The Young Republic

By the time of independence, Liberia covered about 12,830 square miles along the coast and had a population of approximately 4,500 colonists. This first African republic was seen as a symbol of freedom for enslaved blacks. President Roberts visited Europe early in his presidency to promote trade and amity with the European powers.

International Recognition

Roberts visited Europe in 1848 where he was warmly received. On this trip, he focused more on official recognition of the Liberian nation. The young nation was officially recognized by Britain in 1848 and France in 1852. Other European powers followed – Belgium in 1858, Denmark in 1860, Italy and the Netherlands in 1862. In 1849, Portugal, Sardinia, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Hamburg, Bremen, Lubec and Haiti recognized Liberia as a sovereign nation.

Slave trading still occurred on the West African coast and was a menace to Liberia. Eight months into his presidency, Roberts and his cabinet had to organize an invasion into the Cess Valley area were Spanish slavers and their accomplices were snatching natives as slaves. The slavers were defeated and some of the people that were rescued decided to stay in Liberia instead of returning to their tribes.

The new leaders were first time administrators learning the reigns of running a nation. The short presidential term caused political upheaval and huge expenses every other year. Roberts was re-elected in 1849, but did face opposition from the True Whig party which had introduce race as an issue in running the nation. The Whigs termed themselves the “true blacks” considering Roberts and numerous other colonists were mulatto. The Whigs were right as the highest positions in the government were occupied by the light-skinned mulattos.

‘President Roberts’s House, Monrovia.’ Philadelphia: Wagner & McGuigan’s, ca. 1850. Lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (12)

Roberts’ goal was creating an agrarian self-sufficient nation and developing the infrastructure as well as the human potential. Many colonists arrived in Liberia during Roberts’ term. The government held its promise of providing land for the newcomers to farm and support themselves. The administration encouraged citizens to expand their farms and cooperate with others in improving their communities.

The British navy helped in ending slavery in the Gallinas area. Through negotiations with the kings in the Gallinas area, Roberts purchased the area and persuaded the kings to end slavery and join Liberia. The nation expanded as the administration acquired more land from the natives and welcomed more immigrants. Even some natives were granted citizenship in 1853.

This era saw many schools being built, numerous missionaries arrived and started their own schools, and development that encouraged the colonists and boosted the morale of the first African nation.


Dunn, D. Historical Dictionary of Liberia. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Print.

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

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