Liberia, a republic on the W. coast of Africa, between lat. 4° 20' and 7° 20' N., extending from the Sherbro river on the northwest, near the S. boundary of the British colony of Sierra Leone, to the Pedro river on the southeast, a distance along the coast of nearly 600 m. All the territory between these two points has been purchased from the original proprietors. The interior boundaries of the purchased tracts extend from about 10 to 40 m. from the coast, and are gradually enlarged, as the interior tribes are generally very willing, and some of them anxious, to sell their territories. In 1873 the area over which the political jurisdiction of the republic actually extended was estimated at 9,700 sq. m. It is divided into four counties, Mesurado, Grand Bassa, Sinou, and Maryland. The capital and largest town is Monrovia, a seaport on Cape Mesurado, with about 13,000 inhabitants. The most important among the other settlements are New Georgia, Caldwell, Virginia, Kentucky, Millsburg, Marshall, Edina, Buchanan, Bexley, Greenville, Readsville, Lexington, and Louisiana. The principal towns of Maryland are Harper and East Harper. The general line of the coast is from N. W. to S. E. There are several inlets and harbors at Cape Mount, Cape Mesurado, Cape Palmas, and Bassa Cove. There are many rivers, none of which are navigable more than 20 m. from their mouths.
The most important is the St. Paul, which enters the ocean at Cape Mesurado. It is about half a mile wide, and at low tide has 7 ft. of water on the bar at its mouth. It is navigable only about 18 m. from the sea. The other largest rivers are the St. John, which empties at Bassa Cove; the Junk river, which runs between the St. Paul and the St. John; Cape Mount river, which flows into the sea at Cape Mount; and the Grand Sesters, E. of the St. John, which has 14 ft. of water over the bar at its mouth. The land on the coast is generally low and sandy, except near the capes, which are elevated, and in the southeast, where the shore is bold and rocky. From the coast the land gradually rises, until at the distance of 30 m. inland it swells into forest-covered hills, and in the remoter interior into mountain ridges divided by fertile valleys. The soil is generally good, though there is some poor land. It is of a yellowish color, and tinges the rivers which flow through it. There is little swamp land, the country being almost universally broken and rocky or gravelly. The climate is that common to regions near the equator.
There are two seasons, the wet and the dry, the former beginning with June and ending with October. Rain falls during the greater part of this season, though not without intervals of clear skies and successive days of fine weather, especially in July and August. In the dry season rain is rare, though there are occasional showers. The average heat of the year in Monrovia is 80° F., that of the rainy season being 76° and of the dry 84°. The mercury seldom rises above 90° in the shade, and never falls below 60°; the daily variation seldom exceeds 10°. June is the coolest month, and January the hottest. During the hottest months, January, February, and March, the heat is mitigated by the constant winds, the land breeze blowing from midnight until near midday, and the sea breeze from midday until near midnight. The climate both on the coast and in the interior is deadly to the white man, and though less fatal is still formidable to the black man born and reared in temperate regions. Strangers soon after their arrival are attacked with a fever called acclimating, which seems to be caused not by the heat, but by miasmata of the origin and character of which little is known.
This sickness indicates its approach by headache, pains in the back, loss of appetite, and more or less gastric derangement, and rapidly develops into bilious remittent fever. This sometimes yields to mild medical treatment, and the patient is then prepared to endure ordinary exposure to the climate. Generally, however, the disease assumes the tertiary or other form of intermittent fever, accompanied by bilious vomiting, a dull expression of the eye, and in the febrile paroxysms intense headache and delirium. This is the African' fever, and is frequently fatal. To the white man there is no acclimation in Liberia; the first attack of the fever does not secure him from subsequent attacks. To the natives the climate is not unfavorable; they are robust and have few diseases, and many of them live to a great age. - Iron ore abounds in Liberia, and it is said that copper and other metals exist in the interior of the country. The vegetables are almost endless in their variety. The most important of the native trees are rosewood, teak, mahogany, hickory, poplar, brimstone wood (so called from its yellow color), sassa wood, and many others valuable in ship building and cabinet work. Camwood and other dyewoods, ebony, the acacia which yields gum arabic, and the copal tree are found.
There are several varieties of palm, all highly useful, especially the nut-bearing palm from which palm oil is made. Medicinal plants abound; among them are the copaiba tree, the croton tiglium, which yields the croton oil, the castor oil plant, and the ricinus major, whose seeds produce a highly purgative oil, and whose wood is much used for hedges and fences. Several varieties of maize and rice of excellent quality are cultivated, and on the highlands of the interior good crops of wheat, barley, and oats have been raised. Cotton flourishes, and sugar cane and excellent coffee are easily produced. The esculent and farinaceous roots chiefly cultivated are the sweet potato, the cassava, the yam, the tenia, which in flavor resembles the potato, and the arrow root. Cabbages, beans, peas, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, and almost all the common garden vegetables known in America, thrive when planted in the proper season. The fruits are numerous and fine. Among them are the mango, lemon, lime, orange, guava, tamarind, pomegranate, cocoa-nut, plantain, banana, rose apple, African cherry, pineapple, avocado pear, and the African peach.
