Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1879
to Mr. Evarts.
Monrovia, Liberia , January 9, 1879. (Received February 15.)
Sir: I have the honor, after unavoidable delay, to inform you that the Liberian Legislature convened on the first Monday in December, 1878, and thereupon the Senate proceeded to resolve itself into a high court [Page 702] of impeachment for the trial of ex-President Payne, the immediate predecessor of Mr. Gardner, the present incumbent. The trial had proceeded but a day when, on the following day, the House of Representatives, by resolution, caused a continuance from the present to the next Legislature. This course was pursued, it is generally believed, that Mr. Payne may be deprived of the privilege of aspiring to presidential preferment this year.
On the 12th of December, the day upon which the message was delivered, two copies of which are herewith inclosed, the President, his cabinet and the Senate accompanying him, repaired to the legislative hall, and the President in person, at twelve o’clock, read his message to the legislature and others present.
He first referred to the recent emigrations by the Liberia and the Azore, and the expense of the maintenance of the emigrants of the Azore by the government, on account of their extreme poverty.
Recommendation was made to the Legislature to pass some law regulating the distribution of emigrants, that the responsibility of doing” so should not be left to the “caprice” of the executive.
Reference was made to the decrease of the volume of currency by burning, and the course pursued by the secretary of the treasury approved, and the hope indulged that a better financial time was coming for the republic.
A railway scheme of Messrs. Criswick and Burnell, of London, to extend from Monrovia to Musardu (interiorward), was discussed, its advantages set forth, and a recommendation made to the Legislature to accept the proposals made and make the concessions asked by the passage of the law. It was asked by the President that some plan be adopted to augment the revenue. No other request could be made of the importance of this as affecting the present and future well-being of Liberia.
The foreign relations of the government were referred to as being in a most satisfactory condition. The recent differences with the Netherlands, it was said, had been amicably adjusted through His Netherland Majesty’s consul-general. In this connection a decided disapproval was expressed as to the dual relation of merchant and consul, and legislation tasked with reference to the matter.
If this suggestion should be heeded by legislation, the German and Dutch Governments would not be likely to have consular representation here at all, as the fees paid consular officials are merely nominal.
The message contained almost an entire history of the “northwest boundary question”—to what end no indication was given. The expectancy of Commodore Shufeldt is foreshadowed as the arbitrator, and mention of my arrival as the representative of the United States and an expression of regret that England has not a like officer accredited to the government.
The request made by me for the settlement of the claim held by the United States against the Liberian Government for arms and munitions of war was referred to, and immediate action asked to be taken in the matter. I inclose copy of letter recently addressed me as to the claim from the Liberian state department.
Other liabilities of the government were referred to and action asked to be taken as to their adjustment.
The matter of opening of new ports of entry was called to the attention of the body, the opening of them urged, and the commercial advantages of such course both to the government and native population pointed out.[Page 703]
The “navigation, commerce, and revenue laws,” it is said, should be amended so that whether a vessel comes in the ports of the republic with cargo or in ballast, in either event tonnage duties may be exacted. This was evidently suggested by the recent case of R. R. Barcley, master of the bark Elverton, of Baltimore, who arrived here recently from Rio de Janeiro in ballast, but with $15,000 or $20,000 for the purchase of coffee scions and seed, and when he applied for clearance after the expenditure of some $12,000, in gold and silver, it was refused, on the frivolous pretext that money was as any article of cargo, and tonnage dues should be paid upon it as it came in the bark. After having shown the absurdity of the demand under Liberian law, clearance was reluctantly given. Now the President asks legislation to reach such cases, and to his country’s prejudice.
The necessity of making some change in the public-school system is earnestly insisted upon, whereas there exists nothing that rises to the dignity of a system at all.
Mention is made of the deaths of O. B. Dunbar, Maryland, late senator; Dr. Fletcher, late secretary of Maryland County.
On Tuesday, December 17, 1878, the secretary of the treasury transmitted the annual statement of the finances of the republic to the representatives. The receipts from all sources during the fiscal year ending 30th of September, 1878, were $119,889.60; disbursements, $124,166.63; excess of the latter over the former, $4,277.03.
The aggregate of receipts are thus divided between the counties of—
|Grand Bass||60,674 36|
Debentures registered as unpaid during the fiscal year, $10,377.09; amount spent in the interest of Azor emigrants, $4,262.60.
The summary of the financial condition of the government at the close of the fiscal year shows the insolvency of the government within; but look without, and to this add our claim of $48,000, with four years’ accrued interest, an English loan of a half million, with interest, and comment beyond the figures seems unnecessary.
I am, &c.,
Monrovia, Liberia , January 7, 1879.
Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge your dispatch of October 19, calling the attention of this government to the liability of the same in favor of the United States.
