Liberia or the United States of Liberia, a negro republic in Western Africa, on the upper coast of Upper Guinea. The boundaries are not definitely fixed, but provisionally the River Thebar has been adopted as the north-western, and the San Pedro as the eastern frontier. The republic has a coast-line of 600 miles, and extends back 100 miles, on an average, but with the probability of a vast extension into the interior as the tribes near the frontier desire to conclude treaties providing for the incorporation of their territories with Liberia. The present area is estimated at 9700 square miles. The republic owes its origin to the "American Colonization Society," which was established in December, 1816, for the purpose of removing the negroes of the United States from the cramping influences of American slavery, and placing them in their own fatherland. There, it was hoped, they would be able to refute, by practical demonstration, the views of those American politicians who contended that the institution of American slavery was essentially righteous and signally beneficent. The society, in November, 1817, sent two agents to Western Africa, the Reverend Dr. Ebenezer Burgess and Samuel J. Mills, to select a favorable location for a colony of American negroes. After visiting Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Sherbro, they fixed upon the last-named place. The first expedition of emigrants, 86 in number, was sent out in February, 1820. After various disappointments, the emigrants succeeded in obtaining a foothold on Cape Mesurado, in lat. 60 19' N., long. 100 49' W., where now stands Monrovia, the capital of the republic of Liberia. The purchase of the Mesurado territory, including Cape Mesurado and the lands, forming nearly a peninsula, between the Mesurado and the Junk rivers about 36 miles along the coast, with an average breadth of about two miles, was effected in December 1821. For a hundred years the principal powers of Europe, in particular France and England, had repeatedly tried to gain possession of this territory, but the native chiefs had invariably refused to part with even one acre, and were known to be extremely hostile to the whites. On January 7, 1822, the smaller of the two islands lying near the mouth of the Mesurado River was occupied by the colonists, who called it Perseverance Island. They remained here until April 25, when they removed to Mesurado Heights, and raised the American flag. The colony henceforth grew, and expanded in territory and influence, taking under its jurisdiction from time to time the large tribes contiguous. In 1846 the board of directors of the American Colonization Society invited the colony to proclaim their independent sovereignty, as a means of protection against the oppressive interference of foreigners, and a special fund of $15,000 was raised to buy up the national title to all the coast from Sherbro to Cape Palmas, in order to secure to the new nationality continuity of coast. In July 1847, the declaration of independence, prepared by Hilary Teoge, was published. Representatives of the people met in convention, and promulgated a constitution similar to that of the United States. Soon after the new republic was recognized by England and France; in 1852 it was in treaty stipulations with England, France, Belgium, Prussia, Italy, the United States, Denmark, Holland, Hayti, Portugal, and Austria.
The constitution of Liberia, like that of the United States, establishes an entire separation of the Church from the State, and places all religious denominations on an equal footing, but all citizens of the republic must belong to the negro race. In 1885 the total population of Liberia was estimated to number 750,000, of which number about 20,000 were Americo-Liberians, and the remainder were aboriginal inhabitants. The most important tribes within and near the limits of the republic are the following:
1. The Veys, extending from Gallinas, their northern boundary, southward to Little Cape Mount; they stretch inland about two days' journey. They invented, some 20 years ago, an alphabet for writing their own language, and, next to the Mandingoes, they are regarded as the most intelligent of the aboriginal tribes. As they hold constant intercourse with the Mandingoes and other Mohammedan tribes in the far interior, Mohammedanism is making rapid progress among them. The Anglican missionary, bishop Payne, has recently suggested a plan of occupying the country of the Veys with an extensive and vigorous mission, and the mission-school opened by the Episcopalians at Totocorch, which is nearer to Cape Mount than to Monrovia, is regarded as the first outpost towards the vast interior.
2. The Pessehs, who are located about seventy miles from the coast, and extend about one hundred miles from north to south, are entirely pagan. They may be called the peasants of West Africa, and supply most of the domestic slaves for the Veys, Bassas, Mandingoes, and Kroos. A missionary effort was attempted among them about fifteen years ago by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, but it was abandoned in consequence of the death of the first missionary, George L. Seymour.
3. The Barline tribe, living about eight days' journey north-east from Monrovia, and next interior to the Pessehs, has recently been brought into treaty relations with Liberia. According to a report of 1858, half the population of their capital, Palaka, consisted of Mohammedans who had come from the Manni country, but the latest explorer, W. Spencer Anderson, states that there are at present no Mohammedans in the Barline country.
4. The Bassas occupy a coast-line of over sixty miles, and extend about the same distance inland. They are the great producers of palm-oil and canewood, which are sold to foreigners by thousands of tons annually. In 1835 a mission was begun among these people by the American Baptist Missionary Union, whose missionaries studied the language, organized three schools, embracing in all nearly a hundred pupils, maintained preaching statedly at three places, and occasionally at a great many more, and translated large portions of the New Testament into the Bassa language. Notwithstanding this promising commencement, the mission has been now (1872) for several years suspended. But the Southern Baptist Convention has lately resumed missionary operations among the Bassas. Great results for the spreading of Christianity are expected from the missionary labors of Mr. Jacob W. Vonbrunn, a son of a subordinate king of the Grand Bassa people.