Wild animals are becoming scarce in Liberia, and the elephant, hippopotamus, leopard, crocodile, boa constrictor, and deer, formerly abundant, are now rarely met with. Monkeys, guanas, chameleons, lizards, and ants in great variety, abound in the forests. The driver ants, which travel from place to place in countless multitudes, are welcomed by the people, for when they enter a house they soon clear it of every other species of insect and vermin. - The population of Liberia is composed of colored emigrants from the United States and their descendants, who are the ruling class, and of uncivilized native tribes. The total population, according to the latest official estimates of the Liberian government, amounts to about 720,000, of whom 19,000 were Americo-Libe-rians, and the remaining 701,000 aboriginal inhabitants. The colonists live in houses generally a story and a half high, built of wood upon a basement of stone, with a porch in the front and rear, and in Monrovia and the other towns standing in yards enclosed with wooden palings or stone walls built without mortar. The moisture of the climate and the ravages of a species of termite cause wood to decay very rapidly, and give the towns an old and dilapidated appearance; and in the newer dwellings stone or brick is more used.
The native method is to build of wattles and mud. The yards are planted with tropical fruit trees, and are sometimes very handsome. The better dwellings are well and even elegantly furnished. The natives generally wear a single loose garment, leaving the head and feet bare; but the colonists dress like Europeans, and in Monrovia are rather distinguished for dressing well. They are strict observers of the Sabbath, and have many churches, to which they give a full and constant attendance. There is a regular system of common schools, high schools, and a college. In 1870 there were in Mesurado county 3G public schools, with 37 teachers and 1,155 pupils. The Methodist Episcopal church has organized the Liberia mission into an annual conference, with a missionary bishop at its head. The mission in 1872 had 24 missionaries, 26 churches, 15 day schools, and 2,239 members, inclusive of probationers. The Protestant Episcopal church also supports at the head of its mission a missionary bishop, and in 1871 had 10 Liberian and 14 native stations, 13 clergymen, 9 churches, 1 chapel, and 453 communicants.
The Baptist churches in 1868 organized the Liberian Baptist missionary union for the evangelization of the heathen within the borders of the republic and contiguous thereto, at the first meeting of which 10 Baptist churches were represented. A training school for Baptist preachers and teachers has been established at Virginia. The Presbyterian churches of Liberia have an aggregate membership of about 250, and form with those of Gaboon and Corisco the presbytery of Western Africa. - The native population under the jurisdiction of the republic comprises a variety of tribes, of whom the principal are the Veys, the Pessehs, the Barlines, the Bassas, the Kroos, the Grebos, and the Mandin-gos. The Veys, who extend from Gallinas, their northern boundary, southward to Little Cape Mount, and inland about two days' journey, are considered superior to all other tribes on the coast, except the Mandingos, in morals and intelligence. They invented about 30 years ago an alphabet for writing their own language. As they are in constant intercourse with the Mandingos and other Mohammedan tribes of the interior, Mohammedanism is making rapid progress among them.
The Protestant Episcopal church of the United States has established a mission school among them at Toto-coreh. The Pessehs live about 70 m. from tho coast, and extend about 100 m. from N. to S. They supply most of the domestic slaves for the neighboring tribes. A mission begun among them by the Presbyterian board of foreign missions has been abandoned, and the tribe is still entirely pagan. The Barlines are the tribe next interior to the Pessehs, and have recently been brought into treaty relations with Liberia. Their capital, Palaka, contained in 1858 a population of 8,000, half of whom were Sunni Mohammedans; but according to the account of W. Spencer Anderson, the latest explorer, there were no longer any Mohammedans in the Barline country. The Bassas, who occupy a coast line of over 60 m., and extend about the same distance inland, are the great producers of palm oil and camwood, of which thousands of tons are annually sold to foreigners. American Baptist missionaries established a mission among them in 1835, and reduced their language to writing. Recently the son of a subordinate king of the Grand Bassa people, Jacob M. Vonbrunn, has displayed great zeal in behalf of Christianity and civilization.
