No. 446.
Mr. Turner to Mr. Fish.

No. 110.]

Sir: I have the honor herein to set forth a summary of the more important doings of the Liberian legislature at the late session thereof, just ended. The first business of significance that engaged attention was the consideration of certain propositions for mining, extracting ores, &c. (See inclosure.)

These propositions were made by English capitalists through their agent, a Mr. Forbes, civil engineer, who was present in person, and has since died of African fever. The propositions were accepted without modification by the senate; but on the ground that monopolies of any kind, especially those sustained by foreign capital, are imperiling to the well-being of the independence, if not to the life of the government itself, and therefore should not be introduced during the present prostrate condition of the national finance, the house tabled the propositions indefinitely. During the discussion the house manifested a disposition to have all foreign enterprise that may hereafter be introduced into Liberia enter the country under the auspices and control of citizens of the United States, in preference to those of any other country. The senate, seeing the action of the house, tried to sustain its own acceptance of the original propositions by attempting to consider them in the light of a treaty. Whereupon the house immediately applied to the supreme court, then in session, for an opinion, as to whether or not the senate was constitutionally empowered to consider the propositions of individuals or minor corporations in the light of treaties. (See inclosures 2 and 3.) I have noted that in all such matters the preferences of the people are evidently American, not English.

[Page 701]

A very important act was passed at this session of the legislature, introducing into that body (the house) two native chiefs from each of the principal tribes living in and around Liberia, for the purpose of consulting on native affairs. Had Liberia adopted the policy indicated by the spirit of this act twenty-five years ago, the country would not be in such signal want of men to-day. However, it remains to be seen whether this act will be executed, or remain, as many other equally valuable laws, neglected and dormant on the statutes of the republic.

Quite an exciting question arose between the senate and the President respecting cabinet and other executive officers, whom it has been customary at the beginning of each administration to submit for confirmation of the senate prior to the adjournment of that body; thus avoiding appointments during the interval that may meet with rejection upon the re-assembling of the senate. The observance of this usage seems to have been the invariable practice. In this instance, the senate held that it was both the practice and the law; while the President maintained that all executive officers appointable by him he was constitutionally entitled to appoint and continue during his pleasure, without consulting the senate’s will as to the period for which such officers should be appointed. (See inclosure 4.) This difference of opinion created an exciting debate in the senate, during which senators accused the President with attempting to exercise prerogatives unknown to the law and usage, and of acting with a stronger hand than the law or the spirit of republican institutions allows 5 and that if such was the spirit of his policy, he had in effect already leaped from republicanism into the bounds of monarchy. This question originated by the President holding over into the new administration the honorable the secretary of the treasury. Senators took position ostensibly with reference to all officers to be appointed by the President, but I am convinced their opposition was really to the continuance of the secretary of the treasury, with whose management of the finances the senate seemed displeased. Could the senate have received the submission of the name of this officer, I believe he would have been denied confirmation. The position of the President might have been rendered exceedingly embarrassing had not the house of representatives manifested little or no interest in the matter. They of the house morally and indirectly gave to the President their support, by urging the senate, in the heat of the discussion between the President and the senate, to fix a day on which to, adjourn. Having by this means brought themselves to a disagreement with the senate, they, by resolution, requested the President to exercise his constitutional privilege and adjourn the legislature. To this the President consented, and adjourned that body on the fourteenth day of February, 1874, pending the debate in the senate. (See inclosure 5.)

I take this opportunity to inform the Department of the retirement of Hon. H. B. W. Johnson from the post of secretary of state. Mr. Johnson assigns as his reason for this retirement his inability, on account of the absence of progressive policy in the conduct of the affairs of government, to acquiesce with the views of the administration.

Hon. J. E. Moore (formerly temporarily in charge of the archives of this legation) is appointed successor to Mr. Johnson.

I have, &c.,

[Page 702]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 110.]

Propositions to the republic of Liberia for concessions of lands, &c.

Agreement between the undersigned, his excellency the President of the republic of Liberia, of the one part, and Joseph Samuel Forbes, civil engineer, and George Wells, engineer, and —, contractor —, all domiciled in London, acting on their own behalf and on that of their copartners, (hereafter called the concessionaires,) of the other part, for the construction of railways and tramways for special or public purposes throughout the republic of Liberia, the working of mines, and the construction of clocks, landings, stages, jetties, warehouses, and other works incidental to the same.