I have to express very sincere regret that the claim has not been met before this, and beg to assure you that it is not the result of any want of inclination to do so, but from pressure of a most distressing pecuniary embarrassment, received due consideration, and his excellency the President will urge upon the Legislature now in session to provide a way for meeting the interest due on said claim.
With sentiments of very high consideration, I have the honor to be your excellency’s humble, obedient servant,
His Excellency John H. Smyth,
United States Minister Resident and Consul-General, Monrovia.
Message of His Excellency President A. W. Gardner to the Legislature, December 12, 1878.
Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Gentlemen: I have the honor as well as the pleasure of congratulating you on the present occasion. We have abundant reasons to be thankful to the great Arbiter of all human events for His preserving care. He has crowned our efforts in giving us a bountiful harvest and has mercifully preserved us from famine and pestilence.
Since your last meeting there has been an accession of immigrants by the Azor of 242 persons, and by the Liberia, if I am correctly informed, of 70 persons. The immigrants per Azor were poorly prepared for self-support, as had been announced by the “Liberian Exodus Association,” and in view of this fact, and the very destitute condition of said immigrants, the government had not only to rent houses to shelter them, but also to furnish provisions and medical attention during their acclimation. And here I must give the Azor immigrants much credit for their industry and enterprise since their arrival in the country. They have labored hard and done much to help themselves. Many of them have drawn their lands, located, and gone to work on their farms; a more industrious people have, perhaps, never immigrated to these shores, and they should be encouraged by all possible means. I would, however, recommend, as there is a spirit of immigration pervading every State in the American Union, that some law should be made regulating immigrants to Liberia and their location in the several counties of this republic. The privilege of locating immigrants should not be left to executive caprice or discretion, but something definite in the form of law to enable the executive to act without suspicion of partiality or local prejudice should be enacted.
I have also to inform your honorable body that, in keeping with the recommendation as contained in your report on immigration at the last session, I authorized the commissioners to rent suitable houses for said immigrants until they could provide for themselves; and I beg most respectfully to request your approval of the amount expended. The honorable secretary of the treasury will, at an early day, lay the account before you for your consideration and approval. Before leaving the subject of immigration, allow me to urge upon you the importance and necessity of a law regulating the same. Every encouragement should be given to promote immigration to Liberia, not only from America, but from all parts of the civilized world where our brethren are scattered and earnestly longing to return to their fatherland.
I regret to inform you that the government schooner “Emmy,” sent to Grand Bassa County by my predecessor some fourteen months ago for repairs, is still at that place, said “to be undergoing repairs.” The government needs the service of that vessel as a coasta guarda, and especially at this time, to place her at the disposal of our commissioners to Sierra Leone on the northwest boundary question. But most unfortunate for the government, the contractors, Messrs. Clinton & Son, have failed to repair the “Emmy,” in time for the purpose above named. I do not think the failure to repair said vessel can in any way be attributed to the government. I have not only issued three warrants of $1,200 each, but I have in every communication urged upon the honorable superintendent of Grand Bassa County to push forward the repairs to completion and to get the Emmy to sea at as early a day as possible, as foreigners, and especially those trading below Cape Palmas, are disposed to contravene the revenue laws of the republic with impunity. But from some cause or other the “Emmy” still remains not repaired; and I am inclined to the opinion that Messrs. Clinton & Son, having to build their own vessel, have not had the time to devote to the repairs of the “Emmy,” as I am sure it was not for the want of money to meet the current expenses. The Bassa treasury has not been wanting in money in this respect. It is due to Grand Bassa County that I should here remark that it has, to a very great extent, met the current expense of the general government as well as the expense of some of the other counties of the republic.
It is proper that I should here state that the act of the Lesgislature regulating the burning of a certain portion of the currency received at the treasury department has had a very beneficial effect, not only in promoting labor thoughout the country, but it is nearly at par value with gold coin. Currency is in great demand. Let well enough alone. The problem is self-evident and will work itself out in pure gold; touch it, and a reverse action—say depreciation—will immediately follow, and the energies of government will become paralyzed, and leave no hope whatever of paying one dollar of our foreign debt, much less to carry on a healthy government. Every species of internal improvement will collapse, as it has done for the last sixteen years, and every public building go to wreck, leaving not a jail, the most common of all buildings, sufficient to secure a common thief, much less a murderer. My advice is, let us endure like good soldiers the present hardships, as better and more glorious days are ahead. We have only to take the signs of the times and give latitude to the admission of capital and the promotion of internal improvement. The time has come that the government and people of Liberia should lay aside all timidity and embrace some of the proffers calculated to give labor and improve the condition of the country. It is evident [Page 705] that we need money in the country for every purpose, and we can only obtain money by developing the resources of our commercial and agricultural interests. The world of mankind is moving with gigantic strides, evident by steam-power, turning every thing to account in a very short time. Inventive genius and steam-power are renovating the world, and it is high time that Liberia should feel some of this renovating power, and it is to be hoped that our country will awake on this important matter, and no longer defer the accepting of proffers or concessions calculated to benefit the country and relieve humanity.
