President Arthur Barclay (1904-1912)
Why was the Administration of President Arthur Barclay so important?
President Arthur Barclay was confronted with various attempts of European
Powers to seize part or all of the territory of the only independent
republic in Africa. He also had to deal with threats from within,
uprisings of the various tribes, living in the Hinterland, which
endangered the continuity of the Black Republic. Moreover, the economic
situation of the country was gloomy and the State was nearly bankrupt.
President Arthur Barclay, however, had a clear view on how to develop the country.
The Administration of President Arthur Barclay represents a political
turning point in the history of Liberia. It brought to an end the conflict
between mulattoes and black emigrants. During his Administration
the Liberian Constitution was changed 1), giving citizenship to the people of
tribal origin, and a system of ‘indirect rule’ was introduced. He also
tried to open up the country for foreigners and foreign capital by
granting concession agreements and attracting international loans.
However, he was not able to prevent several serious tribal uprisings since
the Ports of Entry Law of 1864 remained in force. In 1910 he added new
reasons for the tribal people to rebel by introducing unpopular taxes,
notably the Hut Tax.
Liberia’s ‘Closed Door’ to foreigners
Barclay refers here to the 1850-1864 period. He expressed open disagreement with the 1864 Ports of Entry Law:
The 1847 Constitution, Article V, Section 13 reads: “The great object of
forming these Colonies being to provide a home for the dispersed and
oppressed children of Africa, and to generate and enlighten this benighted
continent, none but persons of color shall be admitted to citizenship.”
whereas the previous section stipulated: “No person shall be entitled to
hold real estate in this republic unless he be citizen of the same.”
(Article V, Section 12). Together with the Port of Entry Act of 1864 this
was considered as among the major obstacles to work together with
Europeans or whites for the development of the country.
The 1907 Amendment of Article V, Section 13 reads as follows: “The great object of forming these Colonies being to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa, and to generate and enlighten this benighted Continent, none but Negroes or persons of negro descent shall be eligible to citizenship in this Republic.”
In 1907, the same year in which the word “Negro” replaced the word “Colored” in the Constitution’s clause, which defined eligibility for citizenship of the Republic, the naturalization Act of 1876 was repealed. The old Act required ‘ alien’ Africans to spend at least four years in the Republic before they could be granted citizenship. The restrictive Act had been passed during the second Administration of President Payne when the Republican Party dominated and controlled Liberian politics. In 1907 the naturalization period was reduced to one year.
“(…) We can only save and develop our hinterland by the help of the
European trader. (….)” 2)
However, he was not successful in realising (parliamentary) support for a basic change despite his attempts to conclude deals with foreign investors.
|2) Arthur Barclay 'Inaugural Address 1904'|
The origin of Liberia’s Open Door
modeled on the US example
|© fpm van der kraaij|