Hunter-An­der­son et al 1995) and other in­ten­sive agri­cul­ture seems to have ini­tially been a re­sult of pop­u­la­tion growth ren­der­ing older tech­niques in­suffi­cient given the limited space of the is­land, al­though of course this could have turned into a mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing trend as food be­gat fer­til­ity. The net effect was that both pop­u­la­tion size and (pre­sum­ably) la­bor re­quire­ments grew; it is un­clear if nu­tri­tion and health changed. The in­tense use of land and marine re­sources in turn re­quired so­cial strat­ifi­ca­tion, with a caste sys­tem to di­vide fish­ers and farm­ers. Still, the prox­im­ity and com­pe­ti­tion led to an in­crease in war­fare. The com­bi­na­tion of la­bor de­mands, so­cial hi­er­ar­chy and vi­o­lence could be ex­pected to worsen av­er­age qual­ity of life. Still, Chamorro qual­ity of life was prob­a­bly su­pe­rior to that of Europe in the 1400s and 1500s, which was not only af­flicted by famine and plague (due in part to the Euro­pean cli­mate and ge­og­ra­phy), but also sad­dled by a more op­pres­sive set of norms and hi­er­ar­chies.

“They be out­side the faith of Je­sus Christ”

Fer­di­nand Mag­el­lan’s fleet ar­rived at Guam in 1521 af­ter an ex­tremely tax­ing four-month jour­ney across the Pa­cific, part of his fa­mous cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion voy­age. In their first en­counter, Chamorro men swarmed his ships and took a va­ri­ety of items in­clud­ing a row­boat, in what they held to be a reg­u­lar agree­able cus­tom. Euro­peans un­for­tu­nately could only view this as plain thiev­ery, and drove them off with cross­bows. The next day, Mag­el­lan’s men went ashore in ar­mor to burn 40-50 huts and sev­eral boats in re­venge while re­triev­ing their own; they kil­led eight lo­cals who re­sisted. Still, they traded with the Chamorro, tak­ing food in ex­change for goods, be­fore leav­ing. A Spa­niard in the fleet named Gon­zalo de Vigo later de­serted el­se­where in the Mar­i­anas and made his way back to Guam in 1522.

Guam was lo­cated squarely on the route from Mex­ico to the Philip­pines, which the Span­ish were forced to use due to Por­tuguese con­trol of the In­dian route. This led to a num­ber of ad­di­tional vis­its.

A Span­ish ship cap­tained by Toribio Alonso de Salazar passed by Guam in 1526, and found the sur­pris­ing oc­cur­rence of one of the lo­cals – de Vigo – speak­ing fluent Span­ish. Chamor­ros bought and stole as many iron items as they could. De Salazar de­parted with de Vigo and eleven Chamor­ros who were kid­napped to work the wa­ter pumps. The ship was later de­stroyed in the Span­ish-Por­tuguese con­flict and the Chamor­ros were prob­a­bly kil­led.

This was fol­lowed by a 1527 visit by Ál­varo de Saave­dra, who traded offshore but did not make land­fall.

The brief bar­bar­i­ties of early con­tact were part of a pat­tern of Euro­pean con­tact with na­tive peo­ples. The con­quis­ta­dors and their par­ties were fierce, am­bi­tious, op­por­tunis­tic, hardy, highly skil­led and pi­ous in­di­vi­d­u­als, and braved ex­treme dan­gers to carry out the most ex­traor­di­nary feats of the pe­riod. Of 270 men in Mag­el­lan’s ex­pe­di­tion, only 18 re­turned al­ive; Fer­di­nand him­self was kil­led in vi­o­lence in the Philip­pines. When these kinds of men en­coun­tered na­tives, a com­bi­na­tion of greed, cul­tural mi­s­un­der­stand­ings, and ghastly moral in­differ­ence to the hea­thens of­ten led to cru­elty and chaos.

The ex­plor­ers were not a mono­lithic group, and dis­si­dents among them spoke for fairer treat­ment. The most promi­nent con­tro­versy hap­pened back in Spain. The most promi­nent critic was Bar­tolomé de las Casas. After he re­turned from the Amer­i­cas, his in­fluence helped lead to the Subli­mus Deus, a brief 1537 pa­pal en­cycli­cal main­tain­ing that God had en­dowed all men with the ca­pac­ity for faith and, there­fore, the In­di­ans must be treated with a ba­sic level of dig­nity – not to be de­prived of their life, prop­erty or free­dom. In 1542, King Charles is­sued the New Laws for good treat­ment of the In­di­ans. Gover­nors were given an obli­ga­tion to look out for the well-be­ing of the In­di­ans, slav­ery and forced la­bor were for­bid­den, and gov­er­nance was cen­tral­ized to­wards viceroys and the Crown.

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda crit­i­cized the New Laws, ar­gu­ing that the In­di­ans were in­her­ently in­fe­rior and bet­ter suited for slav­ery. His deroga­tory view was not widely ac­cepted in Euro­pean academia, not least be­cause it was sec­u­lar and not well sup­ported by the­ol­ogy. In 1550, King Charles or­dered a halt on mil­i­tary ex­pe­di­tions and es­tab­lished a com­mis­sion to hear both sides of the de­bate (Her­nan­dez 2001). Las Casas ar­gued it out with Sepúlveda; they made ap­pli­ca­tions of Aris­totlean thought, me­dieval and Re­nais­sance the­ol­ogy. The re­sults were in­con­clu­sive.

The mood among Span­ish elites and the monar­chy was fre­quently in fa­vor of bet­ter treat­ment of In­di­ans, partly due to the de­sire to re­strict the grow­ing power of colo­nial gov­er­nors. How­ever, it was difficult to ex­ert con­trol over oceanic dis­tances at that time, and com­pli­ance was mixed. Over­all, the ad­vo­cacy for bet­ter treat­ment of the In­di­ans had a mod­est im­pact on Span­ish ven­tures, both in the Amer­i­cas and in the Philip­pines.

Guam mean­while was ig­nored for decades. Soar­ing spice prices even­tu­ally mo­ti­vated an­other at­tempt to colonize the Philip­pines; a fleet had to be con­structed in west­ern Mex­ico to at­tempt an­other cross­ing of the Pa­cific. It was led by Miguel López de Legazpi, who had ex­plicit in­struc­tions from the king to se­lect sites in the Mar­i­anas for coloniza­tion, but not to take the prop­erty of the In­di­ans. In Jan­uary 1565, three ships ar­rived at Guam, a sight fa­mil­iar to the el­der Chamor­ros.

The sailors traded iron items, mainly nails, for food. Chamor­ros cheated Spa­niards by filling con­tain­ers with stones and wa­ter and pass­ing them off as pro­vi­sions, and again made off with a Span­ish row­boat. This time how­ever it did not lead to vi­o­lence. Spa­niards went ashore, gath­er­ing more wa­ter and food. In a cer­e­mony which the Chamor­ros could not even un­der­stand, let alone agree to, Legazpi de­clared the is­land a pos­ses­sion of Spain. This would how­ever be an en­tirely sym­bolic ges­ture for the time be­ing.

Sk­ir­mishes did oc­cur dur­ing Legazpi’s ex­cur­sions. It was a mild mat­ter un­til they in­ad­ver­tently left a cabin boy ashore. Chamor­ros tied him, stabbed him with spears and mu­tilated his face. Spa­niards dis­cov­ered his corpse the next day and were met with jeers. They ex­acted vengeance by burn­ing Chamorro proas, then am­bush­ing and wound­ing men who showed up. Three were hanged; a fourth was saved when Span­ish priests in­ter­vened.

This vi­o­lence did not pre­vent Legazpi’s men from trad­ing with other clans; the de­cen­tral­ized sys­tem lo­cal­ized the hos­tilities. Legazpi’s fleet weighed an­chor and left with one Chamorro ab­ductee.

In Au­gust 1566, neigh­bor­ing Rota was sub­ject to an un­for­tu­nate visit by a lone ship sent to re­sup­ply Legazpi in the Philip­pines. Chamor­ros were kil­led and houses were burned by undis­ci­plined Span­ish sol­diers. Another ship ar­rived in Au­gust 1568 and was dashed against reefs in a storm. Chamorro war­riors de­scended upon the sur­vivors but were fended off. Chamor­ros con­tinued to trade and per­haps ex­tract trib­ute from the cast­aways. The 132 Spa­niards, led by their eigh­teen-year-old cap­tain Felipe de Salcedo (Legazpi’s grand­son), then amaz­ingly con­structed a bar­que out of the ship’s boat and pieces of the wreck and sailed it to the Philip­pines with­out los­ing a man.

Guam was now firmly on the Euro­pean map. Span­ish galleons en route to the Philip­pines be­came a some­what rou­tine oc­cur­rence. Typ­i­cally they traded offshore with­out mak­ing land­fall. Fol­low­ing their riches, the English pri­va­teer Thomas Cavendish also stopped by Guam in 1588, trad­ing with Chamor­ros offshore and then firing mus­kets at them when they fol­lowed his ship. Guam’s cos­mopoli­tan cre­den­tials fur­ther ex­panded when four Dutch ships ar­rived in Septem­ber 1600, trad­ing and then de­part­ing. Sub­se­quent con­tact would be a mix of Span­ish and Dutch vis­i­tors.

As Guam and the Chamor­ros be­came rec­og­nized by the Spa­niards, mis­sion­ary in­ter­ested en­sued. Three Spa­niards ap­peared in 1596: the friar An­to­nio de Los Án­ge­les, try­ing to bring Chris­ti­an­ity to the is­lan­ders, and two sol­diers who had been try­ing in vain to re­trieve the priest. They re­mained un­harmed for a year and de­parted on the next galleon. They were fol­lowed in 1602 by the fri­ars Juan Po­bre de Zamora and Pe­dro de Talav­era, who de­serted Span­ish ships to be taken ashore on Rota. De Zamora was picked up in the next year. De Los Án­ge­les and de Zamora both shared writ­ten ac­counts of the Chamorro peo­ple.

In 1638, an enor­mous galleon with 400 peo­ple was wrecked by Saipan. Most were kil­led ei­ther by drown­ing or by the depre­da­tions of Chamorro war­riors who de­scended upon the wreck and looted its con­tents. The sur­vivors made their way to Rota and Guam, where they were well treated. Some even­tu­ally de­parted to the Philip­pines; oth­ers stayed, mar­ried Chamorro women and raised fam­i­lies.

The im­pact of Euro­pean con­tact with the Chamor­ros is un­clear due to the lack of Chamorro records, but vis­i­tors’ tales in­di­cate that there was lit­tle in­fluence in the cen­tury and a half fol­low­ing Mag­el­lan. Scores or per­haps hun­dreds of chamor­ros were kil­led, mostly need­lessly, in vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions; this num­ber could have been a lit­tle higher if not for the in­fluence of Span­ish re­form­ers and clergy. Cats, dogs, rats, flies and mosquitoes were in­tro­duced to the is­land – how­ever, malaria would not arise.

Chamor­ros were ex­posed to Old World dis­eases, but it’s difficult to say how much dam­age they caused. The Chamor­ros seem to have ex­pe­rienced a ma­jor pop­u­la­tion de­cline be­tween the 1500s and the late 1600s. If this was in­deed the case, it is pos­si­ble that it was caused by dev­as­tat­ing epi­demics, but it may have been driven by the peak of the Lit­tle Ice Age. A con­tem­po­rary illus­tra­tion of Chamor­ros’ en­counter with Oliver van der Noort (1600) seems to show the ma­jor­ity of them bear­ing pock marks. Fern­berger’s ac­count men­tions li­cen­tious Chamorro women dy­ing from ven­eral dis­eases trans­mit­ted by Euro­peans. How­ever, if there was a mas­sive epi­demic prob­lem, we would ex­pect to see more ev­i­dence from other con­tem­po­rary ac­counts.

The main benefit of early Euro­pean con­tact was the op­por­tu­nity for Chamor­ros to ac­quire iron. They held this in very high re­gard, as ev­i­denced by how read­ily they made risky en­coun­ters with Euro­peans in or­der to ob­tain it. They would have lacked black­smithing tools and knowl­edge, but ob­tained im­ple­ments like nails, knives and scis­sors that could have greatly sim­plified daily life. At the same time, their de­ter­mined pur­suit of any iron item (in­clud­ing the sim­ple hoops used to bind casks) sug­gests that there may have been an el­e­ment of pres­tige or at least hyped overex­u­ber­ance in their busi­ness.

The in­tro­duc­tion of metal also seems to have given rise to a prac­tice of gen­i­tal pierc­ing. Fern­berger’s ac­count men­tions that boys’ penises were pierced through the head, ap­par­ently to pre­serve virginity, and the pierc­ings were re­moved when they grew older. While similar pierc­ings were tra­di­tion­ally prac­ticed in south­east Asia (Har­ris­son 1964), those seem to have served an op­po­site func­tion. Fern­berger’s use of the word nögl and the de­scrip­tion of the pins be­ing bent so as to pre­vent boys from re­mov­ing them sug­gest that they were made of metal, al­though Fern­berger el­se­where uses nagel to speci­fi­cally re­fer to metal nails, so it is un­clear ex­actly what he meant by nögl. While Mag­el­lan’s chron­i­cler de­scribed pe­nis pierc­ings in the Philip­pines, he made no men­tion of hav­ing seen them at Guam, de­spite chamorro men be­ing fully nude. There isn’t in­di­ca­tion that this phe­nomenon be­came wide­spread on Guam, but in­so­far as it was prac­ticed, it would have pre­sum­ably been painful and pos­si­bly very trau­matic. Xy­galatas et al (2018) ob­served that painful rit­ual cer­e­monies ac­tu­ally sub­se­quently in­crease sub­jec­tive well be­ing, but looked at will­ing men (age μ = 45, σ = 16) rather than boys.

The de­cen­tral­ized na­ture of Chamorro so­ciety en­abled some clans to con­tinue trad­ing even as oth­ers were ag­grieved in vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions. Chamor­ros also adapted fairly well to the dan­gers of Euro­pean ex­plor­ers as they learned to re­fuse to go aboard the new ships, preferred to keep them offshore, and sim­ply traded from boat to boat. Chamorro trick­ery and cru­elty led to re­tal­i­a­tions; a more cen­tral­ized and diplo­matic sys­tem could have averted this. How­ever, most con­flict was due to ei­ther the in­her­ent ag­gres­sion of their vis­i­tors or un­for­tu­nate differ­ences in cul­tural norms.