It has been covenanted as follows:

  • Article 1. His excellency the President of the Liberian republic grants to Joseph Samuel Forbes and George Wells,——, and their copartners, subject to the ratification of the legislative body within a period of six months from the date hereof, the construction of railways and tramways, for special or public purposes, throughout the country; and for the construction of the following works, viz, docks, landing-stages, jetties, warehouses, and other works incidental to the same.
  • Article 2. The concessionaires to have the right to explore the country for the purpose of discovering mineral deposits, and to have the exclusive right to work the same or any mines they may claim to discover, which are not now being worked or have not been worked in a regular manner, and of which the government have not received notice, a list of such notices to be furnished to the concessionaires before commencing their explorations. The concessionaires may work, crush, smelt, or otherwise deal with such minerals and dispose of the produce of the said mines.
  • Article 3. The right to erect upon all government or public land, free of charge for such land, railways, tramways, stamps, mills, furnaces, saw-mills, and all works incidental to the same, required for the prosecution of the mining business of the concessionaires.
  • Article 4. The concessionaires to have every privilege now possessed by independent traders in the republic for trading in and dealing with the natural productions of the country, upon payment of such dues in each case as the aforesaid traders may be liable to.
  • Article 5. The concessionaires to receive free grants of all government or public land required for the construction of railways, roads, or tramways, for general or special purposes; all machinery and materials for the use of the works shall be admitted into the country free of impost, and the concessionaires may take for the construction of, and use in, their works such necessary public lands, timber, and other building-material, which may during the term of such concession be required for such purpose.
  • Article 6. Government to guarantee protection during the term of the concession to person and property, securing compensation to the concessionaires and their employés for all losses and damages which may be sustained from the inhabitants of the country, and in the event of any damage being so sustained, and any dispute arising between the government and the concessionaires as to the amount of the same, the case shall be submitted to arbitrators in the usual way.
  • Article 7. The concessionaires to pay to the government on the net profit derived by them, after deduction therefrom of six per cent, on capital account:
    • On all gold and silver, £6, 10s. 0d. per cent.
    • On copper, 1/20 of the net profit.
    • On lead and silver lead, 1/20 do.
    • On all other minerals, 1/20 do.
  • Article 8. The government to have the use of the railways and tramways for the conveyance of officials, transport of troops and materials of war, and all stores and materials belonging to the government not required for trading purposes, upon payment of the working expenses only.
  • Article 9, All profits derived from public traffic over such railways and tramways, after payment of six per cent, per annum interest upon capital account, to be divided share and share alike between the government and the concessionaires.
  • Article 10. On receiving the ratification of this agreement, the concessionaires undertake, under forfeiture of the concession, to send, within six months from the date of receiving the ratification, a competent engineer and agent, qualified to report on the mineral and other resources of Liberia—the government undertaking to provide the agents with guards, tents, carriage, food, and everything necessary for their safety and comfort, when required so to do, upon payment by the concessionaires of all reasonable costs and charges incurred by the government in doing so.
  • Article 11. The concessionaires, after investigating the resources of the country, under penalty of a forfeiture of their right, to be bound within a period of twelve months to find sufficient capital to develop to a reasonable extent such mines as may be discovered.
  • Article 12. Upon signing this agreement, the government to appoint Joseph Samuel Forbes, C. E., Assoc. Inst. C. E., as engineer-in-chief to the Liberian government during such term as he may be engaged upon the works of the concession; and in the event of the government requiring his services for or upon government public works, the government to pay to him such amount of salary or commission as may hereafter be mutually agreed upon.
  • Article 13. The term of the concession to be for fifty years, and at the expiration of that term the special privileges granted will cease and determine.




J. Jackson,
Consul-General for the Republic of Liberia.

Sir: I am desirous of obtaining from you a concession to establish a bank at Monrovia, the capital of your country, and I desire to obtain the concession on the following conditions:

  • First. That your government should furnish the bank with such a building as would be necessary for the transactions of its business, the said building to be at the absolute disposal of the bank free of charge.
  • Secondly. That upon the bank depositing £10,000, (to be increased to £25,000,) which sum shall be verified by your government, the bank shall be authorized to issue notes to the extent of three times the value of the capital so deposited.
  • Thirdly. That your government shall make the said notes a legal tender.
  • Fourthly. That your government shall keep a treasury account with the said bank, and all its receipts and expenditure shall pass through the bank. It would be necessary for the concession to be adopted by the legislature, and the charter drawn up in the usual way or form.
  • Fifthly. To have the exclusive right of manufacturing and issuing a copper coinage of cents or half-penny, whichever the government may deem advisable.
  • Sixthly. That the concession shall be for a duration of twenty-one years.

I have the honor to remain, sir, your most obedient servant,


His Excellency President J. J. Roberts, Liberia.

Sir: On behalf of myself and the friends of Liberia, I most respectfully but urgently solicit your powerful aid to grant me a concession.

