1847 to 1871
Nationhood and Survival
On July 26, The Liberian Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. In it, Liberians charged their mother country, the United States, with injustices that made it necessary for them to leave and make new lives for themselves in Africa. They called upon the international community to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Liberia. Britain was one of the first nations to recognize the new country. The United States did not recognize Liberia until the American Civil War.
The Liberian Constitution was ratified and the first elections were held in the new republic.
Liberia College was founded.
See the remarks on the colonization of the western coast of Africa by the free blacks of the United States, and the consequent "civilization" of Africa and suppression of the slave trade.
Maryland Colony declared its independence from the Maryland State Colonization Society but did not become part of the Republic of Liberia. It held the land along the coast between the Grand Cess and San Pedro Rivers.
See the "African slave trade in Jamaica, and comparative treatment of slaves" (African-American Perspectives).
The independent state of Maryland (Africa) requested military aid from Liberia in a war with the Grebo and Kru peoples who were resisting the Maryland settlers' efforts to control their trade. President Roberts assisted the Marylanders, and a joint military campaign by both groups of African American colonists resulted in victory. In 1857, Maryland became a county of Liberia. The second president of the Republic of Liberia was Stephen Allen Benson,(1856-1864) (America's First Look into the Camera)
Benson, born free in Maryland, U.S.A., had previously served as the vice-president and had a practical knowledge of the republic's local peoples and social institutions. He spoke several indigenous languages. In 1864, he was succeeded by Daniel B. Warner, who served until 1868.
1862- The American president, Abraham Lincoln, extended official recognition to Liberia. See "The relations and duties of free colored men in America to Africa: A Letter to Charles B. Dunbar."
See "The relations and duties of free colored men in America in Africa: A Letter to Charles B. Dunbar" (African-American Perspectives).
346 immigrants from Barbados joined the small number of African Americans coming to Liberia after the American Civil War. With overseas immigration slowing to a trickle, the Americo-Liberians (as the settlers and their descendents were starting to be called) depended on immigrants from nearby regions of Africa to increase the republic's population. The Americo-Liberians formed an elite and perpetuated a double-tiered social structure in which local African peoples could not achieve full participation in the nation's social, civic, and political life. The Americo-Liberians replicated many of the exclusions and social differentiations that had so limited their own lives in the United States.
See "The absolute equality of all men before the law, the only true basis of reconstruction." An address by William M. Dickson (African-American Perspectives).
A government official, Benjamin Anderson, journeyed into Liberia's interior to sign a treaty with the king of Musardo. He made careful note of the peoples, the customs, and the natural resources of those areas he passed through, writing a published report of his journey. Using the information from Anderson's report, the Liberian government moved to assert limited control over the inland region.
The True Whig Party was founded. In the late nineteenth century, it became the dominant political party in Liberia and maintained its dominance until the 1980 coup. James Skivring
Edward J. Roye (America's First Look into the Camera) succeeded James Spriggs Payne (1868-70) as president for about one year.
A high-interest British bank loan to the Liberian government contributed to a political crisis that led to President Edward J. Roye's removal from office. He was replaced by Vice President James Skivring Smith for the remainder of his term.
From 1871-72, James Skivring Smith (America's First Look into the Camera) was the interim president of Liberia and was followed by two former presidents: Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1872-76) and James Spriggs Paynes (1876-78). Next, Anthony William Gardiner (1878-83) was elected president for three terms. Gardiner resigned during his third term and was replaced by Alfred Francis Russell (1883-84).
Benjamin Anderson made a second journey into inland Liberia.
A war broke out among a confederation of Grebo peoples. The Liberian government asked the United States to serve as mediator. In response, a United States emissary visited the G'debo kingdom and the Liberian republic and dispatched a naval ship to assist the Liberian government in settling the conflict.
Liberia could not protect its claim to the Gallinas, a northern coastal area between the Mano and Sewa Rivers, from European colonial encroachment. Economically and militarily weak, Liberia was forced to allow the British to annex the area next to Sierra Leone. President Gardiner resigned over the issue, but in 1885, President Hilary Wright Johnson (1884-1892) formally acquiesced in the annexation.
Hilary Johnson, Elijah Johnson's son, was Liberia's first native-born president.
Edward Wilmot Blyden. (America's First Look into the Camera) (1832-1912) published the important study Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race. Blyden was Liberia's leading intellectual, a journalist, scholar, diplomat, statesman, and theologian. Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he arrived in Liberia in 1850 and was soon deeply involved in its development. From 1855-1856, he edited the Liberia Herald and wrote A Voice From Bleeding Africa. In addition to holding many positions of leadership in politics and diplomacy, he also taught classics at Liberia College (1862-1871) and served as its president (1880-1884). From 1901-06, Blyden directed the education of Muslims in Sierra Leone.
France sent military forces into Liberia to force it to relinquish its claim to lands between the Cavalla River to the northwest and San Pedro River in the southeast.