And here I would inform your honorable body that I will, in due time, lay before the honorable Senate a project of concession for a railway from Monrovia to Musardu. I need not here enlarge on the propriety or utility of a railway in any country; it stands at the head of every facility for commercial business, travel, and intercourse. Messrs. Criswick and Burnell, of London, are desirous, at their own cost and responsibility, of projecting a railway from Monrovia to Musardu; and all they ask of the government is a concession of sufficient quantity of land to plant said railway, and I can see no good reason why the government may not make the concession. Our interior abounds in a vast variety of natural resources that can be made subservient to the commerce of the world, as well as a great benefit to Liberia, to say nothing of the civilizing effect upon the aboriginal inhabitants of the Republic of Liberia. Commerce is said “to be a powerful civilizer to any people,” but I am inclined to the opinion that the iron horse, emitting his fiery flames through our densely populated interior, will prove a greater civilizer than mere commerce; it will wake up thousands and tens of thousands that are barred from all intercourse with our civilized and Christianized communities. The kings and headmen of Bopora and Musardu will not only be able to visit our seaboard towns at any and all times, but they will compete with each other in bringing down their gold, iron, cattle, hides, cotton, cloths, ground-nuts, bennet-seed, and rice, and their intercourse will bring about such an alliance and friendship such as can never be severed. They are our brethren, and it is only necessary for us to understand them and they understand us, and all things will conspire not only to make the republic numerically strong, but a happy and wealthy people.
Now, fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives, allow me to impress upon you the propriety, as well as the necessity, of adopting some plan that will augment the revenue; this you can do without any risk of uprooting any privilege guaranteed in the constitution to your children to the latest generation. I shall rely upon the patriotism of the Senate to ratify the concession for a railway in Liberia in the manner set forth in the agreement which I shall submit for consideration.
Our foreign relations are friendly and of a reciprocal character. All matters of difference between this government and the Government of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, growing out of the complaint of Consul Marschalk, have been amicably adjusted and settled, and I trust satisfactorily to His Majesty. Consul-General Hamel, a most polite and able gentleman, was intrusted by his government to settle these matters.
The Liberian Government can, as well as the Netherland Government, appreciate the disinterested and courteous manners in which Consul-General Hamel discussed the subject submitted to his mission to Liberia. There can be no doubt but that Consul-General Hamel has fully observed that, in order to avoid everything like a misunderstanding or complication in matters of trade and commerce, especially in our position, just struggling into existence as a nation, no individual who is a merchant should be accredited to this government as a consul.
This dual character of merchant and consul at the same time is calculated, from a blended interest and honor, not only to engender strife, but complications of a bellicose character, which we as a weak people cannot ward off, but must yield obedience to everything which a merchant consul who chooses to regard his interest and honor infringed may impose.
And I would here be understood that the government has nothing special against Captain Marschalk either as a consul, a merchant, or as a gentlemen, but simply state that the dual position appears to be incompatible and should be discountenanced.
Since the last meeting of your honorable body Her Britannic Majesty’s Government has thought proper that the northwest boundary question should be settled, and in keeping with this opinion Lord Salisbury, secretary for foreign affairs, has been pleased to direct his excellency the governor of Sierra Leone to inform this government that commissioners on the part of Her Majesty’s Government have been appointed, and that the Liberian Government is requested to appoint commissioners on her part, to settle said question, and also the claims of certain Sierra Leone traders for alleged spoliation of property by the Liberian troops in 1871 at Salijah and other points in the immediate vicinity of the Gallinas and Manna countries.
