The doctrine of incorporation, as elaborated in legal debates and legitimated by the U.S. Supreme Court, excluded the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam from the body politic of the United States on the basis of their cultural differences from dominant European American culture. However, in spite of their shared legal status as unincorporated territories, the U.S. Congress established different governments that, although adaptations of continental territorial governments, were staffed largely with appointed imperial administrators. In contrast, Hawai'i, which had experienced a long period of European American settlement, received a government that followed the basic continental model of territorial government. Thus, the distinction between the incorporated and unincorporated territories corresponded to the limits of European American settlement. However, even among the unincorporated territories, cultural evaluations were important in determining the kinds of rule. The organic act for Puerto Rico provided for substantially more economic and judicial integration with the United States than did the organic act for the Phillippines. This followed from the assessment that Puerto Rico might be culturally assimilated while the Phillippines definitely could not. Moreover, religion was the criterion for determining different provincial governments within the Phillippines. In Guam, the interests of the naval station prevailed over all other considerations. There, U.S. government officials considered the local people to be hospitable and eager to accept U.S. sovereignty, while they largely ignored the local people's language, culture, and history. In Guam, a military government prevailed.

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