Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Letters from Liberia 1800's to Blacks in America
The following letter w as written by an intelligent and respectable colored man, who left the city of New York for Liberia in October, 1851. It was addressed to a colored friend of his in the city:
Monrovia, Wednesday, April 7,1652.
With respect to this country, my expectations are more than realized. I have found that the opinion I formed of Liberia while in America was very nearly correct. This country is certainly a most beautiful one, and the climate delightful. I have often thought, since my arrival here, how the better class of colored people, or at least a portion of them, would flock to Liberia if they knew the real condition of the country and people. I always thought that it was their ignorance of the country that caused their opposition to it, but now I am convinced of that fact.
With regard to the United States having claims on Liberia, I would ask if England, France, Prussia, and Brazil would acknowledge her independence if the United States had any rights to or claim on the country? England has made this government a present of an armed schooner, and has a consul residing here. Brazil has also a minister residing here, but of a higher grade than consul; he is charge d'affaires. The facts are, I think, sufficient to convince any reasonable person that Liberia is really an independent republic, and that the United States has no claim to this country. There is a kind of blind prejudice which keeps most colored people from coming to this country, and for the life of me it is difficult to conceive why this prejudice exists; for in the United States we are exposed to all kinds of insults from the whites, which, in nearly every ease, we dare not resent; whereas, in this country we are all equal, and can enjoy the shade of our own vine and fig-tree, without even the fear of molestation. In the United States we are considered the lowest of the low, for the most contemptible white man is better in the eyes of the law, and in the opinion of the majority of the whites, than the best colored man; whereas, on the other hand, in this country there are no distinctions of color; no man's complexion is ever mentioned as a reproach to him; and furthermore, every one has an equal chance and right of filling any office in the government that they may be qualified to fill. Liberia ought to be the most interesting country (to the colored people of the United States) in the world, from the fact that it is the only republic entirely composed of and governed by the colored people, and it is the only country where a colored man can enjoy liberty, equality, and fraternity, without having to encounter the prejudice of the whites, which exists more or less, in some degree, in every country in which the whites predominate. If this prejudice ever dies away, I believe that many generations yet unborn will have passed away before it. Although this country offers many inducements to colored people, yet it is not a paradise; it has a few unpleasant features, owing principally to its being a new country. The most unpleasant feature that I know is the acclimating fever, and that is far
from being as bad as most people in the United States think it is. On account of the improvements made, such as clearing, &c., it is much more healthy here than formerly; and also, the kind of treatment best adapted to the acclimating fever is better known. The acclimating fever is nothing more than a simple chill and fever, and persons are affected with it according to the degree of care they take of themselves, and also much depends on the constitution of the person. Some persons have told me that they were sick only one day, and that slightly; while others (I speak of old settlers) had it one week, and some have had it from six months to a year or more. A person is seldom sick more than from one day to three weeks at one time. I have been in the country a little more than three months, and have had several attacks of the fever. The longest time I was confined to bed was one day and a half. The symptoms in my ease were a slight chill, followed by a very high fever. I felt no pain whatever during the continuance of the fever, but always after it I would have a slight pain in the back, which soon wore off. I would sometimes be sick in the morning and well in the afternoon. I once had the fever in the forenoon, and was well enough by night to attend a tea party. I am told that all children born here, even the natives not excepted, have the fever while very young. This I have been told by mothers, and I have seen children with the fever who were born here. The general health of the place seems to be very good. A person coming here will not find large cities with splendid buildings, and large bustling populations; but we have only small villages with corresponding populations; you will not hear the sound of numerous carts, drays, &c., but all the carrying is done by native laborers, for the people have not yet begun to use horses and oxen for such purposes. Both may be had from the interior. Bullocks are brought down from the interior, but only to kill. There are at present only three horses in Monrovia, they are used only for riding. I have ridden several times myself The buildings are generally quite plain, built of wood, stone, or brick. There are, however, some very neat brick buildings in Monrovia, and along the banks of the St. Paul's River. I
made an excursion up this river a few weeks ago, and never did I enjoy a trip more than I did this one. The waters of the St. Paul's are delicious to the taste. The river is about half a mile wide; its banks are from about ten to about fifteen feet high, and lined with fine large trees with a thick undergrowth. Among the other trees may be seen the bamboo, and that most graceful of all trees, the palm. This is the most useful tree in Liberia. I have drank the wine made from this tree, and have swung on hammocks manufactured from it, and I have seen very good fishing-lines made from it; besides, numerous other uses are made of this tree. There are four villages on this river: Virginia, Caldwell, Kentucky, and Millsburgh. I saw in many places people making bricks, and busily engaged on their farms of coffee, sugar-cane, I must now come to a close, as I have but little more space to write. I will remark that I advise no man to come here unless he has a little money to begin with. A single man should have at least one or two hundred dollars; although many come here without a cent, and yet do well; but it is generally difficult to get a start in this country without a little means. For my own part, you may infer from what I have said that I like my new home.