It is to be regretted that this question of our claims from the river Jong to Solima has been so long held in abeyance. To my mind, if I have the right views and conceptions of the claim of the Liberian Government to these territories, it is not to be questioned. Our claims to the territory from the Jong, including all that portion of [Page 706] country known as Gumbo, Muttro, Gallinas, and Shebar (now in dispute), is of more than twenty-seven years’ standing, and it is a maxim of national law, says Mr. Wool-sey, that “the territory of a nation, or that portion of the earth over which it exercises the right of sovereignty, may have begun to pertain to it in a variety of ways. It may have derived its title, first, from immemorial occupation of land before vacant; second, from occupation by colonies or other incorporation of land before occupied; third, from conquest, accepted as a fact and at length ending in prescriptive right; fourth, from purchase or gift.” The Liberian Government, following the principles laid down by the American Government in the precedent of settling America, took the just and honorable course of paying for the soil on which it had established itself, and I must state, from forty-seven years’ residence in the country, and to my certain knowledge, the Liberian Government has acted steadily on the principle of extinguishing the native title by treaty and payment of a price. Commander Stockton, of the United States Navy, set an example in this particular when he removed our fathers from the Sherbro and landed them on these shores. He then laid down the golden rule, if we would be happy and prosperous, we must do unto the heathen man as we would have him do unto us, and English philanthropists, from our early settlement here, have constantly encouraged us to persevere honestly in acquiring the territory from the natives by purchase; which the American Colonization Society has done, or, in other words, steadily followed during its administration of government, and which every President (of the republic) has scrupulously pursued since our independence as a republic. And it would be almost impossible for an executive of Liberia to depart from these praiseworthy examples of an honorable purchase of the soil by Commodore Stockton and Mr. Ayers, Governors Ashmun, Mecklin, Skinner, Buchanan, Hall, of Cape Palmas to the river San Pedro; President Roberts, of the Gallinas and adjacent territories in the years 1849 and 1851, from a donation by Mr. Gurney, a British philanthropist. To now question our rights to these, territories would seem to undermine the very foundation of the Republic of Liberia, and set at naught the fundamental principle of law that says, “deeds and other writings shall be evidence against all parties to them, and shall also be evidence of the transfer of all titles or rights transferable by them, against all mankind.” These executive officers of Liberia were men of undoubted Christian character and veracity, and did all in their day not only to assimilate but to incorporate the heathen element with us, and their labors are seen and felt throughout the length and breadth of Liberia. The Liberian Government has not only paid a full and just consideration in money for the territory from the river Jong on the northwest to the river San Pedro on the southeast, but the government, from the instigation of unprincipled traders along our coast, has paid an invaluable price in blood. Harris, of all Englishmen that ever traded on the Liberian coast, has done us more injury in promoting rebellion, sedition, and insubordination than all the world put together. He is the principal agent in causing the natives in our northwest boundary to deny our title to the territory, and I am sure our deeds carry on their faces what every true and honest lawyer would term presumptio juris et de jure, and Harris’s conduct, if in any other country except Liberia, would have caused him long since to have been brought to justice and suffered the consequences of the law.
As I see noted in the “report of the committee of the House of Commons, and ordered to be printed June 26, 1865,” there is, to my view and opinion, no difference between the substance and language of our deeds for the northwest territories and the deed of cession by the king and headmen of Lagos and parts adjacent, to Her Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain. And why our deeds should be disputed for the natives is a matter to me unaccountable and most unreasonable, unless it is for the purpose of allowing foreigners to have a better opportunity of taking an advantage of our commerce in that portion of our territory without paying the import and export dues, as Harris has done for the last sixteen years, thereby causing a loss of revenue to this republic of at least $150,000. Until Harris trespassed upon our territory and instigated the natives to insubordination and a denial of our title to the northwest territory, the aboriginal inhabitants were perfectly at peace, friendly and loyal to government. Harris’s persistent and defiant attitude has caused this government to pay an immense sum of money, to say nothing of the loss of life, wounded and decrepit soldiers, now pensioners upon this government for life.
If we contrast the conduct of Harris, now residing on the disputed territory and carrying on an extensive mercantile business without paying duties, with Englishmen generally who have traded along our coast for twenty-eight years prior to the government confining and restricting all foreign vessels to ports of entry, we shall observe a great difference in characters. Take, for instance, old Captain Spence, who first introduced the palm-oil trade, and Captain Dring Murray, Cortland, and a number of others who followed; while in some instances there were a few who did not come up to the mark of national courtesy and respect, yet they were generous and noble-hearted Englishmen, and would never give the least encouragement to our aboriginal inhabitants to resist the authority of the (Liberian) government. And in every [Page 707] case of emergency or war they were among the first to come to our assistance by supplying provisions and, in some instances, munitions of war. These honest English traders, unlike some now in our midst from undue forestalling, regretting, and competition, never misrepresented the government and people of Liberia, and as a consequence we had no trouble with them. And I am sure trade was better and more profitable than it is now.