  • First. To connect Liberia with the present system of Atlantic telegraph-lines. To do this it is essential that the government grant a concession, either giving a guarantee of 3 per cent, per annum upon that portion of the amount of capital which will be required to connect Liberia with the nearest state westward and the Cape de Verd Islands, so that if the net receipts per annum do not amount to such percentage, the government guarantee would make up the difference.
  • Secondly. Or that the government grant a concession for the sole right and privilege of landing submarine cables on the state or territory of Liberia.
  • Thirdly. Any concession that may be granted hereunder shall have a duration of forty years.
  • Fourthly. The concessionaires shall have the right to fix the tariff which they may deem fit, and which shall belong to them. The government messages to be charged at — per cent, less than that paid by the public.
  • Fifthly. The concessionaires to have the right and privilege of erecting land-telegraphs in the territory of Liberia where they may think proper, and working them in connection with their cables. This right to extend also for forty years, at the end of which time the land-lines to be taken by the government at a valuation.
  • Sixthly. Should the cable not be laid clown within five years from the date of the ‘Concession, the said concession shall be null and void.
  • Seventhly. The maintenance and repairing of the cable or cables shall be exclusively at the charge of the concessionaires.
  • Eighthly. The concessionaires to have the right of appointing their own superintendents, clerks, &c., for working the lines, and the sole control of the same.
  • Ninthly. In the event of a sole concession not being granted, the annual guarantee from the government of Liberia will be (at 30) £3,000 on a capital of £100,000.

Should your excellency deem that I have not explained myself sufficiently, and consent to grant me an interview, I may explain all points more satisfactorily.

I have the honor to remain, sir, your most obedient servant,


His Excellency President J. J. Roberts.

Sir: In addition to my former applications to your excellency for concessions to establish a bank at Monrovia, with the right of laying down cables for telegraphic purposes both marine and land, I now approach your excellency for a further concession, namely, the right to run a line of steamers from this country to Liberia, which right to last twenty-one years, the government of Liberia granting me a subsidy of a sum per year to be fixed on hereafter, for carrying all your mail-matters, commencing with one steamer and increasing them in number as the requirements of Liberia will warrant; said line of steamers to have the right of free entry to any port or ports of Liberia.

Trusting that my applications will claim from your excellency the consideration they so much merit, and with profound respect, I remain your excellency’s most obedient servant,


His Excellency President J. J. Roberts, Liberia.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 110.]

Mr. Turner to Mr. Moore.

Sir: The undersigned, United States minister-resident and consul-general, begs to invite your attention to a certain decision or opinion of the supreme court of your republic, as rendered in a certain case concluded at its last session, the title to which ‘case was, (I think,) The Honorable the House of Representatives versus The Republic of Liberia, and the subject-matter a question of constitutionality, for the purpose of respectfully requesting that you consent to furnish this legation with a copy of said decision or opinion of the supreme court of your republic.

The undersigned has the honor to be, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 110.]

Mr. Moore to Mr. Turner.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your communication of the 3d instant, and to forward herein, in compliance with your request, a copy of the opinion of the supreme court of the republic on the question propounded to it by the house of representatives. With assurances of the highest consideration and regard,

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in 3 in No. 110.]

Opinion of the supreme court.

The supreme court, in compliance to a resolution of the house of representatives of the republic of Liberia, soliciting its opinion as to whether the senate, by the constitution of the aforesaid republic, has exclusive privilege to grant a cession of lands, say [Page 705] there are no other privileges delegated to the senate as a branch of the national legislature, but those which are by the constitution distinctly and positively defined. The first of those privileges referred to is that of organizing its own government; adjudge the election returns and qualifications of its own members. It is also the exclusive privilege of the senate, when any treaty or treaties are made by the President, to either concur therein, or reject the same. It may be well here to state that a treaty, in the sense of the term employed in the constitution, can only be made between independent and sovereign nations. The second is the privilege to confirm by its advice and consent all officers named in the constitution when nominated by the President, viz, all ministers and consuls, secretaries of state, of war, of the navy, and of the treasury, attorney-general, all judges of the courts, justices of the peace, clerks of courts, registers, notaries public, sheriffs, coroners, marshals, and all other officers of the state, civil and military, whose appointment may not be otherwise provided for by the constitution, or by standing laws. And lastly, the trial of all impeachments belongs exclusively to the senate also. All other privileges assumed as being exclusive are unwarranted and unconstitutional. Therefore, it is the opinion of this court that the acts of the senate referred to by the resolution, in granting a cession of lands to a certain company, citizens of Great Britain, are unconstitutional, and therefore have no binding effect on the republic of Liberia.

January term, 1874.

A true copy from the department of state.


[Inclosure 4 in No. 110.]

Reply of the President to the senate.

The honorable the Senate of the Republic of Liberia:

Gentlemen: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of yesterday’s date, in which your secretary informs me of the “report of the special committee appointed to point out the omissions occurring in the executive communication of the 2d instant,” &c.