We learn that the writer of the following letter, addressed to the Rev. Mr. Pinney, has been appointed consul to Liberia by the British government, in place of Hanson, removed. Mr. Blackledge seems to be a sensible man, and will, no doubt, prove an efficient officer and a valuable citizen to his adopted country:
Upper Caldwell, Liberia, May 8, 1852.
DEAR SIR,—I embrace this opportunity to address you a line. I am still doing what I can to demonstrate that Liberia is a rich and productive country. My crops of cane in 1850 produced 8000 lbs. of good sugar, and 500 gallons of sirup. My crop last year (1851)
was not so large—only about 3500 lbs. of sugar, and 250 gallons of sirup. This falling off was in consequence of having to neglect my sugar-cane farm to give attention to J. R. Straw's cotton farm. I sell my sugar at 8 and 10 cents a pounds, which is quite a saving to the people of Liberia. This year I am giving my whole attention to cane-raising, and I have a crop now in the ground which will produce a much larger quantity of sugar and sirup, and beat, possibly, both my preceding crops together. A few days ago, I, with one or two others, noticed, in many hills of cane on my farm, from forty-nine to sixty stalks. This can not easily be surpassed, I am persuaded, in any country. I am certainly fully convinced that by industry a man may have all the necessaries of life, and a surfeit of the luxuries, in this very prolific and God-blessed country. I have the privilege, doubtless, of saying what no other person can say in Liberia—certainly before any other could say it, if there is any other who can say it now—that is, I use at my table coffee, sugar, sirup, and molasses of my own raising. I have now about twenty-five hundred coffee-trees, which will very soon enable me to export a small quantity to America.
In connection with my sugar-raising, I would just say, that I have to regret that I have not a proper sugar-mill. In consequence of our very poor facilities, in both materials and manufacturing mills (being compelled to do with wooden fixtures entirely), not more than two thirds of the juice can be expressed from the cane; hence, had I an iron mill from the United States, I, and others who make sugar, could, by even less labor than we now perform in grinding, have at least one third more of sugar, &c., from the same quantity of cane, than we now get. This, you perceive, is a clear loss. You see, therefore, we need some help, both in means and advice, to the development of our enterprise and industry.
These remarks are not confined to sugar-growing, but are in every way applicable to the subject of agriculture in general in this country. I have been here now between nine and ten years, and am able to say something respecting Liberia's resources and
the means necessary to their development. By the aid of capital (and where are we to expect it from rather than from the United States?), arrow-root, ginger, cocoa, coffee, sugar, and other products of superior quality can be successfully raised here in large quantities, and exported to the United States, so as to create a competition in the market. Who, then, is sufficiently enterprising among your acquaintances to embark in so noble a scheme, that of developing in Liberia her agricultural resources?
The want of means, together with the holding out no inducement whatever for industrial enterprise, are what have kept me so long in the background. Let us, therefore, have the means, have the tin, and let a door be thrown open in your country to invite Liberia's productions especially; let an interest be thus awakened there in our behalf, and an impetus will be given to Liberia, which will force her forward in advance of the age. Be you sure, sir, that agriculture is the dependence, and will become the future glory and greatness of our youthful country. I speak here for myself; others are capable of speaking for themselves. I believe, sir, that all the farmers in Liberia need help in the way I have alluded to.
I am, most respectfully, sir, yours, &c.,
JOHN MUSU NEAPO.
We could not give a more touching evidence of the blessings conferred on heathen Africa, through the instrumentality of Christian education, than in the subjoined letter of Musu. It is but a few years since this consistent Christian was an ignorant Pagan. After acquiring a partial knowledge of the English language, he was admitted into the missionary school of Cape Palmas. This letter is a fine specimen of the happy change he has experienced—his walk and conversation being in beautiful conformity with his Christian profession, and rendering him a most useful auxiliary to the devoted men whose lives are dedicated to the regeneration of that dark Continent.