Diego Luís de San Vitores

Father Diego Luís de San Vi­tores was born an aris­to­crat and schooled by the Je­suits. Possessed of a fer­vent mis­sion­ary call­ing, he trav­eled to Mex­ico and then to the Philip­pines. Along the way, he ob­served the Chamor­ros and re­garded them among the poor­est peo­ple (both spiritu­ally and ma­te­ri­ally) that he en­coun­tered. San Vi­tores pe­ti­tioned au­thor­i­ties for sup­port to launch a mis­sion­ary en­deavor on Guam, but was ini­tially re­buf­fed. It was deemed im­prac­ti­cal, and un­nec­es­sary for the Span­ish em­pire. The galleons were already get­ting all they needed from Guam by way of offshore barter.

San Vi­tores was not so eas­ily dis­cour­aged. In an au­da­cious 1664 let­ter to King Philip, he quoted the de­ceased Saint Fran­cis Xavier to re­mind the king of his im­pend­ing death and di­v­ine judg­ment for his sins. He de­scribed the way that Spa­niards in the Indies were ne­glect­ing to con­vert the na­tives and mis­treat­ing them. He then en­listed his con­nec­tions to add let­ters from an arch­bishop, an ad­miral and Queen Mar­i­ana of Aus­tria. The pe­ti­tion cir­cum­vented the failing Span­ish bu­reau­cracy and suc­ceeded in per­suad­ing the king. A royal de­cree made its way to Manila, but the de­cree only cov­ered the con­struc­tion of a ship, not the pro­vi­sion of fund­ing for the voy­age (ap­par­ently an over­sight). San Vi­tores had to set sail in 1667 to Mex­ico and try to raise funds there, but the viceroy of Mex­ico re­fused. In the midst of a heated con­ver­sa­tion, an earth­quake struck Mex­ico City. Shaken by di­v­ine prov­i­dence at his im­pla­ca­bil­ity, the viceroy and a num­ber of cit­i­zens donated am­ple funds and pro­vi­sions to sup­port San Vi­tores’ voy­age. Fi­nally in June 1668, af­ter a three month voy­age from Aca­pulco, San Vi­tores’ ship ar­rived at Guam. The ship also car­ried Este­ban, a Filipino sur­vivor of a Guam ship­wreck who had learned the Chamorro lan­guage and taught it to San Vi­tores.

Chamor­ros performed their cus­tom­ary proa swarm for trade. But this time the Spa­niards im­plored them to come aboard, and they landed the next day. They were greeted pleas­antly and pro­vided gifts. They brought rams, sheep, cows and par­rots ashore, a be­wil­der­ing sight to the Chamor­ros. They were also joined by a cou­ple of ship­wreck sur­vivors who had made a liv­ing in Chamorro so­ciety. San Vi­tores held mass and preached a ser­mon en­tirely in the Chamorro lan­guage. All was go­ing well, and the ship de­parted for the Philip­pines, leav­ing fifty men ashore: five priests, a scholas­tic brother, three Span­ish officers, thirty-one sol­diers, and about ten cat­e­chists and ser­vants. They were at the village of Agana un­der the pro­tec­tion of the chief­tain Quipuha.

San Vi­tores set about perform­ing large ser­vices of doc­tri­nal in­struc­tion, con­ver­sion and bap­tism. Chamor­ros were en­thu­si­as­tic, not least be­cause trin­kets and bis­cuits were awarded for par­ti­ci­pa­tion – some snuck back to be bap­tized again and again. San Vi­tores was a source of pres­tige for the nearby chamorri chiefs, who en­deav­ored to keep him in the same village. The cen­tral­iza­tion of the Span­ish mis­sion in Agana would lead to it be­com­ing the cap­i­tal and largest city, which was un­for­tu­nate as its dis­tance from the is­land’s har­bor and its lo­ca­tion on con­tam­i­nated soil near a swamp would later cause lo­gis­tics and dis­ease prob­lems.

The first ten­sion arose when chamorri lead­ers sought to re­strict the pres­ti­gious con­ver­sion rites to their own caste. Not only was the caste di­vi­sion an im­por­tant com­po­nent of Chamorro so­ciety, but – as Rogers notes – knowl­edge was con­sid­ered a form of prop­erty and trans­mit­ting the knowl­edge of Chris­ti­an­ity to the man­achang could have been con­sid­ered too much of a give­away. But San Vi­tores, both strong in char­ac­ter and dis­mis­sive to­wards the cul­tural norms of the in­dios, was adamant that all be treated equally. Even­tu­ally the chamorri gave in to what would be the first of many ero­sions of their tra­di­tional gov­ern­ing rights.

San Vi­tores be­gan to de­stroy an­ces­tor skulls and other idols of the Chamor­ros, no doubt cre­at­ing a good deal of cul­tural grievance. A Chi­nese res­i­dent named Coco who had lived on Guam for two decades spread ru­mors that bap­tism would lead to death – and for a few ba­bies, this seemed to be true. In re­al­ity, Chris­tian doc­trine held that in­fants near death should re­ceive the high­est pri­or­ity for bap­tism, so they were dis­pro­por­tionately taken to early cer­e­monies and it was only in­evitable that more of them would die. Still, Chamor­ros be­came sus­pi­cious of the priests. They ini­ti­ated hos­tilities in Au­gust, kil­ling a Span­ish sol­dier and his ser­vant.

San Vi­tores sailed right to Choco’s village to win him to his side, ac­com­panied by four armed men. They held a three-day pub­lic de­bate, wit­nessed by a crowd of Chamor­ros. One of San Vi­tores’ own Filipino men tried to as­sas­si­nate him, but he sur­vived and the as­sas­sin fled to the hills. Choco was hum­bled, con­verted and re­named Ig­na­cio, but it did not stick. He con­tinued to ag­i­tate, and Chamor­ros of­ten threat­ened the Spa­niards. How­ever, the mis­sion­ary work con­tinued on Guam as well as el­se­where in the Mar­i­anas. San Vi­tores was an as­cetic, a pen­i­tent self-flag­el­la­tor who was seem­ingly un­fazed by threats.

Quipuha died in Fe­bru­ary 1669, and was buried in a new church over Chamorro protest.

Another galleon ar­rived in June, pro­vid­ing sup­plies and six sol­diers. San Vi­tores re­ported a du­bi­ous figure of 13,000 Chamor­ros across the Mar­i­anas be­ing bap­tized in the first year of mis­sion­ary work.

San Vi­tores vis­ited Saipan, and was al­most ex­e­cuted by his hosts there. A fel­low cat­e­chist was then blamed for the loss of a new­born child, and mur­dered. San Vi­tores was way­laid by cap­tors on an­other is­land, but saved when an­other act of di­v­ine ge­ol­ogy – a vol­canic erup­tion – fright­ened them into let­ting him go. His next stop was Ti­nian, where a ma­jor war had bro­ken out be­tween two clans for dom­i­nance of the is­land. The two Je­suits on Ti­nian had tried to me­di­ate but were swept up in the hos­tilities; San Vi­tores left them to defend the church as he went south for re­in­force­ments. He brought up ten sol­diers with two lit­tle can­nons, which so fright­ened the Chamor­ros that they were able to ne­go­ti­ate a ten­u­ous peace.

Not a week later, Chamor­ros on Saipan – stirred by Choco – at­tacked and kil­led two mis­sion­ar­ies on the is­land. San Vi­tores was urged to ex­act re­tri­bu­tion, but he re­fused. Others on Ti­nian at­tacked the Span­ish en­camp­ment, only to scat­ter af­ter two were kil­led by firearms.

There was no galleon in 1670, and a drought led many Chamor­ros to re­lapse into their tra­di­tional be­liefs. Filipinos de­serted to join Chamorro villages and had to be con­vinced to re­turn. By the time the next ship ar­rived with minor re­in­force­ments in 1671, the lit­tle ven­ture was prac­ti­cally un­der siege. Soon af­ter the ship left, Chamor­ros kil­led a ser­vant, and Span­ish sol­diers ex­acted re­venge by kil­ling a man who later turned out to be one of the high-sta­tus chamorri. Now his clan de­sired re­venge. A head­man named Hu­rao be­gan mo­bi­liz­ing Chamor­ros for war, tak­ing time to go through the cus­tom­ary al­li­ance rit­u­als. One of the Chamor­ros tipped off the Spa­niards, who im­me­di­ately be­gan prepar­ing their mis­sion as a defen­sive fort. They ven­tured out to take Hu­rao cap­tive. San Vi­tores wanted the sol­diers to re­lease him as a ges­ture of good­will, and tried to ne­go­ti­ate with Hu­rao, but was re­buf­fed both times.

About 2,000 Chamorro war­riors at­tacked in Septem­ber. They al­most suc­ceeded in over­whelming the fort af­ter a week of as­saults, aided by Choco and bet­ter gump­tion in the face of gun­pow­der weapons. But on the eighth day, a ty­phoon mirac­u­lously struck the is­land, de­stroy­ing al­most ev­ery man-made struc­ture ex­cept the stock­ades and tow­ers of the fort. Chamor­ros at­tempted a fi­nal as­sault, which failed. Their sur­vivors pe­ti­tioned for peace, ask­ing for the re­lease of Hu­rao; San Vi­tores agreed.

This was a mis­calcu­la­tion, as Hu­rao promptly gath­ered war­riors to mount an­other siege. The Spa­niards defeated them with a raid out­side the fort, and the Chamor­ros once again pe­ti­tioned for peace. Their leader Quipuha – rel­a­tive of the other Quipuha, buried in the church – agreed that the Chamor­ros would be con­verted to Chris­ti­an­ity, send their chil­dren to Catholic school and help re­build the church. Peace re­turned, al­though re­sent­ment fes­tered. The fate of the ag­i­ta­tor Choco is un­known, pos­si­bly kil­led in the fight­ing.

The mis­sion­ary ven­ture now ex­panded, re­ceiv­ing in­creased Span­ish at­ten­tion and no small amount of sup­port from his per­sonal be­seech­ments to Queen Mar­i­ana, but it was still frag­ile due to lo­gis­ti­cal difficul­ties and stub­born­ness among the offi­cials in Manila. New churches brought Chamor­ros into the faith, but to vary­ing de­grees. Part of the dis­par­ity was due to so­cial class; the man­achang were at­tracted to the way that Chris­tian mem­ber­ship could ele­vate their sta­tus, whereas chamorri (es­pe­cially the women) feared the loss of sta­tus en­tailed by Span­ish norms. The priests de­clared that women had to re­nounce the un­usual liber­ties of Chamorro so­ciety in or­der to be­come Chris­ti­ans.

Quipuha was now seek­ing vengeance for the hu­mil­i­a­tion of his former defeat. He ar­ranged for the mur­der of San Vi­tores’ fa­vorite cat­e­chist on March 31, 1672, and made a failed at­tempt to de­stroy a sen­try box. San Vi­tores then or­dered all per­son­nel to re­turn to their base in Agana; re­turn­ing Spa­niards and Filipinos were caught and kil­led by Chamorro war­riors. San Vi­tores him­self him­self was tar­ry­ing el­se­where on the is­land, search­ing for Este­ban. A chamorri named Mata’pang hosted San Vi­tores and a com­pan­ion on April 2, but an­grily re­fused a re­quest to bap­tize his in­fant daugh­ter. Mata’pang went to fetch a war­rior and per­suaded him to help kill the mis­sion­ar­ies. When he re­turned, he saw that San Vi­tores had gone ahead and bap­tized the daugh­ter any­way (it has been alleged that the mother sanc­tioned it). En­raged, the two Chamor­ros set upon the Spa­niards, kil­ling Vi­tores’ com­pan­ion first. In­de­fati­gable to the end, San Vi­tores said “May God have mercy on thee, Mata‘pang” as the Chamor­ros stabbed him with a spear and cut his head with a machete. San Vi­tores was still al­ive as the Chamor­ros stripped him, tied stones to his feet and tossed him into the sea; he rose but was knocked un­der with a pad­dle.

San Vi­tores was one of the minor great men of his­tory who was sub­servient to struc­tural trends but nonethe­less left an in­delible mark on lo­cal af­fairs through per­sonal char­ac­ter. His skil­led diplo­macy, re­s­olute re­li­gious will, poli­ti­cal con­nec­tions and sur­pris­ing luck (or di­v­ine in­ter­ven­tion) fa­cil­i­tated a per­ma­nent Chris­tian pres­ence on Guam that achieved thou­sands of con­ver­sions. His pa­tience and piety en­sured that the mis­sion was rel­a­tively be­nign in com­par­i­son to Span­ish con­quests el­se­where in the world and on Guam af­ter his death. He prob­a­bly stum­bled by mak­ing an un­com­pro­mis­ing at­tack on Chamorro so­cial struc­ture. Reli­gious con­ver­sion was more suc­cess­ful when it could be co-opted by lo­cal elites as an el­e­ment of their so­cial power; bap­tism for the masses could fol­low in time once Chris­tian gov­er­nance had been es­tab­lished more se­curely. This how­ever would have been difficult on Guam, where so­ciety was de­cen­tral­ized and the ma­tril­ineal power lineages clashed with Euro­pean or­tho­doxy. A more flex­ible doc­trine than early mod­ern Catholi­cism might have been more eas­ily spread among the Chamor­ros. By tak­ing his bold fi­nal ven­ture – search­ing for a friend – he pre­cip­i­tated his own death, jeop­ar­diz­ing the re­straint he had worked to main­tain among the Span­ish mil­i­tary. But he was not im­mor­tal, and by es­tab­lish­ing the per­ma­nent mis­sion pres­ence on Guam in the first place he made it highly prob­a­ble that dom­i­neer­ing mil­i­tary au­thor­ity would fol­low sooner or later.

The Chamor­ros, for their part, failed in their re­la­tions with the Span­ish due to lack­ing cen­tral­ized au­thor­ity on the is­land. A leader could have been able to pre­vent or make resti­tu­tion for in­di­vi­d­ual acts of vi­o­lence, or could have quickly mo­bi­lized the pop­u­la­tion to over­whelm the aliens – it should have been easy given that the Chamor­ros could gather thou­sands of war­riors against per­haps fifty Spa­niards. San Vi­tores would have had to bar­gain with a much more pow­er­ful leader for limited mis­sion­ary priv­ileges. In­stead, the Chamor­ros fol­lowed per­haps the worst pos­si­ble course of ac­tion, where in­di­vi­d­ual clans var­i­ously re­in­forced Span­ish pres­ence (ea­ger for the pres­tige they could ob­tain over their ri­vals by work­ing with the mis­sion­ar­ies) or pro­voked them with vi­o­lence, un­til fi­nally the mur­der of San Vi­tores would open the door to a still less tol­er­able kind of Span­ish lead­er­ship. The Chamor­ros also suffered from the lack of mod­ern weapons and ar­mor, even 150 years af­ter first meet­ing the Spa­niards.

