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The Lone Star, the flag of Liberia
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Voices on Liberia


Letter to the Honorable Charles Fenton Mercer*
Describes the American Colonization Society

Dear Sir -- The tragical issue of the insurrection in Southampton, in which above sixty whites fell a sacrifice to the vengeance of their slaves, and subsequently to which a great number of slaves suffered the penalties of the violated laws of the state, has awakened the slave states out of their slumbers, and excited considerable attention towards our coloured population, and the awful consequences likely to ensue, sooner or later, from the admixture of two heterogeneous castes in the country, without the least probability, at any future period, however remote, of an amalgamation between them, in consequence of the diversity of colour.

In this respect our situation is widely different from that of Greece or Rome. The great mass of their slaves were of the same colour as their masters, and a complete amalgamation might take place in a generation or two. -- Against such a result there is in this country an insuperable barrier....

The objects of the friends of colonization are --

I. To rescue the free coloured people from the disqualifications, the degradation, and the proscription to which they are exposed in the United States.
II. To place them in a country where they may enjoy the benefits of free government, with all the blessings which it brings in its train.
III. To avert the dangers of a dreadful collision at a future day of the two castes, which must inevitably be objects of mutual jealousy to each other.
IV. To spread civilization, sound morals and religion throughout the vast continent of Africa, at present sunk in the lowest and most hideous state of barbarism.

Yours truly,
Mathew Carey


A biography of the Rev. Lott Cary**
An excerpt

Mr. Cary was among the earliest emigrants to Africa. For some time before his departure he had sustained the office of Pastor of a Baptist Church of colored persons in Richmond, embracing nearly eight hundred members, received from it a liberal support, and enjoyed its confidence and affection. -- When an intelligent Minister of the same Church inquired, why he could determine to quit a station of so much comfort and usefulness, to encounter the dangers of an African climate, and hazard every thing to plant a Colony on a distant heathen shore? His reply was to this effect, "I am an African, and in this country, however meritorious my conduct, and respectable my character, I cannot receive the credit due to either. I wish to go to a country where I shall be estimated by my merits, not by my complexion; and I feel bound to labor for my suffering race." He seemed to have imbibed the sentiment of Paul, and to have great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart, for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. ...

During the war with the native tribes [in Liberia], in November and December 1822, he proved to be one of the bravest of men, and lent his well directed and vigorous support to the measures of Mr. [Jehudi] Ashmun [the first of several white governors of the colony] during that memorable defence of the Colony. It was to him, that Mr. Ashmun was principally indebted for assistance in rallying the broken forces of the Colony, at a moment when fifteen hundred of the exasperated natives were rushing on to exterminate the settlement. In one of his letters, he compares the little exposed company on Cape Montserado at that time, to the Jews, who in rebuilding their City, "grasped a weapon in one hand, while they labored with the other:" but adds emphatically, "there never has been an hour or a minute, no, not even when the balls were flying around my head, when I could wish myself again in America."

Note the similarity in language and sentiment [in italicized phrase above] to the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Letter from Mrs. Burke*
Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee freed his slaves and paid for the passage of many to Liberia. The following letter was written by one of these emigrants to Lee's wife, Martha Custis Lee, some time between 1853 and 1859.

My Dear Madam -- William has written you quite a long letter, yet I thought I could not let this opportunity pass without writing you a few lines to inform you something in regard to myself and family.

I am at this time, and nearly at all times, in the enjoyment of most excellent health. My children are as fat as pigs: Granderson is nearly as broad as he is long; Cornelia is not tall for her age, but is quite stout; Alexander has begun to grow a little, though he is quite small for his age. They are all going to school, and seem to be learning quite fast. Little Martha does not go to day school, but is very fond of going to Sunday school; she can say some of her A, B, C's; she has got entirely over all of her sickness, and is now fat and growing very fast.

You could hardly believe how cool it is in Africa -- it is equal to the coolest October nights and mornings in America; we can hardly keep warm in bed at night.

In the morning I get up early to milk my cow, feed my chickens &c. The last time I churned I had to put warm water in the churn to make the butter come.

I have thought and dreamt much about you lately. I hope you have got over your rheumatism, and the many troubles of which you spoke in your last letter.

Please remember me particularly to all of your children, and to Mr. Lee. I often think of them all. Please give my love to Mary Ann, and tell her for me that she must try and behave herself, that it will be for her good in the end. When you write please let me know something about Catharine and Agnes. Remember me kindly to Aunt Elleanor; tell her that I love Africa, and would not exchange it for America. What has become of Julian? When you write, please tell me all you know about father; he never will write to me. I would write more, but have no room.

Yours humbly,
Rosebell Burke


The Missionary Record, Sept. 14, 1878**
Excerpt from an article

Private letters have been received from Mr. Gaillard and Mr. Irons who left here on the Azor, for Liberia. Mr. Gaillard says to his mother that if she wants to see him again she must sell out and come to Liberia. Mr. Irons says he is walking on gold every day, has bought 100 acres from the government and is superintendent of seven mills at a salary of $500 for each mill -- total salary $3,500: How is that for Liberia? It is better than being Governor of South Carolina.

