Reprinted from Sierra Leone Studies, NS, No 16, June 1962

 African Colonization in the Nineteenth Century:

Liberia and Sierra Leone

By J.D. Hargreaves

 


As movements towards African unity develop, it becomes plain that most Sierra Leoneans and Liberians know little of each other's country. Though inter-governmental co-operation and facilities for international transport are improving, there still seems too little mutual understanding of the common and the divergent features in the history and culture of the two states. Writers on West Africa usually focus their vision within political boundary lines drawn during the last century: they must learn to look further afield. This is most clearly necessary where such peoples as Mendes, Kissis, or Krus inhabit both states; but perhaps a similar widening of perspective may also illuminate the history of Sierra Leonean Creoles and Americo-Liberians. The history and culture of the latter people has not received such careful study as has been given to Sierra Leone during the last decade; the present essay makes no more than preliminary suggestions about the filling of this gap. Written after a selective sampling of printed materials relating to nineteenth century Liberia (most of which, written from partisan attitudes require critical handling), it suggests some ways in which the early colonization of the two countries may be compared, and some possible reasons for the divergence of their experience. 1

The coast along which both states were founded lies within the tropical forest-belt, south and west of the highlands where the Niger, Gambia, and Senegal rivers rise. The early European contacts appear to have occurred towards the close of a period of migration and dispersion of peoples; in this area the units of political authority were generally small, and there seemed to be great heterogeneity of language and culture. The appearance probably exaggerated the reality; societies like Poro provided some bonds of unity across political and even linguistic boundaries, while itinerant Muslim traders and clerics by the eighteenth century provided contact with the states of the western Sudan. As the coastal trade with Europe developed, ivory, gold and hides came down from the interior, while dye-woods were cut in the coastal forest and trade in pepper led

1 The work on which this paper is based was begun in the United States during the summer of 1961 with the assistance of a grant from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, to which body I wish to express my sincere gratitude. Drafts of the paper have been kindly read by Mr. Christopher Fyfe, Dr. P. S. Haffenden, and Mr. George Shepperson.


Europeans to coin the name of "Grain Coast". But by the eighteenth century the economy of the region was dominated by the export of slaves, although both the total numbers exported and the proportion of slaves to total exports were smaller than in other parts of West Africa.

The existence of a subsidiary trade in African produce on a thinly populated and supposedly fertile coast helps to explain the development of African colonization in this particular region. During the later eighteenth century schemes for commercial and agricultural development in Africa became increasingly popular with European businessmen, philanthropists and statesmen. Some of these schemes included the planting of colonists; and---especially after the disastrous Bulama enterprise of 1792--many people believed the most suitable colonists would be free or liberated Negroes from outside Africa. Sierra Leone, promoted by the increasingly active anti-slavery lobby of English Evangelicals, was the first successful application of this idea of associating colonization with the diffusion of commerce, civilization, and Christianity.





Parallel ideas were current in the newly independent United States. Americans who for different reasons were concerned about the future of their Negro countrymen took much interest in Sierra Leone. As early as 1786 Dr. William Thornton, a recent Quaker immigrant, was hoping to send American Negroes to the colony; later President Jefferson sounded Wilberforce and Henry Thornton about this possibility, but found that the Nova Scotian revolt of 1800 had made them wary of accepting more Afro-Americans. In 1816 the remarkable Negro Paul Cuffee, of whom Dr. Easmon has written, conveyed thirty-eight Negroes to Sierra Leone, where he hoped to develop trade with America; and in 1817 a Congressional Committee urged the newly formed American Colonization Society to investigate the possibility of sending its emigrants to join the British settlement. 1 But the Society itself wanted an independent settlement

