Saturday, November 26, 2011


The eighteenth president of Liberia was also a brilliant poet who wrote THE LONE STAR FOREVER  at nineteen years old. Here is another gem from the pen of Edwin Barclay.

African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P.Murray Collection, 1818-1907

 by Edwin J. Barclay.Deep in the heart's unfathom'd caves.
Where tumults ocean ceaseless roars,
Where pleasure oft high revell holds.
Whence hearts most weak, are thence made bold,
Besides a sympathetic thought.
For those who have their finis found,
And they are sacred, hallowed thoughts.
Which come of life's enchanted march;
Bespoiling[?] naught, by naught bespoiled,
Cleansing the mind and giving joy.
To those whom Fortune favors well.


And when toward the close of life.
With slacken'd footsteps on we tread,
Toward the region of the dead.
Should we not sacred hold those thoughts.
Which from our past experience rise?
And granting this, should we not have
In early life, some sympathy
For those who near their goal have gone?
Yet, can there be an end for those.
Whom Heaven's mighty king did frame?
An end! can there exist an end
to pre-decreed eternity?
Most surely not, for as we gaze
Far into space, we can descern
No risen no end of the unknown.
-One which to grasp, and then proclaim
In loud stentorian voice and clear:-
"O hear ye men! your God is found.
Behold him! the Unknown, Unseen.
Unserved, Unworshiped, and Unpraised!


Behold Him! Come and fallye down,
Before His throne and give Him praise!"
Nor can we with our mortal eyes.
Behold Him in some far-off land,
Where seeing Him we strive to rush,
And reach the shining silv'ry shore,
Thro' whose most verdant fields do flow,
Rivers of brilliant precious ore.
Nay! we must cease to breathe this foul,
-This murdering mortal air, and seek
Us for the end for which we must.
This life forego. Yet is there such
An end more wanted than this life?
Perchance there be no end in death;
What land is seen when Death his blade
Both sheath? I hear of heaven's land
Whose streets of glittering gold are made,
Whose agate places receive
The passing rays of brilliant light,
From vast Celestia's countless suns.


But can there any such exist,-
A land material, and blest
With endless day, and is not hot
From having ceaseless luminance?
Whose inmates naught but love enhance,
And where they feed on honeyed milk;
Where all is pleasure and content;
Where night is alien, and light
Unfolds his brilliant rays, and reigns
Eternal Monarch of the days!
And if there doth exist this land.
Who guides us by the hand, and heads
Us to its shores of indolence?
And where doth band the troops he leads
Into this place? But cease thee Muse!
Where soarest thou?. Unto what plains
Have you now flown? Dost thou not know
If thou ascendest into tho vast
Etherial heights, into this earth

Thou will return in fury at


Your fruitless search, for some unknown,
-Some unexisting land;-a land
Which is a recompense to those,
Whose mortal life has virtuous been
Nay! nay! thou canst not find this shore,
Whose joys, the fevered brains of some.
Present to man. These pleasant blinds
And fancies are but symbols of
The non-existing heavenly life.
Which man suppose truely is.
And as they argue warmly, this
Most pleasing fancy, which some wild,
Enthusiastic, misled child
Of darkness teaches them: Thou must
Return and by your failure show
To them, what vast and grave mistakes
They oftimes make do not misjudge
O men! these pleasing visions which
Have been designed, but to compell
Obedience to that natural force


Which caused our complex being, to be.
But rather ye should strive to live,
A life of virture and of love.
Regardless of what good ye do,
Yet, mindful of your evil acts;
For both are counted in the day,
Wherein we crave that pleasant sleep.
-That endless slumber of the dead.
And when on earth ye daily wend
Your footsteps with Time's fleeting wings
This, ever hold within your minds:-
That conscience does not die, but lives
Eternally; yea, while this frame,
Has wasted [all its?] mortal force,
And lay out in the burying ground,
A bleached and useless [mond?] of clay.

From the Barclay Padmore Wiles Families website

Saturday, November 12, 2011


President Tolbert with muslim community leaders

It is not very difficult to see why the National Unification programme succeeded. The enthusiastic response and cooperation of the chiefs and people, the infusion of foreign capital from the mining and rubber concessions, the country's impressive growth rate, improved credit rating and increased production output, the Free Port, free trade agreements with Ivory Coast and Guinea, foreign assistance from America, Israel and other countries, peace and stability, all contributed to its success. The question of why its architect succeeded where his predecessors failed requires deeper analysis. Tubman's sheer force of personality was a factor, his almost uncanny ability to either achieve consensus or bypass official opposition and take his case directly to the people, to suppress dissent while at the same time endearing the populace to himself, were gifts of a grand master of political strategy, without a doubt. His ability to compress a complex vision of economic development and national unification into simple two-prong five year development plans is impressive even to his critics. Still, one might wonder, why him? Equally visionary leaders such as William David Coleman, Edward James Roye, Arthur Barclay, and Edward Wilmot Blyden had all attempted the same grand vision and failed, Roye losing his life and Coleman resigning in despair. Blyden all but gave up on the country and moved to Sierra Leone where he died. What was so special about Vat Tubman? Why did he have his hand so much more "on the pulse of this country," as Archbishop Michael Francis put it? Most scholars point to his increasingly dictatorial control of the Legislature, and the one-party, so-say-one-so-say-all nature of that body. It wasn't all that difficult to push through legislation in a virtual one-party state, they argue. Maintaining an elaborate intelligence network of PRO (Public Relations Officers) spies also would enable anyone to have his hand on the pulse of the country.

But the simple fact of where Tubman came from is never given much consideration, or totally overlooked by the scholars. Having Maryland County at his back changed everything. It accounted for why his programs succeeded as well as his longevity in office. Since the 1910 war, power had been gradually shifting toward that long shut-out portion of the coast. The two vice presidents of the CDB King administration both came from Cape Palmas, Henry Too Wesley for the first term and Allen N. Yancy for the second. Exactly why Wesley was shunted aside in favor of Allen Yancy in 1927 will require more research, but Yancy seemed totally convinced that he would succeed King as President. It certainly leads one to speculate as to what back room power sharing deals were consummated in order to settle the 1910 conflict.

Certainly Edwin Barclay could have easily hand-picked any of a dozen other people to succeed him. Why Tubman, a Monrovia outsider with a reputation for unpredictability who made the True Whig Party conservatives uncomfortable? Was Cape Palmas promised the presidency to get the Grebos to put down their arms? It's interesting that they never did take up arms again after 1910, no matter what Allen Yancy did in Cape Palmas, from murder to strong arming others for their property to commandeering conscripted road labor for his own use, to forcing young interior men into baracoons for shipment to Fernando Po against their will. It does seem curious that a group that took up arms about every two years over land, trade, even women, allowed Allen Yancy to operate with complete impunity in Cape Palmas. Even President King seemed afraid of Yancy, refusing to take any action even when informed of murder, not to mention the fact that King himself never profited from the Fernando Po racket. Why would he allow Yancy to endanger his administration when he stood to gain nothing from the criminal enterprise?