All spiritual blessings be on my dear friend—whatever the tender heart or the almighty arm of the loving Jesus has to bestow, may it be all yours! What glad news you wrote to me about Mrs. ——. Did you see her? Yes, glad and joy speak to my heart, and laugh come to my mouth. I believe that you have seen her; you told me that you saw her, and that she wants very much to return to Africa as a missionary. I have got a letter from her, and my believing and wishes are one, my gladness and happiness follow after. Oh my happiness is very great; and a good, happy Christian, who is fixed to a point, go where he will, one object is his all. The crucified Savior is his happiness; and this heaven he carries about with him. No time, no place, no circumstances, make any change. He has one Lord, one faith, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Come pain, sickness, death, the Savior's love and power bears him up. Come temptations of all kinds, I will be with thee in the hour of temptation, says Lord God. Where he is, nothing need be feared, because nothing can hurt. Oh, my dear friend, the true knowledge of Jesus Christ is certainly a cure for all the miseries which come upon the world by sin. There is no evil of mind or body, temporal or eternal, but our precious, dear Lord is by office engaged to remove. And shall not you, and I, and our friends value and love him? What we set our hearts upon, what can bid so high for them as this adorable Savior?
Dear Mr. Rambo, I wish very much to see you. How glad and happy I should be when I meet you, and Doctor May, and Mr. Hoffman; and then—then my heart will talk to my mouth, and my tongue will speak all what I have done or seen.
I am your affectionate friend,
JOHN MUSU NEAPO.
The writer of the following letter is a native of Grand Bassa. One of the Swiss missionaries (the Rev. Mr. Sessing), who were invited to Liberia by Mr. Ashmun, took him, when a child, under
his charge, and subsequently he pursued his studies in the schools of Sierra Leone. He is employed by the Northern Baptist Board, and has a very good reputation as a Christian and teacher.
Bexley, July 5,1850.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,—In the following lines, which I have taken on myself to address you, I hope to find you in the enjoyment of good health, the same as we are at present. Our mission still continues, with its different operations, in which we are severally engaged, endeavoring daily to instruct the poor, benighted heathen. Not long ago we received a letter of instruction from our Board, that the lead of the mission affairs is now considered to be under the superintendence of my native brother and cousin, Lewis K. Crocker, at Little Bassa, and myself; which serious charge to keep we humbly depend on God to help us. Our schools are still kept daily, this, and that of Little Bassa, where brother Crocker resides. Our children are improving well in their acquisitions of the different branches of knowledge, such as spelling hard words, reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, natural philosophy, &c. I am glad to state that the grown people of this country, though they have not the privilege of improving themselves by daily instruction, like the children, yet many of them are getting civilized, getting acquainted with the law, political economy, and secular improvement; forgetting their old habits, and adopting those of their civilized fellow-creatures.
I am, dear sir, respectfully yours, JACOB VONBRUN.
Mr. Abraham Cauldwell was sent out to Liberia by an association of colored persons in New York, to examine the country and prepare the way for emigrants to go there.
New York, November 24, 1852.
BRETHREN AND FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN,—You are aware that I was appointed traveling agent to Africa on the 23d of last Dec-
cember, 1851, by the New York and Liberia Agricultural Association. I returned to New York on the 12th November, 1852, and it now becomes my duty to give you some account of Africa, and of the benefits to be obtained by emigration to that country, and whether there are any benefits to be obtained by so doing, or not. I will endeavor to give you as true a statement as my humble ability will admit. In truth and soberness, it would be needless for me to tell you that Africa flows with milk and honey, or that corn grows without planting. Liberia truly is a garden-spot; her lands are beautiful, her soil is most fertile, her prairies and her forests are blooming and gay, her rivers and streams abound with fish, and her forests with game. Her Constitution is a republican government, and a most excellent code of laws are strictly observed. There are several churches and schools in Monrovia, and they are well filled with people and scholars. The Monrovians are the most strictly moral, if not the most strictly religious people, I ever saw.
I shall now speak of emigration, which I have some knowledge of In 1823 I emigrated to Hayti, and in 1839 I emigrated to the island of Trinidad, West Indies, and lastly to Africa, where I find a peaceful home, where storms of prejudice never come on account of my complexion. I have been noticing for several years the movements of the Abolition Society, and once thought they were right, and still believe they are sincere and really desire to elevate the colored man. Some of them have shown it too plainly for me to be mistaken. For instance, Mr. Gerritt Smith, who gave away part of his fortune. Many others have also sacrificed their good names and their money. But, alas! how many good men have been deceived. I, for one, have been blind to my best interest. I hesitate not to say that colonization is the only thing to elevate the colored man. It is vain for many of us to talk of settling on Mr. Smith's land, or of emigrating to Canada and settling on land without money, which, comparatively speaking, few have. Africa holds forth inducements whereby the colored man may be elevated, without money and without price. There are many noble-hearted philanthropists, who stand
ready, with willing hearts and open purses, to aid in the cause, if called upon. Awake, brethren, to your best interests!