But to recur to our right and title to every part of the territory between the river Jong and Grand Cape Mount, I would remark that the question, according to mutual understanding, will be finally settled by commissioners; and from the tenor of our deeds of cession and confirmation, the Government of Liberia has good reason to believe that Her Majesty’s commissioners will do Liberia the justice to acknowledge the validity of our title-deeds from the fact, patented by nations and reiterated by Mr. Vattel, that “when a nation takes possession of a country to which no prior owner can lay claim [and there are none prior to Liberia], it is considered as acquiring the umpire or sovereignty of it at the same time with the domain. For, since the nation is independent, it can have no intention in settling in a country to leave to others the right of command or any of those rights that constitute sovereignty. The whole space over which a nation extends its government becomes the seat of jurisdiction and is called its territory.” And it cannot be denied, but is a fact generally known and accepted, that the Liberian Government exercised unmolestedly the seat of jurisdiction over Gumbo, Muttro, Gallinas; and the Shebar from 1849 to 1863, when our title was first disputed and called in question by Lord John Russell, from some complaint that had been made at the foreign office of the seizure of the Phebe and Emily, two Sierra Leone schooners, for violation of the revenue laws of this republic, which vessels were taken and towed out of the port of Monrovia by Her Majesty’s ship of war the Torch. And I can but think that when our claim to the above-mentioned territory is properly and fairly laid before the commissioners and adjudged according to common law, that a party to the deed is estopped from invalidating his own deliberate act, that Her Britannic Majesty’s commissioners will accord to the Government of Liberia that courtesy and comity that is due to the most potent nation on earth. The English Government is too just and magnanimous to deprive us of a just and equitable claim to our northwestern territory. And, again, there is another maxim of international law which is generally acknowledged and conceded by nations, and that is, the domain of the nation extends to everything she possesses by a just title; it comprehends her ancient and original possession, and all her acquisitions made by means which are just in themselves, or admitted as such among nations, concessions, purchase, conquest made in regular war, &c. And by her possessions we ought not only to understand her territories, but all the rights she enjoys. The native chiefs and headmen of the territories above named being sovereigns, and absolute owners of the soil at the time of ceding the same, and owing allegiance to no power on earth, have of their own free will and accord ceded the above-mentioned territory to the Republic of Liberia, and at the time of alienation incorporated themselves with the republic as citizens of the same, and our title cannot be regarded otherwise than just, the same having been acquired by means just in themselves. This principle of international law I feel confidence that Her Majesty’s Government cannot fail to recognize, especially as all her acquisitions of territory on the west coast of Africa stand precisely upon the same fundamental basis, and to reject or repudiate this principle of international law is simply to support it vi et armis, which Her Majesty’s Government can maintain, but Liberia cannot.
The Government of Liberia is content to rest her claim upon these fundamental principles underlying the well-being and perpetuity of nations. We simply ask at the hand of Her Majesty’s Government that justice in respect to our northwest territory that she would require and demand in any interest that she could or would claim for any of her colonies, whether on the west coast of Africa or in the East Indies. And inclosing my remarks on this subject, I cannot well conclude without referring to another principle of international law which Mr. Woolsey lays down as a rule accepted by nations and as a settled point. He says: “The territory of a state includes all that portion of terra firma which lies within boundaries of the state, as well as the waters; that is, the interior seas, lakes, and rivers wholly contained within the same lines. Thus the sea of Azof, the Volga, Lake Michigan, the Ohio, and the Sea of Marmora, are exclusively in the territory, respectively, of Russia, the United States, and Turkey.” And as the Jong branch of the Shebar was definitely understood by Earl Russell, Her Majesty’s secretary for foreign affairs, and President Benson, in 1862, to be the northwest boundary of the Republic of Liberia, it was so noted on the chart by Admiral Washington, and in view of this fact, as well known to Her Majesty’s Government, the territory of Gumbo, Muttro, and the Gallinas, lying between the Shebar and Solima, must have been regarded, according to the doctrine of Mr. Woolsey, the bona-fide property of the Republic of Liberia, made doubly sure by purchase.
The form of a conveyance by the chiefs and headmen to the Republic of Liberia is very simple, as many words would darken counsel by the formality of its manner, the [Page 708] prolixity of its provisions, and the usual redundancy of its language. It is usually by bargain and sale according to the second section of an act relating to treaties and the negotiation with the surrounding chiefs and headmen of native tribes for land, &c., that the possession passes ex vi fact without the necessity of livery of seisin, reference to the statute of uses. And I trust the Liberian commissioners will draw the attention of Her Majesty’s commissioners to the apparent good understanding between Earl Russell and President Benson in 1862 in regard to our northwest boundary, as well as subsequently to the evidence of Consul-General Ralston before the committee of the House of Commons, reported June 26, 1865, in which Mr. Ralston very clearly sets forth the claim of the Liberian Government to the territory above named, especially, as I have intimated before; the question of the right and title to the Jong appears to have been settled by President Benson and Earl Russell, except the course, which was to have been determined for sixty miles interiorward.
There seems to have been some difference of opinion as to the true course of the river Jong, and it was agreed by Earl Russell and President Benson that a “commission of survey” should be appointed to ascertain the true course, and if it was ascertained that the said river did not run to the north, then in that case a line from the cafe or bend of said river was to run due north 60 miles interiorward, forming the northwestern boundary of the Republic of Liberia. See the Jong notes on the chart in red ink by Admiral Washington. And it was not until President Benson returned from England that this boundary question assumed quite a different phase and has subsequently been the subject of a diplomatic correspondence until now, and in the mean time English traders especially have taken advantage and entered the disputed territory, traded, and in a word done as they have pleased without the slightest deference or courtesy to the Government of Liberia; and in consequence of this discourtesy we have lost thousands of dollars by the question being held in abeyance. And the Government of Liberia cannot but feel grateful to Lord Salisbury in desiring to bring the question to a speedy termination. According to a newspaper notice, the Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, Commodore Schufeldt will not only visit the African coast as the American arbitrator on the Liberian boundary commission, but he has had several conferences with Secretary Thompson in regard to his proposition to examine into the resources and demands of the African trade, and the Secretary has concluded to give him the command of the Ticonderoga, with directions to visit the west coast of Africa.