Charles S. Johnson, who met and interviewed Yancy in Cape Palmas while on the League of Nations Commission, also wondered why and how Yancy rose so high so fast without any qualifications, and got away with so much. But even Johnson missed the significance of the fact that Yancy was married into an influential Grebo family and reportedly involved with the secret societies. Or that P. Gbe Wolo, legal advisor to the King administration, was the son of the Grand Cess Paramount Chief. The complicity of Grebo leadership in Fernando Po would explain a lot. The threat of another Grebo war would explain why King was afraid to move against him. It would also explain why Tubman lasted so long in office, assasination attempts, coup plots, political wizardry and security network not withstanding. That the Grebos saw Tubman as one of their own is beyond dispute. Anyone who saw the thousands of Grebo and Kru war dancers at Tubman's funeral, holding aloft placards reading "Africa has lost a great leader," could not have failed to be impressed with the fact that Maryland County was solidly behind their son.

Where the Unification programme failed on the other hand, was not in intent, as most scholars maintain, but in design and implementation. The critics argue that Tubman basically created a facade of unity while keeping in place the mechanism that allowed his Americo-Liberian upper class to maintain power. That their insistence on westernization as the criteria for assimilation was counterproductive to unification, and that while the Programme encouraged intermarriage as a furtherance of unification, intermarriage invariably meant absorption into "settler culture." The critics overlook the fact that intermarriage is usually between people of the same class, lifestyle and philosophy. It is difficult to imagine what kind of "mechanism" would keep power in the hands of Americo-Liberians if the Unification Programme was allowed to run its full course. As it was, two-thirds of the government was of pure indigenous ancestry by the late Seventies, including the National True Whig Party Chairman, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Director of the Budget, etc. And that's where the confusion between ethnicity and class came into play. Tubman, an avowed capitalist, probably never intended to erase the divisions between the classes, which is what the critics seem to have expected the Unification Programme to do.

As for the requirement of westernization for assimilation, one wonders how else a sense of national identity would be forged from a cornucopia of related but very diverse cultures and ancient animosities. An African-American scholar takes the opposite view, arguing that the National Unification Programme was actually premature:

"The American settler community ought never to have brought the aboriginal peoples into Liberian society without having them first fully assimilated into Western culture. Having NCOs, and other soldiers in the Army with dual loyalties is not cohesive to say the least. Clausewitz claimed national identity is central to national survival."

To succeed the programme had to be continous, long term, and incremental. It could only succeed ultimately if it addressed economic inequality as well as ethnic disparities. Only thus could the expectations it raised be met and not become a powder keg. While it united the country, the perception remained, real or imagined, that power remained in the hands of the American settler upper class. That perception was stronger among the younger generation of the Seventies than the previous one, because, unlike their parents, they did not remember the days before the Unification Programme, the Frontier Force soldiers running amok, the beatings, chainings and torture for failure to pay the hut tax, the forced labor and unwritten rules of where the "uncivilized" could or couldn't go, the feeling of being colonial subjects rather than citizens. All they knew was that times were hard, getting harder, and the big shots seemed totally indifferent to their hardships. They didn't know that most of those big shots were assimilated indigenous people with western names or products of the ward system, many direct beneficiaries of the Unification Programme. It might not even have mattered whether Tubman's successor was Americo-Liberian or indigenous as long as the real divisions in society, economic disparities, remained unaddressed.

It probably wouldn't have made a difference if William R. Tolbert had continued and expanded the Unification Programme, which he did in a way, with more of a focus on raising living standards than his boss of nineteen years. It could be that the Unification Programme had outlived its effectiveness, or had served its purpose. Liberia, and Africa, had changed too much in the post-World War II years. Too many false perceptions had been created, too many expectations raised that couldn't possibly be fulfilled, not even by "the Solomon of Africa," as one Tubman administration official called the Old Man. In that sense, perhaps the Unification Programme was not so much a victim of failure as it was of its own success.


WILLIAM V. S. TUBMAN PAPERS, Executive Branch Administrative Files/Department of Internal Affairs


Tubman birthday celebration, Gbarnga, Nov. 29, 1967



Dunn, Beyan, Burrowes, HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF LIBERIA, 2nd Edition


Tubman and his vice President Tolbert at a National Unification Council.

The following year 1945 saw the President visiting the Eastern Province, where Executive Councils were held in Tchien (now Zwedru) from April 3rd to the 22nd, in Webbo from the 29th to May 5th, and then in Harper, and in Barclayville, Kru Coast Territory. In reporting to the National Legislature, the President alluded with satisfaction to the settlement by the Interior Department of the twenty-year old land dispute between the Gbandi and the Kissi peoples of the Western Province, and with displeasure to what he termed "certain transcendentalists and some foreign influences that continue to promote the idea of clan, tribe and element feeling, that the authority and conduct of government will evolve to one element or clan to the exclusion of others." Any such idea was preposterous and unpatriotic, he said, because:

"...The office and purpose of the founding of this republic was to offer a home for all the sons of Africa-those who were originally here, those who came here, and those who shall come hereafter. It is therefore our bounden duty and service to effectuate the aims and purposes for which this nation was instituted, regarding everyone as a Liberian without regard to tribe, clan or ancestry."

He mentioned specifically his presence at the closing exercises of Bromley Mission, run by the Episcopal Church, where he said the members of the graduating class were catalogued as Miss 'A,' Vai, Miss 'B', Grebo, Miss 'C', Liberian. This was basically averse to government's policy of unification, he said, and if it was any indication of the kind of teaching being done in the classroom, it must be immediately halted, or government would employ measures to enforce a halt, "to the extent of demanding a change in personnel at such institutions, or even inhibiting all such institutions."

In May, 1954, the first National Unification Council was convened in Harper, and attended by delegates from all counties, districts, provinces and territories. The President outlined the aims and objectives of the Unification Policy and the chiefs presented an open letter reaffirming their loyalty to the government and dedication to its Unification Policy. Letters poured in from all over the country confirming the sentiments of the chiefs and officials. In his annual message to the legislature in November 1958, the President observed that for the fourteen years since the launching of the Unification Programme, there had been peace, tranquility, national cooperation and solidarity throughout the nation, and no rebellion, uprising or war, against the government or between the tribes. The single exception he reported was a boundary dispute between the Yederobo and Nyanbo peoples of Maryland County in which a citizen of Yederobo was killed. Tubman traveled to Maryland, investigated, found the Nyanbo to be the aggressors, and convened a council of chiefs to recommend penalties under Grebo customary law. After the traditional ceremonies for the restoration of peace, friendly relations resumed between the two peoples. The President attributed the peace and stability to the administrative reforms instituted in the provinces, alluding to the infrastructural and economic development taking place as a result of the interior being opened up, and the enthusistic response to and participation of the people in, these development activities. Tubman recommended that monuments be erected on Providence Island in honor of the first settlers, and of King Peter and the other chiefs that welcomed them. He also defended the controversial Matilda Newport holiday, maintaining that there would be no Liberia if not for her actions in defense of the colony.

The second National Unification Council was held in Sanniquellie in 1959, from February 5th to the 9th. The theme of the Council was Integration of Elements in Liberia, and it was attended by over three thousand chiefs, officials, delegates and foreign guests, including special representatives of the President of Guinea, Sekou Toure. At the conference, President Tubman made a promise to the people of the provinces that if they continued on the road to development, he would work to raise the provinces to county level. This was crucial in order to equalize legislative representation and budgetary allocations, ensure a more equitable distribution of resources and development, and institute the final phase of National Unification.

In 1960 the President proposed a Special Commission "to examine, study and survey the present political subdivisions of the country." He recommended that the law establishing the forty mile county jurisdiction limit be repealed and the county jurisdiction extended to the limit of the country's territory. After annexing portions of the provinces to the counties, he recommended, the remaining territories of the three provinces would be raised to county level. This rearrangement was essential, the President told the Legislature, because the hinterland administration as it existed was patterned after the colonial system, and had to be abolished.

