Garretson W. Gibson

Garretson W. Gibson
Credit: H.H. Johnston

Garretson Wilmot Gibson

Term 14th President: 1900 – 1904
Born May 20, 1832, Maryland, USA
Died April 26, 1910, Liberia
Race/Ethnicity Americo-Liberian
County of Origin Montserrado
Profession Priest, Professor
Political Party True Whig Party


Garretson Gibson was born to Jacob and Rebecca Gibson in Talbot County, Maryland, USA. The family, including his parents and siblings Joseph, Henry, Mary Ann, Samuel, James and Louisa and their cousin Ellen Gibson arrived in Cape Palmas, on the Schooner Harmony on June 23, 1835.

His father died in 1836 and their mother married William Delany in 1837. His stepfather died between 1838 and 1840 and he lost his mother in 1847. Garretson and the younger siblings lived with their brother Joseph and he later lived with his brother Henry in 1852.


Garretson attended the mission school in Cape Palmas, studying under Dr. George A. Perkins and later Rev. John Payne. He returned to the US in 1850 to further his studies in church ministry. After 2.5 years of studying, he returned to Liberia and was ordained as a priest. Brawley describes him as a man of scholarly achievements.


Circa 1853 Episcopal Priest
Circa 1863 Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church Monrovia
1878 – 1883 Secretary of State (under President Gardner)
1883 – 1887? Led the Board of Domestic and Foreign Missions of the Protestant Episcopal
Church in Cape Mount
Pastoral duties, St. Augustine Church
Chaplain of the Senate
Commissioner of Education under Presidents Roye, Payne and Johnson/td>
1892 – 1894 Secretary of State (under President Cheeseman and Coleman)
Professor of Moral Philosophy at Liberia College
1890 President of Liberia College
1900 – 1904 President of Liberia

Vice President
Joseph D. Summerville

After his ordination, he served as Assistant Minister at St. Mark’s church and principal of Mt. Vaughan High School. He later worked as rector at Trinity Church in Monrovia until 1883. Gibson was Secretary of State under President Gardner and resigned to work with the Episcopal Church in Cape Mount.

Gibson was a scholar with diligent service to both church and country. He worked as the Commissioner of Education under 3 presidents and was also a professor at Liberia College. He concurrently served as Secretary of State and President of Liberia College.


Based on President Coleman’s unpopular interior policy and subsequent resignation in December 1900, then Secretary of State Garretson W. Gibson assumed the presidency as there was no Vice President at the time. He completed Coleman’s term and was elected and served as president from 1902-1903, leaving the presidency in 1904 with Barclay’s inauguration.

His presidency dealt with the proposal to grant concession to the West African Gold Concessions, Ltd – an English company seeking the right to obtain gold and other minerals from more than half of the nation. This deal would include a 1500 British pounds bribe to the Legislature. Through this arrangement, the company would acquire land at extensive leases for up to eighty years, establish its own banks, police and other institutions, and have duty free import of machinery and other items. This deal was ultimately rejected (Brawley, 1921).

His address to the Legislature in 1902 among other things includes the desire for more government accountability by reporting and circulating information on government incomes and expenditures to the public. An excerpt from his speech reads:

I speak thus earnestly on this point because I learn that there is considerable dissatisfaction in some quarters on account of having to pay gold duties. I do not think however, that this would be the case if the people were informed as to what becomes of the money and to what objects it is applied. But unfortunately they are not.

The citizens of the country are entitled to know what becomes of every dollar that is paid into the Government Treasury, and the laws of the State have made the necessary provision for them to have this information by directing that full reports of all receipts and expenditures be made quarterly to the heads of departments, who are required to make annual reports to the representatives of the people in the Nation Legislature. This is regularly done.

Now it appears to me that in order to keep the people informed, as to what becomes of the money they pay into the Government, their representatives, after examining and approving these reports, should order them to be printed for circulation among the people, just as is done in the case of the laws.

I am of the opinion that this method, if adopted and continued, will prevent much of the grumbling about the payment of duties that we hear.

-ACS, 1901

Attempts to increase foreign trade and revenue were unsuccessful and the nation was close to bankruptcy. Liberia still suffered from poverty and isolation, and in some cases government employees were unpaid. Hopeful projects like new schools and roads into the hinterland were trimmed or abandoned. Gibson chose not to run for re-election and was succeeded by Secretary of the Treasury, Arthur Barclay.

Post Presidency

Starr depicts the former president as elderly and generally respected. Gibson was still involved in the affairs of the nation after his presidency. He was part of the delegation to the US in 1908 along with VP J.J. Dossen, Charles B. Dunbar, Charles R. Branch and T.J.R. Faulkner. They stopped in Berlin on their way to Washington and were well received with distinguished courteousness.

The delegation met with President Roosevelt and Secretary Taft on requesting aid for Liberia. Upon their return to Liberia, President Barclay held a reception in their honor on August 18, 1909. Gibson died in Monrovia in 1910.


Brawley, Benjamin Griffith. A Social History of the American Negro, Being a History of the Negro Problem in the United States, Including a History and Study of the Republic of Liberia. The Macmillan Company, 1921. Print.

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

Garrison Gibson. Maryland State Colonization Society Emigrant to Liberia from Talbot County, 1835. Archives of Maryland. Web.

Maugham, R. The Republic of Liberia, Being a General Description of the Negro Republic, with Its History, Commerce, Agriculture, Flora, Fauna, and Present Methods of Administration,. C. Scribner’s sons, 1920. Print.

Liberia. American Colonization Society Bulletin No. 14-17, Feb. 1899 – Nov. 1900. Kraus Reprint Co., 1969. Print.

Liberia. American Colonization Society Bulletin No. 19-27, Nov. 1901 – Nov. 1905. Print.

Report of the Committee on the Coloured Population, of answers of the president of the Colonization Society of Maryland, in obedience to the order adopted by the House of Delegates, on the 4th of January, 1841. Maryland State Colonization Society. 1841. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.

Reuter, Edward Byron. The Mulatto in the United States. Haskell House Publisherss Ltd: New York. 1969.

Starr, Frederick. Liberia : Description, History, Problems. Chicago: s.n., 1913. Print.