1 Letters from W. Thornton to J.C. Lettsom, 1786-9, in T.J. Pettigrew, Memoirs of Lettsom, (London, 1817), II, pp. 497-540. E.L. Fox, The American Colonization Society, 1817-440,(Baltimore, 1919), pp. 40-2, 52,67. C.J. Foster, "The Colonization of Free Negroes in Liberia", Journal of Negro History, 38, (1953), p. 43. Report of Congressional Committee on the Slave Trade, 11 February, 1817, printed in A View of Exertions Lately Made for the Purpose of Colonizing the Free People of Colour in the United States, in Africa or Elsewhere, (Washington, 1817). On the Colonization Society the best general source of information, published since this paper was first drafted, is P.J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865, (N.Y., 1961)



of its own. They made an unsuccessful attempt to found one on Sherbro Island in 1820, working with John Kizzell, formerly a slave in South Carolina, who had returned to trade in his old home district. After this failed, the American navy finally obtained them a site near Cape Mesurado in 1821. Some of the more earnestly evangelical American colonizationists regarded their new settlement as a parallel enterprise to Sierra Leone, whose  growth might assist the regeneration of Africa, besides offering Negro emigrants opportunities which they could not hope to enjoy in the contemporary United States.

Yet this was not the whole purpose of the American movement, and the complexity of the United States background created peculiar difficulties for Liberia. Problems of slavery and emancipation lay near the heart of internal conflicts which eventually split the nation in two. And the future of free Negroes in the United States worried many Americans who would have been well content to leave the slavery issue alone. In 1820 they numbered 233, 634 out of a total Negro population of 1,771,656, and a United States population of 9,618,000--roughly a fourfold increase since 1790. In the cotton states (where slaves were still economic assets) and in much of New England their numbers were relatively small; but in the mid-Atlantic states, north and south of the Mason-Dixon line, and increasingly in the Middle West, many Whites regarded the growth of the free Negro population with apprehensive hostility. 1 It was in hope of




removing this discordant element from United States society--if not to Africa, then to Haiti or some remote quarter of the American continent--that influential Southerners like Jefferson, Clay and Randolph (and many Northerners and Westerners too), supported plans for colonization.2 While some Colonizationists sincerely hoped to encourage the manumission of slaves by providing facilities for their expatriation, others were chiefly anxious to be rid of potential trouble-makers.

The American Colonization Society therefore found itself trying to achieve varied and even contradictory aims, among which the hope of developing and civilizing Africa was inevitably pushed into a subordinate role. Bostonians might support missionary work in

1 For general discussion of the problems of free Negroes in this period, see J. H. Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom (N.Y., 1948), Ch. xiv.
2 Report of inaugural meeting of A.C.S., 21st December, 1816, in A view of Exertions...cf. B. Dyer. The Persistence of the Idea of Negro Colonization," Pacific Historical Review, xii, (1943); Foster, loc. cit.


Liberia, and equip colonists with farm implements, books, tools and printing materials;1 the officers of the Society were largely preoccupied with retaining nation-wide support in the United States. Too much hostility to slavery would doom the Society throughout the South; too open an acquiescence would damage its reputation with Northern reformers. Its compromise position - "neither to destroy not to perpetuate" 2 - was actually less morally equivocal than it sounds; only through such ambiguity could Northerners and Southerners be drawn together to seek a gradual reduction of slavery. There seemed a genuine possibility that in those border-states where slavery had already served its economic purpose the existence of colonies of freed slaves might encourage, not merely manumissions by individual proprietors, but the gradual undermining of slavery itself .3






This was probably illusory. Even in the border states, support for colonization seems to have been strong only at periods of racial tension, such as slave revolts. Such a boom followed Nat Turner's insurrection of 1831, which killed more than fifty white Virginians; even here, it was notably stronger in the non-slave-holding sections of the state. But soon afterwards the great rise in slave-prices in the cotton states provided a far more profitable channel for exporting surplus slaves.4 At the same time, the impassioned attacks of W. L. Garrison, who denounced Colonization as  a hypocritical plan for making the slave system even more secure, swung many earnest Northern supporters over into the Abolitionist movement, dividing the critics of slavery along partially sectional lines.5 During the tensions of the 1850s and the Civil War itself there was a somewhat despairing revival of interest, though more in general colonization schemes within the Americas than in specifically African colonization. Lincoln himself hoped that these might provide the basis for some humane form of apartheid. 6