At the 1963 National Unification Council in Kolahun, Western Province, the National Commission to resurvey the country presented its report. After assessment of progress made in development over the previous five years based on reports from government agencies, provincial and tribal administrators, Tubman announced his expectation that this would be the last Unification Council where the country was divided by county and hinterland jurisdiction. At the Council, attended by three thousand plus delegates, the President recognized the indispensable services of the Paramount Chiefs in promoting the objectives of the Unification Program, singling out for special recognition Paramount Chiefs Arkoi Tellewoyan and Tamba Tailor of the Western Province, Jimmy Dahn and Johnny Voker of the Central Province, and a host of other tribal leaders who were working tirelessly to effect the unification of the country. Operation Production, a national campaign to boost agricultural output and self-sufficiency, was launched. Counties would compete for the highest output and the fruits of the campaign would be exhibited at an Operation Production Fair during the next Unification Council where the winners of the competition would be honored. The council ended with a mass demonstration of the people of the Western Province in support of the Unification Programme.

The legislative acts creating four new counties were passed in 1962. Special elections were held in May 1964 for senators and representatives from the new counties, and superintendents and other officials appointed. Independence Day 1964 fell on a Sunday. On Monday the 27th, officials of the four new counties of Lofa (Western Province), Nimba (Central Province), Bong (Central Province), and Grand Gedeh (Eastern Province) were inducted into office. It was an especially electrifying Twenty-Six Day celebration, filled with excitement, optimism and a sense of great accomplishment for the nation as a whole.

The fourth National Unification Council and Operation Production Fair was held at the newly constructed Buchanan Fairgrounds in Grand Bassa County, in December 1966. In the spanking new thousand-seat, circular-shaped central pavilion, a standing-room-only crowd of thousands gathered, delegates, officials, ordinary citizens and foreign guests. Progress since the last Unification Council was assessed, and Operation Production prizes were handed out, Lofa County taking the grand prize of ten thousand dollars for the highest output of agricultural produce, especially rice.This lavish celebration was to be the last National Unification Council as it turned out. President Tubman died in 1971, when the next one was scheduled.


 The Centennial Memorial Monument celebrates the unity of the indigenous, recaptive, and American/Caribbean immigrant peoples of Liberia. The Centennial Memorial Pavilion was constructed in 1947.

What motivated Tubman is often attributed to political expediency, a desire to consolidate power for himself by cultivating an interior base of influence, the close scrutiny of Britain, France and the United States in the wake of the 1930s labor scandal, and the growing decolonization and independence movement on the African continent. There were also however, personal reasons, chief among them being where Tubman came from, which also might account for why he succeeded where all his predecessors failed.

Tubman was born and raised in Harper, Maryland County, which had a large "civilized Grebo" population very active in government, legal, academic and civic affairs. Cape Palmas was very different from Monrovia or Grand Bassa, from where all other presidents came, in that despite the frequent wars with traditional Grebo leadership over trade and land, there was much more cultural interaction on an equal basis, between the immigrant and indigenous populations. Where most other presidents had grown up in an environment more or less insulated from indigenous cultural influences, Tubman was raised in a cross-cultural matrix where his childhood friends and schoolmates were Grebo. He described himself as "the convivial cannibal from the downcoast hinterlands," in essence proclaiming his difference from presidents before him.

During the 1875 Grebo war, Tubman's father, Rev. Alexander Tubman, was in the Liberian force defeated at the battle of Wrukehn by the combined forces of Rocktown, Middletown, Garaway, Cavalla and the Grebo Reunited Kingdom. His life was saved by a Grebo warrior who was a friend of his before the war, Dyne Weah. Weah directed the elder Tubman to safety as other members of his retreating force were slaughtered, including his brother, William S. Tubman II, and another brother, John Hilary Tubman, was seriously wounded. The future president made a promise to his father that he would work to end the constant wars between the immigrant and Grebo people, and to bring them closer together. In fact, the endless battles between Grebo kingdoms and the Liberian government belied a closeness of the two peoples on a personal level that was far more intimate than in any other region of the country. Tubman's cousin, future Vice President Allen Yancy, was married to Judge Seton's daughter, Gertrude Seton, spoke fluent Grebo, and declared neutrality in the 1910 Grebo war. Other Grebo families like the Brownells, Nebos, Bryants, Wesleys, Badios, and Wolos, were also intermarried or closely allied politically with American settler families. The Cape Palmas man, exemplified by William V. S. Tubman, Nete-Sie Brownell, Henry Too Wesley, A. Dash Wilson and P. Gbe Wolo, was in many ways the embodiment of the national unity that was so elusive, so seemingly unobtainable.

Tubman was at seventeen, the leader of the True Whig Party Youth Wing which often challenged the ultraconservative TWP elements, and after legal apprenticeship, was admitted to the Maryland County Bar at twenty-two years old. He was elected Maryland County Senator at twenty-eight, the youngest in Liberian history, and immediately established a record as a fighter for the rights of the unassimilated indigenous masses. He lost his senate seat in the wake of the Fernando Po labor scandal, as he was the attorney of record for his cousin Allen Yancy's Maryland County Recruiting Company, one of the firms charged with exporting forced labor to the Spanish islands. He was serving as Associate Justice when he was nominated by the True Whig Party to succeed Edwin J. Barclay as president in 1942. In a speech before the Liberian Senate, the candidate hinted at the monumental changes he would initiate if elected when he said:

"We therefore recognize, and would stand for the demonstration of the indivisibility and coherent strength of the nation as the Supreme issue of these days in which the whole world faces the cries of manifold and radical changes...We would engage therefore, to strive with all our might to agglutinate and unify our populations and political adherents composing the body politic; and with election over, Liberia would be a place for all Liberians alike who would respond to this sentiment."
New circumstances were demanding an end to the isolationism and conservatism that maintained two separate societies, one westernized and enfranchised, the other decidedly not. Labor needs were transforming the landscape as Firestone hired thousands from the provinces for work on its plantations, and the United States Army recruited hundreds more for the construction of airfields, roads, and the 25th Station Hospital in anticipation of wounded soldiers from the North African theater of operations. Besides workers from the provinces, Firestone attracted people from neighboring countries. No longer could the "uncivilized" be confined to the bush. Circumstances were forcing the people to come together. Sorely needed then was a plan of action to serve as a guiding hand for this forced integration.
In his inaugural address in January, 1944, the new president declared:

"Americo-Liberianism must be obliterated and forgotten, and that rather all of us must register a new era of a philosophy of justice, fair and equal opportunities for all alike throughout the country, regardless of tribe, clan, element, creed, or economic status...Let us resolve henceforth, for ourselves here present as well as for our constituents and our posterity, to make our country a united nation with liberty and justice for all under God's command."
Tubman revealed a two-prong plan of action in his first Annual Message to the Legislature on November 1, 1944. His primary focus as president would be on (1) Education and economic development, and (2) The attraction to and participation in government of the unassimilated indigenous masses.

In order to effect the second part, he proposed sweeping changes including compulsory education, closer study of African cultural institutions, provincial representation in the Legislature, allocation of a percentage of hut taxes to the areas where they were collected, freedom of travel throughout the hinterland, stricter control of the Frontier Force and clearly defined limits of its authority, a "special grade of men " as provincial and district commissioners, and suffrage for all males above twenty-one who paid hut tax. The latter proposal would be put to a national referendum after passage in the House and Senate.