Hon. John H. Smyth, the newly-appointed minister resident and consul-general from the United States to Liberia, arrived on or about the 31st of July, and was formally received by me on the 19th of August last.
It would be a pleasure if Her Britannic Majesty’s Government had a similar officer accredited to this government. It does seem to me that our commercial relations with England warrant the accreditation of such a minister, as well as an accommodation to British traders in our midst, on matters of difference that may arise from trade, or the infringement of the lex loci of the country.
With respect to our internal affairs, as above alluded to, I would remark that it is important that some act should be passed at this session to increase the revenue. While there is a gradual increase of our commerce and revenue in some parts of the republic, there is a fearful falling off in other parts; for instance, in Montserrado County the commerce and revenue has greatly fallen off to what it was a few years ago, and I can only account for it in one or two ways; the first is, the principal trade is carried on for greenbacks, drafts, and coffee, on which there is no duty or revenne accruing to government. There are thousands of dollars in greenbacks, drafts, coffee, and specie that go out of the country on which the country do not derive one cent of benefit, and yet the republic is called upon and expected to meet the current expenses of government without receiving an adequate revenue from her commerce, or even a tax upon the country. And I would here inform your honorable body that we have foreign debts to pay, and our present system of paper money cannot meet the demand now upon the country, and it will become the duty of the present session of the Legislature to devise ways and means to meet the demands upon this government for money due foreigners. Hon. John H. Smyth, minister resident and consul-general on the part of the United States Government, has, since his arrival, demanded the amount due for arms and ammunition furnished this government in 1868. And, gentlemen of the Legislature, you will have to arrange in some way to enable the secretary of the treasury to meet the demand, which must be done at an early day as possible, and I need not remind your honorable body of other foreign demands, as you are aware that not even, the interest has been paid on the English loan. These are matters that must claim your undivided attention during the present session.
Secondly, the produce trade is not extensively prosecuted in Montserrado County owing, as I suppose, to native disturbances in the interior which have tended no little to retard the trade almost from one end of the county to the other. It has occurred to me that the government is derelict in not putting down and removing these obstructions to trade, and causing the highway to the interior to be open to the ingress and egress [Page 709] of the far interior tribes desiring to trade with us. Much depends upon the prosperity and protection of our trade to insure a revenue to government. And here I would most respectfully recommend not only the protection of our trade from the interior, but the opening of a few more ports of entry and delivery along our coast. Our aboriginal inhabitants, a most industrious class, for the want of a few more intermediate ports are greatly inconvenienced and circumscribed. I believe our trade might be increased tenfold by a few additional ports. And for the greater accommodation of our citizens would it not be well to amend and supplement the present port of entry law in such a manner as that foreigners desiring to open business in any of our Americo-Liberian settlements, may have the privilege of doing so I make the recommendation upon the principle of international law that “it is the duty of nations to encourage their foreign trade.” And especially as the freedom of trade tends to, the prosperity and happiness of a nation. And in this, connection I would further remark that I notice a very interesting paragraph in the African Repository under date of October last, headed, “Liberia, its resources and prospects,” which reads thus: “People in remote regions of the world who had never heard of Liberia are now hearing of it through its coffee. The London Times of August 28 contained a whole column advertising Liberia coffee-plants. Orders are sent for seed and young plants from all the coffee producing countries in the world. Thus it would seem that Providence has provided a means not only for the comfortable support, but for the wealth of the thousands of hard-working and enterprising Africans in this country who are looking toward the land of their fathers; and it is to be hoped that the Liberian Government will know how to raise the revenue from this large demand for one of the most valuable products of the country.”
I would here note that hitherto the government was not disposed to put a duty upon coffee for fear it might have a tendency to discourage the enterprising citizen planting it in large quantities, but in order to give a stimulus to the growing of coffee, the government gave a large premium to every person who would engage in this laudable and industrious enterprise. And here I would remark that, as small and insignificant as our revenue has been and is now, thousands of dollars have been paid to the citizens under the act of the Legislature regulating “agriculture throughout the Republic of Liberia;” and, strange to say, these very coffee trees and plants for which government have expended so much money in premiums are now being sold and sent out of the country by hundreds of thousands; said plants are actually sold for less than the premium paid by government. It is a burning shame that any such advantage should be taken of the government in this manner! While I do not recommend a prohibition to the sale and exportation of coffee plants and seed, I do recommend a very high protective duty to be levied and assessed upon this article, especially as every nation has the right of judging for itself in respect to the policy and extent of its commercial arrangements. The general freedom of trade, however reasonably and strangely it may be inculcated in the modern school of political economy, is but an imperfect right and necessarily subject to such regulations and restrictions as each nation may think proper to prescribe for itself.
