A republic on the west coast of Africa
; a product of the American Colonization Society.
The republic has an area of about 14,300 square miles, and a population estimated at 1,068,000, all of the African race.
Of these, 18,000 are natives of America
, and the remainder aboriginal inhabitants.
The land along the coast is sterile, but in the interior is well wooded and fertile.
As in all equatorial regions, there are two seasons in the year, the wet and the dry. The wet season begins with June and ends with October, during which time the rain falls almost daily.
During the seven months of the dry season rain is rare.
The average temperature of the rainy season is 76°, and of the dry season 84°. Throughout the year the mercury never falls below 60°, and seldom rises above 90° in the shade; but during the hottest months, from January to March, the heat is somewhat mitigated by the constant breezes.
The climate, both on account of the heat and miasma in the air, is deadly to the white man, and very trying to the black man who has been born and reared in temperate regions, but the native African
has but few diseases, and often lives to a great age. It must be noted, however, that during recent years the climate has been greatly improved by drainage, and the fatal “African
fever” is now less frequent in Liberia
than anywhere on the adjoining coasts.
All tropical fruits and vegetables grow luxuriantly, and the principal exports are coffee, palm-oil, caoutchouc, dye-woods, arrow-root
, sugar, cocoa, ginger, rice, hides, and ivory.
Some deposits of minerals exist, but they are not worked to any extent.
On the hills of the interior cattle are raised profitably, and the native wild animals have been nearly all killed or driven into the wild surrounding country.
The government of Liberia
is modelled on that of the United States
, and consists of a president, elected for two years; a congress, composed of a senate of eight members, elected for four years; and a house of representatives of thirteen members, elected for two years; also a supreme court.
The president has a cabinet of six members, appointed as in the United States
Slavery is forbidden in the republic, military service is obligatory on all citizens between the ages of sixteen and fifty, and the right of suffrage can only be exercised by those owning real estate
None but citizens can hold real estate
, and only negroes can be citizens.
The state of Liberia
is divided into four counties, and these again into townships.
There are a number of small towns, but the only large place is Monrovia
, the capital, a city of about 13,000 inhabitants.
The republic of Liberia
owes its origin to the American Colonization Society, which was organized about 1811, and in 1817 sent a committee to the coast of Africa
to select a site for a colony of freed negroes.
The Sherbro Islands
were first chosen, but the first colony sent out, in 1820, not being satisfied there, was removed to Cape Mesurado in 1822.
Here a limited territory was purchased from the natives, which was subsequently enlarged by further purchases.
At first the government was carried on by the officers of the Colonization Society, but gradually the share of the people in their own rule was made greater.
A declaration of independence
was made by the colonists in 1847, and a constitution adopted.
The first president was Joseph Jenkins Roberts
, who served for four terms.
The republic was immediately recognized as a sovereign state by Great Britain
, and later by various Continental powers, but the United States
did not grant it this honor until 1861.
In August, 1871, the republic laid the foundation of a public debt by contracting a loan of $500,000 at 7 per cent. interest, to be redeemed in fifteen years. This money was borrowed in England
by the president of the republic, and the charge that he had appropriated a large part of it to his
own use caused a popular revolt on his return, which removed him from office and caused his imprisonment.
No interest has been paid on the public debt since 1874.
It cannot be said that Liberia
has been a success, socially or politically.
The negroes in the United States
do not seem to take much interest in it, and immigration to its shores is but slight.
The government is but feebly administered, and there is much internal disorder.
For all this, it is only fair to add that the state shows an appreciation of education and religion, and a desire to stand well in the opinion of civilized nations.
A number of missions have been carried on among the aboriginal inhabitants of Liberia
for many years.
The American Methodist Episcopal mission dates from 1833, the American Episcopal
mission from 1834, and the American Baptists
Others have been later established.
In August, 1898, an arrangement for the settlement of the foreign debt was undertaken, but at the time of writing nothing practical had been accomplished.
The ordinary revenue of the republic has been for years insufficient to meet the cost of administration, and the republic has an internal debt, the interest on which largely exceeds the principal.
In 1898 the Liberians sought closer relations with the United States government, with the ultimate view of being better able to resist an alleged threatened movement on the part of Germany
and Great Britain
to secure possession of their territory for their own trade aggrandizement.