San Vi­tores’ mis­sion brought maize to the is­land, and pre­sum­ably some de­gree of gen­eral Euro­pean knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy. The im­me­di­ate down­side was the se­ries of fights and tur­moils that en­sued; prob­a­bly hun­dreds of Chamor­ros were kil­led. The ven­ture also in­ad­ver­tently brought dis­eases to the is­land, though we don’t know ex­actly which con­tacts might have caused dev­as­tat­ing early plagues. The Spa­niards also in­tro­duced al­co­hol and to­bacco over Je­suit dis­ap­proval, and both caught on among the Chamor­ros. This was a recre­ational boon, but some al­co­holism arose and the long-term health effects of to­bacco smok­ing would be bad.

In any case, the most sig­nifi­cant con­se­quences of San Vi­tores’ mis­sion were still forth­com­ing.


In­censed Span­ish sol­diers soon kil­led Hu­rao and an in­no­cent Chamorro woman in re­tal­i­a­tion for the mar­tyr­dom of San Vi­tores. The new Je­suit su­pe­rior, Fran­cisco Solano, or­dered re­straint, but small-scale vi­o­lence from both sides con­tinued in­ter­mit­tently.

Chamor­ros were still di­vided be­tween those who tol­er­ated Span­ish pres­ence and those who con­sid­ered them en­e­mies. The Span­ish were also able to ex­ploit old ri­valries among the Chamor­ros to gar­ner alle­giance, and ex­tended their reach with new churches. Con­verted Chamor­ros of­ten sup­ported Spa­niards in their con­fronta­tions with the more re­bel­lious clans on the is­land.

A mil­i­tary officer named Damián de Es­plana was stranded on the is­land in 1674; as the high­est rank­ing Spa­niard, he took com­mand of the gar­ri­son for the next two years. Es­plana ex­e­cuted a Chamorro who had kil­led a Spa­niard two years pre­vi­ously, then burned his en­tire village. He sent ex­pe­di­tions which burned nu­mer­ous villages: the one where Choco had lived, one where San Vi­tores’ cru­ci­fix and blood­stained clothes were re­cov­ered, and sev­eral on Rota where the still-re­bel­lious Mata’pang was hid­ing. In De­cem­ber 1675, Chamor­ros in an­other village kil­led a priest and his as­sis­tant when they tried to in­terfere with bach­e­lors’ ac­tivi­ties; they fled be­fore the pre­dictable burn­ing of their village.

The Span­ish ad­van­tage in guns and steel was by this time aug­mented by a cou­ple of horses, a fright­en­ing nov­elty to the na­tives. Chamor­ros seem to have been us­ing a mix of Span­ish blades and their tra­di­tional weapons; a par­tic­u­larly tall Span­ish priest wrote that the lo­cals wanted to make spears from his bones, be­fore his lim­bless corpse was re­cov­ered from a north­ern village. Chamor­ros de­vised shields out of wood and bark, but these prob­a­bly would have been use­less against 17th cen­tury mus­kets.

Span­ish set­tle­ment grew with fam­i­lies, some im­mi­grat­ing and some due to lo­cal mar­riage with Chamorro women. Es­plana was re­placed by Fran­cisco de Irisarri y Vi­var, who made church at­ten­dance manda­tory for Chamorro con­verts and had them send their chil­dren to church school. Or­phaned and strag­gling chil­dren were also taken away to be raised by the priests.

Irisarri con­tinued to pros­e­cute rebels. Five Chamor­ros were kil­led in Au­gust 1676. An un­coverted Chamorro was then cap­tured at­tempt­ing to kill a priest who was mar­ry­ing his con­verted daugh­ter to a Span­ish sol­dier; Irisarri had the man pub­li­cily hanged and de­manded that all nearby Chamor­ros watch. In a fur­ther mor­bid spec­ta­cle, he al­lowed con­verted child Chamor­ros to drag the corpse along the beach while shout­ing taunts. Near the end of the month, a nine-strong Span­ish ex­pe­di­tion to pro­tect the church at Orote was lured into a trap by a bap­tized chamorri named Cheref; all were kil­led and the church was burned down.

A chamorri named Aguarin be­gan to or­ga­nize Chamor­ros into an al­li­ance to more firmly re­sist the Span­ish. In­for­mant con­verts tipped off the Spa­niards, who re­treated into their beach fort. Aguarin led a siege be­gin­ning in Oc­to­ber. Irisarri turned back a ma­jor as­sault in Jan­uary with clever tac­tics to am­plify his fire­power ad­van­tage. When the war­riors re­turned, he placed a flag out­side the fort on its strongest side, know­ing that au­da­cious Chamorro war­riors would en­deavor to cap­ture it, and mowed them down with mus­ket fire. The siege was lifted, but guer­rilla fight­ing and reprisals con­tinued into 1678. The Chamor­ros had now be­gun to for­tify their villages.

When the next galleon ar­rived in June, Irisarri de­parted and was re­placed by Juan de Var­gas y Hur­tado. Un­der his guidance and aided by con­verted Chamor­ros, the Span­ish car­ried out a bru­tal cam­paign through­out the hos­tile ar­eas of Guam, de­stroy­ing houses, burn­ing food stores, kil­ling any hos­tiles and steal­ing any chil­dren they found. They then es­tab­lished a policy of re­ward­ing Chamor­ros who could pre­sent them with the heads of dis­si­dents, which quickly bore re­sults. Still, much of the is­land re­mained hos­tile, and mis­sion­ar­ies had to be es­corted by sol­diers.

Cam­paign­ing con­tinued in 1679 as Cheref was kil­led and Aguarin was forced to flee to Rota. One of the last rebel hold­outs on Guam was as­saulted and burned down af­ter a fierce bat­tle. Re­sis­tance on the is­land soon faltered, and villagers var­i­ously fled to caves and other is­lands or gave up and en­tered Span­ish do­minion.

The vet­eran mil­i­tary officer Don Joseph de Quiroga be­came gov­er­nor in 1680 with in­struc­tions to root out all re­main­ing re­sis­tance. Bolstered by twenty new sol­diers, he built a new base at Macheche in the cen­ter of the is­land and sent out par­ties to pur­sue dis­si­dent Chamor­ros across the is­land. Cap­tured lead­ers were pub­li­cly ex­e­cuted. Fear­ful Chamor­ros cap­tured Mata’pang and sent him to Quiroga to win his fa­vor; Mata’pang died of his wounds en­route. Quiroga in­vaded Rota, burn­ing down rebel villages and cap­tur­ing Aguarin. He was taken to Agaña and ex­e­cuted. Some dis­sent con­tinued on Guam as a church was burned in 1681; Quiroga pur­sued the lo­cals to Rota, burned their village there and made them re­turn.

Guam was di­vided into five parishes con­tain­ing churches and con­nected by new roads. The chamorri were sup­planted by prin­ci­palía, the fam­i­lies of con­verted Chamor­ros who were given civil du­ties (prin­ci­pales). Quiroga was suc­ceeded by An­to­nio Sar­avia, who built a stone fort that con­tained per­haps the last large cat­a­pult in mil­i­tary his­tory. Sar­avia ele­vated the power of prin­ci­pales and had them make oaths to the king of Spain. Aban­doned lands on Guam were taken and dis­tributed to loyal Chamor­ros and Filipinos.

Span­ish in­fluence had by now caused a pro­lifer­a­tion of iron im­ple­ments like hatch­ets and swords among the na­tives. A spe­cial sup­ply route was es­tab­lished to and from the Philip­pines; each year a small ship would make a round trip, to sup­ple­ment the in­ter­mit­tent pas­sage of the Aca­pulco galleons. Guam re­ceived greater amounts of ba­sic pro­vi­sions, but much of the profit was ex­tracted in rents by Guam’s gov­er­nors as they had monopoly con­trol over lo­cal trade. The Span­ish were now rais­ing hogs on the is­land. Some Chamor­ros were suffer­ing from dis­ease, some­thing look­ing like le­p­rosy.

Sar­avia died and was re­placed by Es­plana, who was al­most kil­led in an 1684 up­ris­ing while most of the Span­ish sol­diers were away on an ex­pe­di­tion to Saipan led by Quiroga. Na­tive war­riors kil­led priests and sol­diers and burned build­ings in Agaña be­fore be­ing driven away by group of friendly Chamor­ros.

The rebels mus­tered for an­other at­tack. But they were too slow to or­ga­nize and their as­sault on the fort four days later was re­pulsed. A stronger at­tack in Au­gust was stopped only with help of sym­pa­thetic Chamor­ros. In these con­fronta­tions, it ap­pears that the rebels were chamorri and the Span­ish re­ceived help from the man­achang.

Quiroga fi­nally re­turned and lifted the siege in Novem­ber. He then mounted an­other cam­paign raid­ing rebel villages across the is­land, end­ing or­ga­nized re­sis­tance and caus­ing many Chamor­ros to flee to other is­lands.

The English pri­va­teer John Ea­ton landed on Guam in March 1685, and some of his men were at­tacked by Chamor­ros. He sub­se­quently went off kil­ling more Chamor­ros be­fore leav­ing.

Diseases con­tinued to harm the Chamor­ros who lacked nat­u­ral im­mu­ni­ties: a ship from Aca­pulco in 1688 started an epi­demic that may have been smal­l­pox, and the 1689 galleon brought an un­known dis­ease that kil­led eighty peo­ple in three months. This was the end of a pre­cip­i­tous pop­u­la­tion de­cline cat­alyzed by war­fare, village de­struc­tion, and the gen­er­ally de­mor­al­iz­ing dis­in­te­gra­tion of Chamorro so­ciety and norms. Diseases, food short­ages, bat­tle in­juries, and men­tal stress could com­bine to cre­ate height­ened de­grees of mor­tal­ity and suffer­ing. Prospects were so grim that women con­ducted ster­il­iza­tion, abor­tion and in­fan­ti­cide to pre­vent kids from hav­ing to grow up in the new do­minion. Many Chamor­ros em­i­grated to other is­lands in the Mar­i­anas where the Span­ish lacked per­ma­nent power. The pop­u­la­tion on Guam fell to just 1,800, which in­cluded 130 sol­diers and a num­ber of other Spa­niards and Filipinos.

Thus, while Span­ish au­thor­ity had suc­ceeded in bring­ing the is­land un­der fully Chris­tian gov­er­nance, the ac­tual num­ber of con­verts was likely lower than it had been af­ter San Vi­tores’ ini­tial efforts. The cost to Spain for this spiritu­ally sense­less con­quest was over a hun­dred men kil­led in the var­i­ous con­fronta­tions.

The Span­ish de­cided to re­lo­cate the in­hab­itants of the north­ern Mar­i­anas Is­lands to Guam; the poli­ti­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship needed farm­ers to sup­ply the galleons and gar­ri­son, and the Je­suits sought to con­vert them. Ru­mors of an ex­pe­di­tion led Span­ish sailors to at­tempt an es­cape from the is­land; Es­plana had twenty-three of them ex­e­cuted. For­tu­nately, Es­plana had tired of war and was more con­cerned with prof­i­teer­ing and em­bez­zle­ment than with or­ga­niz­ing any mil­i­tary ven­tures. But Guam’s trou­bles con­tinued as an­other epi­demic – prob­a­bly smal­l­pox – and a ty­phoon swept the is­land in 1693.

Es­plana died in 1694, and Quiroga be­came gov­er­nor again. He im­me­di­ately took fifty sol­diers to se­cure Rota, build­ing roads and leav­ing be­hind a mis­sion­ary. He then gath­ered the in­hab­itants of Saipan and Ti­nian, kil­ling the few who re­sisted, and re­turn­ing sur­vivors to Guam. Another ex­pe­di­tion in 1698 finished the job, with many re­fugees dy­ing in a ty­phoon en­route. Sev­eral oth­ers chose to kill them­selves rather than be cap­tured. The Mar­i­anas were now es­sen­tially unihabited ex­cept for Guam and Rota. Guam’s own in­hab­itants had been re­set­tled too, away from tra­di­tional villages and into the new parishes where clans were more in­ter­mixed.

Dev­as­tat­ing epi­demics in 1700 and 1709 capped the dis­aster of Span­ish con­quest. Most Chamor­ros had died in the re­cent chaos. Some Chamor­ros still re­jected Span­ish rule, liv­ing naked in the hills. For the re­main­der, even as­sum­ing that they ad­justed to the so­cial shocks, qual­ity of life had al­most cer­tainly de­clined rel­a­tive to the pre-con­tact pe­riod – most ob­vi­ously due to the per­sis­tence of dis­eases like le­p­rosy and syphilis, and the in­tro­duc­tion of manda­tory school­ing and church at­ten­dance.

Chamorro men dis­figured by tu­ber­cu­loid le­p­rosy, 1819

Span­ish rule on Guam was milder than the en­comienda sys­tem used el­se­where in the em­pire. Chamor­ros were gen­er­ally un­taxed and re­tained con­trol of their land, now through the prin­ci­palía rather than the chamorri. But they were soon drafted to work two days a week or more for poor wages. Je­suits were in­dig­nant at this forced la­bor, but had lit­tle power. A pe­ti­tion to King Philip yielded stern in­struc­tions for re­form, which were promptly ig­nored by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

The Span­ish for­bade ocean sailing in or­der to pre­vent Chamor­ros from es­cap­ing, and fish­ing suffered. In­stead, chick­ens, cat­tle and pigs were raised by the is­lan­ders. Wheeled trans­port, ploughs, and beasts of bur­den eased farm­ing and trans­port. Still, many Chamor­ros died of hunger in 1706. Mean­while, Span­ish elites lived in ma­sonry houses and hunted feral hogs and cat­tle on Ti­nian.

The is­land was eco­nom­i­cally de­pressed by the cor­rup­tion of Span­ish lead­er­ship and, in 1710, the de­mands of a flotilla of English pri­va­teers. Re­sup­ply was in­ter­mit­tent, for galleons some­times opted to sail on by and the spe­cial re­plen­ish­ment ship from the Philip­pines did not always ar­rive. What­ever sup­plies did ar­rive were ba­si­cally mo­nop­o­lized by the gov­er­nor and sold at ex­or­bitant prices. A Chamorro would have to work 4-6 months to pur­chase a pair of trousers. Fi­nance be­gan to take root, but in usu­ri­ous fash­ion.

