John Hanson Thomas McPherson.

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ambitious policy. The resources of the Treasury were entirely inadequate
to his extensive projects, and in an evil moment the Legislature passed
an Act authorizing the negotiation of a loan of $500,000. The loan was
placed in London on terms which netted only £85 per bond of £100,
redeemable at par in 15 years and bearing interest at 7 per cent. The
amount thus offered was further reduced by the requirement that the
first two years' interest should be paid in advance. From the remainder
were deducted various agents' commissions and fees, until at length the
principal reached Monrovia sadly reduced in amount, - not over $200,000.
And this soon disappeared without any visible result. It is an old
story; but in Liberia's case it was particularly disastrous. For with
her little revenue, rarely exceeding $100,000, it soon became impossible
to pay the $35,000 yearly interest on a debt for which she had
practically received not a single advantage. And this accumulating at
compound interest has reached a magnitude absolutely crushing. So
desperate is her financial condition that many believe inevitable the
fate which croaking prophets have long foretold, and against which she
has struggled bravely - absorption by England.

Serious as were the more remote effects of the financial blunder just
considered, its immediate consequences brought upon the country a crisis
which might have resulted in civil war. Great dissatisfaction with the
negotiation of the loan prevailed. The Administration was severely
criticised; serious accusations were brought against it. While the
excitement was at fever heat matters were complicated by an attempt of
the Administration to prolong its hold of office, which precipitated the
threatened outbreak. For some years a Constitutional Amendment had been
under consideration, lengthening the term of President and members of the
Legislature. The measure had been submitted to the people, and twice
voted upon; but the result was a subject of dispute. Roye and his party
maintained that it had been duly carried and was a part of the organic
law of the land; and that as a consequence his term did not expire until
January, 1874. A proclamation was issued forbidding the coming biennial
elections to be held.

This action at once aroused violent opposition. A strong party declared
that the amendment had not been carried; and in any event could not be
construed to apply to the present incumbent. The proclamation was
disregarded; the polls opened on the accustomed day; and the veteran
Joseph J. Roberts, aptly called the epitome of Liberian history, was
elected by large majorities.

Far from being subdued by the decided expression of popular will Roye
and his supporters, with the spirit of the decemvirs of old, determined
to maintain power at any hazard. Roberts's election was declared
illegal, and of no effect. Throughout the summer the two parties stood
at daggers drawn. At length the increasing strength of the opposition
encouraged the thought of removing the President from office. The legal
method of impeachment seemed far too slow and uncertain for the temper
of the times. An excited convention was held in Monrovia, October 26,
1871, at which a "Manifesto" was adopted decreeing his deposition. A few
extracts disclose its character:

"President Roye has, contrary to the Constitution, proclaimed himself
President for four years, although elected for only two years.

"He has distributed arms and munitions of war, and has not ceased his
efforts to procure armed men to crush the liberties of the people.

"He has contracted a foreign loan contrary to the law made and provided;
and without an act of appropriation by the Legislature he has with his
officers been receiving the proceeds of that loan.

"Every effort to induce him to desist from his unconstitutional course
has been unavailing. Threats and entreaties have been alike lost upon
him. He has turned a deaf ear to the remonstrances from all the counties
of the Republic:

"Therefore, on the 26th day of October in the year of our Lord 1871, and
in the twenty-fifth year of the Independence of the Republic, the
sovereign people of Liberia did by their resolutions in the city of
Monrovia, joined to the resolutions from the other counties of the
Republic, depose President E.J. Roye from his high office of President
of Liberia; and did decree that the Government shall be provisionally
conducted by a Chief Executive Committee of three members, and by the
chiefs of Departments until the arrival of the constitutional officer at
the seat of Government."

