Anthony W. Gardiner

Anthony W. Gardner
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Anthony William Gardner

Term 6th President: 1878 – 1883
Born Jan. 24, 1820, Southampton County, Virginia, USA
Died Early 1885, Liberia
Race/Ethnicity Mulatto, Americo-Liberian
County of Origin Grand Bassa
Profession Lawyer
Political Party True Whig Party


Gardner was born in the USA in 1820. Both his parents were freed slaves and they moved to the Liberian Colony, arriving on January 11, 1831 on the brig Volador. The family settled in Grand Bassa County where Anthony grew up. He lost his mother in 1865, but his father was still alive when he became president in 1878.


He received his education in the Liberian schools and later studied Law from the renowned Louis Sheridan.


Justice of the Peace and Court Clerk
1844 Sheriff of Grand Bassa County
1848 Attorney General under J.J. Roberts
1855 – 1872 Representative, Grand Bassa County
1859 – 1872 Speaker of the House of Representatives
1872 – 1876 Vice President under President J.J. Roberts
1876 – 1877 Superintendent of Grand Bassa County
1878 – 1883 President

Vice President
Alfred F. Russell

Gardner began his early career in Grand Bassa where upon completing his studies, he worked as a justice of the peace and a law clerk. In 1844 he was elected Sheriff of Grand Bassa County. Gardner was selected as a delegate representing Grand Bassa at the national convention of 1847, and was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. He later served as an Attorney General and was elected to the House of Representatives.

After James S. Smith completed Roye’s term, J.J. Roberts became president again in 1872 with Gardner as his Vice President. Gardner’s mishandling of the crisis between Liberia and the Grebo tribes caused the Republican Party to select Payne as their presidential candidate in 1875. Payne won the election and returned to the Presidency in 1876.

By 1877 Gardner was adopted by the True Whig Party that had finally recovered from the coup of 1871 when Roye was deposed. He finally ran on the True Whig ticket in 1877 and overwhelmingly defeated incumbent James Spriggs Payne. The Congoes (recaptured slaves) had aligned with the True Whig Party and the party’s platform included their representation in the government.


Three Terms

1878 – 1880
1880 – 1882
1882 – 1883 (resigned during his 3rd term)

Gardner was inaugurated on January 7, 1878, a man of Law and service for over thirty years and well deserving of this position. He was Liberia’s 9th president but the 7th person to serve as president. When he took office, he was the only surviving signatory to the Declaration of Independence. The African Repository describes him as one with

…varied experience in public life, largely qualifying him for the responsible duties upon which he has just entered amid the plaudits of a free and happy people.

-African Repository, 1878

As President, he advocated more ports of entry to increase trade, laws that would encourage foreign capital for investments, including the native tribes in the nation’s politics and promoting a public education system. His presidency saw friendly relations with foreign nations and peaceful affiliation with the natives. Many Whigs now held high government positions. He also established the Interior Department in 1880 with Edward Wilmot Blyden serving as the first Secretary of the Interior. Liberia also joined the Universal Postal Union.

The dispute between the Liberian and British governments over the Gallinas Territory dates back to the presidency of J.J. Roberts. This continued and was a constant issue during Gardiner’s term. In 1882 British authorities having full control of Sierra Leone demanded the Gallinas territory, with Sierra Leone’s British Governor Sir Havelock coming to Monrovia in March 1882 along with 4 gunboats. These were the days of European imperialism and the “Scramble for Africa” when European powers carved the continent into various colonies. A treaty was signed by Sir Havelock and Edward Blyden.

Several senators criticized Gardner’s actions and his VP led an opposition against his decision. Hence, the treaty was rejected by the Liberian senate since they saw it as giving the area to the British. Havelock returned to Monrovia in September asking to ratify the treaty. Gardiner and Havelock did not reach an agreement and frustrated over the border issue, being seriously ill at the time, and lacking internal support, Gardiner resigned on January 20, 1883. He was the nation’s first president to resign and was succeeded by Vice President Alfred F. Russell.

Post Presidency

Gardiner died two years after he left office.


Cassell, Abayomi. Liberia: History of the First African Republic. New York. Fountainhead Publishers, 1970. Print.

Dunn, D. Historical Dictionary of Liberia / D. Elwood Dunn, Amos J. Beyan, Carl Patrick Burrowes. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Print.

Executive Documents: 13th Congress, 2d Session-49th Congress, 1st Session, Volume 1. United States. Congress. House . Government Printing Office. Washington: 01 Jan. 1879. Print.

Richardson, Nathaniel R. Liberia’s Past and Present. Diplomatic Press and Pub. Co., 1959. Print.

The African Repository and Colonial Journal. V49. The American Colonization Society. Washington.1873. Print.

Van der Kraij, Fred. President Anthony W. Gardiner 1878-1883. Liberia past and present. Web.

Wilson, Charles Morrow. Liberia: Black Africa in Microcosm. [1st ed.]. Harper & Row, 1971. Print.

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