He was born in San Juan on October 7, 1775, the son of María Josefa Giralt, a Puerto Rican native from San Juan, and Joaquín Power y Morgan, a native of Bilbao with Irish ancestry who had arrived on the island to be part of the Compañía de Asiento de Negros, an entity that regulated the treatment of slaves on the island. In 1788, his father took him to Bilbao, where he continued his studies at the Vergara School and later studied for a time in Bordeaux. He returned to Spain and enrolled in the Coast Guard School in Ferrol.
During his military career in the navy, while he was a midshipman, he participated in 1793 in the defense of Tolón against the Napoleonic army. Later, he became part of the crew of escort ships and in 1803 was named a commander of ships running between Puerto Rico and Venezuela. As captain of a frigate, he helped recover the Spanish territory of Santo Domingo (1808-1809), which had fallen into French hands.
In 1809, the King’s Supreme and Governing Board, which governed Spain during the imprisonment of the king, convened an Extraordinary Court. Ramón Power, with his reformist and liberal ideas, was selected as a candidate to represent San Juan before the court, despite the efforts of Governor Salvador Meléndez, who wanted a Spaniard elected, not a native Puerto Rican.
In a ceremony in honor of the newly elected representative, which was held in the San Juan Cathedral, Bishop Arizmendi presented Power his Episcopal ring, symbolizing the union of the church and the crown, to remind him of his duty to "protect and support the just rights of your compatriots." After the governing board was dissolved, the Regency Council was created in 1810, and Power was again selected to represent Puerto Rico.
He went to Spain with instructions from the five existing local councils on the island at that time: San Juan, San Germán, Aguada, Arecibo and Coamo. In the opening of the Court, on September 24, 1810, Power y Giralt was elected first vice president. In his role as representative, he was noted for promoting the rights of the Spanish subjects in the Americas in general, and Puerto Ricans in particular.
Along with the other representatives from the Americas, he lobbied for implementation of administrative and economic reforms and for equality of representation for American and Spanish subjects. Power proposed that the inequality of representation was one of the principal causes of the revolts that were occurring in various provinces in the Americas.
Power y Giralt presented to the Court a summary of the petitions from the local councils, consisting of 16 petitions in total. He denounced the despotic government of the captain general of Puerto Rico, Salvador Meléndez, and achieved the abolition of the Royal Order of September 4, 1810, that granted the captains general and civil Spanish governors absolute powers over all the laws and other government institutions.
On November 28, 1811, the Courts approved what was popularly known as the Power Law, which consisted of a series of reforms for Puerto Rico that included the creation of a Treasury Council that was independent of the captain general; the opening of the ports of Aguadilla, Fajardo, Mayagüez and Ponce; free importation of grains and export of cattle and horses; the elimination of the obligation to supply meat to the capital; and the establishment of a Economic Society of Friends of the Country.
While he was serving as a representative to the Court, Power died on June 10, 1813, in Cádiz after falling ill with yellow fever. His ashes lie in the mausoleum established for the representatives in Cádiz.
By the PROE Editorial Group
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 12, 2014.