Before the party of the Administration could recover from the shock of
this action, President Roye and his Secretaries of State and of the
Treasury were arrested and thrown into prison, - a _coup d'état_ which
made his opponents undisputed masters of the situation. The appointed
Committee took charge of affairs; the excitement died away with a
rapidity characteristic of Liberian politics, and in January, 1872,
Roberts was triumphantly inaugurated. Roye died in prison soon

A reign of peace and prosperity followed under Roberts, interrupted
toward the end of another term, to which he was elected, by a severe war
with the Grebo tribe near Cape Palmas. Limited space will prevent
detailed consideration of the later history of the Republic. Payne was
elected to a second term in 1876. A.W. Gardiner was Chief Executive for
three successive terms, from 1878-1884; and H.R.W. Johnson, a native
born Liberian, son of the famous pioneer Elijah Johnson, was made
President in 1884. The recent years of the Republic have not brought an
increased tide of immigration, nor any marked progress. The diminished
interest in colonization felt in the United States so crippled the
finances of the Society that few immigrants have been sent in the last
decade. That large numbers of Negroes are willing, even anxious to go,
is shown by the lists of the Society, which has adopted the policy of
aiding only those who can pay a part of their passage. Several instances
of the formation of societies among the Negroes themselves to provide
for their own transportation have occurred. In South Carolina the
"Liberia Joint Stock Steamship Company" was formed, which succeeded in
purchasing a vessel and sending over one expedition of 274 emigrants.
The company was unfortunate and failed financially before another
attempt could be made. In Arkansas a large secret Society for the same
object was formed, several hundred members of which made their way to
New York and prevailed upon the Colonization Society to give them

The culmination of a dispute with Great Britain over the north-western
boundary of Liberia is perhaps the most interesting topic of her recent
history. The boundaries of the Republic were never very definitely
marked out, as her territory grew by gradual settlement and purchase
from native chiefs. Even to-day there is no hard and fast interior
border line; the country extends back indefinitely from the coast, new
land being taken up as settlement proceeds. In 1849 the coast line
acquired in this way extended from the San Pedro River on the south-east
to Cape Mount, the extreme settlement on the north-west. Between 1849
and 1852 various purchases were made from the natives covering some
fifty miles more of the north-western seaboard. These purchases extended
to She-Bar, very near Sherbro Island, and were confirmed by formal deeds
from chiefs of the local tribes. The conditions of the deeds bound
Liberia to establish schools in the districts ceded, and to guarantee
the protection, peace and safety of the natives. If now a few
settlements had been made in this territory all future trouble would
have been avoided; but all available energy was needed for intensive
development, and the newly acquired territory was left uncolonized. In
the course of time English traders established themselves within this
district, who refused to recognize Liberia's jurisdiction, and who
smuggled in large quantities of goods in bold defiance of the revenue
laws. As early as 1866 correspondence with the British Government was
opened; and Liberia's jurisdiction was more than once virtually
recognized. Matters were complicated by the outbreak of disturbances
among the natives, in quelling which the Republic was obliged to use
military force - a course which resulted in the destruction of property
belonging to the English traders. Claims were at once brought against
Liberia through the English Government to a large aggregate amount.
Holding Liberia liable for damages received in the territory was a
practical admission of her jurisdiction. Nothing was accomplished until
1871, when Lord Granville proposed to President Roye, who was then in
England, to compromise on the River Solyma as the limit of the Republic.
This is about the middle of the disputed territory. Roye weakly agreed,
and this agreement is known as the Protocol of 1871. It was not ratified
by the Senate. The tact of President Roberts staved off the crisis for
some time; but at length the English Foreign Office demanded a
settlement, and a commission of two from each State and an arbitrator
appointed by the President of the United States met on the ground. Every
possible delay and impediment was resorted to by the British
commissioners, who further refused to submit the points disputed to the
umpire. Of course, no agreement was reached.

