Education was the key, Root continued. Unlike several other cynical observers, Root was convinced that a large Negro element in Cuba “posed no insurmountable barriers to educational advancement.” The erection of public schools throughout the island would “herald a new era for the Cuban republic, its citizenry... instructed to respect law and order by American guidance, [they] would then assume the reins of power.”
Leonard Wood agreed to a point. To him, Cuba constituted an excellent opportunity to carry out the credos of American middle-class progressivism. His prescription for Cuba's ills was material progress, not politics. In his view, the function of his administration was “a temporary paternalism until the Cubans learned the prerequisites for stable government.” Wood believed that good government was founded “not in political theory, but in the minutia of day-to-day public services.” He focused his attention on training the police, reforming the courts, and inculcating bureaucrats with a sense of public duty. Under Wood's direction, Americans continued to provide for the defense of Cuba, but Cubans themselves would be employed in the civilian branches of the occupation under American supervision, of course.
Public works projects sprouted up throughout the island. Roads and bridges were built in Matanzas, Cienfuegos, and Guantánamo. In Havana, the harbor was dredged and military barracks were converted into schools and hospitals. The educational system which had previously glorified Hispanic culture was replaced by one that taught nationalism and instructed students in the practical and agricultural skills.
Woods rooted out corruption with missionary zeal. Judges were transferred from one city to another to prevent favoritism. In 1900, a scandal erupted in the postal system and Woods reacted with an intense investigation that punished the offenders. However, American businessmen attempted to circumvent Woods, seeking economic concessions and lobbying for perpetual American rule in the island. No matter how long Woods remained in the post of military governor, Havana businessmen and their co-conspirators in America were prepared to wait him out.