No. 397.
Mr. Turner to Mr. Fish.

No. 168.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that, on the first Tuesday in the present month, the regular biennial election for president, vice-president, and members of the national legislature was held throughout the Republic of Liberia. The candidates for the presidency were Ex-President James S. Payne and A. W. Gardner, the present vice-president of Liberia.

The delay in reporting the election to the Department has been caused by the length of time necessarily employed in receiving the returns at Monrovia, and in procuring reliable statements on which to base this dispatch. At the present writing it appears to be generally understood and accepted by the people that the successful candidate is Ex-President James S. Payne. However, the official promulgation of the result of the election cannot occur, under the constitution, until the legislature shall have assembled in December, 1875, when the vote of the people must be opened and counted in the presence of that branch of the government by the secretary of state, and the result of the election thereafter officially declared by the legislature. I have thus far been unable to procure for the information of the Department platforms of the principles represented by the two political parties. Therefore, it may not be amiss for me to state that persons of both parties have remarked in my presence that there is little if any choice between the candidates for the presidency: yet, the political supporters of each seemed enthusiastic, and determined if possible to elect their candidate.

Mr. Payne was during two years president, and at the expiration, in January, 1876, of the official term of the present administration, Mr. Gardner will have been during four years vice-president of Liberia. I [Page 831] Lave beard it said by those whose knowledge and experience in the affairs of the country would seem to entitle their opinions to respect, that the administration of Mr. Payne made few, if any, progressive changes in the conduct of matters of public interest and of government. The political opponents of Mr. Payne are said to have made frequent allusions, daring the campaign, to the fact that the administration of which Mr. Payne was the head, issued what is known in this country as the debenture currency, and thereby increased the depreciation of the national finances. The debenture currency consisted in a kind of government paper, issued without coin-base, each note of which promised payment in gold to the holder, to the amount of the full face-value thereof, on the presentation of the same at the treasury of Liberia. This debenture paper was called in by the present administration, and a portion of the money obtained by the recent loan was used in the redemption thereof. Hence, there is at this time no debenture currency in circulation.

The present administration has saved to the country all that could be reached by the government of the loan contracted in England by the administration of the late Mr. Roye, paid sums of money on the national debts abroad, thus causing the country to expect to have regard extended from abroad to the disposition to honorably cancel the national debts whenever in the future the country may find itself in possession of an improved state of national finances; and to a great extent recovered the popular feeling from that unfortunate social and political commotion and partial disintegration into which society was thrown by the revolutionary occurrences of 1871. But these results of the administration with which Mr. Gardner is identified are generally credited to the sagacity and superior statesmanship of President Roberts, rather than to any other member or branch of the government as at present administered.

In making the above extract from the presidential experiences of the distinguished gentlemen who were candidates at the recent election for the presidency of their country, I have indulged the hope of being able to assist the Department in the appreciation of what is meant by those persons alluded to above as finding little if any choice between the candidates, and have, therefore, endeavored simply to follow the aggregate expressed opinion in this country as it has impressed me from time to time.

Mr. Payne and Mr. Gardner were born in the State of Virginia, and emigrated from the United States to Liberia about fifty years ago. Mr. Payne was born in the year 1815, and is therefore aged about sixty years; having come to this country during his boyhood, be received a somewhat liberal training in the mission schools of Liberia, then taught under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States. He chose for his profession the position of clergyman in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Liberia, and is said to have performed commendable service as a clergyman; heat present enjoys the reputation of being the most eloquent doctrinal preacher identified with the church in Liberia. As a statesman he is thought to rank with the foremost of his countrymen; he is said upon one occasion to have succeeded in competitory engagement with much of the political talent and ability of Europe for an award offered for the most ably written and best essay on the economy of government. His reputation is that of an honest man, of mature and generally sound judgment, possessing a firmness of character that, when opposed in matters of patriotism or of conviction, is said to have been known to become self poised and tend toward obstinacy. However, Mr. Payne has often expressed himself to me as [Page 832] being in favor of such economical reforms as are at once best adapted to the tastes and necessities of his countrymen, and of which the Liberian government is susceptible in her present unhappy financial and industrial prostration.

My personal intercourse with Ex-President Payne has been of an agreeable character; I have found him an affable gentleman of dignified bearing. He will, 1 have no doubt, have to encounter many perplexing problems of government, but I sincerely hope that his long identity and experience with public men and matters of government in this country has qualified him to know the wants of his people and to recognize the means of placing this struggling republic upon the high-road to successful development.

I have, &c.,