The situation remained unchanged until 1882. On March 20 four British
men-of-war silently entered the harbor, and Sir A.E. Havelock, Governor
of Sierra Leone, came ashore. President Gardiner was intimidated into
acceding to the demand that the boundary should be fixed at the Manna
River, only fifteen miles from Cape Mount. But when this "Draft
Convention," as it was called, came before the Senate for ratification,
it was indignantly repudiated. At the next regular meeting of the
Legislature in December, a resolution refusing to ratify the Draft
Convention was passed, and a copy sent to Havelock. It elicited the
reply: -

"Her Majesty's Government cannot in any case recognize any rights on the
part of Liberia to any portions of the territories in dispute," followed
by the peremptory announcement that "Her Majesty's Government consider
that they are relieved from the necessity of delaying any longer to
ratify an agreement made by me with the Gallinas, Solyma, and Manna
River chiefs on the 30th of March, 1882, whereby they ceded to Her
Majesty the coast line of their territories up to the right bank of the
Manna River."

Liberia made a last feeble effort. A "Protest" was drawn up and sent to
the various powers with whom she stood in treaty relations - of course,
without result. The President of the United States replied at once,
counselling acquiescence. Nothing else was possible. The Senate
authorized the President to accept the terms dictated, and the "Draft
Convention" was signed November 11, 1885. On April 26, 1888, Sir Samuel
Rowe visited Monrovia and formally exchanged ratifications. Thus once
more strength proved triumphant; Liberia's boundary was set at the Manna
River, and Sierra Leone, which had possessed but a few hills and swamps,
was given a valuable coast line.



Colonization has come to be looked upon with unmerited
indifference - with an apathy which its history and achievements surely
do not deserve. To some, perhaps the present condition of the Republic
seems a discouraging and inadequate return for the life and treasure
lavished upon it; for others, hoping for a bloodless and gradual
extinction of slavery, the Civil War carried away the chief element of
interest. Others still, who looked for a ready solution of the Negro
Problem in this country, have gradually lost heart in the face of the
increasing millions of the race. And so, some from one cause, some from
another, have lost interest in colonization and in Liberia, until a time
has come when few have more than the vaguest knowledge of these terms.
Sometimes the voice of contempt is heard; but this is always a proof of
ignorance. Liberia stands forth historically as the embodiment of a
number of ideas, efforts, principles, any one of which ought to secure
at the least our respect, if not our sympathy and enthusiasm.

1. _As a Southern Movement toward Emancipation_.

This thesis will doubtless meet with the most strenuous opposition; but
a careful and impartial study of the writings and addresses of those
most prominent in the movement will convince anyone of their profound
hope that colonization would eventually lead to the extinction of
slavery in the United States. It must be remembered that at the time of
the formation of the Society the pro-slavery feeling in the South was by
no means so strong as it became in later years, when the violence of
Abolition had fanned it to a white heat. Indeed, during the whole period
before 1832 there seems to have been a prevailing sentiment in favor of
emancipation - at least throughout Maryland, Virginia, and North
Carolina. But the condition of the free blacks was notoriously such that
the humane master hesitated to doom his slaves to it by emancipating
them. The colonizationist hoped, by offering to the free Negro an
attractive home in Africa, to induce conscientious masters everywhere to
liberate their slaves, and to give rise to a growing popular sentiment
condemning slavery, which would in time result in its extinction. Of
course there were those in the Society who would not have subscribed to
this doctrine; on the other hand, many held views much more radical. But
it is the men who formed and guided the Society, who wielded its
influence and secured its success, whose opinions must be regarded as
stamping its policy.

The Constitution of the Society did not touch upon this subject. It was
needless to give unnecessary alarm or offense. But when in 1833 the
Maryland Society adopted its Constitution - a much larger and more
explicit one - the attitude taken is boldly announced:

"Whereas the Maryland State Colonization Society desires to hasten as
far as they can the period when slavery shall cease to exist in
Maryland, and believing that this can best be done by advocating and
assisting the cause of colonization as the safest, truest and best
auxiliary of freedom under existing circumstances," etc.