There is lit­tle to be said for Span­ish lead­er­ship dur­ing the con­quest: it was cal­lous, de­struc­tive and im­moral. The Chamor­ros mean­while suffered again from their in­abil­ity to co­or­di­nate. De­cen­tral­iza­tion is not nec­es­sar­ily a dis­ad­van­tage, as splin­tered guer­rilla groups can re­sist very well. But the la­tent class di­vi­sion and com­pe­ti­tions in Chamorro so­ciety and the al­lure of Span­ish re­li­gion and items made it all too easy for the Span­ish to gather suffi­cient num­bers of Chamor­ros onto their side. And again, their mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy re­mained well be­hind that of the Spa­niards.

“They are called free Men, but I think con­trary”

The pure-blooded Chamorro pop­u­la­tion con­tinued to de­cline. A ship car­ried Filipino im­mi­grants in 1748, but sank en­route with no sur­vivors. Some mi­grants did set­tle, a few at a time.

The Span­ish toyed with pro­pos­als to end or re­duce their pres­ence on Guam – in­clud­ing forcibly re­lo­cat­ing all its in­hab­itants to the Philip­pines or to a cou­ple ma­jor set­tle­ments on the is­land. Th­ese were re­jected as the Pa­cific trade route was of high strate­gic im­por­tance to Spain, es­pe­cially with in­creased French and Bri­tish ven­tures into the Pa­cific. New forts were built in the 1720s and 1730s. Lead­er­ship mildly im­proved as a num­ber of Navy officers – more liberal than Army ones – held gov­er­nor­ship of the is­land.

Guam was largely un­touched by the wars of the mid-1700s, and geopoli­ti­cal shifts un­der­mined its im­por­tance. Ship vis­its be­came rarer. The next change for the is­land oc­curred in 1768 when a new gov­er­nor named Hen­rique de Olavide y Miche­lena ar­rived with news that King Charles III had de­creed that all Je­suits be ex­pel­led from the em­pire and that their prop­er­ties be con­fis­cated. The old re­li­gious or­der, once a source of im­pe­rial zeal, was now con­sid­ered a threat to the na­tional in­tegrity of Spain. Je­suits were im­pris­oned and shipped away, re­placed by Au­gus­ti­nian fri­ars. This hurt the Chamor­ros, as the Je­suit farms were aban­doned and live­stock turned wild. School­ing also de­clined in qual­ity. The Au­gus­ti­ni­ans were at least less stringent in their re­li­gious doc­trine.

In 1771, an in­dus­tri­ous Army officer named Mar­i­ano Tobías be­came gov­er­nor of the is­land. He im­me­di­ately set about im­prov­ing lo­cal af­fairs. He in­tro­duced new crops from Mex­ico and the Philip­pines, a sim­ple tex­tile in­dus­try, and salt pro­duc­tion. He brought in­struc­tors to teach black­smithing.’ He set loose deer for hunt­ing – they are still pre­sent to­day, but have some­times made a nui­sance of them­selves by de­stroy­ing crops. He ceased forced la­bor, re­plac­ing it with a paid vol­un­teer mil­i­tia that worked on crops, road build­ing and other pro­jects.

He also gave as­sis­tance to French sur­vivors of a Maori can­ni­bal mas­sacre, who sub­se­quently wrote about his gen­eros­ity as an ex­cep­tion to Span­ish im­pe­rial greed. This de­scrip­tion out­raged the Span­ish. Tobías – now serv­ing in Manila af­ter a rou­tine trans­fer – found him­self de­moted, di­vorced and re­turn­ing to Spain in ob­scu­rity.

Another effec­tive gov­er­nor, Joseph Ar­leguí y Leóz, im­proved the econ­omy and gov­ern­ment dur­ing his tenure from 1786 to 1794. A royal edict put some Chamor­ros in sec­ondary ad­minis­tra­tive roles.

Nat­u­ral dis­asters struck the is­land in 1793-1794, but the next gov­er­nor – Manuel Muro – miti­gated the crisis by buy­ing food and clothes and dis­tribut­ing them freely. He or­dered the re­con­struc­tion of Agana but pro­vided dou­ble ra­tions for shorter hours to keep the pop­u­lace strong. He also pro­tected the wild deer and cat­tle from be­ing hunted to ex­tinc­tion. He sub­se­quently con­structed a bridge and a num­ber of forts to pro­tect the is­land. The un­end­ing docket of forced la­bor led the Chamor­ros to view him as a tyrant.

The pop­u­la­tion be­gan to slowly in­crease in the late 1780s, but other than that there was scant em­piri­cal ev­i­dence that the stan­dard of liv­ing had im­proved from 1700 to 1800. Chamor­ros – who were by now very much a mixed group con­tain­ing Span­ish and Filipino blood – still mainly lived in one-room wooden houses. An­i­mals for meat, dairy and leather were com­mon; ocean fish­ing and even swim­ming had largely be­come lost arts. Some found suc­cess by div­ing for sea cu­cum­bers, which were de­manded by Chi­nese mar­kets. Agri­cul­ture was a mix of to­bacco (to pay rent) and sub­sis­tence crops – the lat­ter be­ing similar to those raised be­fore Euro­pean con­tact, but with the ad­di­tion of wa­ter­mel­ons and cit­rus. Chamor­ros owned clothes, but they were so ex­pen­sive to re­place – the gov­er­nor was mark­ing them up by fac­tor of 9 – that most of the time they went naked. The is­land’s cash econ­omy ba­si­cally con­sisted of the gov­er­nor pay­ing the mil­i­tia fol­lowed by the mil­i­tia buy­ing goods from the gov­er­nor-owned gen­eral store.

Chamor­ros were still badly af­flicted by dis­ease. Hered­i­tary syphilis was a ma­jor prob­lem. Span­ish au­thor­i­ties seem to have done lit­tle or noth­ing to staunch epi­demics. There was no doc­tor and no medicine. Span­ish elites, nat­u­rally im­mune to Old World dis­eases, lived in good health and built as much of a lux­ury lifestyle as the oc­ca­sional ships from Manila could sup­port. Ed­u­ca­tion was ori­ented around the church: most chil­dren learned to read prayers but lit­tle else.

The is­land was still ruled by mar­tial law. The church also had the nom­i­nal au­thor­ity to try and even tor­ture peo­ple, but didn’t ex­er­cise this power.

Due to a com­bi­na­tion of im­pe­rial ne­glect and com­mu­ni­ca­tion difficul­ties, the nearby Caroli­nian is­lan­ders were even by this time un­der the im­pres­sion that vis­i­tors to Guam would be in­terred or kil­led by the Span­ish. A lo­cal Army officer named Cap­tain Luís de Tor­res fi­nally had a chance to visit Woleai in 1804 and es­tab­lished a trade route ser­viced by fleets of up to 18 proas.

In the early 1800s, Spain was in poli­ti­cal tur­moil. A pro­gres­sive 1812 con­sti­tu­tion made sub­jects out of all free men in Span­ish ter­ri­to­ries. There was re­newed in­ter­est in colonies in­clud­ing Guam, so statis­tics be­gan to be recorded of in­hab­itants. But no­ble dreams were over­come by poli­ti­cal re­al­ities. The em­pire was fal­ter­ing, and the Pa­cific galleon trade fi­nally ceased in 1815. Guam, now a nearly ves­ti­gial out­post, saw its gov­ern­ment sup­port shrink dras­ti­cally due to the crown’s fis­cal prob­lems. The is­land wal­lowed in poverty, still bur­dened by an over­bear­ing colo­nial gov­ern­ment. The whal­ing in­dus­try of the 1820s pro­vided some re­lief as sailors vis­ited to pur­chase sup­plies, al­co­hol, and sex. Pros­ti­tu­tion un­for­tu­nately spread dis­ease to lo­cal women, both ven­eral strains and deadly in­fluenza. Peo­ple also died of tetanus, dysen­tery, and a va­ri­ety of other af­flic­tions. How­ever, lo­cal life ex­pec­tancy (42 af­ter age 5) was gen­er­ally similar to that of wealthy north­ern coun­tries like Swe­den and the United States. One woman lived to the age of 109.

Gover­nor José Ganga Her­rero was rel­a­tively liberal and lo­cally pop­u­lar: he al­lowed free trade with non-Span­ish ships and le­gi­t­imized bas­tard chil­dren. When he opted not to in­ter­vene against a mutiny aboard pass­ing Span­ish war­ships – it seemed too risky and difficult—Manila au­thor­i­ties re­placed him with a strongly loy­al­ist former gov­er­nor named José de Me­dinilla. Me­dinilla was an un­pop­u­lar figure who re­asserted a monopoly on trade with vis­it­ing ves­sels. He tried to avert dis­con­tent by can­cel­ing al­co­hol debts and dis­til­la­tion fees, but still had to quell a minor up­ris­ing in 1829.

Guam still had strate­gic util­ity as a link to the Philip­pines. Manila au­thor­i­ties de­bated plans for im­prove­ments to the is­land, un­til in 1828 they se­lected one pro­posed by Ganga Her­rero. Unused gov­ern­ment land would be re­dis­tributed to lo­cals. The gov­er­nor’s com­merce monopoly would be abol­ished and free ports would be es­tab­lished. A new mil­i­tia would main­tain se­cu­rity and a royal trea­surer would main­tain fi­nances. Similar re­form pro­pos­als were de­vised in Madrid in 1829. Then in 1829-1830, an Army officer on Guam named Fran­cisco Ramón de Villalo­bos sent re­ports with pro­pos­als to Manila. They re­sponded by ap­point­ing him gov­er­nor.

Villalo­bos re­or­ga­nized troops into the ur­ban mil­i­tia, fostered small in­dus­tries in­clud­ing a kiln for tiles, and im­proved roads and bridges. He gave some of the crown lands to lo­cal fam­i­lies. He also in­tro­duced vac­ci­na­tion against the dreaded smal­l­pox. He started col­lect­ing port fees from ships, but dis­con­tinued the gov­er­nor’s monopoly on im­port sales.

The re­forms had also been in­tended to re­duce the cost of main­tain­ing the colony, so the Span­ish sub­sidy to Guam de­clined. Cash be­came scarce on the is­land, but non-Chamor­ros still had to pay a 10% tax on farm pro­duce, li­cense fees, church tithes and other du­ties. Declar­ing Chamorro iden­tity be­came a way to avoid charges, re­s­ur­rect­ing a form of eth­nic pres­tige.

Villalo­bos’ re­forms fell short of their in­tended effects. De­spite them – or per­haps be­cause of the sub­sidy re­duc­tion – an 1839 vis­i­tor con­sid­ered Guam to have de­clined from its pre­vi­ous con­di­tion, the pop­u­lace be­ing bur­dened by filthy poverty and le­p­rosy. A pri­mary school had been re­pur­posed into a farmhouse. There was still lit­tle rea­son to be­lieve that the health and ma­te­rial stan­dard of liv­ing for most res­i­dents were bet­ter than they had been prior to the Span­ish per­ma­nent pres­ence nearly two cen­turies ago. Only 8,000 peo­ple lived on Guam – a fair re­cov­ery from the low­est point, but still less than the 10,000-50,000 ex­ist­ing pre­vi­ously.

Visi­tors from other coun­tries per­ceived this as a symp­tom of op­pres­sive Span­ish ad­minis­tra­tion. En­trepreneurial gov­er­nors like Tobías could make a pos­i­tive im­pact, at least tem­porar­ily, but they were the ex­cep­tion to the rule. The lo­gis­ti­cal limi­ta­tions and lo­cal au­thor­i­tar­ian struc­ture cre­ated an all too easy op­por­tu­nity for cor­rupt gov­er­nors to make prof­its by con­trol­ling trade.

There were other views. Gover­nor Don Felipe de la Corte in an 1856 re­port at­tributed poverty to the lo­cal cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment. He noted that de­spite the great pro­duc­tivity of the trop­i­cal land, the peo­ple were re­luc­tant to work and ac­cu­mu­late any more wealth than they needed on a daily ba­sis. They were of­ten ac­cused of laz­i­ness, but de la Corte noted that in the iso­lated is­land econ­omy with so few buy­ers, sur­plus grain had lit­tle use and would in­vari­ably rot or be de­stroyed by a ty­phoon be­fore the next time it was needed. Chamor­ros had cor­re­spond­ingly de­vel­oped a ra­tio­nal cul­ture of dis­mis­sive­ness to­wards plans for stor­age and prepa­ra­tion. (This may have arisen in pre-con­tact Chamorro so­ciety.) His planned solu­tion was to have maize be farmed and placed in long-term cave stor­age, but this doesn’t seem to have been im­ple­mented.

Villalo­bos at­tributed weak­ness to the pres­ence of the Catholic school founded by San Vi­tores, the Cole­gio de San Juan de Letrán. Chil­dren be­came ac­cus­tomed to easy food and board while learn­ing no use­ful skills, turn­ing them into dis­con­tented mis­fits. Villalo­bos wanted to re­pur­pose the build­ing and use its funds for other gov­ern­ment pur­poses. De la Corte similarly wanted to limit ed­u­ca­tion to be more rudi­men­tary, be­cause stu­dents’ “pre­ten­sions… to be men of ed­u­ca­tion” could make them trou­ble­some to au­thor­i­ties. But Manila (where the trust fund for the school was lo­cated) did not per­mit ei­ther pro­posal. Catholic au­thor­i­ties mean­while dis­cour­aged the Protes­tant faith, ap­par­ently burn­ing bas­kets of Bibles in 1856 to pre­vent the Chamor­ros from read­ing them.

600 Caroli­nian re­fugees, flee­ing nat­u­ral dis­asters, were al­lowed to set­tle with a farm la­bor con­tract in 1848 and 1849. Most crops were then con­sumed by worms in 1849; the Filipino gov­ern­ment and cit­i­zens sent aid to re­lieve the crisis.

In Fe­bru­ary 1856, a pas­sen­ger on the Amer­i­can mer­chant Ed­ward L. Frost died of smal­l­pox shortly be­fore ar­riv­ing at Guam. The ship was quaran­tined, but only for three days, and two pas­sen­gers with in­fluen­tial con­nec­tions on Guam were per­mit­ted to go ashore im­me­di­ately. Th­ese two de­vel­oped smal­l­pox and died in May; soon the whole is­land was stricken with the dis­ease.

A brief note about smal­l­pox is in or­der. While rigor­ous com­par­i­sons of welfare and dis­abil­ity bur­dens were not made in the early mod­ern era, smal­l­pox had been pop­u­larly con­sid­ered “the worst of hu­man mal­adies.” It caused ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain. Within a few days of con­tract­ing the ill­ness, the vic­tim be­came a weak and hol­low shell of a per­son, as if they had been suffer­ing for years. The vic­tim had trou­ble swal­low­ing or speak­ing; even­tu­ally they would en­tirely lose the abil­ity to swal­low. The vic­tim de­vel­oped scabs all over the face and ex­trem­ities; some­times the scalp it­self be­came a mas­sive scab en­tan­gled with the hair. Those who sur­vived would be im­mune for life, but would of­ten be per­ma­nently dis­figured or blinded. Smal­lpox vac­ci­na­tions ex­isted, but the ar­tifi­cial im­mu­nity wore off af­ter 10-15 years; this epi­demic started three decades af­ter Villalo­bos’ pro­gram. Span­ish au­thor­i­ties tried in vain to iso­late and vac­ci­nate peo­ple against the dis­ease. It ran its course by Novem­ber, kil­ling 63% of the pop­u­la­tion.