I learn from your communication that said committee have specified the following-named officials as having been omitted in my communication of the 2d instant, viz: secretary of the treasury, attorney-general, treasurer; county attorney for Montserrado and Grand Bassa Counties; superintendents of the several counties, general and provisional; surveyor of Montserrado County; sub treasurer for Sinoe County; commissioners to the interior of the several counties; commissioner of education, Maryland County; and commissioners to the International Exhibition, Philadelphia, U. S. A.

In reply, I beg to say that I think your special committee are in error in supposing that the commissioners of education for Maryland County were omitted, for I have received a communication from your honorable body in which your secretary informs me that Mr. J. A. Tuning, nominated to the senate as commissioner of education for Maryland County, has been rejected.

As to the commissioners to the interior and to the international exhibition, the laws made at this session authorizing their appointment expressly provide that they shall be appointed by the President, and they make no provision for those commissioners being nominated to and confirmed by the senate. And such a thing could not have been in the contemplation of the honorable legislators when those acts were passed, for it could hardly have been supposed that the Executive would have been able, within a few weeks after the passage of those acts, to select men suitable for such an important post as the representative of Liberia at an exhibition of the wealth and industry or all nations.

As to the subtreasurers, the surveyors, and the county attorneys for the several counties, the Executive finds no little trouble in securing suitable men for those as well as other important offices. In making appointments the Executive is bound, in duty, to consider more what benefit his appointees will be to the state than what benefit the appointment will be to them, but if the appointment is not of sufficient benefit to them they will not accept office. This is the case now with the office of attorney for Montserrado County. That officer has twice as much work as the county attorney in any other county, and he has often to contend against the most of the legal talent of the republic, and the salary is so small that I can find no one to take that office whose legal ability is at all likely to assert the majesty of the laws, and save the state from expense in contending with the legal talent that criminals would employ against.

As to the cabinet officers mentioned, and superintendents, and in fact all the other [Page 706] officers mentioned by your committee, the constitution and laws creating them declare that “they shall hold their offices during the pleasure of the President.” Now, I understand that to mean that when any one of these officers is once sent in to, and is confirmed by, the senate, he remains in office until the President, whoever may be that officer at that time, shall express his pleasure to remove him, unless he be removed by the act of God or his own will sooner than that.

If those officers have to be sent before the senate every two years to be reconfirmed, then they do not hold their office at the pleasure of the President, but at the pleasure of the senate.

As those officers are the representatives of the President, and as he has to repose special confidence in their ability and integrity, and has to rely upon some of them in an especial manner to enable him to govern successfully and peaceably the distant part of the country; and as the people hold him responsible in a great measure for their acts, it certainly seems right and proper, as it is legal and constitutional, that they should hold their offices during the pleasure of the President. And no harm can arise to the people from such a tenure of office; for there is a way provided in our constitution by which they can be removed at any time, for a sufficient cause.

Although all of the above-named officers hold their offices during the pleasure of the President, yet I would have no objection to sending before the senate for reconfirmation any of the said officers when practicable, except the members of my cabinet, and the superintendents of the several counties.

The Executive being sworn to support the constitution and enforce the laws, he must of necessity, in the first instance, constitute himself the interpreter of the laws and constitution, and if he misunderstand them the constitution itself has provided a way by which his mistake may be corrected and a true interpretation given.

These being my views, gentlemen, as to the officers above referred to, that is, cabinet officers and superintendents especially, and it being my pleasure to retain those who are now in office, for the present at least, I can see no necessity for sending their names again before the honorable senate for confirmation.

Where there are vacancies in any of the offices, they will be filled just as fast as suitable persons can be found to fill such offices.

Trusting that you will find, gentlemen, from this communication, that there were no omissions in my communication of the 2d instant, but that certain officers were not sent in, from inability to find suitable persons, and that others were not sent from a conscientious conviction that I am acting in accordance with our laws and constitution, and trusting that you will rightfully consider my actions in the premises,

I have the honor to be, gentlemen, your obedient servant,

[Inclosure 5 in No. 110.]

The honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia.

Gentlemen: Having been officially notified by a resolution of the house of representatives, adopted on the 10th instant, that a disagreement exists between the senate and house of representatives as to the time of adjournment, and requesting that the present session of the legislature be adjourned sine die, by executive prerogative, as in such cases made and provided, on Saturday the 14th instant, therefore, I, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, President of the republic of Liberia, by authority vested in me by the constitution of the republic, do hereby and by these presents adjourn the present session of the legislature of this republic sine die. from and after Saturday the 14th instant current, and from and after the said 14th instant the legislature of this republic stands adjourned as aforesaid.


Duplicate forwarded to the house of representatives.