1 Staudenraus, pp. 121-4
2 Ibid., p. 174.
3 cf. Fox, pp.11-2, 113
4 S. M. Elkins, Slavery, (Chicago, 1959), pp.209-12
5 W. L. Garrison, Thoughts on African Colonization...(Boston, 1832).
6 See especially his "Address on Colonization to a Deputation of Negroes", 14th August, 1862, in R.P. Basler, (ed.), The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, v, (New Brunswick, 1953), pp. 370-5. J. G. Randall, Lincoln the President, (London, 1945), II, pp. 137-41. For Mid-western support for Colonization, cf. D. Christy, Ethiopia: Her Gloom and Glory, (Cincinatti, 1857), esp. pp. 250-5, Memorial of 1st March 1855.




In retrospect, all these plans for exporting American racial problems seem to have been unrealistic for three good reasons. The first--the physical and financial problems of providing transport and reception facilities for a really substantial part of the Negro population--might theoretically have been overcome, though practically this never seemed likely. The second reason--the continuing demand for Negro labour in the cotton states, and the consequent great increase in America's Negro population, both slave and free--might alone have been decisive. The final crippling difficulty was the reluctance of free Afro-Americans to leave the country which, despite all their handicaps and humiliations, they had come to regard as their own. As early as 1817 Philadelphia Negroes, (who had earlier shown readiness to support "any commercial enterprise desirable for the purpose of civilizing Africa"), firmly rejected colonization as a "circuitous route" back to bondage;1 and later Negro leaders with individual exceptions like the Reverend Alexander Crummell,2 joined the Abolitionists in charging the Colonization Society with self-interested hypocrisy.3

If the most vocal Negro critics of the Liberian scheme were in Northern cities, Southern freedmen "voted with their feet" - in the negative. Voluntary emigrants to Liberia were usually difficult to obtain, though the number increased after 1831, (out of fear of reprisals for Turner's insurrection), and again in mid-century.4 The American Colonization Society estimated that, of 11,909 emigrants sent up to 1866, 4,541 were born free, 344 purchased freedom, and 5,957 were emancipated for the express purpose of emigration.5 Colonists of this last and largest group, were sometimes by reason of their background, unsatisfactory and unenterprising citizens of the Liberian colony.

1 Staudenraus, p. 34
2 A. Crummell, The Relations and Duties of Free Coloured Men in America to Africa, (Hartford, 1861); cf. G. Shepperson, "Notes on Negro American Influences on the Emergence of African Nationalism," Journal of African History, I, (1960), pp. 301-2
3 e.g. S. E. Cornish and T. E. Wright, The Colonization Scheme Considered in its Rejection by the Colored People...(Newark, N.J., 1840).
4 Foster, loc. cit., pp. 55-6. H.H. Bell, The Negro Emigration Movement, 1849-54," Phylon, xx, (1959). Annual emigration figures are reprinted by Staudenraus, p. 251.
5 C. H. Huberich, The Political and Legislative History of Liberia, (N.Y. 1947), I, p. 41. This does not include 1227 sent by the Maryland Colonization Society to its settlement near Cape Palmas, which was separate until 1857. On emancipations, see Fox, ch. iv; Staudenraus, p. 114.



It would nevertheless be unwise to draw conclusions about qualitative differences between the original