"These national policies," the President said, "cannot remain mere national intent, but must be given effectual demonstration. This necessarily will involve skill, labor and finance. It will obviously require time to put into practical operation, but we must begin at once with the means and resources at our disposal...We cannot build a powerful and progressive nation if we are divided in our efforts of national reconstruction."
The act granting suffrage to male tax-paying residents of the provinces and representation in the Legislature was passed in 1945 and ratified by the majority of the people in a national referendum, despite opposition from conservative TWP elements who protested that the time was not yet ripe for such representation. The President felt vindicated by the overwhelming approval of the people, and of international leaders including US President Harry Truman who termed it a "broadening of the basis of Liberian democracy." In welcoming the new representatives to the House Chambers, Tubman said:

"I for my part have always felt that taxation without representation was oppressive and tyrannical. It is therefore with the maximum degree of pleasure and gratification that I extend to these honorable gentlemen congratulations, and express the belief that their presence in the Council of State is the dawn of a new unification and agglutination of the different elements that make up the body politic."
When the TWP news organ the Liberian Age subtly criticized the seating of "unlettered, uncivilized and gowned men" in the House of Representatives, Tubman responded by donning a traditional gown and cap at major official functions. Other officials followed suit, and traditional ceremonial garb soon became standard attire at official functions alongside the more formal top hat, frock coat and white tie. If these dramatic changes provoked discomfort and unease from some in Monrovia and other cities, the newly enfranchised people of the provinces greeted them with great enthusiasm, optimism and overwhelming support for the President.

Tubman toured the Central and Western Provinces from May to July, and convened Executive Councils with the chiefs, headmen, commissioners, superintendents and the people. The first Executive Council was held in Saniquellie, capital of the Central Province and lasted a little over two weeks. The next one was in Zorzor, seat of the Western Province, lasted about the same duration, and the third was in Kakata-Salala District. Paramount chiefs from other parts of the country accompanied the President, for the benefit of contact, he said, and in furtherance of the government's policy of unification.
Tubman heard complaints and grievances directly from the chiefs and their people, addressed them on the spot or directed the appropriate government agency to do so. The chiefs unanimously expressed satisfaction with the councils and pledged renewed loyalty to the state.



President Tubman hosted annual Executive Councils all over the country and the larger "Unification Council" every five years, beginning in 1954 in Harper.

 "The Liberian nation is to be made up of the Negro civilized to some extent in the United States and repatriated, and of the aboriginal tribes. At present it is composed of a small number of civilized and a large number of aboriginal communities in varying degrees of dependence. The problem is how to blend these into a national organism, an organic unity." -ARTHUR BARCLAY, 1904 

The problem of how to integrate the disparate elements that made up Liberia into a national organic whole, had faced the first African republic from its inception. Numerous factors were responsible for the state of separation that obtained at the time Barclay made the above statement, between the "civilized," mostly coastal population and the unassimilated interior people. Among these were the obvious cultural differences, some pockets of hostility on both sides, financial constraints, competition for trade, strong prejudice on the part of some settlers, lack of will to engage the other side, etc. But the biggest obstacle to any form of national cohesion was ignorance, of the country's topography, people, and their cultures. The interior beyond the forty mile coastal strip ceded to the American Colonization Society was a vast, impenetrable unknown. The Liberians simply didn't know who or what was in the dense rainforests beyond their coastal settlements.

And some had no interest in ever going beyond that forty mile territorial limit, content to remain insulated from the indigenous cultures around them, limiting contact with the upcountry people to trade and perhaps labor needs. Circumstances, however demanded that the Liberians assert authority over the surrounding territory, in order to protect their sovereignty from their powerful colonial neighbors, France and Britain, and to put an end to internecine warfare between indigenous nations that disrupted Liberian trade and endangered its security. As their jurisdiction thus expanded through treaties with indigenous nations, contact increased with the interior people, along with rumors of vast reserves of mineral and natural wealth hidden in the forests and mountains. Then of course there was the "civilizing mission" element of the whole Liberian venture in the first place. If these riches were to be developed and exploited for the benefit of Liberians, and if Liberia's "civilizing" and Christianizing mission was to be fulfilled, closer alliances would have to be forged with the peoples of the interior. There was also the element of Pan-Africanism, the vision of Liberia given voice by Edward Wilmot Blyden and others, that necessitated a union and a merger of the "civilized" and unassimilated peoples.

Assimilation had in fact begun right from the earliest days of the colony, with indigenous people living in and around the American settlements, attending church, going to school, living with settler families, and inter-marrying with them. A description of the colony in the 1830s gave a demographic breakdown of the "civilized" population as 50-50 indigenous and immigrant.

Moreover, there were already "civilized" people living in the area long before any settlers arrived, mostly around the Maryland settlements. Many of the Grebo and Kru were educated, affluent, and lived in separate communities, virtually a distinct tribe from the unwesternized Grebo and Kru. The Kru, Grebo and to a lesser extent the Vai, had all had long exposure to European or Mediterranean trade, and were no strangers to western civilization. These people naturally assimilated easily and rapidly into the settler population, together with elements of the Bassa and other coastal groups, and the recaptives off the interdicted slave ships. This assimilated population was referred to collectively as "civilized," "Kwee," `"Congo," or "Americo-Liberian," whether or not they had any ancestral ties to America.

Of the vast unassimilated and unwesternized interior populations, University of Chicago Anthropologist Frederick Starr had this to say in his 1913 unpublished work, LIBERIA: DESCRIPTION, HISTORY, PROBLEMS:

"Then there are the pagan tribes of the interior. They are a more serious proposition for the Liberian than the Mohammedans and Kru. They live in little towns under the control of petty chiefs ; most of them speak only a native language; there is no unity among them; not only are there jealousies between the tribes, but there are suspicions between the villages of one tribe and speech; they live in native houses, wear little clothing, have simple needs; they are ununited and know nothing of the outside world; they know little of France or England, scarcely know what the Liberian Government means or wants ; they are satisfied and only wish to be left alone."

Contact with these lesser known peoples of the interior did not always involve war or land and trade disputes. Hidden in the history are accounts of purely human interactions that would characterize relations between any groups of people anywhere, but that are especially illuminating in regards to a rich history usually reduced to the oversimplified Americo-Liberian vs. Native narrative. Among these is the story of seven young settler children taken captive by the Dey people after the 1822 battle of Crown Hill. Jehudi Ashmun gave this account of that episode:

". . . redeeming trait . . . in their treatment of these helpless and tender captives. It was the first object of the captors to place them under the maternal care of several aged women, who, in Africa, as in most countries, are proverbially tender and indulgent. These protectresses had them clad in their usual habits and at an early period of the truce, sent to the colony to inquire the proper kinds of food, and modes of preparing it, to which the youngest had been accustomed. The affections of their little charges were so perfectly won in the four months of their captivity as to oblige their own parents, at the end of that time, literally to tear away from their keepers several of the youngest amidst the most affectionate demonstrations of mutual attachment. This event did not occur until the 12th of March, when their gratuitous redemption was voted almost unanimously in a large council of native chiefs."

