Mitchel 1829
Click image to supersize
The historical importance of 
the 1824 Constitution


In 1822 a group of colored people of the United States successfully settled at Cape Mesurado, on the Grain or Pepper Coast, West Africa, - though not without conflicts with the indigenous tribal population. Their sponsor, the American Colonization Society, named the colony 'Liberia'. The colonists built a town which, in 1824, was named Monrovia, in honor of the then President of the USA, James Monroe. At that time the settlement numbered approximately 100 persons. Gradually the colony expanded as more immigrants arrived from the United States. 

In August 1824 the colonists adopted a plan for the government of the colony, written by two agents of the American Colonization Society, Ashmun and Gurley. This in fact could be considered the first 'constitution' under which the colonists could enact laws for their own government. 

American newspapers in 1825 announced the First Constitution for the government of the African Colony of Liberia. Among them a New York newspaper, ‘The National Advocate’, that published the constitution’s 10 Articles, without any comments, on page 2 of its Saturday morning edition, on July 9, 1825.   

It is interesting to note that the First Constitution of the colony granted the American settlers rights that they were denied in the country they were coming from. At that time, and until the end of the Civil War in 1865, only white people were considered citizens of the United States.    

Also, it is worth noting that the constitutional provisions only applied to the American settlers. It excluded the captured African slaves (‘Congo people’) from intercepted slave vessels that were dropped at this portion of the West African coast by the US Navy, and others, including the indigenous Africans.   

The article reads as follows: 


For the Government of the African Colony of Liberia

Article 1

All persons born within the limits of the territory held by the American Colonization Society, in Liberia, in Africa, or removing there to reside, shall be free and entitled to all the privileges, as are enjoyed by the citizens of the United States.

Article 2

The Colonization Society shall, from time to time, make such rules as they may think fit for the government of the Settlement, until they shall withdraw their agents, and leave the settlers to the government of themselves.

Article 3

The Societies Agents shall compose a board, to determine all questions relative to the government of the Settlement, shall decide all disputes between individuals, and shall exercise all judicial powers, except such as they shall delegate to justices of the peace.

Article 4

The Agents shall appoint all officers not appointed by the managers, necessary for the good order and government of the settlement.

Article 5

There shall be no slavery in the settlement.

Article 6

The common law, as in force and modified in the United States, and applicable to the situation of the people, shall be in force in the settlement.

Article 7

Every settler coming to the age of twenty-one years, and those now of age, shall take oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.

Article 8

In case of necessity, where no rule has been made by the Board of Managers, the agents are authorized to make the necessary rules and regulations, of which they shall, by the first opportunity, inform the board, for their approbation; and they shall continue to be in force, until the board shall send out their decision.

Article 9

This Constitution is not to interfere with the jurisdiction, rights and claims of the United States, over the captured Africans and others, under their care and control, so long as they shall reside within the limits of the settlement.

Article 10

No alteration shall be made in this constitution, except by an unanimous consent of all present at a regular meeting of the Board of Managers, or by a vote of two thirds of the members present at two successive meetings of the Board of Managers.”

Source: ‘The National Advocate’ , New York, Saturday Morning July 9, 1825, p.2.





More Colonization Societies
The apparent success of the American Society inspired other Americans – both from above and under the Mason-Dixon line - to create similar organizations that organized and financed the “transfer back” of freed slaves and mulattoes. The most active organizations were the Colonization Society of New York, the Ohio Colonization Society, the Young Men’s Colonization Society of Pennsylvania, the Maryland Colonization Society, the Louisiana Colonization Society, and the Mississippi Colonization Society.

Each created a colony on the Grain Coast – along the lines set out by the American Colonization Society for the Colony of Liberia. This colonial expansion certainly enhanced the already historical importance of the First Constitution of the African Colony of Liberia.  


Mason-Dixon Line



© fpm van der kraaij