colonists of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Even quantitative comparisons of the two populations are difficult, given differences in the timing of immigration, and lack of information concerning reproduction and mortality rates, intermarriage with local Africans, re-emigration, and other demographic data. Two points may be stated very broadly. The total number of immigrants to Liberia who had experienced life in a western country was greater than in Sierra Leone--where, however, these immigrants mostly arrived in two coherent groups. Compared with 16,613 Afro-Americans sent to Liberia in the nineteenth century (virtually all between 1820 and 1892),1 Kuckzynski's careful estimates give sixty-five or fewer survivors of the "Black Poor" of 1787; 1,131 arrivals from Nova Scotia in 1792; and about 550 Maroons arriving in 1800.2 On the other hand Sierra Leone received vastly more Liberated Africans--about 60,000 settled there up to 1840, according to Kuckzynski, although only 37,000 were still living there at that date. In Liberia only 5,722 were landed in all, 3,347 of them in the years 1860-61. Their settlement at New Georgia, near Monrovia was described by the Agent in 1832 as "the most contented and independent of any in the colony...rapidly improving  in intelligence and respectability". Though they adopted many of the customs and institutions of the Americo-Liberians, they retained distinctive institutions too; in 1834 Agent Pinney agreed that Iboes and Congoes should elect their own headmen.3 Their role in Liberian history has never been studied; but clearly their importance must have been less than that of the dynamic recaptives of Sierra Leone.

One last difference in population was that whereas Sierra Leone usually contained something of the order of one hundred European civilians, there were few white men in Liberia except missionaries and, until 1841, the Colonization Society's Agent. There is mention of one white American settler, married to a Negro woman; but on

1 Staudenraus, p. 251; adding the 1227 of the Maryland Society.
2 R. R. Kuckzynski, Demographic Survey of the British Colonial Empire, I, (Oxford, 1948), p. 154. There were also Cuffee's colonists, and a trickle of immigrants from the West Indies.
3 Huberich, ch. xvi. A. Alexander, A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa (Philadelphia, 1846), pp. 378-9, report by Mechlin, 1832. S. Wilkeson, A Concise History of...the American Colonies in Liberia, Washington, 1839), pp. 56-7, 82.



the whole Liberians were free from the competition, the advice, and the example of resident white laymen.1






These, very broadly, are some of the differences in origin and background between the two colonies. How did their actual development compare? The sponsors of both attached great importance to the development of agriculture, which they hoped would provide a secure livelihood for the colonists and a sound Jeffersonian foundation for society--and also a flourishing export trade from which some of them hoped to profit. Jehudi Ashmun, the zealous young clergyman who guided Liberia through some of its early difficulties, found time to write The Liberian Farmer, a pamphlet of simple practical advice on agricultural methods and the care of possible crops.2 Though tropical agricultural science was nowhere well developed at this time, much of Ashmun's advice seems to have been quite well adapted to Liberian conditions. Coffee and other crops on his list, have subsequently become commercially successful. Economic rather than physical difficulties were responsible for the relative failure of peasant agriculture in both colonies, so regularly regretted by foreign observers.

The extent of its failure in Liberia is not entirely clear. Several visitors in the 1830s referred to the spread of cultivation; even in 1849 R. R. Gurley of the Colonization Society, visiting Liberia as government Commissioner, observed "substantial farmhouses surrounded by well-cleared and cultivated plantations of from ten to thirty and fifty or seventy acres", along the St. Paul's River and elsewhere.3 Yet peasant agriculture was not particularly rewarding. Apart from the hard work involved for returns not easily predictable many of the African food crops were unattractive to American-bred palates.4 Even rice could sometimes be bought more cheaply from local African producers.5 As in Sierra Leone there was always some food production for the internal market, but far greater rewards could be achieved by success in commerce. "In agriculture," Gurley

1 Kuckzynski, pp. 178-87. H. Bridge, Journal of an African Cruiser (N.Y. and London, 1845), p. 33.
2 Reprinted as Appendix 7 to R. R. Gurley, Life of Jehudi Ashmun (Washington, 1825). Also see pp. 128-33 of the Appendix; Huberich, I, pp. 365-6.
3 Gurley to Clayton, 15th February, 1850, (U.S. Congress; 31st Congress, 1st Session. Executive Document No. 75). cf. Huberich, I pp. 666 ff; Buchanan to A.C.S., 17th May, 1839.
4 Staudenraus, pp. 152-3.
5 G.S. Stockwell, The Republic of Liberia, (N.Y. , 1868), p. 28.


was told, "little more is done than to supply ourselves with the necessaries and a few of the conveniences of life."