Another young settler captive was future President Stephen Allen Benson, who also developed bonds of close friendship with his Dey and Gola captors. As president in 1858, he dispatched the two man team of George L. Seymour and Samuel J. Ash on an expeditionary trip into the interior. They explored the Kpelle country north and east of the St. Paul River and reached far into the Lorma country in the northwest, providing for the first time detailed information about the interior and the Lorma, Mandingo and other northwestern peoples, establishing the Lorma country as the source of much of the produce that reached the coast, including palm oil, pottery, tobacco, salt and country cloths, but also as a major slave trading center. The explorers were forced to return to Monrovia after they were attacked by hostile warriors and almost killed.

Each succeeding administration stressed the necessity of incorporating the "aboriginal population" into the body politic, as did James Skivring Smith in 1871:

"We have been too exclusively employed of late in regarding the immigrant portion of our population, and not taking a more general and comprehensive view of the incorporation of our aboriginal population as a principal source of our national permanance. Our fathers laid the foundations of our national fabric, and we have to gather the materials to erect the superstructure from Musardu and the regions far beyond as well as across the Atlantic...We could penetrate into and open free communication with the far interior...We must, by well concerted action, convince our aboriginal brethren that we have the disposition and ability to make of them a great nation...We must assist them, win their confidence, and provide ways and means for their assimilation and incorporation among us."

But exactly how to accomplish this remained a subject of debate, trial and error, as ideas were thrown back and forth about trade depots on the interior highways, guaranteeing protection to trading companies and interior settlements, employing commissioners, subsidizing chiefs, even an interesting experiment in Murraysville, Sinoe County where Kru people were induced to adopt "civilized" ways, build a frame house, wear western clothing, plant coffee, pay poll tax and enlist in the militia. The project attracted very few of the proud and independent Kru.
James Spriggs Payne addressed the question in his annnual message of 1876:

"You have often had before you the subject of our aboriginal Liberians-the vastly preponderating portion of the population of this republic...anxious for their elevation into complete citizenship apparent as it is that this indigenous population is destined for no insignificant part in the maintenance of this government...this indigenous population with its many sterling qualities, will be an acquisition of great utility and power, and the problem has long occupied the minds of our best citizens, how to bring them in and assimilate them to our customs and institutions...I do not flatter myself that this problem can be solved at this date. There is a great deal to learn of aboriginal character, a great deal of unreasonable prejudice to conquer..."

In 1868, the surveyor Benjamin J. K. Anderson made a successful exploration of the interior, mapping the entire northwest area under Liberian territorial jurisdiction. Commissioned by President Daniel B. Warner and funded by American philantropists Caleb Swan and Henry Schieffelin, Anderson and his party left Monrovia in February 1868, traveled by boat six miles up the St. Paul River, and trekked through Dey, Gola, Kpelle, Lorma and Mandingo country to reach Musardu, capital of the Mandingo kingdom, now Musadugu in the Republic of Guinea, where he signed a treaty of mutual protection with the Mandingo King Ibrahima Sissi. Anderson made a second expedition between May and December 1874, entered into treaties of commerce and friendship with local leaders, settled ethnic disputes, and produced a comprehensive, published report on the interior in which he urged the government to establish an immediate and permanent presence.

The rumors and wild stories that had formed the bulk of knowledge of the interior were replaced with verified fact, documentation, maps, and actual demographic and ethnographic reports. The Anderson survey was a watershed, paving the way for a government with the will and the ability, to open up the interior. His recommendations, which included a chain of military posts and the education of sons of the leading chiefs, were implemented by President Hilary R. W. Johnson in the 1880s. Sons of chiefs were placed with leading families to be educated, Johnson personally hosting, rearing and educating many of them, including the father of Liberia's current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. HRW Johnson's granddaughter, Rachel Johnson married the Vai King, Arthur Momolu Massaquoi in 1915.

President Arthur Barclay also acted on the findings of BJK Anderson, instituting his policy of "Direct Cooperation" with the Chiefs of the Interior, partly built on the unimplemented plan of his predecessor William D. Coleman, 'Interior Development and the Incorporation and Absorption of the Native Tribes into the Body Politic.'

Barclay called the first Council of Chiefs in Kakata in 1904, consulted them regularly, and increased government's role in the selection of paramount and clan chiefs. He began to break down the strict policy of separation between the coastal and interior peoples, but like William D. Coleman before him, he faced strong opposition from his constituents to his efforts at integration, especially in his attempts to address grievances among the Kru. He designated the Native districts "Townships," with the Chief in charge, commissioned by the President, and divided the interior into three provinces, the Western, Central and Eastern. He toured the country meeting with chiefs, and was visited regularly by them. He also maintained close relationships with officials "of aboriginal extraction," as he put it, who believed in and worked for the gradual amalgamation of the Americo-Liberian and Aboriginal elements, like Judge S. W. Seton of Maryland County, a "civilized Grebo" of the Nabo/Bigtown clan.

Succeeding presidents Daniel E. Howard, Charles D. B. King and Edwin J. Barclay all continued the policy of Direct Cooperation, Barclay maintaining the closest and most productive relationships with the chiefs, so much that his power base was mostly upcountry, giving him a buffer against more conservative political forces in the coastal cities. But all had only limited success at realizing the vision of integration, until the administration of William V. S. Tubman, who was elected in 1943.

Friday, November 11, 2011


1822 BATTLE OF CROWN HILL, November 11. Dey, Vai and Mamban warriors attack the Monrovia settlement. Liberians prevail. Peace mediated by King Sao and Captain Laing of the Royal Navy. Elijah Johnson led Liberian forces. Dey leader King Peter later becomes an important ally of the colony. Vais and Mamban also incorporated into Liberia.

1824 BATTLE OF TRADE TOWN, April 10. Liberian militia under the command of Jehudi Ashmun and Elijah Johnson attack three Spanish and French slave fortresses at Trade Town at the mouth of the Cestos River. Small Liberian force, assisted by Bassa and Kru allies and US Navy vessels, defeated three hundred fifty warriors defending the slave factories. Eighty slaves were liberated. Captain Barbour of the Liberian militia distinguished himself in the battle.

1832 GOLA WAR. Attempts by the Liberians to stop conflict between the Gola and the Dey lead to this war. Liberian force, led by Captain Elijah Johnson, is victorious.

1838 2ND BATTLE OF TRADE TOWN. After slave traders resumed operations at the same site, Governor Thomas Buchanan of the Bassa Cove settlement recruited volunteers in Monrovia for an attack on the slave traders. About three times the number of volunteers he requested showed up and they sailed for the Bassa coast where they met a land force led by Elijah Johnson already engaged in battle. Slave traders are defeated.

1838 FISH WAR, September 1838. War began after Governor I. C. Finley of Mississippi in Africa (Sinoe settlements) was robbed and murdered by Krus at Bassa Cove. War lasted a year, with Liberians ultimately victorious.

1840 GOLA WAR. After the Gola decimated their enemies, the Dey, the remnant of the Dey people took refuge in the St. Paul River towns of Arthington and Millsburg. The Gola chief Gatumba came after them, found a number of them on the farm of Owen Harris in Millsburg, killed a few and attempted to carry off the rest into slavery. Owen Harris and three of his indigenous workers fought them off until the Liberian militia arrived and defeated the Golas, pursuing them to their fortified town and destroying it.

1856 GREBO WAR. Dispute over land around the Cape Palmas settlement led to prolonged battle between the Grebos and Maryland In Africa forces assisted by Liberian militia under President Joseph Jenkins Roberts. Maryland joined the Republic of Liberia as a direct consequence of this war, in 1857.

