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England the efforts of Wilberforce had been instrumental in planting a colony of emancipated British slaves in Sierra Leone. The State of Virginia had occupied itself with the question, and had sought the aid of the general government to secure some appropriate place for the settlement of free negroes. These tendencies came to a focus in the American Colonization Society founded in 1816 in Washington through the efforts of Rev. Robert Finley. It counted its supporters among the leading men of the nation. Henry Clay presided over its initial meeting held in the hall of the House of Representatives, and Justice Bushrod Washington was long its president.
Preliminary arrangements for the proposed colony were made in 1818 when representatives of the society visited the coast of Africa, and negotiated for the cession of Sherbro Island in the present colony of Sierra Leone. Two years later a body of emigrants was sent thither under the convoy of the United States sloop of war Cyane. The hostility of the natives caused the abandonment of the project and the retirement of the would-be colonists to Sierra Leone. A second expedition in 1821 found a more suitable site at Cape Mesurado, but were unable to come to terms with the natives, until the arrival of Lieutenant Stockton of the U. S. Schooner Alligator, who, with Doctor Eli Ayres, agent of the Society, forced the natives to enter into a deed of cession. Part of the purchase price was paid from the ship's stores. To the energetic action of an officer of the United States Navy the colony owes its existence.
If the United States Government thus exhibited, as we have seen, a fatherly interest in the projected colony, it was because it was from the start a partner in the enterprise. The importation of slaves into the United States being forbidden, the United States joined with the other maritime powers, and especially Great Britain, in the effort to suppress this traffic at its source and employed its navy for this purpose. We could not, as did other nations, leave the matter largely to Great Britain. We had vigorously denied the right of search, and our flag protected American vessels off the coast
3 See McPherson, J. H. T. History of Liberia. Johns Hopkins Studies, 1891, p. 17 et seq.
of Africa as well as elsewhere. To maintain the principles in whose defense we had become involved in the war of 1812 it became necessary to take an active part in the suppression of the slave traffic.
One of the embarrassments of this policy was the question what to do with the slaves captured on the slave ships. They could not be returned whence they came. To do so would be to return them to the native slave-dealers or the middlemen who had sold them into captivity. Great Britain had an asylum for these unfortunates in the colony of Sierra Leone. When in 1819 the President was empowered by Act of Congress to provide in Africa a suitable place for the recaptured Africans the projected colony of the American Colonization Society offered a happy solution of the difficulty.* The first expedition to Liberia was in a ship chartered by the United States Government to transport thither captured Africans who had been brought as prizes to the United States. The Government also agreed to take out such free emigrants as the Society desired to send to Africa. Out of this grew a regular system of settling these victims of the slave traffic in Liberia. Receiving stations were established, and for many years an agent of the United States was stationed in Liberia to provide for these persons rescued from slavery. In theory, the agent of the United States and the representative of the Colonization Society had entirely distinct functions. Practically they worked together, and not infrequently they were united in the same person. The colony of Liberia thus served a distinct purpose of the Government of the United States. Up to 1866 upwards of 5,000 persons were added to the population through the activities of our navy."
In this manner the United States Government became an active + See Act of March 3, 1819, and special message of President Monroe, stating his interpretation of it, SUPPLEMENT, pp. 188 and 190.
5 In the Memorial of the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the American Colonization Society, Washington, 1868, we find the following statement (p. 190) of *he numbers sent to Liberia.
Settled by the parent society:
344 Emancipated to go to Liberia..
partner in promoting the colony. It disclaimed being the managing partner, leaving that role to the Colonization Society, but its concern in the welfare and continuance of the settlement was more than that of friendly interest and good will. This attitude was strongly revealed in 1824. The young colony had suffered the usual privations which fall to those who engage in such enterprises, and had not escaped the bickerings and dissensions which so frequently mark the beginnings of such undertakings. Complaints against the Society's manager reached the United States, and the Government sent out to Liberia a special agent, Rev. R. Gurley, to examine into all controversies and report to the Government upon the same. This visit of Mr. Gurley not only evinced the interest of the Government, but proved extremely helpful to the colony. Assuming the role of a peacemaker, as a few years before Lieutenant Stockton had assumed that of a founder, he brought the warring factions together, suggested rules and regulations for the government of the settlement, and established the conditions of a healthier development.