Conceivably, agriculture might have been made more remunerative by the application of capital and technical skill to sizeable plantations; but the shortage of available land, and the desire to treat the colonists fairly equally, restricted the possibility of such attempts. In Sierra Leone there were several experiments, all more or less abortive, at first with European capital, later by wealthy Africans like Moses Pindar Horton and Samuel Lewis.1 In Liberia, where land was less scarce, immigrants could apparently




obtain large holdings more easily; in 1838 Lewis Sheridan, a wealthy freedman from North Carolina, was granted a long lease on 600 acres. But here the labour needed for the care of crops cost up to 60 cents a day, and was not easy to come by.2 Though the reasons for agricultural failure deserve more study, it is clear that no attempt at large-scale farming in either country achieved sustained success.

Neither agriculture not the export of perishable produce could be expected to flourish without regular transportation facilities to overseas markets and sources of credit. In this respect Sierra Leone, an established port of call for British and other African shipping, had advantages over Liberia, whose communications with both Europe and America were irregular. In 1822 Ashmun proposed that the Colonization Society should grant a monopoly of Liberia's foreign commerce to the Baltimore Trading Company, (in whose service he then was): they could then stipulate for four regular annual voyages, which would carry produce, supplies and new colonists on the Society's behalf, as well as bringing home camwood from the forests and produce from the farms.3 But the Society, anxious to retain its support from merchants in New York, Philadelphia and Boston as well as in Baltimore, could not agree to exclude any of these ports from that Liberian trade whose prospects it was depicting so favourably. There were many voyages from these and other American ports to Liberia, but without that regularity which might have encouraged production for export.4 In 1846 the Chesapeake and Liberian Trading Company was founded in Baltimore--evidently as a semi-philanthropic venture, for there were hopes of attracting Negro capital and

1 N. A. Cox-George, Finance and Development in West Africa; the Sierra Leone Experience, (London, 1961), pp. 131-6.
2 Wilkeson, p. 74. Huberich, I, p. 345-6; 414-7. H. Bridge, pp. 44 ff, 96.
3 Gurley, Ashmun, pp. 117, 161; App, pp.39-44.
4 Staudenraus, pp. 158-61.

employing Negro crews; but its voyages were somewhat irregular, and it apparently did not survive the wreck of its ship in 1853.1 Liberian ports were included in some of the slower scheduled voyages of the African Steamship Company from England; but communications with America, a more likely source of commercial capital, remained erratic.

Nevertheless, many friends of Liberia expected its citizens to prosper in trade more than the Sierra Leoneans, since their independent status enabled them to protect themselves against foreign competition. By the constitution of 1847, citizenship in Liberia was restricted to "persons of colour", and restrictions were placed upon the commercial activities of foreigners. At first the external trade of Sierra Leone was indeed virtually a British monopoly. But after the failure of Macaulay and Babington in 1827, few European firms of any size traded directly in Sierra Leone until late in the century; instead, foreign capital was used to extend commercial credit to independent Freetown merchants. Liberated Africans, prospering by their enterprise in retail trade, increasingly moved into larger operations. The very dependence of the Sierra Leone economy upon Great Britain thus assisted the rise of the well-to-do African commercial class, who played such a notable part in diffusing the cultural and commercial influence of the Colony not only in the immediate vicinity but on the lower Niger and through much of West Africa.2






It seems that the Liberians may have got off to a quicker start than the Sierra Leoneans in reaping what Ashmun disapprovingly called  "the precarious gain of this country traffic". In 1831 a new colonist commented on how quickly young settlers learned to "drive as hard a bargain, as any roving merchant from the land of steady habits, with his assortment of tin ware, nutmegs, books or dry goods". The sentiment will be familiar to any student of nineteenth century Sierra Leone but hardly at such an early date. Individual fortunes began to appear, such as those of J. J. Roberts, first President of Republic; the Reverend C. M. Waring, a Baptist preacher turned trader; Sheriff Francis Devaney, who declared in 1830 that he would not accept $20,000 for his business and Colonel Hicks, a former slave from Kentucky turned commission merchant,