1875 GREBO WAR. Combined forces of Rocktown, Middletown, Cavalla, Garraway, and the Grebo Reunited Kingdom defeat Liberian army at the battle of Wrukehn. USS Alaska sent to aid Liberians. Hostilities cease after peace talks. Grebos win greater participation in Liberian government affairs.

1910 GREBO WAR. Fratricidal conflict among Grebos and Krus turn into rebellion against the Liberian government and its newly imposed hut tax. USS Birmingham dispatched to Cape Palmas. Peace restored after negotiated settlement.

1915 KRU COAST WAR. Hut tax, trade disputes, Frontier Force abuses, and control of migrant labor and ports lead to uprising by combined Kru kingdoms from Rivercess to Cape Palmas. USS Chester assists Liberia in reaching negotiated settlement. 72 Kru chiefs executed on orders of President Daniel E. Howard. He actually commuted thirty-two of the death sentences, but new orders reached Sinoe too late.

1918 WORLD WAR I. On August 4, 1917, Liberia followed the United States into the war, declaring its support for the Allies. Germans are deported, though they are the country's biggest trading partners. On April 10, 1918, a German submarine appeared off Monrovia and demanded the dismantling of the French cable station. Delegation led by Monrovia Mayor Thomas Faulkner boards German ship for talks, which fail. President Howard issues his famous and defiant "Bomb and be damned" declaration. The Germans flatten the cable station, killing four, and sink the "President Howard," only vessel of the Liberian Navy. Passing British warship frightens the submarine off.

1931 KRU COAST WAR. Recriminations against Kru chiefs who testified before the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry lead to uprising by Krus under Sasstown Paramount Chief Juah Nimley. Nimley defies government for five years before being captured and exiled to Monrovia.

1989-1997 NPFL (National Patriotic Fronnt of Liberia) incursion into Nimba County sets off eight years of most brutal conflict in West African history. ECOWAS peace keeping troops supplied by Nigeria, Ghana and other member states keep NPFL forces from overrunning Monrovia. Prince Johnson's Independent National Patriotic Front breaks off from NPFL, reach Bushrod Island, capture and execute President Samuel Doe. After several failed peace talks and violated truces, war ends with the election of warlord Charles Taylor as president.

2000-2003 LURD (Liberians United For Reconciliation And Democracy) launch war against Charles Taylor's government. In 2003, MODEL (Movement For Democracy In Liberia) joins the conflict. Charles Taylor is forced into exile and interim government leads Liberia until the election in 2005 of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Liberia honors its war dead on Decoration Day, March 11, enacted by the Legislature on Oct.24, 1916.

"Great God, if the humble and weak are as dear
To thy love as the proud, to thy children give ear!
Our brethren would drive us in deserts to roam;
Forgive them, O Father, and keep us at home.
Home, sweet home!
We have no other; this, this is our home." -From John B. Russwurm's FREEDOM'S JOURNAL,1832


Saturday, September 24, 2011

OLD MAN BARCLAY: Arthur Barclay, 14th President of Liberia

The fourteenth president of Liberia was born in Bridgetown, Barbados on July 31, 1854, to Anthony Barclay and Sara Ann Bourne Barclay. He immigrated with his parents and ten siblings to Liberia in 1865 when he was eleven years old. First schooled by his older sister Antoinette Hope Barclay, he attended the Liberia College Preparatory Department, and the Collegiate Department of Liberia College, from which he graduated with a B.A. in 1873. Writing in the American Colonization Society periodical LIBERIA in February 1894, Alexander Crummell had effusive praise for Arthur Barclay's intellectual abilities and the Barclay gene pool:

" of the youngest members of a more than ordinary family, for no one could see and converse with the parents and with their sons and daughters, eight in all, without being struck with both their character and their intelligence...They have risen, without any exceptions, to high positions in church and state, as teachers, merchants, lay readers, vestrymen, and statesmen...Mr. Barclay received his education as a boy in the schools of Monrovia; thence he passed to Liberia College, holding a high position in his classes in both the languages and mathematics. Since his graduation his acquirements, coupled with his manifest uprightness, have made him a necessary factor in the public affairs of the young nation, and he has held several political positions under the government, always acquitting himself with intelligence and honor."

Charles S. Johnson wrote of the fourteenth President in the 1930s: "The Old Man, as he is affectionately called, belied his eighty years with his brisk step, firm bearing, active erudition and incredibly incisive wit...He probably had read every book that came into Liberia and had a retentive and continous memory. The laws of Liberia, its international problems, the native question, he knew in detail, and discoursed with familiar knowledge on the activities of the various African societies, archaeology, legal prodedure in England and America, Aviation, President Hoover's government by commissions..."

Arthur Barclay reportedly sold salt on the streets of Monrovia, before joining the staff of his Alma Mater, becoming Principal of the Preparatory department and then Professor of mathematics and languages. Between semesters, he worked as Chief Clerk at the House of Representatives, while studying law. Barclay's life-long relationship with Liberia College included tenures as Acting President, and member of the Board of Trustees. He worked as private secretary to President Joseph Jenkins Roberts from 1874 to 1877.

Admitted to the Montserrado County Bar as an attorney in 1877, he became a Counselor-at-law three years later, and judge of the Court of Quarterly Sessions and Common Pleas in 1883. Barclay also held the position of subtreasurer of Montserrado County, (1885) and was elevated to cabinet rank as Postmaster General in 1892, after which he served as Secretary of State under President Joseph J. Cheeseman. In 1896, he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held until his election to the presidency in 1903, taking office in January 1904. In the interim, he served on several international missions, including the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, to the 1871 loan amortization talks in 1897, and on diplomatic missions to France and England in 1901.

The main challenge facing the Arthur Barclay administration was a severe economic crisis, precipitated by overwhelming debt obligations and an empty treasury. The once vibrant merchant marine trade in coffee, palm oil, sugarcane and other commodities had peaked in the period from the late 1840s to the 1860s when it began a rapid decline due to internal and external factors. By the 1870s, the country was almost bankrupt, its independence seemingly mortgaged to European financial houses. The 1864 Ports of Entry Act, aimed at controlling trade between the Kru and the Europeans, was also seen by President Barclay as detrimental to the nation's economy. His efforts to repeal that law would be met with strong opposition from some quarters, mainly Sinoe. Repercussions from the disastrous 1871 EJ Roye loan from Britain were still being felt as, in order to make payments, the country got further and further into debt. For twenty-five years the country had haggled with its creditors over the legality of the loan transaction, achieving only a further deterioration in its credit status, as there was no escaping this obligation. A hundred thousand dollars of the loan amount had been spent almost before President Roye returned from London in 1871. In 1898, it was Arthur Barclay as Secretary of the Treasury, that had finally succeeded in reaching a settlement with the British creditors, adjusting the loan principal, in default for twenty years, to $375,000, down from 1.5 million.

In addition to its financial woes, internal unrest grew as the economic hardship crippled the government's ability to maintain control over troubled portions of its territory, mainly the southeastern coastal region. As the country struggled to find ways to modernize its agriculture-dependent economy, reduce the costs of its imports and service its debts, new sources of revenue were desperately sought. After experimenting with complicated currency regulations, swapping procurement orders for custom revenues (which only enriched the foreign merchants, further devalued the paper currency and created more entanglements), imposing a hut tax on the unassimilated indigenous population (which resulted in a serious Grebo-Kru uprising in 1910), the national debt stood at $800,000 in 1904, including the $480,000 adjusted 1871 loan principal plus interest. Desperation caused Barclay's government to enter into another disastrous half million dollar loan arrangement with Sir Harry Johnston's shady Liberian Development Company, over which Liberia almost lost her sovereignty when the British head of the Frontier Force (a condition of the loan), Major MacKay Cadell, engineered a coup which almost succeeded.