. . . . The government grants ten acres to each family, and if they want more they can get it for about 50 cents per acre. . . .
. . . . Liberia calls for you. Emancipated slaves are not the men to enlighten a heathen nation, for they are not enlightened themselves. Liberia calls for men of understanding, energy, and capital. Come, brethren, let us leave our beloved country; there is an asylum for you in Africa. You can there raise every thing to make you happy. There is a wide field open for the farmer. If a man plants ten acres of coffee, in four or five years he will realize a handsome income. Coffee requires very little labor, and it would be of more value than what you could make in America in twenty years by labor. Every thing grows abundantly, with very little labor. It is a fine country for cotton, corn, and rice, though cotton is not much planted as yet. . . . . You can salt down beef, pork, and fish. I would, in particular, recommend farmers to emigrate to that country. Monrovia is decidedly the best market, in my opinion. If you go there to labor by the day, month, or year, you will not make much, for laborers' wages are very low.
I would advise emigrants to take as much house furniture as they need—for every thing they want here they want there—besides a little money, if they can. Mechanics may find work, though wages are low. Men of capital, as mechanics, can do well, and are much wanted. Young men of energy, now is your time. Freemen of the North, Africa calls for you. There you can enjoy the luxuries of life and the freedom God intended for man. To all those who may feel friendly to the cause of emigration to Liberia, and wish to aid the same by giving, I say that donations will be thankfully received and forwarded to Liberia by the Association.
The following letters were for the most part sent to the Secretary of the Colonization Society, Rev. J. Morris Pease:
From William H. Taylor.
Edina, June 6,1852.
DEAR SIR,—I am well, and hope you are the same. I arrived safe after a passage of thirty-seven days from the Capes. I am happy to inform you that instead of being received in Baltimore in chains, as I was told I would be, I was received very hospitably. I am certainly grateful to the society for sending me to Africa. I am perfectly satisfied with the change, only that I had not started in 1842 instead of 1852. Here I stand erect and free, upon the soil of my ancestors, and can truly say to all of my race, you that would be free, Africa is your home, and the only home where he that is tinctured with African blood can enjoy liberty. This alone of him that loves liberty, for it is liberty alone that makes life dear. He does not live at all who lives to fear. Please say to any that may come to your office, that I say, come to Africa and assist us in raising a light that may never go out. Enterprise is what we want to make this country and people equal with any on the face of the globe. Should any of the people of Camden county, New Jersey, come to you for information, show them this letter—tell them that I say there is land enough and provision enough, by industry, for every enterprising colored man in the United States. I find in Edina a fine soil, that will raise any thing that a tropical country will produce. A fine, healthy-looking people, that are kind and benevolent—who receive the emigrants with the greatest kindness, and welcome them to the land of liberty.
Should Charles S. Miller or Benjamin Griffin come to your office, please encourage them all you can, and show them this letter, and tell them to come over and help to fight the battles of the Lord against the mighty. I stop writing to eat my palm-nuts, which are very delicious when roasted; the stone of the nut tastes just like the cocoa-nut. I add no more at present, but when I see more I will add more. I remain,
Yours respectfully, WM. H. TAYLOR.
From D. A. Madison.
Buchanan, July 2, 1852.
MOST RESPECTED SIR,—Liberia is destined to be the glory, the home, and the resting-place for all the dark race. Then let them come home, and rove abroad no longer, and that the chains of all who will or could come and will not may be made tenfold faster, because here they can come and be free. I mean my brethren of color. There has been no disturbance with the republic by the natives.
I believe the American Colonization Society is doing more now to alleviate the condition of the colored race than ever; for I do not know when I have seen as good-looking a set of people as came out in the Ralph Cross and by the Morgan Dix.
I sent you a small box of coffee of my own raising, which I hope you may have got before this time. Our Sunday-school is doing tolerably well, and wishes to be remembered to you and their friends in America.
Excuse my blunders. I think I said to you before that I have not had a day's schooling in my life.
Yours in truth, D. A. MADISON.
From Charles Deputie.
Mr. Deputie was born free—a native of Pennsylvania.
Monrovia, January 10,1853.