Poli­ti­cal con­vul­sions in Spain led to hun­dreds of poli­ti­cal pris­on­ers be­ing de­posited in Guam in the 1870s. There was no easy es­cape from the is­land, so many were left loose to live among the reg­u­lar pop­u­lace; oth­ers were freed in an 1876 royal de­cree. Some of these were Filipinos with rad­i­cal be­liefs for na­tive in­de­pen­dence, who sub­se­quently in­fluenced some of the oth­er­wise pas­sive Chamor­ros. In 1884, the gov­er­nor was as­sas­si­nated by a mil­i­tia­man. Author­i­ties im­me­di­ately dis­banded the mil­i­tia and re­placed them with a reg­u­lar Filipino in­fantry com­pany. Forty-seven sus­pects were sent to Manila for trial on sus­pi­cion of a con­spir­acy for re­bel­lion; four were ex­e­cuted and thirty-one im­pris­oned. One lo­cal priest would later claim – maybe spu­ri­ously – that con­fes­sions had been ex­tracted by the gov­er­nor via tor­ture to cre­ate a false nar­ra­tive of Chamorro in­sur­rec­tion.

Guam’s pop­u­la­tion grew but re­mained poor as Gover­nor Olive y Gar­cía took con­trol in the 1880s. The liter­acy rate was 10-20% (com­pared to 20% globally and 85% in Amer­ica), and the Span­ish lan­guage was ac­tu­ally dy­ing out; the cole­gio had faltered due to “mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion and dishon­esty.” Whalers were scarce and the Caroli­nian trade had stopped, though Guam now be­came promi­nent as a coal­ing sta­tion. Most men still had to work for the gov­ern­ment forty days a year, or pay an ex­emp­tion fee. Or­di­nary Chamor­ros fell into debt, which was usu­ally paid off by la­bor in a pe­on­age sys­tem that fur­ther in­creased Chamor­ros’ aver­sion to man­ual la­bor. Many em­i­grated.

In 1885, limited democ­racy be­gan as prin­ci­pales were elected to lo­cal office. Similar re­forms el­se­where in the colonies were in­suffi­cient: in 1896 a num­ber of Filipino in­sur­rec­tion­ists had to be in­terned on Guam. Some of them had been im­pris­oned on Guam be­fore, and man­aged to es­cape. Pan­icked guards opened fire, kil­ling eighty.

Aside from this, Guam had been gen­er­ally peace­ful for two cen­turies, with a sta­ble gov­ern­ment and ju­di­cial sys­tem. Or­di­nary Gua­ma­ni­ans were still poor, but their wants were sim­ple and they seem to have been un­trou­bled by the state of af­fairs. A greater pro­por­tion of peo­ple now lived in houses of stone rather than wood and thatch, so they could bet­ter with­stand ty­phoons. They had lit­tle fur­ni­ture; the poor­est slept and ate on mats. It was com­mon to have a main house in Agana (over two-thirds lived there) and a sep­a­rate hut el­se­where on the is­land to stay for ranch work. There was still not a re­li­able food sup­ply on the is­land, sub­sis­tence farm­ing was still the chief oc­cu­pa­tion, and peo­ple still had to for­age for wild nuts and yams in times of hard­ship. There were ac­com­plished black­smiths, wood­work­ers, shoe­mak­ers and other crafts­men, but the is­land’s econ­omy was so weak that most still had to grow their own food. They mainly con­sumed maize, rice, bread­fruit, taro, yams, beans, squash, bread (from im­ported wheat flour), fish, veni­son, pork and chicken, and cooked with co­conut oil. Nearly ev­ery­one was ad­dicted to to­bacco. Roads were in poor con­di­tion, most be­com­ing very bad in the wet sea­son.

Trade had slowly in­creased; co­pra was ex­ported, mainly to Ja­pan but also to the United States. Res­i­dents paid a small an­nual $1.50 poll tax plus taxes on live­stock, real es­tate and in­dus­try. Forced la­bor was still prac­ticed in­ter­mit­tently. There was a doc­tor, and the mil­i­tary had a health officer and a sur­geon, but hy­giene was atro­cious and a whoop­ing cough out­break kil­led 100 chil­dren in 1898. Hered­i­tary syphilis per­sisted and a few lep­ers still in­hab­ited the is­land.

The Chamor­ros were not re­bel­lious, but pos­sessed no small amount of cul­tural pride. All given names were Span­ish, but they had done an im­pres­sive job of pre­serv­ing their in­dige­nous lan­guage and many cus­toms, aug­mented now by a strong de­vo­tion to the Catholic faith. Ille­gi­t­i­mate chil­dren were ac­cepted, un­mar­ried moth­ers were treated with pity­ing kind­ness, and the el­derly were taken care of. Fam­i­lies worked to­gether on each other’s farms.

It could be said that life had im­proved. How­ever, the pop­u­la­tion re­mained smaller than it had been pre-con­tact. At the turn of the cen­tury, there were about nine thou­sand res­i­dents. Half the land was con­sid­ered vi­able for cul­ti­va­tion, but only 0.7-1% was ac­tu­ally used that way. One-fourth of the is­land be­longed to the crown.

In the fi­nal as­sess­ment, Span­ish gov­er­nance af­ter the con­quest was not effec­tive. Guam was (some­what un­der­stand­ably) ne­glected, and sub­ject to Spain’s very hi­er­ar­chi­cal im­pe­rial sys­tem. This meant the lo­cal ad­minis­tra­tors were poorly se­lected and poorly su­per­vised, of­ten down­right cor­rupt. When they were com­pe­tent men with ideas for im­prove­ments, they re­ceived lit­tle sup­port and were not re­tained, with the ex­cep­tion of Villalo­bos. Tobías and Ganga Her­rero were un­fairly dis­par­aged due to the poli­ti­cal com­pe­ti­tion of the time. The gov­er­nors took la­bor and taxes, but much had to be fun­neled into coastal defenses. And when re­forms were re­ally im­ple­mented, they just seem to have performed poorly for what­ever rea­son. Health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, and in­fras­truc­ture were never im­pres­sive. Over­all there was lit­tle to show for two hun­dred years of colo­nial man­age­ment, save for peace and an en­dur­ing re­li­gious faith.

“The na­tives in short should be given the benefit of an en­light­ened civ­i­liza­tion”

The sec­ond-most pivotal event in Guam’s his­tory oc­curred in 1848, when Cal­ifor­nia – once a Span­ish colony – was ad­mit­ted as the 31st mem­ber of the United States of Amer­ica. Wash­ing­ton now had Pa­cific am­bi­tions. While Com­modore Matthew C. Perry’s “black ships” were crack­ing Ja­pan open for Amer­i­can busi­ness, a much less im­pres­sive mis­sion was tak­ing Amer­i­can in­ter­ests to Guam.

In 1854, an Amer­i­can named Sa­muel J. Masters ar­rived with a sec­re­tary as the offi­cial United States mer­chant con­sul for Guam. He lacked for­mal ap­proval from the au­thor­i­ties in Manila, but as­serted his po­si­tion to Gover­nor Pablo Pérez any­way. Rogers writes that Masters “showed the new­comer syn­drome com­monly found in Pa­cific is­lands whereby the re­cent ar­rival has im­me­di­ate in­sight on how to solve all lo­cal prob­lems, if peo­ple would only listen,” and pro­ceeded to feud with Pérez. He did man­age to achieve the re­lease of sev­eral ship­wrecked Amer­i­can sailors from the Sarah Moo­ers who had es­sen­tially been held as pris­on­ers on the is­land. De la Corte then suc­ceeded Pérez and was greeted by a sur­prise visit from the 600-ton USS Van­dalia, bristling with can­non. Com­man­der John Pope and the mer­chant con­sul bul­lied de la Corte into apol­o­giz­ing for the im­pris­on­ment of the sailors.

Amer­i­can im­pe­rial am­bi­tions – fanned in no small part by moral out­rage at Euro­pean treat­ment of colo­nial sub­jects – turned to hos­tilities with Spain in 1898. While an Amer­i­can fleet sub­dued the Philip­pines, three troop trans­ports and the pow­er­ful mod­ern cruiser USS Charleston, cap­tained by Henry Glass, were dis­patched to sup­port the op­er­a­tion. They were also or­dered to stop at Guam en­route, cap­ture its au­thor­i­ties and de­stroy any mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions.

Ar­riv­ing at Guam in June, Glass found the is­land to be to­tally in­ca­pable of re­sist­ing an at­tack; Fort Santa Cruz was aban­doned and the only ar­tillery pieces on the is­land were four use­less salut­ing can­nons. More­over, the Spa­niards had no idea that Amer­ica and Spain were at war. The Amer­i­cans took Span­ish offi­cials pris­oner, ex­cept for the civilian trea­surer José Sisto Ro­dríguez. Chamorro mil­i­tia were disarmed and re­leased. Villagers were ter­rified of the in­vaders, and fled into the wilder­ness. Glass asked a lo­cal Amer­i­can mer­chant named Fran­cisco Por­tusach to take care of Amer­i­can in­ter­ests on the is­land, but didn’t leave any per­son­nel or ap­point any for­mal au­thor­ity. The blood­less trans­fer be­ing com­pleted, Glass’s flotilla de­parted.

Sisto promptly de­clared that the Amer­i­can ac­qui­si­tion was un­lawful given the ab­sence of any Amer­i­can per­son­nel, set him­self up as act­ing gov­er­nor, gath­ered a gang of pro-Span­ish in­di­vi­d­u­als, and paid salaries to Chamorro mil­i­tia (he pos­sessed the sole key to the offi­cial safe).

Crime broke out un­der Sisto’s watch. But Por­tusach and sev­eral other promi­nent lo­cals had formed a pro-Amer­i­can group, and in Jan­uary 1899 figured it was time to de­pose Sisto. Right be­fore any con­fronta­tion hap­pened, an Amer­i­can col­lier ar­rived, and ev­ery­one gath­ered aboard the ship. Com­mand­ing Lieu­tenant Vin­cen­don L. Cottman ul­ti­mately de­cided to leave Guam in Sisto’s hands, and pro­ceeded to make a gen­eral sur­vey of the is­land.

Later that month, a sec­ond Amer­i­can ship cap­tained by Com­man­der Ed­ward Taus­sig ar­rived with news of the con­clu­sion of the war. Spain had given up the Philip­pines and Guam to the United States. Amer­i­cans had had mixed feel­ings about tak­ing the Philip­pines; there was lit­tle strate­gic pur­pose, and many Amer­i­cans ideal­is­ti­cally hoped for Filipino in­de­pen­dence. But the gov­ern­ment went ahead and took ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity. Some sen­a­tors sup­ported it un­der the false im­pres­sion that the Philip­pines would be granted in­de­pen­dence af­ter the ac­quis­tion.

Now that the Philip­pines would be the cap­stone of Amer­i­can power pro­jec­tion into the Pa­cific, Guam had a pur­pose as a coal­ing and wa­ter­ing sta­tion en­route. Guam was vuln­er­a­ble by it­self, so Amer­i­cans also made over­tures to­wards pur­chas­ing the Carolines and pos­si­bly the re­main­ing Mar­i­anas is­lands north of Guam. How­ever, these efforts were re­buf­fed and Wash­ing­ton did not press the mat­ter. The is­lands would later be sold to Ger­many.

In an at­tempt to sta­bi­lize lo­cal fi­nances, Taus­sig de­clared a set of fixed cur­rency ex­change rates. He dis­cov­ered that Sisto had em­bez­zled money and re­placed him with Joaquín Pérez y Cruz. The Amer­i­cans left; Pérez sub­se­quently ar­rested Sisto. The bat­tle­ship USS Ore­gon stopped at Guam for coal, but no one went ashore. An Amer­i­can officer named Lieu­tenant Louis Kaiser ar­rived on a col­lier in March and be­came ac­tive on the is­land, im­prov­ing san­i­ta­tion in pub­lic build­ings. Un­able to per­son­ally take charge be­cause he could not speak Span­ish, he bick­ered with Pérez and then de­posed him in fa­vor of a per­sonal friend named Willie Coe in July. Some Chamor­ros mean­while de­cided to es­tab­lish their own gov­ern­ment: a bi­cam­eral leg­is­la­ture, with three in the up­per house and six in the lower. Kaiser in­formed them that they had no le­gal au­thor­ity.

The mild chaos of this in­ter­reg­num pe­riod was a con­se­quence of Glass’s failure to ar­rest Sisto or es­tab­lish cred­ible lead­er­ship on the is­land. He pre­sum­ably would have acted differ­ently if his or­ders had been to per­ma­nently se­cure the is­land rather than to merely cap­ture Span­ish au­thor­i­ties and de­stroy their mil­i­tary in­fras­truc­ture; Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties who ex­pected a stronger Span­ish pres­ence per­haps wished to avoid the vi­o­lence and strug­gle of try­ing to con­trol of the is­land. How­ever, Glass could have ob­served the gen­er­ally pli­able and lack­adaisi­cal na­ture of Guam so­ciety and then taken ini­ti­a­tive to es­tab­lish au­thor­ity with just a few per­son­nel and em­pow­ered lo­cals. He might have be­lieved the is­lan­ders ca­pa­ble of man­ag­ing their own af­fairs, but should have pre­dicted that a lead­er­ship vac­uum would lead to some­one tak­ing power.

Any of the suc­ceed­ing Amer­i­can vis­i­tors could have done more to en­courage self-gov­ern­ment. Cottman might have at least done well to in­stall Por­tusach. Any­way, his main con­tri­bu­tion was to con­vey a set of recom­men­da­tions to his su­pe­ri­ors for mak­ing Guam “a self sup­port­ing is­land and a cred­itable colony.”

The first was to evict Span­ish priests, who Cottman con­sid­ered a detri­ment to Guam’s so­ciety with too much poli­ti­cal in­fluence. They could be re­placed with Amer­i­can Catholic priests. He also wanted to evict the Filipino con­victs back to Manila. Cottman then pre­scribed forced la­bor as a cure for male idle­ness and al­co­holism, recom­mend­ing that “a good car­riage road” be built all around the is­land.