1 Stockwell, pp. 222-7.
2 C. H. Fyfe, "Four Sierra Leone Recaptives," Journal of African History, II, (1961), "The Life and Times of John Ezzidio," Sierra Leone Studies, (n.s.) 4, (1955); "European and Creole Influences in the Hinterland of Sierra Leone before 1896," ibid., 6, (1956).



who in 1844 impressed American naval officers by his gracious hospitality.1

Trade figures are too unreliable for precise comparison; but in 1831 and 1832 Liberian exports were estimated, respectively, at $125,549 and $88,911, compared to figures for Sierra Leone of 81,000 and 58,920. Moreover, much of the profit of Sierra Leone's trade went to Europeans. Very roughly, Sierra Leone was exporting over three times as much as Liberia, though her settled population was more than ten times as large. Since literary evidence suggests that agriculture for the local market was at this time more productive in Liberia, it seems that her settlers still enjoyed appreciably higher standards of income per head.

There were outward signs of this. Monrovia, like Freetown, was building churches and schools, public offices and frame-houses of distinctive architectural style. The Liberia Herald was well-established as a newspaper in the 1830s when Sierra Leone' s Gazette had ceased publication. Comparing the two colonies in 1834, F. H. Rankin concluded that "the American settlement is decidedly far in the advance to intellectual cultivation". But he noted that the Liberians, unlike the majority of Sierra Leoneans, had brought with them from America " a stock of civil and social knowledge, as well as an impulse to improvement", and rightly foresaw changes in the relative condition of the two settlements.2

During the second half of the century, these changes were reflected in comments by foreign observers. Though reliable figures are hard to find, it seems clear that Liberia's foreign trade developed slowly after 1850, while Sierra Leone's increased appreciably though erratically.3 By the 1870s visitors were no longer praising the enterprise of Liberian traders; they rather tended to complain that a commercial oligarchy was controlling the trade and government of the state. Winwood Reade, in 1870, was well-disposed towards the Liberians, and he conceded that their settlements were "respectable and well-ordered": but he feared that their experiment was a failure.

"The Liberians have no money, immigration is slack, they do not inter-marry with the natives and the population is decreasing. Nothing can save them from perdition except the throwing open

1 Staudenraus, pp. 153-5; Alexander, pp. 338 ff; Bridge, pp. 96-8
2 F. H. Rankin, The White Man's Grave, (London, 1836), I, pp. 36-40.
3 Cox-George, pp. 142-4. Some developments in Liberian trade after 1849 was effected through the Hamburg house of Woermann; cf. P. E. Schramm, Deutschland und Ubersee, (Braunschweig, 1950), pp.237-43.


of the land; the free admission of European traders and of negro settlers from Sierra Leone; or in other words, the free admission of capital and labour." 1

Some conditions which may explain why Liberia fell behind nineteenth century Sierra Leone in wealth and influence have already been mentioned; but possibly the most important was her ambiguous relationship to the United States. The original aim of the Colonization Society was to win substantial financial support from the Federal government; (hence its efforts to appease all sections of the country, so that it could claim nation-wide public approval). But its purpose was too controversial to succeed; not only was its attitude to slavery unacceptable both in New England and in the Deep South, but the proposals for Federal aid touched off controversies about the proper power of the Federal government. Subsidies were indeed secured for the re-settlement of Liberated Africans totalling $264,710 in the years 1819-29. Thanks to the efforts of W. H. Crawford, President Monroe's Secretary of the Treasury, these funds were indirectly used to assist the settlement of Americo-Liberians also; in particular they subsidized the fortification of Monrovia, and the military operations against slave-dealers which made the colony's power respected in the 1820s. But not until 1858, on the eve of the Civil War, were new Federal funds obtained by the Society; these were to assist emigration, and could not be applied directly to assist the government of Liberia. State governments at various times gave some assistance to emigration; Maryland voted its State colonization Society a total of $443,883 over the period 1831-57. But essentially the Society's funds depended on private contributions, which they always knew to be "inadequate to the consummation of our design". Hence from the 1830s the Liberian settlements found they had to bear the expenses of their own government--not as a matter of principle, but because little American money was available.2