Indigenous rebellion*
Excerpt from 1850 pamphlet titled "Remarks on the colonization of the western coast of Africa, by the free negroes of the United States, and the consequent civilization of Africa and suppression of the slave trade"

Soon after the settlement of the Colony, it was attacked by a large number of native warriors, who were, however, defeated, and the Colony has thriven uninterruptedly from that time to the present. Its actual condition, by the last accounts, and the thirty-third Annual Report of the American Colonization Society have been but small in amount, seldom exceeding fifty thousand dollars per year, they have purchased a territory on the African coast, more than four hundred miles in extent. They have conveyed to that territory from the United States, according to the above Report, six thousand six hundred and fifty-three free people of color, who have formed, and are capable of maintaining a prosperous and independent government. "They have brought under the canopy of Liberia law, more than eighty thousand hitherto wild and untutored savages. The Slave Trade has been abolished for several hundred miles on the coast. They have founded Schools, built Churches, and put up Printing Presses -- cleared farms, and sprinkled abroad the green tints of Agriculture -- established the Temples of Justice -- transplanted our beautiful Arts to a distant Continent, and carried our mother tongue to where it will become the language of millions for ages to come."


Letter from Israel W. Moultrie, June 1878**
My Dear Friend -- I had a very good time of sailing, only I was sea-sick when I reached here. At my surprise I found that we are well cared for by our friends; they all seem to love us, saying to American Africans "fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, come home and let us build up our fatherland, there is more land here than you all will be able to occupy." I find it to be a good place -- the best land for planting in the world; twenty-five acres will produce as much as one hundred acres in America, and fruits of all kinds. As far as you can see, are nothing but green fruits and valuable trees -- we have potatoes, sugar-cane, corn and rice growing here, but everything is very dear, such as you have to contend with in America, and all who are coming please tell them to bring everything that they can possibly buy. Your greenbacks and silver coin are used out here, all except coppers which are by far different. Those who are coming here -- brother Alston wanted to know if it is needful to bring his horse, yes, bring everything that you all can afford: for things are very dear -- cloth is selling from 25 to 50 cents a yard, that is, cloth at 8 and 20 cents in America; sugar 25 cents per pound, meat 25 cents per pound, shawls at $4 and $5 a piece, such as what you pay $1.50 for in America. So then supply yourselves sufficient with everything. I will say without fear, this is the best country in the world; -- a man can live happy here without the least fear; come all who wants to enjoy freedom, what you all raise there you can here; there are more kinds of trees here than there is in America; there are also mines of all descriptions: iron, silver and the finest kind of bricks and stones covers the streets; the finest houses can be erected here, all that is wanting are workmen and money, and Charleston would be but a lighthouse to this place; and every person that can come, there is room sufficient for them, I my friends expect to die here, for every blow I strike is freedom. Our friends out here rejoices to see us, and wants all of you to come and commence to work. I am happy as I can be, and now to my young friends, come on, and all if you want to enjoy freedom, it is nothing but freedom; if you have a trade of any kind bring your tools along.

You will have to try and put steamers and ships on the line, so that you can come in haste; the more you buy the more powerful you will make your country; we are going to work. You all can afford to buy goods out there and bring them out here cheaper than the English or any other country, and make a plenty to bear your expenses, so send or bring your goods with you. Oh, this is a great country, the bricks and precious stones are under our feet, and all that is desire is for us to put forth an effort and thus be benefitted by it. This is the coolest season of the year, and the right time to plant. Major M.R. Delany is well known out here Rev. B.F. Porter's labor is not in vain, and it will be remembered throughout the world -- do not mind what men may say or do, but go on.

To the members of Morris Brown Church I send you my heartfelt love, and hope that you are remembering me when you pray; stand up for brother Porter, aid him in his works, and if you will listen to him and come out here like we have, you will be done with serfdom , starvation and want, and the light of Christ will shine in our hearts. Now, in conclusion, I say to you and all, that these are facts, and if I were not sick I would have sent you something to look at. I am happy to write to you.

I remain yours as ever,
Israel W. Moultrie.


Message from President James S. Payne*
Excerpts from the message of the president of Liberia to the two houses of the legislature in 1868

... I invoke your patriotic and sagacious consideration of a plan ameliorative of the circumstances of our aboriginal population. I ask you seriously to consider, that there are within the jurisdiction of this Republic a population variously estimated, but not less than 600,000, in a state of heathenism; cut off from the slave-trader's influence, severed from their association with foreigners engaged in legitimate purchases, but, with a few honorable exceptions, not less pernicious in their influence than the slave-dealer, and now dependent upon Liberia for every thing which they themselves can not supply. There is no rational hope that they can or ever would civilize themselves -- an arduous if not impossible work to any isolated people who exclude an extraneous influence of greater power and better ideas and sentiments. The elements of civilization and Christianity, the advantages of enlightened institutions, must be brought and imparted and, if they, like children, spurn them, urged upon them. Moral suasion among heathen destitute of any sentiments which modify their heathenism is, in the absence of power to sustain it, a feeble force....

On this subject, and in connection with such a plan as I earnestly recommend you to adopt for the improvement of our native inhabitants, by which they may be assimilated to and identified in every respect with us....


Sources: All excerpts are primary sources from:
*Library of Congress, American Memory collection or Exhibitions at: http://www.loc.gov/
**University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Academic Affairs Library, Documenting the South collection at: http://docsouth.unc.edu/

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