President Barclay finally turned to the United States for help and President Taft proved surprisingly sympathetic. He sent over a three-man delegation which recommended an American loan that alleviated the situation somewhat, but Liberia would remain entangled in debt and financial crises until after World War II.

Barclay had more success tackling the country's domestic troubles. Peace returned to the Cape Palmas area after the USS Birmingham forced an end to hostilities and assisted the government in reaching a negotiated settlement with the Grebo leadership. The Barclay Administration began to seek out ways to increase unassimilated participation and incorporation into the body politic. The President invited the chiefs to his 1904 inauguration and called the first council of chiefs that same year. Barclay's policy of "Direct Cooperation" with traditional indigenous authority was continued under succeeding presidents.

He used the findings of Benjamin J. K. Anderson's 1888 explorations to organize the interior for administrative purposes and applied the term Liberian to the unassimilated population for the first time. "What we need," Barclay said in his inaugural address of 1904, "is wider and deeper culture, and more intimate intercourse with our interior brethren." Barclay sought greater consultation with the chiefs of the interior and involved himself in the appointments of Paramount and Clan chiefs. The vision of a genuine African state, envisioned and articulated by Edward Wilmot Blyden, was beginning to take shape. Blyden and Barclay shared a deep respect for and understanding of indigenous culture and society. Blyden spoke several indigenous languages while Barclay possessed encyclopedic knowledge of local ethnography and anthropology. The fourteenth president was also in later years a supporter of Marcus Garvey, and often in attendance at UNIA meetings in Monrovia. Barclay also succeeded in finally settling the boundary disputes with the French and British governments, heading a mission in 1907 to Paris and London.

On leaving the presidency in 1912, he served at different times as Acting secretary of State, Treasury, War, and The Interior. His most important and most challenging assignment in the service of his country came when the Ex-President was eighty years old and in semi-retirement on the legal staff of the Firestone Company. The CDB King government nominated him in 1929 as the country's representative on the League of Nations Commission of inquiry Into The Existence of Slavery And Forced Labor In The Republic of Liberia.

Charles S. Johnson wrote: "As the sole ex-public official whose record inspired international confidence, he was expected to examine impartially those charges against the Republic which he well knew were in very large measure true; he was expected through some miracle of his wisdom to defend the integrity of the state before the world."

The Chief US Diplomat in Monrovia, Clifton Wharton described the ex-president in a memo to his State Department superiors as:

"The confidential advisor of the present administration and in times of stress, the government invariably calls upon present he is practicing law in Monrovia, Dean of the Liberian Bar, best known lawyer in the Republic, is attorney for the Firestone Plantations Company-great experience on commissions."

Barclay, due to age, was not able to accompany the other members of the Commission on their investigatory trips into the interior, but he participated in hearings held in or close to Monrovia, and the deliberative proceedings after the hearings concluded. Cuthbert Christy represented England on the Commission. The United States Representative was Fisk University President Charles S. Johnson. In BITTER CANAAN: STORY OF THE NEGRO REPUBLIC, Johnson writes of Arthur Barclay's role on the Commission, which initially was one of Defense Counsel, questioning procedure and reference:
"His first attitude was one of cheerful non-cooperation on the matter of seating the first witness. His argument on the first day of discussion of testimony was, 'There is nothing before the Commission.' Disposed to defend the name of President King and to construe any unfavorable reference to the administration as disloyalty, he raised objections to the definition of forced labor, maintaining that there would be no force so long as there was consent of the laborer, however secured.

It was evident that he knew the history and details of much that was discussed, but he offered no explanations except in defense. As the proceedings developed and he sensed the fervor and the persistence of the charges, he dropped his defense; still later he showed surprise at the consistency of the revelations made; and finally he shook his hoary head in disgust. On one of his final objections, that the chiefs and their people were bringing to the Commission matters which should have been carried to the appropriate departments of government, he was asked to assist a complaining citizen privately to get action on his grievance. Although it was a relatively small matter, Barclay discovered that it took four days merely to get a hearing for the man. He saw the man intimidated and the case bandied between departments with no ultimate effective action taken. What he, with all his power and prestige, could not do for a common citizen, it was clear to him that a common citizen could not do for himself. The stern logic of the situation eventually overcame his emotional loyalties. With the air of an attorney who has exhausted every reasonable defense, he signed the full report of the Commission without offering amendments. With characteristic courage and calm, Barclay faced the new future of Liberia."

Arthur Barclay died on July 10, 1938, in Monrovia.


Nathaniel R. Richardson, LIBERIA, PAST AND PRESENT

Alexander Crummell, article in LIBERIA, official ACS publication, Volume 4, Feb. 1894



Dunn, Beyan, Burrowes, HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF LIBERIA, 2nd Edition


Sunday, September 18, 2011


Thomas Jefferson Richlieu Faulkner was born in North Carolina in 1869 and immigrated to Liberia in 1881. Though little is known of his life back in North Carolina, his forty plus years in his adopted country make for one of the most fascinating and controversial life stories of all Liberian historical figures. Considered a great patriot by some, a traitor to his country by others, it was Faulkner who exposed the shame and scandal of Fernando Po to the world in 1929.

Faulkner was a professional engineer who installed and operated an ice factory, ice cream plant and telephone system, ran the popular TJR Faulkner Ice Cream and Confectionery, and attempted to bring electricity to Monrovia. He was the only one able to cut the sandbar that rendered harbor traffic so treacherous, and the one the government called on to install and repair all major machinery. Described by Charles S. Johnson as "the most useful man in the republic and at the same time the most hated and lonely," Faulkner overcame his status as a relative newcomer and outsider to become Monrovia's Mayor, serving during the German bombardment of the city in World War I. Johnson further described him as being "of powerful physique despite his sixty years, eternally active and fearless."

Faulkner fell out of favor with the Monrovia political establishment after he challenged President CDB King's increasingly dictatorial administration in the 1927 elections, on the ticket of the Peoples Party. The PP's platform was one of radical reform, calling for a decrease in presidential powers, removal of the Capital from Monrovia to the interior, increased rights for the unassimilated indigenous population, abolition of the hut tax, reform of the militia, Judiciary and finances, establishment of a civil service, entry of foreign capital into the country without special concessions (he was an opponent of the Firestone agreement) scientific and technical efforts to aid agriculture, principally coffee growing, unhindered selection of legislative candidates by the people, freedom of speech and the press, and hinterland administration reform.

Several factors led to the defeat of the Peoples Party at the polls. Their membership lacked experience at the higher levels of government, and it was difficult to attract those with the requisite experience, since their jobs depended on membership in the True Whig Party which controlled all appointments. Voters were also reluctant to openly support the PP for the same fear of losing their jobs, even if they agreed with their platform. The electorate was hesitant as well to throw out the entire political administration in favor of an untried and untested new cadre of leaders. Another factor was King's superior political skills. He countered the PP's indigenous rights proposals with an inclusion plan of his own.

But the greatest factor was election fraud. The election results were challenged in court, alleging inflated poll results, illegal voter registration practices, ballot tampering, etc. The Legislature investigated, subpoenaing the ballots from the State Department, which revealed that ballots had been uncounted or destroyed, and that sheriffs, judges and voters had been intimidated. King prevailed however, the Legislature and the Judiciary participating in a massive coverup that allowed King to enter into his third term without explanation of the obvious discrepancies in the numbers of registered voters and election results.