It may well be questioned whether such a plan would ever have succeeded:
but it must not too hastily be called chimerical. As a practical result
it secured the emancipation of several thousand slaves, many of whom
were supplied by former owners with money for transportation and
establishment in Africa. What further success it might have had was
prevented by the rise of the Abolition Movement. The intense
pro-slavery feeling which this stirred up in the South caused the
Colonization Society to be regarded with distrust and even active
hostility. It was accused of secretly undermining slavery and exciting
false hopes among the slaves. It was even said to foment discontent and
raise dangerous questions for sinister purposes, and was subjected to
bitter attack as "disguised Abolitionism."

From the opposite extreme of opinion the Society suffered assault still
more violent. William Lloyd Garrison, in his intemperate zeal for
"immediate emancipation without expatriation," could see nothing but
duplicity and treachery in the motives of its adherents. His "Thoughts
on Colonization" hold up the movement to public odium as the sum of all
villainies, and in the columns of the _Liberator_ no insult or reproach
is spared. His wonderful energy and eloquence brought over to his camp a
number of the Society's friends, and enabled him in his English campaign
to exhibit it in a light so odious that he actually brought back a
protest signed by the most eminent anti-slavery men of that country.

Assailed on one side and on the other the Society, as we have seen,
serenely pursued its course. Apparently it did not suffer. But it can
scarcely be doubted that its growth and expansion were seriously checked
by the cross-fire to which it was subjected. Among the negroes
themselves prejudices were industriously disseminated, and everything
was done to make them believe themselves duped and cheated.

From these reasons colonization never reached the proportions hoped for
by those who looked to it for the gradual extinction of slavery. But we
should not fail to recognize in the movement an earnest and noble, if
too ambitious, effort to solve, without violence or bloodshed, a problem
only half disposed of by Lincoln's edict and the Fifteenth Amendment.

2. _As a Check to the Slave-Trade._

The coast upon which the colony was established had for several hundred
years been one of the chief resorts of the slave dealers of the western
shores of Africa. Their "factories" were situated at numerous points on
both sides of the early settlements. The coast tribes, broken up and
demoralized by the traffic, waged ceaseless wars for the sole purpose of
obtaining for the trader a supply of his commodity. It was their only
means of getting supplies of the products and manufactures of
civilization; and, as we have seen, when they found the presence of the
newcomers an obstacle to their chief industry, they took up arms to
expel them.

Until the year 1807 there was no restriction whatever on the traffic,
and the proportions which it reached, the horrors it entailed, are
almost incredible. Sir T.F. Buxton estimated on careful calculations
that the trade on the western coast resulted in a loss to Africa of
500,000 persons annually. At length the progress of humanity drove
England to declare war on the infamous traffic, and her cruisers plied
the length of the continent to prevent infractions of her decree. At
enormous expense the entire coast was put in a state of blockade.

The result was mortifying. Instead of disappearing, the exportation of
slaves was found actually to increase, while the attending horrors were
multiplied. Small, swift cutters took the place of the roomy slave-ships
of older days, and the victims, hurriedly crowded into slave-decks but a
few feet high, suffered ten-fold torments on the middle passage from
inadequate supplies of food and water.

The colonists, even in their early feebleness, set their face resolutely
against the slave trade: its repression was a cardinal principle. Their
first serious wars were waged on its account. Ashmun risked his life in
the destruction of the factories at New Cesters and elsewhere. The
slavers, warned by many encounters, forsook at first the immediate
neighborhood of the settlements, and, as the coast line was gradually
taken up, abandoned at length, after many a struggle, the entire region.
Six hundred miles of the coast was permanently freed from an inhuman and
demoralizing traffic that defied every effort of the British naval
force. Nor was this all. The natives were reconciled by the introduction
of a legitimate commerce which supplied all they had sought from the
sale of human beings.

In still another way did the colony exercise a humane influence. Among
the natives exists a domestic slavery so cruel and barbarous that the
lot of the American plantation Negro seemed paradise in comparison. Life
and limb are held of such small value that severe mutilation is the
penalty of absurdly slight transgressions, or is imposed at the
arbitrary displeasure of the master, while more serious offenses are
punished by death in atrocious form: as when the victim is buried alive
with stakes driven through his quivering body.[16] The institution is of
course a difficult one to uproot. But among the natives in the more
thickly settled portions of the country it has ceased, and is mitigated
wherever the influence of the Government penetrates, while the number of
victims is greatly diminished by the cessation of inter-tribal warfare.