The Ivroos, who occupy the country S. E. of the Bassas, are a powerful tribe, extending about 70 m. along the coast and only a few miles inland. They are black and woolly headed, and are a stout brawny race, very industrious, and peculiarly fond of working on board ships. They are good seamen, and generally speak English. The greatest ambition of a Krooman is to marry many wives; this is said to be the chief reason why they wander from home and labor on ships. When one of them has earned money enough to buy a wife, he returns to his native village, marries, and remains a while at home. When he desires another wife, he goes to sea again. As he grows old he retires altogether from the ocean, and lives in ease and plenty supported by the labor of his wives, who cheerfully work to maintain him in comfort. The Kroos are mostly idolaters, though they believe in one supreme God. A mission begun among them by the Presbyterian board of foreign missions, about 30 years ago, has been abandoned. The Grebos border upon the S. E. boundaries of the Kroos, and extend from Grand Sesters to the Cavally river, a distance of about 70 m. Christian missions have been in operation among them since 1834, their language has been reduced to writing, and a number of books have been published in it.
The Mandingos are the most interesting and promising tribe in the territory of Liberia. They are found on the whole of the eastern frontier and extend back to the heart of Soodan; and were the Liberian government further to extend its jurisdiction over them, it might exert through them a powerful influence upon the interior. They have books and schools and mosques in every large town. They read and write, and many of them speak the Arabic language. Through their influence, Mohammedanism has spread widely among the neighboring tribes. - The principal farming region of Liberia is on the banks of the St. Paul river. The chief staple is sugar, of which the crop in 1871 was estimated at 300,000 lbs. Sugar is also the chief manufacture, but there are several woollen mills, and Marshall, at the mouth of the Junk river, is noted for the manufacture of lime from shells. There is a considerable traffic carried on with the natives by the petty merchants, who buy palm oil, rice, camwood, skins, and other articles, for tobacco, powder, cheap cutlery, and cotton cloths. The more wealthy buy from these, and sell again to the English and American merchant vessels, or ship directly.
The Liberians have built and manned about 30 coast traders, and they have a number of vessels engaged in commerce with Great Britain and the United States; and a steamer every six days connects the W. coast of Africa with Liverpool, England. The chief articles of export are palm oil, palm nuts, ivory, arrow-root, coffee, and sugar. Commerce is carried on mainly with Great Britain, the United States, Belgium, and Hamburg. The republic has concluded commercial treaties with Great Britain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, Portugal, and Austria. The public revenue from 1866 to 1870 averaged $110,000, nearly the whole of which (about $95,000) is derived from customs duties. The chief items of public expenditure are those for the civil service ($40,000), the maintenance of an armed force ($13,000), and the administration of justice ($7,000). A public debt was for the first time contracted in 1871, when a loan of $500,000 at 7 Per cent. interest, to be redeemed in 15 years, was issued in London at the price of 85 per cent. - The constitution of the republic of Liberia provides for the maintenance of the following fundamental principles: All men are born equally free in the right of enjoying and defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
All power of government is inherent in the people. Slavery shall not exist in the republic, or be countenanced by any of its citizens. All elections shall be by ballot, and every male citizen possessing real estate shall have the right of suffrage. None but citizens may hold real estate in the republic. None but persons of color shall be admitted to citizenship, a provision which is intended to be of but temporary duration. The legislative body is styled "the legislature of Liberia," and is composed of a senate and a house of representatives. Each county is entitled to two senators, who are elected for a term of four years. Representatives are elected biennially, every county being entitled to one representative and an additional one for every 10,000 inhabitants. The president is elected by the people for a term of two years. With the consent of the senate he appoints the secretaries of war, the navy, treasury, and state, the postmaster general, the judges, and many other officers civil and military.
The judicial power is vested in a supreme court and several subordinate courts. - The republic owes its origin to the American colonization society (see Colonization Society), which in 1820 sent the first colonists from the United States to the Sherbro islands, who eventually, however, settled at Cape Mesurado in 1822. In 1847 the declaration of independence was made, and a constitution adopted. The first president was Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who served for four terms (1848-'56). His successors have been Stephen Allen Benson (1856-'64), Daniel Basil Warner (1864-'8), James Spriggs Payne (1868-'9), and James Roye (1870-'71). Roye contracted a loan in England, and was on his return accused of having appropriated the money thus obtained for his own benefit and that of the members of the cabinet. A popular rising took place in Liberia; the president was imprisoned, and an executive committee intrusted with the government, until in May, 1871, the first president, J. J. Roberts, was again placed at the head of the government. As Roye attempted to assert his claims to the presidency by force, he was again imprisoned.
Having escaped, he was drowned at the beginning of 1872, while endeavoring to reach by swimming a steamer leaving for Liverpool. - See "The Republic of Liberia," by G. S. Stockwell (New York, 1868), and "The Republic of Liberia, its Status and its Field," by E. W. Blyden, a negro, professor in Fourah Bay college, Sierra Leone (" Methodist Quarterly Review," New York, July, 1872).