Cottman pressed to evac­u­ate the lep­ers to Molokai, to cre­ate a hos­pi­tal colony on Guam for syphilitics, and to build a phar­macy with com­pul­sory med­i­cal ex­ams and free treat­ment. He recom­mended manda­tory pub­lic school­ing and wanted to re­place the old re­li­gious in­struc­tion with en­light­ened texts of art and sci­ence. He sug­gested an in­dus­trial school, sup­port for lo­cal agri­cul­ture, and wood­work­ing equip­ment.

Cottman’s re­port made its way to Cap­tain Richard Phillips Leary, who was ap­pointed the first U.S. gov­er­nor of Guam. Leary ar­rived aboard the aux­iliary cruiser Yosemite in Au­gust with a bat­tal­ion of Marines and Lieu­tenant William Ed­ward Saf­ford who be­came the de facto lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. They es­tab­lished a gov­ern­ment un­der Navy au­thor­ity with a col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary men, lo­cals, one­time act­ing gov­er­nor Willie Coe (now in charge of the port), and a former Span­ish cap­tain who had pre­vi­ously been taken off the is­land as a pris­oner on the Charleston. The Yosemite was weak as a war­ship, but it was a large, handy ves­sel, fea­tur­ing dis­till­ing equip­ment, an ice plant, med­i­cal fa­cil­ities, a ma­chine shop, and am­ple space for head­quar­ters and stor­age.

Leary took a va­ri­ety of ac­tions to try to push Guam’s peo­ple into a higher stan­dard of de­vel­op­ment. He hired Chamor­ros for pro­jects at $0.24 a day (con­tem­po­rary un­skil­led wages in the US were $1-1.50 per day), but found them un­will­ing to do man­ual la­bor, so he used Marines for both civil and mil­i­tary con­struc­tion. This was stren­u­ous given the heat and the lack of timely wa­ter sup­ply, and the Marines at­tempted to re­fuse the or­ders, but Leary put a stop to the mutiny. Leary also re­quired forced la­bor of fif­teen days per year from the Chamor­ros, and re­stricted the abil­ity of wealthier lo­cals to buy ex­emp­tions from the la­bor. Civilian la­bor­ers from Amer­ica and the Philip­pines were later brought in. A sawmill was soon built to ease con­struc­tion.

The most ob­vi­ous im­prove­ments were health re­lated. Leary built the first drainage sys­tems, wa­ter dis­til­la­tion, and wa­ter stor­age tanks on the is­land. Garbage was col­lected and defe­ca­tion was con­fined to out­houses. Leary had med­i­cal per­son­nel from the Yosemite treat lo­cals free of charge and a makeshift hos­pi­tal was es­tab­lished in Agana. A hos­pi­tal for the re­main­ing lep­ers was es­tab­lished, but they were not forced to stay away from other peo­ple. Lo­cals in Agat and Su­may built hos­pi­tals at their own ex­pense; the naval ad­minis­tra­tion would run them with free ser­vices. A ty­phoid out­break hap­pened in De­cem­ber 1899, but in­fec­tions de­clined over­all. The gov­ern­ment be­gan to keep statis­tics of deaths on the is­land.

The ad­minis­tra­tion fixed di­lap­i­dated roads, bridges and pub­lic build­ings. Leary also in­stalled a tele­phone line from Agana to Piti. At the be­hest of Pres­i­dent McKin­ley and Congress, work be­gan on a San Fran­cisco-Honolulu-Guam-Manila tele­graph line, which would be opened in 1903 (the early oceanic sur­veys for it near Guam re­vealed the Mar­i­anas Trench, the deep­est part of the world). The har­bor was im­proved, though there was still no pier and goods had to be la­bo­ri­ously trans­ferred by boat. The Navy be­gan plan­ning fur­ther har­bor im­prove­ments in­clud­ing a proper naval sta­tion with a new coal­ing fa­cil­ity, but Congress did not ap­pro­pri­ate the nec­es­sary funds ($2 mil­lion). The naval sta­tion was rel­e­gated to a more mod­est set of new fa­cil­ities, in­clud­ing a de­part­ment for re­pairing Amer­i­can ves­sels. Marines had to perform daily drill and pa­rade, al­though their sched­ule was made to avoid the hottest part of the day. Re­cre­ational fa­cil­ities were es­tab­lished, but mil­i­tary life was gen­er­ally hard. Since they were sta­tioned over­seas, mil­i­tary per­son­nel on Guam were en­ti­tled to an ad­di­tional 10-20% pay, but missed this in the first year due to a Con­gres­sional over­sight. Ro­ta­tions in Guam were kept short due to the hard­ships. To im­prove qual­ity of life and re­duce con­sump­tion of the lo­cal drink, the gov­er­nor wanted to al­low beer for the per­son­nel, but this idea was not adopted.

Most lo­cal fam­i­lies owned land. Leary placed a mora­to­rium on land sales while ev­ery res­i­dent’s land own­er­ship could be prop­erly reg­istered. Then Saf­ford, who had stud­ied the works of Henry Ge­orge, at­tempted to in­cen­tivize re­dis­tri­bu­tion and bet­ter land use by re­plac­ing the old prop­erty tax with a land value tax. The rate was fixed by the lo­ca­tion and po­ten­tial pro­duc­tivity of the ter­rain, to en­courage idle large landown­ers to sell more of their prop­erty to peo­ple who would make im­prove­ments to it. Both Leary and vis­it­ing Army gen­eral Joseph Wheeler were con­fi­dent the tax re­form would be effec­tive, and at least one large landowner sub­se­quently sold off ex­cess prop­er­ties. In time how­ever, the rates would prove to be too high for many or­di­nary Chamor­ros to pay. Some would sell their land to Ja­panese mi­grants, oth­ers would see the naval gov­ern­ment seize it when they failed to pay the taxes.

More rev­enue was still needed for the gov­ern­ment, so im­port tar­iffs were es­tab­lished. Un­for­tu­nately it was a long and con­fus­ing list with sep­a­rate tax rates for more than 150 differ­ent types of goods. It was pre­sum­ably in­tended to en­courage healthier kinds of in­dus­try and con­sump­tion, but still seems like ex­cess of mar­ket micro­man­age­ment. Some goods were taxed by quan­tity and oth­ers were taxed ad val­o­rum. Wash­ing­ton crit­i­cized and ad­justed some of the rates. The gov­ern­ment be­gan to run a tidy sur­plus.

Agri­cul­tural sup­ply on the is­land was in­ad­e­quate. The Amer­i­cans re­quired that do­mes­tic an­i­mals be re­strained to stop them from rav­aging crops. Saf­ford dis­cov­ered records of an old Span­ish policy of re­strict­ing food ex­ports, and re-im­ple­mented it. Leary re­quired that ev­ery man with­out a trade main­tain a farm plot, and es­tab­lished a pro­cess to provide land to those who needed it. A re­friger­a­tion plant was con­structed in 1900, pro­vid­ing cold food stor­age. But food still had to be im­ported in the short run. The Marines planted a six-acre farm for agri­cul­tural ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, and Saf­ford tested Amer­i­can cat­tle and veg­etable seeds, but the new breeds were un­suc­cess­ful.

Leary banned the ex­ploita­tive pe­on­age sys­tem. Land fraud was com­mon, in­clud­ing minor offi­cials defraud­ing the peo­ple; the land reg­is­tra­tion par­tially sup­pressed it. The ju­di­cial sys­tem was par­tially up­dated, and Saf­ford did his in­ex­pe­rienced best to serve as a judge. Polic­ing was del­e­gated to a com­pany of na­tives, con­tracted by the gov­ern­ment.

Leary tried in vain to re­strict the al­co­hol ex­cesses, gam­bling, and racism which were caus­ing di­s­or­der­li­ness among the lo­cals and vis­i­tors. He also at­tempted to stop racism and as­saults per­pe­trated by sol­diers against the lo­cals. In 1899 drunk sea­man in­sulted a lo­cal’s wife. Then in 1900 a gang of Marines mobbed a lo­cal offi­cial’s house in re­tal­i­a­tion for an ar­rest he had made of an­other drunk Marine. Another dis­pute arose when a na­tive’s wife and sister-in-law in­vited Marines to their house while the hus­band was do­ing farm work; the hus­band no­ticed and com­plained to the Amer­i­can offi­cials, so the Marines seized him and “threw him into a bed of lilies.” Leary es­tab­lished a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion and then a civilian crim­i­nal court, and or­dered the Marines to treat lo­cals with more re­spect.

Chamor­ros were up­set when Leary cracked down on cer­tain Catholic prac­tices, in­clud­ing the con­cu­bi­nage which was con­doned and prac­ticed by many priests. The Span­ish priests were ex­pel­led from the is­land, split­ting their fam­i­lies. Fes­tivi­ties in­terfered with eco­nomic ac­tivity and early morn­ing church bells woke up hos­pi­tal pa­tients, but the lo­cals were at­tached to these prac­tices and dis­ap­pointed when they were banned. Leary dis­solved re­li­gious school­ing and made pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion manda­tory from the ages of 8 to 14, pro­mot­ing English. Even many main­land Amer­i­cans were up­set by his treat­ment of the Catholic Church, and a pub­lic con­tro­versy arose. In a no­table con­trast to Span­ish man­age­ment, the United States gov­ern­ment dis­patched Wheeler to in­spect Guam. He re­ported that Leary’s ad­minis­tra­tion was over­all do­ing quite well, so no ac­tion was taken.

Saf­ford mean­while learned Chamorro and taught English to the lo­cals in his spare time. He stud­ied lo­cal flora and sent rot­ting Span­ish doc­u­ments to be pre­served at the Library of Congress. At the re­quest of lo­cals, he de­ported Filipino ex-con­victs, ex­cept­ing some who were judged to be more use­ful to the com­mu­nity. Saf­ford “re­garded his po­si­tion as an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing for the in­hab­itants and to ame­lio­rate the con­di­tions un­der which they lived,” opened his doors to Chamor­ros with prob­lems, and was well liked: Chamor­ros cir­cu­lated a pe­ti­tion for him to be cho­sen as the next gov­er­nor.

Just as with Span­ish rule, Guam suffered from ad­minis­tra­tive ne­glect. Pri­or­ity was given to other Amer­i­can hold­ings, and fund­ing for in­stal­la­tions on Guam was in­ad­e­quate. Leary’s re­quest for ad­di­tional sol­diers was re­fused, and he then re­quested to be sta­tioned el­se­where. Both Leary and Saf­ford were re­as­signed. Leary, in his fi­nal edict, banned nu­dity (still prac­ticed by the hun­dred re­main­ing Caroli­ni­ans) and cock­fight­ing. Saf­ford, who had de­vel­oped an af­finity for the is­land and its peo­ple, gave away per­sonal prop­erty be­fore de­part­ing.

Suc­ceed­ing gov­er­nor Seaton Schroeder gave high praise to Leary’s year­long ad­minis­tra­tion, and the Chamor­ros seem to have been con­tented. But prop­erly judg­ing its im­pact is difficult due to the lack of data or writ­ten ac­counts from the Chamor­ros. Some ac­tions im­posed hard­ship; oth­ers had all the ap­pear­ances of good progress. It is easy to be­lieve that the health and san­i­ta­tion im­prove­ments were sig­nifi­cant. The mea­sures to change Chamorro so­ciety and cul­ture seem to have had lit­tle im­pact.

Saf­ford could even be con­sid­ered a pro­to­typ­i­cal Effec­tive Altru­ist – in­tel­lec­tual though not aca­demic, mul­ti­tal­ented, and quietly com­mit­ted to a va­ri­ety of benev­olent pro­jects. He later re­signed his mil­i­tary com­mis­sion to work at the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, and would pub­lish books on the lan­guage, botany and his­tory of Guam.

Com­man­der Schroeder be­came Guam’s next gov­er­nor in July 1900. En­sign Alfred Pressley took the place of Saf­ford.

Oc­cu­pa­tional li­cens­ing with an in­struc­tion course was es­tab­lished for mid­wives, which ap­par­ently re­duced in­fant and ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity. Amer­i­can mil­i­tary wives formed a new so­cial elite on Guam; Maria Schroeder raised 1800 pe­sos from cit­i­zens on the main­land to help the is­land gov­ern­ment build a new hos­pi­tal in Agana with free ser­vices. Chamor­ros were re­luc­tant to ac­cept Western medicine, but many did make use of the hos­pi­tal. The leper hos­pi­tal mean­while was re­placed with a proper colony at Tu­mon Bay. Mor­tal­ity and worm in­fec­tions de­clined. The main deadly dis­eases at the time were dysen­tery, puer­peral fever, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, tetanus, asthma, and in­fluenza. The first death from amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was recorded in 1902. Marines also still faced a high rate of dis­ease. To pre­vent an­other ty­phoid out­break, Schroeder wanted to build a dam to provide a per­ma­nent wa­ter sup­ply for Agana, but the Navy Depart­ment re­fused to provide funds (an es­ti­mated $32,000).

Schroeder es­tab­lished an ice plant on the is­land to en­sure cold stor­age of meat and other foods. Ice could only be sent to na­tives when a sur­geon re­quested it; oth­er­wise it was de­liv­ered to mil­i­tary hous­ing and the hos­pi­tal. In any case, the na­tives seemed to lack Amer­i­can en­thu­si­asm for cold drinks and ice cream. To en­courage farm­ing, Schroeder also dis­tributed un­claimed land for free, turn­ing some Chamorro fam­i­lies into landown­ers for the first time. And agri­cul­tural ex­per­i­ments pro­vided new in­for­ma­tion on which plants could or couldn’t be suc­cess­fully grown. But the food prob­lems were not im­me­di­ately solved: a ty­phoon in Novem­ber 1900 caused ter­rible agri­cul­tural dam­age (it also kil­led thirty-nine peo­ple and de­stroyed the Yosemite, forc­ing the Amer­i­cans to rely on an in­ad­e­quate col­lier as their head­quar­ters ship), and in fall 1902 the is­land was still not self-suffi­cient. New roads promised to help cit­i­zens farm in more parts of the is­land, but progress on them was slow due to the need to re­pair ty­phoon dam­age first and the limited fi­nances, which them­selves had to be drained for im­me­di­ate aid af­ter the ty­phoon. Schroeder re­fused an Amer­i­can busi­ness ini­ti­a­tive to bring Chi­nese con­tract la­bor­ers to drain and cul­ti­vate new land, be­cause he re­garded the Chi­nese as “ob­jec­tion­able” and wor­ried that their pres­ence would diminish the work ethic of the Chamor­ros. Also, the ex­pan­sion of the higher-pay­ing pub­lic sec­tor re­duced the sup­ply of farm la­bor. Thus, the is­land re­mained re­li­ant on food im­ports. When trans­ports did not ar­rive on sched­ule, Marines were put on re­stricted diets.

