Roberts was the first Republican president and the era after him was a continuation of Republican rule in Liberia. Although the True Whigs who were of pure Negro decent opposed the Republicans, it is believed that the Republicans were re-elected based on their record and not their skin pigmentation.
Following Roberts were Presidents Benson, Warner and Payne. Benson aimed to advance the political, industrial and educational sectors of Liberia. He also sought to improve relations with the natives but his mission was hindered by the Kru uprising in Sinoe. The Liberian military defeated the Kru warriors in a bloody battle and they finally surrendered. He invited the tribal chiefs to Monrovia and feasted with them and they pledge their loyalty to Liberia. He also encouraged agriculture and the first steam sugar mill and other farming equipment arrived during his term.
When the State of Maryland (Maryland Colony) was threatened by the Grebo federation, Liberia was called upon to help the fledging state. The Maryland soldiers were initially defeated by the tribal warriors killing 26 men and destroying all of their war craft. Former President Roberts was sent to Maryland for peaceful negotiations.
This resulted in Maryland abandoning its independent status and joining Liberia, considering it was not equipped to protect itself. Maryland became Liberia’s fourth county in 1857.
It was during Benson’s term that the US recognized Liberia as an independent nation. Roberts and others expected immediate recognition from their home country; but it took 13 long years for the US to render its acknowledgement.
Warner inherited a prosperous economy that had seen an increase in farming and trade. Some natives and the Congoes worked as hired help on the Americo-Liberian farms. These laborers were sometimes cheated and treated unfairly by the Americo-Liberians who were the ruling class. Sugar production along the St. Paul River and soap making were booming. Warner encouraged immigration to Liberia and more freed slaves joined the nation after the American Civil war.
By 1865, the Liberian economy was suffering from the one-sided trade with traders selling their products at low prices and having to buy supplies at very high prices. This lead to the Port of Entry law enacted in 1865, limiting trade with foreigners to the six ports of entry at Robertsport, Monrovia, Marshall, Grand Bassa, Greenville and Harper.
Although Warner wanted to follow his predecessors in spreading Christianity and civilization to the hinterland, it was impossible as the government lacked the knowledge and materials to explore and extend trade to the hinterland. With a desire to explore and survey the hinterland, Warner’s Secretary of State, Benjamin Anderson visited the US in 1867 to raise funds for his exploration.
Warner’s era also saw many large churches and a growth in Christianity. In 1867 the Free Masons was established by prominent Liberian men including Charles Benedict Dunbar, Hilary R. W. Johnson and Thomas H. Amos.
Payne replaced Warner on the Republican ticket and won the election in 1867. With help from American philanthropists, in 1868 Anderson was able to explore the boundaries of Liberia which had existed only on paper. This trip included Anderson’s famous trip to Masardu where he encountered the Mandingos.
Anderson’s report of his journey was a means for the government to connect with the hinterland, but Liberia still lacked the means to effectively reach this goal. The government’s influence remained along the coast and approximately 200 miles inland.
Payne then turned his attention to achievable policies. He stopped slavery in the Boporo are and encouraged schooling for the tribal children. The lack of schools in the tribal areas was a disappointment when he visited the counties at the end of his term.
Liberia purchased the Liberia vessel in 1868 to help with trade and increase revenue. Other vessels like the Ann and Cubit were used to export Liberian commodities to England and the United States. This year also saw the people of Settra-Kroo finally cede and join Liberia; something they had strongly resisted in the past. Over its first 21 years, Liberia had about 12,000 immigrants. Payne lost the election of 1869 in a heated campaign when the True Whigs led by John Good won the election with Edward James Roye as their presidential candidate.
Cassell, Abayomi. Liberia: History of the First African Republic. New York. Fountainhead Publishers, 1970. Print.
Liebenow, J. Liberia : the Quest for Democracy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Print.
Richardson, Nathaniel R. Liberia’s Past and Present. Diplomatic Press and Pub. Co., 1959. Print.
Wilson, Charles Morrow. Liberia: Black Africa in Microcosm. [1st ed.]. Harper & Row, 1971. Print.