Faulkner had been a maverick before the election, his crusade for indigenous rights a constant thorn in the side of the Administration. After the election, this crusade took on added fury, relentlessness, and determination to expose the corruption of the King dictatorship. His focus became the practice of forced labor employed by the government in road building and subject to widespread abuse, and the lucrative exportation of some of that labor to the Spanish Islands. The latter had been going on since 1924 when Sinoe County Superintendent Samuel A. Ross and Vice President Allen N. Yancy formed their Sinoe and Maryland County Recruiting Companies, entering into agreements with the Spanish Consul to supply labor to Santa Isabel, Fernando Po, Gabon and what is now Equatorial Guinea.The business being extremely lucrative, many government officials were involved, from senators, representatives and lawyers to district commissioners, chiefs, Headmen and Frontier Force officers.

Faulkner personally intercepted a group of people being taken from the Gola Country for forced labor at Firestone and sent them home, addressed a group of surprised villagers at Kakata about their rights, and constantly warned about a coming mandate on Liberia and "a native revolution" if these practices were not curtailed. He traveled to America on a campaign to raise awareness of what was taking place in Liberia and at the same time to raise funds and solicit support for a country he painted as entirely corrupt. From the US, he went on to Geneva where he presented evidence of the forced labor rackets to League of Nations Secretary General Sir Eric Drummond in June, 1929.

The Monrovia establishment reacted with outrage and vicious retaliation. Faulkner was threatened with arrest and trial for treason, his businesses were boycotted and destroyed, attempts were made on his life, and he was almost thoroughly ostracized, government officials lapsing into blind rage at the mere mention of his name. In Kakata, the body of a young female ritual murder victim was dug up and the names Faulkner and Twe found inscribed on her forehead. Didhwo Twe (see hpsol: Didhwo Twe) was the ousted Member of the House of Representatives who had collected the evidence presented to Drummond in Geneva. Newspapers attacked and villified them both as traitors to their country.

But not everyone viewed them as traitors. The Citizens Non-Partisan League was formed in their support and defense, by Justice and former Secretary of State F. E. R. Johnson, Gabriel Johnson, J. J. Dossen, Gabriel Farngalo, and others, holding huge demonstrations in the streets calling for an end to forced labor and the resignation of the entire government.

Charles S. Johnson met and interviewed Faulkner several times in Monrovia while Johnson was serving on the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry. He wrote that he couldn't always determine whether Faulkner was driven by pure humanitarian sentiment or personal grievance against CDB King and his entrenched political machine. Former President Arthur Barclay told Johnson in a private conversation that Faulkner's crusade was "nigger doings," petty resentment against King. Johnson also felt Faulkner "could have been justly accused of intemperance in his charges against the government, of stirring up unrest," but that not even his political enemies could ever accuse him of dishonesty or injustice in his forty years of public life. Faulkner was "an undeniable pillar of strength and dependability to the country, he paid his workers and his debts, unusual for Liberia, his word was his bond, and he loved Liberia."

Faulkner's presidential aspirations were ended by the political storm of Fernando Po, unfortunately for he could have made a great president and changed the course of Liberian history. As it was, his name was virtually erased from the nation's history, his many indispensable contributions forgotten, his legacy of service to his country swallowed up under the cloud of one word:traitor. Thomas Faulkner sought the presidential chair again in 1931 on the Peoples Party ticket, but was defeated by the incumbent president, Edwin Barclay. TJR Faulkner died shortly thereafter, crossing the hazardous bar at Marshall.




Saturday, September 10, 2011


Didhwo Twe (Tweh) was born in Monrovia on April 14, 1879. His early education was under the tutelage of American Methodist Missionary Mary Sharpe and Rev. Dr. Paulus Moort, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church. Twe then attended Patsy Barclay Private School and later, Cuttington College and Divinity School. American friends, including Vermont Congressman William W. Grout, assisted in arranging further studies for the promising and brilliant student in the United States and in 1894, Twe left Monrovia for St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. He studied at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Rhode Island State College in Kingston, at Columbia University, and at Harvard.

 He supported himself during his studies by working as a valet for a wealthy banker, and for the famous author Mark Twain. (Samuel Langhorne Clements) Twe and Mark Twain maintained a friendship long after his return to Liberia and exchanged lengthy and intimate correspondence, in which Mark Twain often expressed his views on the racial issues of the United States.

Didhwo Twe returned home in 1910 and in 1912 he was appointed District Commissioner by President Daniel E. Howard. He served on the Anglo-Liberian Boundary Commission and was later elected to the House of Representatives from Montserrado County. He was a big game hunter and prospector, and was one of the receipients of Firestone's gifts of 5000 rubber plants. It was while serving in the House of Representatives that he came into the knowledge of forced labor exportations to the Spanish plantations. He twice drafted a bill that would prohibit such practices, but the first one was killed in committee, the second one in 1929 ending up in a tie vote on the House Floor. The President Pro Temp, Senator Vampelt cast the deciding vote, killing the bill.

The power behind the lucrative forced labor exports was exhibited when Twe was charged with sedition and expelled from the House in 1929. Hurt, disappointed, and resolute, he traveled through the country gathering evidence and compiling documents, and at some point began to work closely with Thomas Faulkner, the former Mayor of Monrovia who was also adamantly opposed to the practice of forced labor and like Twe, had fallen out of favor with the Monrovia political establishment. The evidence Twe collected was presented by Faulkner to the League of Nations Secretary General Sir Eric Drummond in Geneva in December 1929.

His life in danger, Twe went underground but somehow managed to establish and maintain contact with League Commissioner Charles S. Johnson while the Commission was investigating the charges of forced labor, encouraging frightened chiefs and their people to testify before the Commission.  After President King and Vice President Yancy were forced to resign, President Edwin Barclay's efforts to contain the crisis led him to crack down on dissidents. In November 1932, Twe fled to Sierra Leone, from where he advocated armed revolution in Liberia and a "Kru Republic." In pursuit of this objective, he appealed to friends abroad for help in obtaining arms, writing to an English friend, Florence Morgan and to Charles S. Johnson, with whom he remained in contact after Johnson and the Commission left Liberia.

Twe returned to Monrovia unexpectedly in 1936, and some Barclay Administration officials attempted to arrest him. Barclay however, decided to allow him to remain free on the condition that he refrain from political activities. In the early 1950s, he challenged President Tubman first under the banner of the United Peoples Party and later the Reformation Party, aiming at complete sociopolitical reform. Tubman accused him of tribalism and treason, of being "a consummate liar, a senile visionary, a sophisticated bigot, and an uncompromising egotist." This bitter rivalry between the two men apparently had other than political underpinnings. Reportedly the previously close friends were enamored of the same woman. Twe was married to Tubman's former wife.

Not surprisingly, Twe eventually had to flee Tubman's security network, and he again sought refuge in Sierra Leone where he remained until he was pardoned by Tubman in 1960. Didhwo Twe died on March 19, 1961 in Monrovia.


Dunn, Beyan, Burrowes, HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF LIBERIA 2nd Edition

Charles S. Johnson, BITTER CANAAN: STORY OF THE NEGRO REPUBLIC, and SEASONS IN HELL: Charles S. Johnson and the Liberian Labor Crisis