Schroeder at­tempted to prop­erly es­tab­lish pub­lic school­ing, but was limited by funds and it took some time for a sys­tem to be worked out. $42,400 was re­quested from Congress to build schools and in­fras­truc­ture, but they ap­pro­pri­ated noth­ing. Lo­cal mon­e­tary dona­tions and school­books donated from the main­land helped, as did new mis­sion­ar­ies – Schroeder was not as tough as Leary on the Catholic Church. A Protes­tant church was es­tab­lished, an­ger­ing some Catholic lo­cals: they threw stones at the build­ing and at­tacked church­go­ers in the street.

The Caroli­ni­ans were ig­nor­ing Leary’s or­der to wear clothes, and both Amer­i­cans and Chamor­ros were ap­par­ently em­bar­rassed by them – vis­i­tors rushed to take pho­tos with the “Guam ladies” and share them stateside, giv­ing a very prim­i­tive mis­im­pres­sion of the is­land. De­scribing the Caroli­ni­ans (who also hap­pen to be darker skinned than Chamor­ros) as a “very low or­der of hu­man an­i­mal”, Schroeder de­ported them to join fel­lows in Ger­man-ruled Saipan, where they were placed un­der forced la­bor.

In a re­peat of Span­ish his­tory, Amer­ica sup­pressed a Filipino re­bel­lion and de­posited dozens of cap­tured in­sur­rec­tion­ists on Guam. First they were housed in tents, then the leper hos­pi­tal was burned out and re­pur­posed into a prison. Most of the Filipino pris­on­ers later ac­cepted Amer­ica’s July 1902 offer grant­ing amnesty to rebels who pledged alle­giance to the coun­try, and the re­main­der had their im­pris­on­ment on Guam com­muted to ex­ile from the Philip­pines in 1903.

The ty­phoon was fol­lowed by an earth­quake in Septem­ber 1902, which caused ex­ten­sive dam­age and one fatal­ity. It de­stroyed build­ings and broke the bridges be­tween Agana and Piti. The ad­minis­tra­tion spent $11,000 on re­pairs. New reg­u­la­tions were passed for earth­quake-re­sis­tant con­struc­tion.

To raise money more effec­tively and pos­si­bly make life eas­ier for the lo­cals, Schroeder sim­plified the tax code. Both tax­a­tion and pub­lic spend­ing were now higher than they had been un­der Span­ish rule. The gov­ern­ment ran a slight deficit over 1900-1902.

Prob­lems with un­ruly Marines con­tinued. In 1901, a small gang of Marines stole a bar­rel of whiskey from the hos­pi­tal and robbed a lo­cal man of cloth­ing and money. Others were gen­er­ally guilty of ob­scene lan­guage, dere­lic­tion of duty and re­sis­tance to ar­rest. Schroeder re­quired all en­listed men to stay in the bar­racks af­ter taps, and tried four­teen sus­pects by courts mar­tial, though Schroeder’s su­pe­ri­ors slowed and com­pli­cated the pro­cess by de­mand­ing that the courts be held in Wash­ing­ton.

Schroeder also im­proved the court sys­tem by adding new civilian per­son­nel and abol­ish­ing all ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal au­thor­ity and priv­ileges. He asked for a com­mis­sion to study Guam’s laws and recom­mend im­prove­ments in the le­gal code: the re­ten­tion of Span­ish laws had eased the tran­si­tion to Amer­i­can ad­minis­tra­tion, but they were an­tiquated and poorly suited for the is­land. How­ever, Congress did not meet the re­quest. In De­cem­ber 1901, Chamor­ros pre­sented a pe­ti­tion for Wash­ing­ton to es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of per­ma­nent civilian gov­ern­ment for the is­land, claiming that they had even fewer rights un­der Navy oc­cu­pa­tion than they had un­der Span­ish do­minion; Schroeder en­dorsed the pe­ti­tion. It helped lead to a 1903 Se­nate bill to es­tab­lish a new gov­ern­ment, but it died in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, mainly be­cause the Navy ob­jected.

Lo­cals also wanted to op­por­tu­nity to be­come US cit­i­zens. By the treaty end­ing the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War, such rights had to be de­ter­mined by Congress, which failed to act on this. There­fore, they were rel­e­gated to be­ing cit­i­zens of the U.S. ter­ri­tory of Guam – which, per the Supreme Court rul­ing in Downes v Bid­well, was not sub­ject to con­sti­tu­tional limi­ta­tions on con­gres­sional power. The ma­jor­ity opinion ar­gued that it could be im­pos­si­ble to ad­minister “An­glo-Saxon prin­ci­ples” to ter­ri­to­ries in­hab­ited by “alien races” which had en­tirely differ­ent so­cieties, poli­cies and laws. Con­gres­sional laws still did not ex­tend to Guam, so the re­sult was to place it fully un­der Navy au­thor­ity.

Schroeder’s ad­minis­tra­tion lasted two and half years – it had been ex­tended at his re­quest. In Fe­bru­ary 1903 he left be­hind a record of re­spectable progress. In an early visit to Guam, Leonard M. Cox had found that is­lan­ders wanted the US gov­ern­ment to provide a new civil gov­ern­ment, a new code of laws, ju­di­ciary re­form in­clud­ing a right to ap­peal cap­i­tal cases to a higher Amer­i­can court, US cit­i­zen­ship, school fund­ing, sub­si­dized ship­ping be­tween Guam and Manila, a fa­cil­ity for agri­cul­tural ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, roads, wa­ter sup­ply and sew­ers, and a train­ing school with a library in Agana. By the end of Schroeder’s ad­minis­tra­tion, the first had been sup­ported by the gov­er­nor and Se­nate but de­nied by the Navy Depart­ment and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The sec­ond had been sup­ported by the gov­er­nor but de­nied by Congress. The third had been par­tially im­ple­mented. The fourth and fifth were ig­nored by Congress. It is not clear what came of the sixth. The sev­enth, eighth and ninth were im­ple­mented. The tenth doesn’t seem to have been im­ple­mented. Over­all, the pri­mary poli­ti­cal ob­sta­cle to progress at this time was ne­glect and cal­lous­ness in Wash­ing­ton. Limi­ta­tions in the lo­cal ad­minis­tra­tion’s fi­nances – which also could have been rec­tified by Wash­ing­ton – also held back some of the de­vel­op­ment. But they were still able to achieve ma­jor im­prove­ments in health­care and san­i­ta­tion. Amer­i­can ad­minis­tra­tion also main­tained care­ful pro­ce­dures for re­duc­ing dis­ease out­breaks from ar­riv­ing ships.

Schroeder also seemed to take bad ac­tions in­fluenced by racism, though not to­wards the Chamor­ros them­selves. Amer­i­can offi­cials seem to have re­garded them as a good group of peo­ple, al­though sol­diers could be rowdy and dis­dain­ful. A res­i­dent Rev­erend Fran­cis Price was quoted as not know­ing of a sin­gle case of in­jus­tice on the is­land.

It is not clear ex­actly how well the Chamor­ros ap­proved of the ad­minis­tra­tion over­all. Beers wrote quite a rosy pic­ture un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Navy Depart­ment, say­ing that the Chamor­ros had “a friendly and ap­pre­ci­a­tive at­ti­tude to­wards the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.” This was more or less echoed by the in­de­pen­dent ac­counts from Wheeler and Saf­ford, and does seem to have been true for the most part. How­ever the lo­cals were still dis­satis­fied by in­fringe­ments upon the Catholic es­tab­lish­ment and by the lack of civil self-gov­ern­ment.

Schroeder was suc­ceeded by Com­man­der William Sewell, who for­mal­ized Guam’s ju­di­cial sys­tem. There was still no trial by jury or ap­peal pro­cess to es­cape is­land au­thor­ity.

Ge­orge Dyer took com­mand in 1904 and re­vised the po­lice sys­tem. The Chief of Po­lice in Agana over­saw a group of Marines and a group of Chamor­ros, each of about a dozen men. The Marine po­lice­men also found them­selves work­ing as teach­ers and prin­ci­pals in village schools. Dyer’s wife ob­tained a $10,000 en­dow­ment from the Rus­sell Sage Foun­da­tion to build a new hos­pi­tal wing for women and chil­dren. The Navy mean­while es­tab­lished a lo­cal civil ser­vice.

Prop­er­ties were poorly de­mar­cated, so Dyer re­quested a proper sur­vey of the is­land. It pro­gressed slowly through the rest of the 20th cen­tury, and land fraud would con­tinue.

In 1907, the Navy in­sti­tuted a policy for­bid­ding Marines (and later Sailors as well) from mar­ry­ing Chamor­ros, al­though many dis­re­garded it. English was also in­creas­ingly pro­moted, and would soon re­place Span­ish as the lan­guage of ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic af­fairs and most busi­nesses, but Chamorro en­dured in homes and lo­cal gath­er­ings.

Gover­nor Ed­ward Dorn (1908-1910) ex­panded the court and ap­pointed an at­tor­ney gen­eral, but it was still in­ad­e­quate to meet the caseload gen­er­ated by the kludge of Span­ish laws and Navy civil or­ders. The first news­pa­per – the Guam News Let­ter – was launched in 1909.

Dorn aimed to Amer­i­can­ize Guam, so he made the Amer­i­can dol­lar the sole cur­rency, pro­hibited for­eign­ers (ex­cept Amer­i­cans) from mak­ing land pur­chases or long-term leases, and in­sti­tuted offi­cial ob­ser­vance of Amer­i­can fed­eral holi­days. Congress mean­while au­tho­rized duty-free im­port of Gua­ma­nian prod­ucts into the United States and other ter­ri­to­ries. Th­ese efforts hap­pened in the con­text of in­creas­ing US-Ja­panese ten­sions and fears over Ja­panese in­fluence in the Pa­cific. Ja­panese traders were the pri­mary buy­ers of the is­land’s grow­ing co­pra ex­ports; for some rea­son the Amer­i­cans did not al­low it to be shipped to Manila on the rou­tine Army trans­ports.

Chamor­ros mean­while were fight­ing a differ­ent kind of alien: the Vat­i­can re­moved the Mar­i­anas from the Philip­pine dio­cese, and or­ga­nized them into an apos­tolic prefec­ture un­der a Ger­man Ca­puchin or­der. There was a lo­cal up­roar at the prospect of Ger­man re­li­gious au­thor­ity, and Dorn de­nied the new clergy per­mis­sion to stay on Guam. The mat­ter ended in 1911 when Guam was turned into an apos­tolic vi­cari­ate un­der a Span­ish Fran­cis­can Ca­puchin or­der. The is­land’s Protes­tant mis­sion also closed due to lack of funds in 1910, but Bap­tists ar­rived in 1911. Catholic Chamor­ros or­ga­nized re­li­gious so­cieties, and Protes­tantism re­mained marginal.

In 1911 the Navy es­tab­lished an oil-burn­ing gen­er­a­tor to provide power for a ra­dio sta­tion and streetlights in Agana. A few wealthy peo­ple owned au­to­mo­biles and mo­tor­cy­cles, whereas na­tives took great pride in own­ing ponies for pul­ling car­riages. Roads were still paved sim­ply with gravel.

Agri­cul­ture was in a rel­a­tively poor state. The Amer­i­can sci­en­tists at the agri­cul­tural ex­per­i­men­ta­tion sta­tion were dis­mis­sive of lo­cal prac­tices, dis­parag­ing their meth­ods and “su­per­sti­tions” with a blunt­ness that could be con­sid­ered haughty in the 21st cen­tury. But their ex­per­i­ments did fre­quently dis­prove lo­cal as­sump­tions and they found nu­mer­ous ways to im­prove farm­ing prac­tice.

One of their re­ports noted, “One of the most strik­ing ev­i­dences of the un­pro­gres­sive state of agri­cul­ture in Guam is the ab­sence of many of the im­por­tant trop­i­cal fruits and the scarcity and gen­eral in­fe­ri­or­ity of those in cul­ti­va­tion… This back­ward and un­de­vel­oped con­di­tion is not due en­tirely to lack of en­ter­prise on the part of the peo­ple, for other causes, such as the lack of good trans­porta­tion fa­cil­ities, past and pre­sent, the iso­lated ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion of the is­land, ne­ces­si­tat­ing the long voy­ages be­tween Guam and out­side points, have ren­dered the in­tro­duc­tion of live plants, and even of seeds, a mat­ter of difficulty… The peo­ple are fond of fruits of ev­ery kind, and many times the quan­tity now pro­duced would be con­sumed if available. An abun­dance of fruit would not only bet­ter the pre­sent food sup­ply of the Chamorro and add di­rectly many plea­sures to his life, but it would also save him many a dol­lar which now leaves the is­land in ex­change for ex­pen­sive canned foods.” An or­di­nary co­pra rancher earned 40 cents a day; man­goes cost 5-15 cents each and lemons cost 3-5 cents a dozen.

There was no nursery, and graft­ing and air lay­er­ing were un­known among the lo­cals. For­tu­nately the sta­tion tested and dis­tributed limited amounts of suc­cess­ful new seeds and plants, in­clud­ing av­o­cado, per­sim­mon, ba­nana, and luffa (which had been formerly prized by the is­lan­ders be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing). A new corn va­ri­ety promised to ma­ture faster, which was im­por­tant for min­i­miz­ing the losses caused by dry sea­sons and storms. A new breed of pineap­ple plant pro­duced fruits more than dou­ble the size of the pre­vi­ous va­ri­ety. New types were dis­tributed as plants and as seeds. In 1912 the sta­tion dis­tributed 2,500 in­fant plants; in 1916 they gave out over 33,000 and in 1917 they gave out 50,700. They also taught graft­ing to na­tives and built up a mod­est library. Distri­bu­tion and ed­u­ca­tion were aided by the gov­er­nor’s office.

Plant dis­eases were a prob­lem, ex­ac­er­bated by crude farm­ing prac­tices and the ab­sence of a rele­vant sci­en­tist dur­ing the Span­ish and early Amer­i­can oc­cu­pa­tions.

In­sects dam­aged many crops, and im­ports of new plants posed a risk of in­tro­duc­ing new crop-eat­ing in­sects. Plant im­ports were man­aged care­fully, and Gover­nor Ge­orge Sal­is­bury im­ple­mented new reg­u­la­tions against them. The re­searchers mean­while set loose a few species of bee­tles and par­a­sites to try and con­trol the var­i­ous lo­cal pests. Honey­bees were suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced, free of “foul brood and all other se­ri­ous hive pests,” and lo­cal honey promised to re­place ex­pen­sive sugar im­ports. Honey­bee colonies were shipped to Manila, but ap­par­ently were un­suc­cess­ful there.