To revert again to Internal affairs, I beg most respectfully to inform your honorable body that for want of funds, and the falling off of the revenue, I thought it best to defer for the present the repair of the executive mansion, and repair the court-house and Senate chamber, as we have no public building for the court or the use of the Senate, I trust, however, to have this building ready for the use of the Senate in the course of the next two or three weeks, as well as the lower story of said building for the use of the court.
I am pleased, however, to inform you that I am gradually collecting the material for the repair of the executive mansion; an iron roof has been ordered out from England for it, which is daily expected to arrive. And in this connection I would further inform you that I have in contemplation the erection of a custom-house, 40 by 60 feet, 20 feet high, for the port of Monrovia, and I have to request an appropriation for the same; for it is certainly high time that the port of Monrovia had a custom-house, as there have been none to my knowledge since our independence. The office of the customs has been draged all over town, from one side of Ashman street to the other—and now it is in the old mansion. We can do beter and better shall be done. I beg also to inform your honorable body that the superintendent of Grand Bassa County has made an arrangement to get an iron court-house for that place, and we wish for him every success in the undertaking.
I regret to acquaint you, on inquiring, that, notwithstanding the amount of three or more thousand dollars that have been drawn in the shape of debentures, nothing has been done towards rebuilding the court-house in Sinoe County. It is said “there is not a block or piece of timber on the ground or the first piece cut for said building;” the fault is somewhere, I cannot say where. I have, however, urged upon the superintendent of Sinoe County to cause said building to be erected under the law regulating public work, but the plea is “the Legislature has stopped the payment of the debentures and the government has violated her contract and the contractors absolved [Page 710] from all responsibility or liability to government to erect said court-house.” How the contractors obtained the full amount in debentures in advance is a matter that I do not understand. To parties engaging to perform public work under bond, it is usual to advance one-third to commence the work, and when the work is half completed to give another one-third, and when completed to satisfaction the last one-third is then paid, and the work handed over to government. I regret much that I am not in a position to report even progress on the court-house in Sinoe County. I am sure, it is no fault of mine to be unable to do so, but I hope to commence that building, if I cannot complete it, during the present fiscal year. If the amount appropriated had not been drawn in debentures in advance, that building might have been very far advanced, if not entirely completed.
Light-houses. I can only offer or assign the same reasons as above mentioned (the want of funds) for not commencing the light-houses in Bassa and Since Counties. I am aware of the great need of these buildings, but the revenue has been so small and uncertain that I dare not direct the superintendent of Bassa and Sinoe Counties to commence said buildings, and I know not that I shall ever have the privilege of doing so. The executive term of office is so very short and uncertain that it is impossible to do much to profit. The executive is inaugurated on the first Monday in January in a presidential term of two years, and in sixteenth months after another presidential election comes on, and very little, if anything, of importance can be done in sixteen months. Such a régime and administration of affairs, doing and undoing as our political predilection may direct, can never benefit the country. I do not give utterance to the above sentiment because I am desirous of a re-election, but for the general good, peace, harmony, and prosperity of our government. Doubtless, the more thinking portion of our citizens have seen the evil of the frequent elections; political rancor, antipathy, and non-association is the order of the day, and these unhallowed feelings extend to and affect the church of God.
Let us review the days of Roberts and Benson, when they were continued in office for eight years—pristine days. What prosperity and sociality compared with these days of aspiration and unfriendliness!
But to return to our subject of internal improvement. Much depends upon the government in promoting a division of labor in the country. Every species of labor should be encouraged by holding out inducements as a reward of labor, genius, and enterprise. National fairs and reward are the order of the day among highly cultured and refined nations, and Liberia should not be behind in exhibiting her products, however rude they may be. Life and activity must be infused into the people by some national movement, and I recommend some national effort in this direction. Let the government be willing to make the first effort, and the people will follow, as in days past. The people seem to be indifferent in some respects as to what is going on, and it is time they should awake and consider, not only how they shall improve their own individual condition, but the condition of the country. This we can do by a spirit of liberality that pervades, more or less, every nation; not by restricting commerce, nor by isolation from the world now advancing with gigantic strides in the arts and sciences and turning everything in nature to account.