The propaganda of the Society met with considerable success. Branch organizations were founded in several States, and then soon arose a series of settlements along what is now the Liberian coast, each under the fostering care of a separate State society. Of all the States, Maryland took the deepest interest in the matter. Its legislature provided by law that all free negroes should be deported, and contributed an annual appropriation of $10,000 to the Maryland Society. Under the auspices of the latter the State of Maryland in Africa with its headquarters at Harper, Cape Palmas, was established. The colony was quite successful, though it held aloof from the other settlements. Under the management of the Maryland
Settled by the Maryland Society.....
Recaptured Africans settled in Liberia by the United
Society it maintained a wholly separate existence till 1857 when it sought admission to the Republic of Liberia, and became a part of it.
A confederation of the several settlements, except Maryland, was effected in 1837, and a definite form of government established.? The governor was appointed by the American Colonization Society, but by the terms of this arrangement a self-governing community was established. This government subsisted till 1847 when the Republic was established.
The United States intervened so frequently between the natives and the colonists, patching up difficulties and settling disputes, that it was commonly understood that the settlements were under the protection of the United States. A naval squadron was maintained continuously in these waters, and the officers came frequently to the aid of the local authorities in adjusting their difficulties with the tribesmen by whom they were surrounded.8 Liberia was to all intents and purposes a de facto colony of the United States,' but the time was approaching when it should become necessary to define
6 See Latrobe, J. H. B. Maryland in Liberia. Baltimore, 1885. ? For form of government adopted, see SUPPLEMENT, p. 193.
8 An interesting account of many such affairs is given in the correspondence of Commodore Matthew G. Perry, 1843. Senate Executive Document 150, 28th Congress, 2d Session. See also Foote, Commander Andrew H., Africa and the American Flag, New York, 1854.
9 “ The story of Liberia from its earliest inception to its elevation to independent statehood demonstrates its American character throughout. Its first foothold on the African coast was through the efforts of American citizens. From 1819 the association of the Government of the United States with the project is distinct. The colony was a necessary factor in the execution of a federal statute. The vessels of the United States participated in the initial act of colonization. Negotiations with the inland tribes for the purchase of lands were conducted by officers of the United States. Prior to the civil war the United States maintained a squadron on the west coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade, and the officers of this squadron lent their aid and assistance to the Liberians in their troubles with the natives. In 1886 Congress authorized the Secretary of the Navy to transfer a gunboat to Liberia, but no vessel was found available for the intended service.
“ Thus the resources of the United States Government have been employed to colonize the liberated Africans, to build homes for them, to furnish them with farming utensils, to pay instructors for them, to purchase or charter ships for their convenience, to detail naval vessels for the transport of its agents and as convoys to the colonists, to build forts for the protection of the settlers, to
more precisely the legal relations, if any, which bound it to the mother country. The status of the Commonwealth of Liberia in the period preceding independence was peculiar. Within its territory it essayed to exercise the prerogatives of sovereignty, yet possessed none in law. Its laws and ordinances had the same binding force as the rules and regulations of an unincorporated association upon its members. Upon others they could have no effect unless voluntarily accepted by the latter. They were backed by no sovereignty either original or derived. In a sense under the protecting care of the United States, the colonists derived their form of
government from a private company, and not from the government of the mother country.
To sustain the government which had been established the Commonwealth levied duties upon imports. It had by this time acquired possession of a considerable strip of coast-land extending from the limits of Maryland some distance to the west of its present boundary which it held by a somewhat precarious tenure. The attempt to collect duties placed trammels upon traffic with the natives along the coast which had hitherto been regarded as free. British trading ships contested the right of Liberia to collect duties and disregarded her authority. In this attitude they were supported by the colonial government of Sierra Leone.
When the Liberians captured a couple of British boats engaged in this illicit trade and brought them to Monrovia for the trial of the cause, they were rescued by a government vessel from Sierra Leone, and demand was made upon the colony for indemnity. In a number of cases in the early forties the
supply them with arms and munitions of war, to enlist troops to guard them, and to employ the army and navy in their defense. The lands which the several state colonies established were purchased with American money by the several state societies. The initial organization of the Commonwealth was perfected and controlled by the parent societies in the United States, and the eventual creation of the Republic of Liberia was due to the generous counsel and action of the American societies in advising the organization to become an independent state and in relinquishing to the new state the directory powers they had theretofore exercised.” (Report of Mr. Knox, Secretary of State, to the President, March 22, 1910. Senate Document No. 457, 61st Congress, 2d Session.)
For a similar view, see N. J. Bacon, Some Insular Questions, Yale Review, August, 1901.