Liberia under Barclay

Barclay’s presidency began when the nation was coming from a scandal of such magnitude and at a point of low morale. He had to restore national and international confidence in the government and fix the nation’s finances and economy. There was also an uprising in the Kru region and World War 2 happened during this period.

He worked on bringing more foreign capital and investors into the nation to improve its economy. The Ports of Entry law restricting foreign investors was repealed and Liberia signed concession agreements with various European nations, furthering the Open Door Policy that started under President Arthur Barclay.

Firestone was Liberia’s largest employer and controlled its finances and the economy. The Firestone agreement in 1926 included a 5 million dollar loan to Liberia. Consequently, a sub entity of the company, the Bank of Monrovia, was the only bank in Liberia, and processed the loan repayment from all government revenue before the civil servants were paid. The Barclay administration suspended payment of the loan until the government revenue was sufficient.

Consequently, in 1944 all of Liberia’s revenues – and expenditures – were controlled by the USA. The modern economy of the republic completely depended on the Firestone Plantations Company whereas financially it was controlled by the Bank of Monrovia. This bank, a Firestone subsidiary, had in 1930 become the only bank in the country after the withdrawal of the Bank for British West Africa.

-Van Der Kraaij

A lack of resources caused the administration to dissolve the military and instead reopened ROTC programs in the high schools and colleges (Padmore, 1996). During World War 2, Liberia allowed the US government to establish a military post at Robertsfield, and the US gave Liberia a loan in return. This funded construction of the Freeport of Monrovia as well as a railway station linking Bomi Hills to Freeport for iron ore transport.

Roosevelt and Barclay in Liberia, Jan 1943
Credit: National Archives & Records Administration

US President Franklin Roosevelt stopped at Robertsfield to thank Barclay and invited him to Washington. Before he left office, Barclay and President Elect Tubman visited Washington. Barclay was the first president of Liberia to visit the White House and spent a night as a guest.

A final act of the Barclay administration was adopting the US dollar as the only legal tender in Liberia on December 31, 1943. The British pound that had been used alongside the dollar was discontinued.

This was another action of the nation that showed its economic reliance and political leanings with the US. This was also an attempt to encourage more trading with foreign companies. It eventually paid off with multiple US companies coming to Liberia during the Tubman era. Barclay anointed Associate Justice Tubman as his successor and Tubman began his term in 1944. This was a continuation of Liberia under the True Whig Party.


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