5. The Kroo, who occupy the region south of the Bassa, extend about seventy miles along the coast, and only a few miles inland. They are the sailors of West Africa, and never enslave or sell each other. About thirty years ago a mission was established among them by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions at Settra Kroo, but it has long since ceased operations.
6. The Greboes, who border upon the south-eastern boundaries of the Kroos, extend from Grand Sesters to the Cavalla River, a distance of about seventy miles. In 1834 a mission was established among them by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which continued in operation for seven years. A Church was organized, the language reduced to writing, and parts of the New Testament and other religious books translated into it; but in 1842 the mission was transferred to Gabun. A mission established by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States among the same tribe a few years previously still continues in operation, and has recently established at Bohlean a missionary station, about seventy miles from the coast.
7. The Mandingoes, who are found on the whole eastern frontier of the republic, and extend back to the heart of Soudan, are the most intelligent tribe within the limits of Liberia. They have schools and mosques in every large town, and, by their great influence upon the neighboring tribes, they have contributed in no little degree to abate the ignorance and soften the manners of the native population of Liberia. One of the greatest obstacles to the progress of Christian missions among the aboriginal tribes is the climate, and the difficulty of acclimatization. Thus the Basle Missionary Society, which in 1827 established a promising mission, was in 1831 compelled to abandon it when four of the eight missionaries had succumbed to the climate.
At the close of the year 1871 the churches among the Americo-Liberians and the missions among the natives were all more or less connected with the Protestant churches of the United States. The Methodist Episcopal Church, which sent her first missionary to Liberia in 1832, has subsequently organized the Liberia Mission into an Annual Conference, with a missionary bishop (since 1884 William Taylor) at its head. In 1888 the mission had 24 missionaries, including supernumeraries, 60 local preachers, 2342 Sunday-school scholars. 38 churches, of an aggregate value of $31,044. There were 127 baptisms and 60 deaths. In 1889 the number of members was 2755, probationers 244, local preachers 54. 'The intense interest which has been aroused among civilized nations by the explorations of Livingstone, and still later of Stanley, in the heart of Africa, has been heroically followed up by Bishop Taylor and the missionary band led by him, especially along the Congo River; and the native chiefs have granted lands and subsidies for the purpose of establishing churches and building schools at very many of the prominent points. The impetus thus given to commerce and improvements in Africa, has, to some degree, extended to Liberia likewise, and the country is gradually advancing to an independent position, both politically and ecclesiastically, especially as the evangelistic labors of Bishop Taylor and his coadjutors are conducted on the plan of " self support," by means of agricultural pursuits on the part of the missionaries, whose first expenses in outfit and travel only are met by direct contributions. A new sera may therefore be now said to have dawned upon the "Dark Continent," in a religious, as well as secular point of view, and Liberia, which is the oldest of the modern mission fields there, will doubtless still continue to be the center of missionary action, at least for the immense and densely populated middle region of that quarter of the globe. The Protestant Episcopal Church likewise has a bishop there, and its mission in 1889 had 60 stations, 17 clergy, 17 candidates for orders (8 Liberians), 6 postulants (3 Liberian and 3 native), confirmations 106, communicants 612, marriages 12, burials 32, Sunday-school scholars 908, boarding and day-scholars 877, total contributions, $1,416,56. There are 22 day-schools, 11 boarding-schools, and 29 Sunday-schools in all connected with the mission. The Baptist churches in Liberia have mostly been organized by the Southern Board of American Baptists. Their work was suspended during the war, and the American Baptist Missionary Union commenced their work in Liberia with the understanding that the Southern Board would not resume the work; but in 1870 the Southern Baptists sent an agent to Africa with a view of renewing their labors there. The Missionary Union continued, however, to give a partial support to several pastors. In March, 1868, the Baptist churches of Liberia organized the "Liberian Baptist Missionary Union" for "the evangelization of the heathen" within the borders of the Republic of Liberia, "and contiguous thereto." At this first meeting of the union ten Baptist churches were represented, and twelve fields of missionary labor were designated and commended to the care of the nearest churches. The Baptist churches have a training-school for preachers and teachers at Virginia. The Presbyterian Church of the United States has congregations at Monrovia, Kentucky, Harrisburg, Greenville or Sinou, Marshall, Robertsport, and a few other places, with an aggregate membership of about 280. The Liberian churches in union with those of Gaboon and Corisco form the presbytery of Western Africa. The Alexander High-school is intended to be an academy of high grade, conducted under the supervision of the Presbytery, and designed especially to aid young men preparing for the ministry. It is situated on a farm of about twenty acres, eighteen miles from Monrovia, near the St. Paul's River. The American Lutherans have three stations in Liberia. See Newcomb, Cyclopaedia of Missions; Annual Reports of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church; Baptist Missionary Magazine, July 1872; Proceedings of the Board of Missions of the
Protestant Episcopal Church, October 1871; Annual Reports of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church; Grundemann, Missionsatlas; Stockwell, The Republic of Liberia (New York, 1868); Blyden (professor in Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, W.A.), The Republic of Liberia, its Status and ifs Field (Meth. Quart. Rev. July 1872, art. 6). (A.J.S.)