It may be objected that the government of Sierra Leone too was expected to be financially self-supporting. This was certainly the ruling principle of the nineteenth century Treasury, but it was not completely applied. The Liberated African Department received

1 W. W. Reade, The African Sketch-book, (London, 1873) II, p. 260; cf. his letter encl. in C.O. 267/313, F. O. to C.O., 28th February, 1871.
2 Staudenraus, pp. 24 ff; 50-8; 150-1; 178; 242-6; 118; 224-5, Fox, pp. 57 ff. J. H. T. MacPherson, History of Liberia, (Baltimore, 1891), pp. 31 ff.



grants totalling over 350,000 during the century; the ordinary civil budget received substantial subsidies




during the early years of Crown Colony government; and even after Treasury control was tightened in the 1860s, it could still exact a reluctant grant-in-aid if that seemed the only means by which a respectable government could be carried on. Larger still was the British government's military expenditure in Sierra Leone; as Dr. Cox-George has pointed out, these represented a substantial injection of purchasing power into the economy, as well as a direct reinforcement of governmental power.1 Finally, there were concealed subsidies not appearing in the colonial accounts--notably the cost of local naval operations against slave-traders and in support of legitimate commerce.  In all these ways, the British government contributed heavily to the establishment of ordered government and the expansion of Sierra Leonean influence.

Lacking such support, the Liberians could only hope to finance a government capable of protecting an expanding trade by imposing customs duties. It was the reluctance of foreign merchants to recognize the validity of duties imposed by a government sponsored only by the American Colonization Society which prompted the proclamation of Liberia as an independent Republic in 1847.2 But this solved no problems. Merchants trading on the long coastline claimed by the new state would not willingly accept taxation without some return, notably in the form of protection against those coastal Africans who had long regarded it as their prescriptive right to plunder vessels wrecked or stranded on their shores. Yet the Liberian government could not provide effective protection without receiving funds to build up military, police and preventive services. As a beginning, it attempted in 1865 to confine foreign trade to six "ports of entry"; predictably, chiefs and traders alike resented and evaded this restriction, (which some alleged was designed to strengthen the "merchant oligarchy" in these six Liberian ports).3 Foreign merchants continued to trade outside Liberia's fiscal control; but they nevertheless held the Liberian government responsible when their property was violated, and sometimes invited the coercive

1
Cox-George, ch. 6 and p. 164
2 H. H. Johnston, Liberia, (London, 1906), I, pp. 192-5. For lengthy discussion of legal and constitutional questions involved, see Huberich, passim, esp. vol. i, ch. v.
3 Johnston, I, pp. 248, 350-2. Reade, II, p. 257.


power of their own governments. To escape from this financial deadlock, President Roye in 1870 sought a loan in London; but the inexperienced Liberians were cheated by unscrupulous financiers, and received little concrete return for the new embarrassments brought by a public debt.1






Given better and stronger government (and the stimulus of more readily accessible export markets), Liberia might have hoped to achieve at least as much as Sierra Leone in the way of commercial and cultural penetration of its hinterland. The political fragmentation of the hinterland created especial difficulties for both settlements, but from early times Liberians were trying to overcome them. Ashmun believed that missionary schools for aboriginal children might provide an effective instrument of "civilization", and substantial numbers of boys do seem to have attended such schools. In addition, the practice of receiving local children into settler homes became, as in Sierra Leone, an important channel of cultural influence. A study of the extent to which settlers inter-married and inter-mixed socially with the indigenous peoples might surprise many who generalize about their supposedly superior attitudes; and this might apply to Sierra Leone as well as to Liberia.

