Carpenter Agreement, March 22, 1915

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It was widely reported by the Philippines media and in many other places that the self-styled “Sultan” of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III planned to use a 1915 treaty with the US to strengthen their claim over Sabah.1 However, we find it puzzling that this fake Sultan would want to rely on this treaty in the first place, since it was the very contents of this treaty which brought about the downfall of the Sulu Sultanate. This treaty, known as the “Carpenter Agreement of March 22, 1915” clearly states that — in return for accepting America’s sovereignty — the sultan is assured that the US won’t strip his nominal title or undermine his religious gravitas. In other words, the text signed is a document of capitulation to the sovereignty of the U.S. over the Sulu Sultanate, and not as recognition of the Sulu. It should also be noted that no mention of Sabah is contained within this Agreement.

The following is the text of the Agreement, emphasis being our own.

The Government Of The Philippine Islands
Department Of Mindanao And Sulu
Office Of The Governor Zamboanga,
P. I.

March 22, 1915

Memorandum:

The Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, Frank W. Carpenter duly authorized by His Excellency, the Governor-General, and the Sultan of Sulu, Hadji Mohammad Jamalul Kiram, together with the other officers of the Government as well as various consellors of the Sultan, after due discussion of the declarations of the Governor-General and President of the Philippine Commission Luke E. Wright, and the said Sultan of Sulu, and their respective associates, in certain hearing held in Manila on July 19th, 20th and 26th, 1904, following the abrogation of the so-called Bates Treaty by the President of the United States, March 21, 1904, reach the following mutual understanding of the result of said hearing:

WHEREAS, the Sultan of Sulu is the titular spiritual head of the Mohammedan Church in the Sulu Archipelago with all the-Mohammedan rights and privileges which under the government of the United States of America may be exercised by such an ecclesiastical authority and subject to the same limitations; which apply to the supreme spiritual heads of all other religions existing in American territory, including the right to solicit and receive voluntary popular contributions for the support of the clergy rites and other necessary lawful expenses of an ecclesiastical character;

The Sultan of Sulu on his own account and in behalf of his adherents in the Sulu Archipelago and elsewhere within American territory without any reservation or limitation whatsoever, ratifies and confirms his recognition of the sovereignty of the United States of America, and the exercise by His Excellency the Governor-General and the representative of that government in Mindanao and Sulu of all the attributes of sovereign government that are exercised elsewhere in American territory and dependencies including the adjudication by government courts or its other duly authorized officers of all civil and criminal causes falling within the laws and orders of the Government.

The Sultan of Sulu and his adherents and people of the Mohammedan faith shall have the same religious freedom, creeds, the practice of which is not in violation of the basic principles of the laws of the United States of America.

In testimony of the above mutual understanding, the Government of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu and the Sultan of Sulu, do hereby affix our signatures in permanent record thereof.

(Sgd.) HADJI M. JAMALUL KIRAM
Sultan of Sulu

(Sgd.) F. W. CARPENTER
Department Governor

Download the text: Carpenter Agreement 1915 [.pdf format]

  1. Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sultanate to invoke 1915 pact with US (March 3rd, 2013) []

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