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from the smiling and attractive aspect of the city; even houses in process of construction are in ruins; a superb college building erected at great expense upon the summit of the cape, is abandoned, and one permits it to be invaded by the forest and weathered by the rain; the stairway which leads to the upper story of Representatives' Hall, having crumbled, has never been reconstructed, and a sort of provisional flight of steps has been for years back the only means of access which permits the cabinet officers to enter their offices; the landings waste away stone by stone, and it is difficult to draw boats up to them; the shops where one formerly constructed vessels and landingboats, have disappeared; roads, from lack of care, have almost everywhere become native trails again; the plantations of sugar-cane and ginger are matters of ancient history, and fields, which formerly were well cultivated, have returned to the state of virgin forest; coffee plantations have run wild, choked by the rank vegetation of the tropics. The level of instruction has lowered, the new generations receive only an education of primary grade; of the University of Monrovia there remains only the name and some mortarboard caps which one at times sees upon the heads of professors and candidates.
All, however, is not dead in the Republic. There is yet a nucleus of Liberians of the ancient time, remarkably instructed and civilized, excellent orators, fine conversationalists, writers of talent. There are also among the young people some choice minds, who desire to elevate the intellectual and moral level of their country and who seek to do so by published articles, by lectures, by literary clubs, and by new schools.”
There is much food for thought in these statements of Delafosse. Some of his arraignment is true; on the whole, it is less true to-day than when he wrote. There was a period when the Liberians were quite discouraged and things were neglected. Much of this neglect still exists. It would be possible to-day to
find houses falling to ruins, crumbling walls, guttered streets, unsatisfactory landing-places. But a new energy is rising; the effects of efforts put forth by the nucleus which Delafosse himself recognizes as existing in Liberia are being felt; contact with the outside world with its stimulus, sympathies, and friendships, warrants the hope that the future Liberia will surpass the past. We make no attempt to answer Delafosse in detail; in the body of our book most of the questions raised by his remarks are discussed with some fullness.
In this book we attempt to represent the negro republic as it is-Description, History, Probleins. We have desired to paint a just picture; some may think it too favorable; to such we would say that, when there have been so many unfair, unjust, and biased statements, it is necessary that some one should say things that are favorable, so that they be true. We have no right to demand more from Liberia than we would expect from any white colony with everything in its favor; yet that is precisely what everybody does. We demand perfection. We forget that perfection is not yet attained in any country, among people of any color. It is unreasonable to demand it in a small African republic of black men. There is no fairness even in comparing Liberia with English and French colonies like Sierra Leone and Senegal. They have had much done for them. The financial resources, the trained forces, the wise judgment of rich and powerful nations have aided them. Liberia has worked alone, blindly, in poverty.
While to some we may seem to paint an unduly favorable picture, it is probable that Liberians will claim that we have dragged some things to light which should be left unmentioned. We have mentioned many of the weaknesses of Liberia and her people. This has been done for several reasons. It is a good thing to “see ourselves as others see us’’; the weak points of Liberia are always emphasized by critics, they can not well be ignored by friends. If we are to
improve, we must clearly realize the opportunity and necessity for improvement. The worst things, after all, about Liberia are largely inherent in its form of government, or are due to the descent of the AmericoLiberians from American slaves. They must fight against these inherent dangers and tendencies of democratic government and against the disadvantages of American inheritance, as we do.
From time to time, in reading, we have gathered a considerable number of quotations from Liberians, past and present, which seem to us of special interest and pertinence. These we have prefaced to the chapters and sub-divisions of our book. They are all expressions of black men regarding their home and problems. Some of them are eloquent, all of them are sensible. Thoughtful Liberians have never been blind to national dangers, national weaknesses, national problems.
The materials which we present have been culled from many sources; the book contains little that is absolutely new. For its preparation we have read double the literature which has been found mentioned in bibliographies and in books treating of Liberia. We have made constant use of Johnston, Wauwermans, Delafosse, Jore, and Stockwell. As the book is meant for general reading, we have made no precise references. This is not due to neglect of writers and sources, but is in the nature of our treatment. We present no bibliography; it would be easy to fill pages with the titles of books and articles, dealing with Liberia, but such a list would be mere pedantry here, especially as four-fifths of the works named would be absolutely inaccessible even to students with the best library equipment at their disposition. The author has made a considerable collection of pamphlets printed in Liberia, by Liberian authors, dealing with Liberian matters. A list of these almost unknown prints would have real interest for the special student of Liberian affairs and for professional
librarians; such a list may perhaps be printed later, in separate form.
Thanks are due to so many friends and helpers that it is impossible to make individual acknowledgment. We were treated with great courtesy, while in Liberia; from President Howard in the Executive Mansion to the school children upon the village streets, every one was kind. It was generally recognized that the author was a white visitor to the Republic without a personal axe to grind. He represented no government, no commission, no institution, was seeking no concession, had no mission—a rara avis truly. While it would be impossible to name all from whom kindness and courtesy were received for that would be an enumeration of all we met—we may perhaps mention as particularly kind Ex-President Barclay, F. E. R. Johnson, T. McCants Stewart, C. B. Dunbar, Bishop Ferguson and Vice-President Harmon. To Major Charles Young, military attaché to the American Legation, we are under greater obligations than we can mention. Campbell Marvin was our companion and helper throughout our visit to the Republic, and gave us faithful aid in every way. We dedicate the book to William N Selig, of Chicago, whose kindness and interest made the expedition possible.
The book is written in the hope of arousing some interest in Liberia and its people and of kindling sympathy with them in the effort they are making to solve their problems. For Liberia is the hope of the Dark Continent. Through her, perhaps, African Redemption is to come.
The Liberian Crisis (Unity, March 25, 1909)..