In this way Liberia has proved, from the standpoint of humanity,
pre-eminently successful.

3. _As a Step toward the Civilization of Africa._

George Whitefield is said to have declared to Oglethorpe when lamenting
his failure to exclude slavery from Georgia, that he was making a
mistake: the Africans were much better off as slaves than in their
native barbarism, and would receive a training that would enable them
ultimately to return and civilize the land of their nativity. In this
bold idea he anticipated one of the leading thoughts of the fathers of
colonization, and, perhaps prophesied, a great migration which the
world is yet to see. But to confine ourselves to the present and the
strictly practical - there is to the interior of Liberia, sweeping away
beyond the valley of the Niger, a country of teeming population and vast
resources. That this territory be opened to the commerce of the world,
and the blessings of civilization be conferred upon the people, it is
necessary that some impulse of enlightenment come from without. The
casual visit of the trader has been proved by experience to do vastly
more harm than good. Vice and demoralization have too often followed in
his track. The direction and instruction of European agents accomplish
little. The best efforts of all men of this class have resulted in an
unequal hand-to-hand fight with the deadly climate, in which no white
man can work and live. Besides, the natives need more than guidance;
they must have before them the example of a civilized settlement.

It would be impossible to imagine a more ideal agent for accomplishing
this work than Liberia. True, its slow development has prevented it as
yet from penetrating to the most fruitful portion of the interior
district; but so far as it has gone the work has been wonderful. One
after another of the native chiefs has sought, with his people,
admission to the privileges of citizenship, agreeing to conform to the
laws of the country and abolish inconsistent aboriginal customs. The
schools are full of native children, while large numbers are distributed
in a sort of apprenticeship among Liberian families for training in the
arts of civilized life. The English language has become widely known.
More remote tribes, while retaining native customs, have entered into
agreements or treaties to abstain from war, to keep open roads and
routes of commerce, to protect travellers and missionaries and such
Liberians as may settle among them. This is in itself an advance; and in
addition various forms of knowledge, improved implements and methods of
agriculture must enter in and insensibly raise these tribes to a higher

In reclaiming the natives lies a source of great future power for
Liberia. When immigration from the United States shall assume such
proportions that numbers of interior settlements can be made which shall
be radiating centres of civilization, the enormous potential energy of
native intelligence and labor will be brought to bear on the development
of the country with marvellous results.

4. _As a Missionary Effort_.

The attempts of the Christian Church to evangelize the western districts
of Africa constitute one of the saddest and most discouraging records of
history. From the first attempt of the Roman church in 1481, it has been
one continuous narrative of a futile struggle against disease and death.
A whole army of martyrs has gone bravely to its doom leaving no trace of
its sacrifice save unmarked and forgotten graves. It has indeed been a
bitter experience that has proved this work can be successfully
undertaken only by men of African blood, for whom the climate has no
terrors. And the superiority of an established Christian community to a
few isolated missionary stations requires no demonstration. From the
first the colonists were active in spreading a knowledge of the Gospel
among the natives. Lot Cary, one of the earliest emigrants, was an
earnest missionary, and besides efficient work at home he established
mission stations at Cape Mount and elsewhere.

In 1826 four emissaries of the Basle Missionary College made Monrovia
their headquarters, and did some good work; but they soon succumbed to
the climate. The American churches of those denominations most largely
represented in Liberia - the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist and
Methodist - made strenuous efforts, and sent out a succession of
missionaries, most of whom fell victims to the fever. Later, after
learning the salutary lesson, they accomplished much through the
organization and direction of the work of Liberian missionaries. In
this way the gospel is safely and successfully propagated among the

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Online LibraryJohn Hanson Thomas McPhersonHistory of Liberia Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science → online text (page 4 of 5)