Early Agents of the Colonization Society sponsored some exploratory journeys inland, and signed treaties, notably with the chief of the "Condo" confederacy at Boporo, north of Monrovia.2 At the same time the Colonization Society was building great hopes on the arrival in Liberia of Abdul Rahman, an elderly slave who claimed descent from the founder of the Fula state in Futa Jalon.3 Abdul Rahman died without leaving the coast, and |Boporo became hostile in the 1830s; but some commercial contacts continued, and bred hopes of finding mines and great markets. In the 1860s the frontier of exploration was advanced. Benjamin Anderson travelled to a Mandinka town which he called Musardu; his circumstantial narrative strongly suggests that he reached the highlands which are now in southern Guinea. Two years later a namesake of his went up with E. W. Blyden and Winwood Reade to open a school at Boporo,

1 Johnston, I, ch. xv. R. L. Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, (N.Y., 1928), II, pp. 796-7
2 Gurley, Ashmun, pp. 364; App. pp. 26-38; 80-9. Alexander, pp. 260-1; Johnston, I, p. 148.
3 Staudenraus, pp. 162-4.


where Liberian influence still persisted.1 Blyden, already a prominent though controversial figure in Liberia, now began to preach in both settlements the importance of developing relations with the Muslim states of the western Sudan.

It was along the coast that Liberian governments had been most active in claiming sovereignty. Ashmun's vigorous assaults upon neighbouring slave-traders gave Liberia a good name among British anti-slavery men, though this was tarnished for some by Garrison's attacks. In the early 1830s a British African Colonization Society planned to plant its own sister colony of American Negroes at Cape Mount; in 1850 Lord Shaftesbury and Samuel Gurney helped collect 1,000 to assist Liberia to buy the coastline between Cape Mount and Sherbro Island.2 As late as 1865 the prospects for a Liberian "pax" seemed good enough for the Chairman of a British Parliamentary Committee to toy with the notion of transferring the Sherbro to her flag.3 But when the Liberians tried to assert their authority in 1860 they were resisted by the most influential ruler on this coast, Manna of the Gallinas, with strong encouragement from J. M. Harris, the Anglo-Jewish trader who was beginning to develop trade there. Manna's resistance encouraged the government of Sierra Leone to exert more active influence on this coast; after prolonged and sterile negotiations, they used the power of the Royal Navy to impose a settlement unfavourable to Liberia in 1884.4 It is doubtful whether Sierra Leone's claim to these countries was better grounded in treaties and consent than Liberia's; the decisive factor was naval power. A period in African history was opening when local disputes were sometimes decided by armed strength on the spot; in such strength Liberia remained notably deficient.

American friends of Liberia claimed that its settlers enjoyed a freedom, under government of their own people, such as they could not hope to secure in the contemporary United States. "The adult male inhabitants consider themselves men, and know how to enjoy

1 B. Anderson, Narrative of a Journey to Musardu, (N.Y., 1870), pp. 44-5 for Boporo, Reade, II, pp. 253-4.
2 T. Hodgkin, An Enquiry into the...African Colonization Society...an Account of the British African Colonization Society, (London, 1833), Johnston, I, pp. 226-7. Christy, pp. 177-9.
3 Parliamentary Papers, 1865, vol. v. Adderley's questions, and replies of Burton, (2534-42); Wylde, (2767-71); Wildman, (3706-28); Chinery, (5128-39); Bradshaw, (6906-17).
4 This boundary dispute will be discussed in my book, Prelude to the Partition of West Africa.








the blessings of a free institution," a ship's captain reported in 1830; and it was no liberated slave but a former barber from upstate New York who wrote in 1865 "the ponderous weight of human bondage has rolled off from my soul".1 Nineteenth century Sierra Leoneans too enjoyed important liberties--in theory, the liberties of British subjects; but in practice these were often very restrictively defined by colonial legislation, and they never included the basic liberty of self-government. For Liberia, however, the price of freedom was political and economic weakness. And by the end of the nineteenth century, weakness had become so dangerous that only the counter-balancing forces of inter-power rivalry saved their freedom from being lost.

1 Captain W. E. Sherman to E. Hallowell, 10th May, 1830, (App to Third Annual Report, Connecticut Colonization Society, New Haven, 1830); H. W. Johnson, Jr., quoted Stockwell, pp. 193-6. cf. Buell, II, pp. 733-4.










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