The sta­tion tested and in­tro­duced sev­eral ex­cel­lent sources of for­age for live­stock, in­clud­ing the hardy para grass. But an­i­mal welfare was du­bi­ous. Bull cas­tra­tion was some­times performed by crush­ing the tes­ta­cles be­tween stones. Milk cows, though rare, were “al­most in­vari­ably tied to a stake and ne­glected, of­ten be­ing al­lowed to re­main un­changed for an en­tire day upon closely cropped pas­ture, to de­pend for feed upon such grass or leaves as may be reached within a ra­dius of 25 or 30 feet.” Dur­ing the dry sea­son, cat­tle of­ten lacked proper food or fresh wa­ter and suffered from se­ri­ous tick in­fes­ta­tions. The ticks stunted growth and caused ab­nor­mal ele­va­tions in body tem­per­a­ture. Nearly all cat­tle suffered from fas­ciolo­sis, which gen­er­ally had lit­tle im­pact aside from stunt­ing their growth, but one na­tive an­i­mal badly af­flicted by both fas­ciolo­sis and ticks had “wa­tery discharge from the eyes, ap­petite im­paired, coat star­ing, mu­cous mem­branes pale and ane­mic, gen­eral at­ti­tude dull and listless, gait un­cer­tain, lymph glands swol­len, fe­ces at first blood-stained with sub­se­quent di­ar­rhea, breath­ing la­bored, heart ac­tion weak with a jugu­lar pulse.” Both ticks and fas­ciolo­sis were in­creased by the na­tive prac­tice of keep­ing an­i­mals loose in wild and swampy spaces rather than in fenced pas­tures or sta­bles. The ticks and lack of qual­ity pas­tures caused death among calves and el­derly cat­tle. Still, na­tive cat­tle had rel­a­tively mild dis­ease prob­lems over­all. Carabao were used for draft la­bor in ad­di­tion to meat and milk, but they ap­peared to suffer in the heat.

Swine (there were over three thou­sand on the is­land) were un­der­nour­ished due to par­a­sites in­clud­ing fas­ciolo­sis, and own­ers of­ten failed to provide proper food and wa­ter. One par­a­site caused hogs to suffer and die from some­thing like an asthma at­tack. Chick­ens were “poorly fed and poorly cared for;” for in­stance, most were fed grated co­conut which could cause di­ar­rhea and death. They were also be­set by dis­eases. Chicken pox was the most com­mon one, cre­at­ing scabs on the chicken’s head, some­times caus­ing blind­ness and sub­se­quent star­va­tion. The spread of the dis­ease was prob­a­bly ac­cel­er­ated by the na­tive cock­fight­ing tra­di­tion, a poor prac­tice in its own right. Cholera was also com­mon and caused the most dam­age to the in­dus­try. The very un­for­tu­nate af­flic­tion of fowl diph­the­ria was pre­sent across the is­land, caus­ing thick discharge filling the eyes and nos­trils, ul­cers in the mouth, and di­ar­rhea, mak­ing the bird “weak, dull and ema­ci­ated, with im­paired ap­petite and droop­ing wings,“ and some­times ren­der­ing swal­low­ing im­pos­si­ble. Tape­worms and round­worms sapped chick­ens’ en­ergy and caused di­ar­rhea.

Sal­is­bury pro­vided graz­ing land to the sta­tion and they be­gan to ex­per­i­ment with live­stock breeds and treat­ments hop­ing for gen­er­ally bet­ter health and pro­duc­tivity, with some­what pos­i­tive re­sults. Arseni­cal dips re­moved ticks from cat­tle.

Robert Coontz be­came gov­er­nor in 1912. The his­toric but un­safe Span­ish church in Agana was torn down.

Ja­panese com­mer­cial dom­i­nance on Guam caused con­ster­na­tion to Amer­i­can offi­cials. In 1912 Pres­i­dent William Taft is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der pre­vent­ing for­eign mer­chant ships from vis­it­ing the is­land, which sub­se­quently harmed the lo­cal econ­omy. The Navy en­couraged the San Fran­cisco traders Atk­ins, Kroll & Com­pany to es­tab­lish a branch on the is­land. In 1914 they es­tab­lished an office in Agana and a ware­house in Piti. They grew co­pra, im­ported Amer­i­can goods and soon be­came the largest pri­vate busi­ness on Guam.

A measles out­break in 1913 af­flicted over two thou­sand peo­ple and kil­led about forty. Then in 1915, sixty Chamorro chil­dren were kil­led by whoop­ing cough. Flies, cock­roaches, bed­bugs and lice were com­mon in­fes­ta­tions. How­ever there was still progress. Gan­gosa was al­most elimi­nated. A Navy den­tist now served the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, and a Red Cross chap­ter and a free san­i­tar­ium were both es­tab­lished in 1916. Schoolchil­dren and pros­ti­tutes (there were six­teen, sup­ported by the mil­i­tary men) re­ceived reg­u­lar med­i­cal check­ups.

In 1914, Gover­nor William Maxwell cre­ated a re­tire­ment fund for the Guam civil ser­vice. Em­ploy­ees could use their re­tire­ment ac­counts as col­lat­eral for loans, so more Chamor­ros were now able to make ma­jor pur­chases and in­vest­ments. The Chamor­ros had be­come less oc­cu­pied with farm­ing, and the is­land was de­pen­dent upon the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment. Maxwell wanted to open the is­land to for­eign com­merce and al­low the res­i­dents to be­come U.S. cit­i­zens, but the Navy re­fused.

With the out­break of the Great War in Europe, Ja­pan – al­lied with Bri­tain – moved to evict the Ger­mans from Microne­sia. The Ger­man colonies were iso­lated and barely defended, and fell to Ja­pan in Oc­to­ber 1914. The Ger­man ves­sel SMS Cor­moran, an aux­iliary cruiser, dodged the Ja­panese Navy and steamed into Apra Har­bor on De­cem­ber 14. Cap­tain Adalbert Zuckschw­erdt re­quested large amounts of coal and pro­vi­sions so that he could take his ship to Ger­man East Africa, but Maxwell did not have enough. Zuckschw­erdt had to give up the ship and crew for in­tern­ment. The 373 crew­men stayed on the ship as there were no fa­cil­ities for them on the is­land, but they were able to go ashore, un­armed but in uniform. The Ger­mans were highly dis­ci­plined and grad­u­ally set­tled into life on Guam.

They also out­num­bered the Marines, a poignant re­minder of the in­ad­e­quate state of Guam’s defenses. The is­land was vuln­er­a­ble in the event of war with Ger­many, so the bat­tery at Orote was up­graded to eight 6” and twelve 3” new guns.

Navy offi­cials in­clud­ing Coontz and famed strate­gist Alfred Ma­han had rec­og­nized a greater risk from Ja­pan, and pressed to heav­ily for­tify the is­land, but Congress re­peat­edly re­fused as they did not per­ceive much risk of war with Ja­pan. All the Navy was able to achieve was ex­pan­sion of the sin­gle Marine bat­tal­ion by 200 men and the cre­ation of an In­su­lar Force of thirty-eight lo­cally en­listed per­son­nel. Mean­while, War Plan Orange es­ti­mated that 8,500 Marines would be re­quired to defend the is­land, as­sum­ing that sur­round­ing reefs would in­hibit ma­jor am­phibi­ous op­er­a­tions. And in 1915, Cap­tain Earl Han­cock Ellis – who was both the po­lice chief and the Office of Naval In­tel­li­gence officer on Guam – demon­strated the prac­ti­cal­ity of am­phibi­ous as­saults, tak­ing a squad of Marines and a how­itzer by boat over a reef to land in Apra Har­bor. He later pro­duced a re­port con­clud­ing that a Marine bat­tal­ion might hold out for a time on Guam if they re­treated to in­land strongholds.

Co­pra ex­ports to Ja­pan grew dur­ing the war, and cot­ton pro­duc­tion be­gan. Maxwell en­couraged and sup­ported the efforts of the agri­cul­tural sta­tion. He also es­tab­lished an offi­cial Bank of Guam which opened in Jan­uary 1916. It would provide loans to help lo­cals open new busi­nesses. But Maxwell was short-tem­pered and high-strung, and soon be­came au­to­cratic and petty. He an­gered lo­cals and feuded with the Ger­man guests. Maxwell or­dered the first ex­e­cu­tion on Guam since the Amer­i­can takeover, a mur­derer who was hung in Fe­bru­ary de­spite lo­cal cit­i­zens pe­ti­tion­ing to com­mute the sen­tence to life im­pris­on­ment. In April he was placed on the sick list and re­moved from com­mand by a lower-rank­ing officer; he may have had a ner­vous break­down, but it seems to have been a de­liber­ate oust, for Maxwell would later turn out to be fine. He was suc­ceeded by a cou­ple of brief act­ing gov­er­nors, then Roy C. Smith be­came gov­er­nor on 30 May.

The vuln­er­a­bil­ity of the is­land to ma­jor am­phibi­ous as­saults was now rec­og­nized, and Smith recom­mended a defense force of 37,000 men on Guam backed by a con­sid­er­able fleet. This too was ig­nored. Chamorro lead­ers pe­ti­tioned for mil­i­tary train­ing for all the lo­cal young men, and Smith agreed. Univer­sal mil­i­tary train­ing started in March 1917, plac­ing all fit males be­tween the ages of 16 and 23 in the new Guam Mili­tia. In June they num­bered over 900 men. They were un­paid, but zeal­ous.

In 1917, Smith es­tab­lished the First Guam Congress, a uni­cam­eral leg­is­la­ture con­sist­ing en­tirely of peo­ple ap­pointed by Smith, mostly Chamor­ros. They de­manded Amer­i­can rights, but were cre­ated as an en­tirely ad­vi­sory body for the gov­er­nor, and the Navy re­jected their pleas. They would con­tinue to meet once a year to dis­cuss lo­cal af­fairs, but had no real au­thor­ity. Chamorro men also founded a non­poli­ti­cal civic or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Young Men’s League of Guam (YMLG), which sought to pre­serve Chamorro cul­ture and iden­tity. The Navy soon banned the Chamorro lan­guage, but the or­der had lit­tle effect and few Chamor­ros spoke English. Chamorro so­ciety was still ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive, be­tween na­tive tra­di­tions and Span­ish Catholic in­fluence. Most un­mar­ried Chamor­ros gave their earn­ings to their fathers, and mar­riages were of­ten ar­ranged. They were still di­vided by caste, with a so­cial hi­er­ar­chy based on wealth, an­ces­try, mar­riage, and gen­eros­ity to the church. How­ever, the old Span­ish-Chamor­ran elite was be­ing dis­rupted as Amer­i­cans mar­ried into other lo­cal fam­i­lies and ele­vated them.

In Fe­bru­ary 1917, US-Ger­man re­la­tions soured, and war be­came a likely pos­si­bil­ity. Smith placed firmer re­stric­tions on the Ger­mans. Zuckschw­erdt se­cretly or­dered im­pro­vised ex­plo­sives to be hid­den in the Cor­moran so they could scut­tle the ship. In April, Smith learned of the out­break of war, and sent men to de­mand the sur­ren­der of the Cor­moran. They en­coun­tered a group of Ger­mans en­route and took them pris­oner (firing the first Amer­i­can shots of the war in the pro­cess). They boarded the Cor­moran and pre­sented Zuckschw­erdt with the de­mand of sur­ren­der. He stated that he would sur­ren­der the crew but not the ship, and asked the Amer­i­cans to re­turn the mes­sage to Smith. They obliged, leav­ing the Ger­mans alone in the Cor­moran. Zuckschw­erdt promptly had the ship’s se­cret doc­u­ments burned, gave the or­der to aban­don ship, and scut­tled the ves­sel. Seven Ger­man sailors were kil­led in the sink­ing. The re­main­der were taken pris­oner and sent back to the United States within a few weeks. The Cor­moran’s ma­chin­ery and ar­ma­ment were sal­vaged by di­vers, but the Amer­i­cans’ failure to defini­tively seize the ship re­sulted in un­nec­es­sary loss.

The is­land was oth­er­wise left out of the war. Chamor­ros and Amer­i­cans al­ike en­joyed a base­ball league and the new an­nual Guam In­dus­trial Fair. The fair was similar to county fairs in Amer­ica. The agri­cul­tural ex­per­i­men­ta­tion sta­tion held in­for­ma­tive ex­hibits at the fair, and gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion in farm­ing prac­tices con­tinued. Small steel plows were re­plac­ing wooden ones, and lo­cals were urged to use more an­i­mal-driven farm­ing equip­ment. Smith pro­moted ed­u­ca­tion and gov­ern­ment ser­vices for bull cas­tra­tion, while plac­ing a $15 fine on any­one who didn’t perform it prop­erly, in an at­tempt to end crude and risky na­tive prac­tices. Smith at­tempted to en­courage Chamor­ros to re­turn to farm­ing, but this had lit­tle re­sult. Co­pra ex­ports suffered when Ja­pan re­stricted trade with their Microne­sian colonies, but the State Depart­ment was able to pres­sure Tokyo into par­tially re­lax­ing the con­trols.

A ty­phoon struck in July 1918, caus­ing great dam­age and kil­ling two. Then the in­fluenza pan­demic reached the is­land via an Army trans­port; 858 peo­ple died. While it was rag­ing, Smith – deeply stressed by this point – was re­placed.

As stated pre­vi­ously, for rea­sons of time and chang­ing in­ter­ests, I stopped this his­tory at about 1918. I de­cided to post what I have, and if I get enough pos­i­tive feed­back, I will com­plete this pro­ject with 1919-2019 his­tory, plus some more de­tailed eval­u­a­tion of the Amer­i­can ad­minis­tra­tions of 1899-1918.


Beers, Henry P. (1944). Amer­i­can Naval Oc­cu­pa­tion and Govern­ment of Guam, 1898-1902

Fern­berger, Christoph C. (1623). Vienna Manuscript

Ganga Her­rero, José (1823). Vi­tal Statis­tics Report

Govern­ment Print­ing Office (1947). Codes of Guam

Guam Agri­cul­tural Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion (1911-1921). An­nual Report


Haswell, William (1917). Re­marks on a Voy­age in 1801 to the Is­land of Guam

Rogers, Robert F. (2011). Destiny’s Land­fall: A His­tory of Guam, Re­vised Edition

Saf­ford, William E. (1905). The Use­ful Plants of the Is­lands of Guam

Wheeler, Joseph (1900). Re­port on the Is­land of Guam