The honorable secretary of the treasury will, at an early day, lay before your honorable body his report on the finance of the country, and, doubtless, you will there see the necessity of improving, as far as practicable, the financial condition of the country, not by an additional tariff duty, but rather a modification or reduction of the tariff, so as to bring about more of a uniform system in our revenue laws. Many of the amendatory and supplementary acts are so ambiguous, vague, and loose that it is not very difficult for the keen-eyed merchant to drive a coach and six through, and thus escape paying the government her just dues, either for tonnage or the duty arising on merchandise. The system of bonding goods, wares, and merchandise is very defective, and the laws should be amended or repealed in toto. The idea of a private bonded warehouse is chimerical and wholly unsafe so far as it relates to the securing of the duty accruing to government, and I would recommend some amendment, or the repealing of that portion of the law. I am decidedly of the opinion that the committee on navigation, commerce, and revenue should, by all possible means, consolidate the several acts on these subjects, and thus make plain in the most ample manner the revenue laws of the republic. The law passed and approved February 8, 1878, regulating the payment of tonnage dues by vessels which may casually visit a single port of entry within the Republic of Liberia should be reviewed and enlarged; the words “goods, wares, and merchandise” preclude the right to demand the tonnage dues on a vessel bringing gold and buying up a cargo of produce or other commodity of the country. If the collector demand tonnage, the captain will say at once that he has landed no goods, wares, or merchandise, and he will not pay the tonnage dues. I trust that your honorable body will see the propriety of changing the phraseology of the law.
There is one more subject that I take the liberty of calling your serious attention to, and that is the large quantity of unoccupied land in our several settlements once [Page 711] drawn by persons who have died, leaving no relatives or heirs to claim said land; in my opinion, a statute of escheat or reversion should be passed regulating this matter. Our cities and towns, as well as the farming districts, are overgrown with noxious weeds and trees on lands which no person can legally claim, and I would, therefore, invite your attention to this subject.
The education of the youth of Liberia is a subject of vital importance and should deeply interest the nation; the manner in which our public schools are conducted, the want of competent teachers and substantial school-houses, situated in some central position in the respective counties so as to be convenient to the outlying settlements, is a matter I hope will claim your most serious consideration. And I would further invite your attention to the law regulating public schools. It maybe that the several acts need to be amended in order to give a greater efficiency to our educational system; if so, I can but recommend the necessary amendment. I regret very much that owing to my recent induction into office I can say little or nothing in regard to the Liberia College, as I have no knowledge of its operation or the officers, nor have I been informed as to who is the president, or whether the trustees have elected a president or not. If not, it is their duty to do so according to the fourth section of an act to amend and consolidate the several acts concerning Liberia College, passed and approved December, 1864.
It is simply the duty of the “president of the Republic of Liberia to inspect the state and condition of the college; and the proper officers of the college shall, upon his request, furnish him with an account of the government, a list of its officers and teachers, with their names and professions, the branches of education taught, the studies pursued, the number of students in the different departments, and a statement of its pecuniary resources,” &c. For the want of the above information I must respectfully decline saying anything with respect to this most Interesting institution of learning, trusting, however, that whatever may be remiss will soon be rectified and the college prove a great blessing to Liberia.
It is with much sorrow and grief that I have to inform your honorable body that since your last meeting Senator C. B. Dunbar departed this life, much lamented by his friends and the country. As a medical man, the loss of Dr. Dunbar will be felt in this community, if not throughout the republic, for a long time to come; and as an industrious and enterprising farmer and as a loyal citizen, Dr. Dunbar’s loss is keenly felt.
I have also to inform you of the death of Dr. Fletcher, late superintendent of Maryland County. The loss of Dr. Fletcher’s eminent services to the country, both as physician and superintendent, is severely felt and lamented. Hon. J. T. Gibson has been appointed to fill the vacancy in the office of superintendent.
In conclusion, gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives, I beg to assure you that you shall have my cordial co-operation in any measure tending to benefit the country.
In the language or instruction given to Joshua by Jehovah to go in and possess the land, “let us be strong and courageous.” “Whatever our hands find to do, let us do it with all our might,” for millions of our brethren in the United States and other quarters of the world are preparing to join us in the work of civilizing and evangelizing this part of our great continent. None but the strong and courageous nation can succeed; and our success depends upon our boldly and courageously launching out and laying hold of every proffer calculated in its tendency to enhance our welfare in this benighted land; light and knowledge must be diffused and pervade this continent, and we will be derelict to our high trust if we have no part in it. The day is ours, and let us work while we have the opportunity and privilege of doing so, and leave the event to our children, as all nations have-done and must do to the end of time. Let no imaginary evil to us or our children prevent your honorable body from faithfully discharging the high trust imposed upon you.
Now is the day for accepting the reward due to the sable sons of Ham, and the sons of Japheth of their great abundance will give it. Let us not turn aside the providences of God, for He is stirring up our brethren to return to their fatherland, as the eagle stirreth up her nest, and we must make ample preparation in this goodly land for their reception.