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