1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Liberia
LIBERIA, a negro republic in West Africa, extending along the coast of northern Guinea about 300 m., between the British colony of Sierra Leone on the N.W. and the French colony of the Ivory Coast on the S.E. The westernmost point of Liberia (at the mouth of the river Mano) lies in about 6° 55′ N. and 11° 32′ W. The southernmost point of Liberia, and at the same time almost its most eastern extension, is at the mouth of the Cavalla, beyond Cape Palmas, only 4° 22′ N. of the equator, and in about 7° 33′ W. The width of Liberia inland varies very considerably; it is greatest, about 200 m., from N.E. to S.W. The Liberia-Sierra Leone boundary was determined by a frontier commission in 1903. Commencing at the mouth of the river Mano, it follows the Mano up stream till that river cuts 10° 40′ W. It then followed this line of longitude to its intersection with N. latitude 9° 6′, but by the Franco-Liberian understanding of 1907 the frontier on this side was withdrawn to 8° 25′ N., where the river Makona crosses 10° 40’ W. The Liberian frontier with the adjacent French possessions was defined by the Franco-Liberian treaty of 1892, but as the definition therein given was found to be very difficult of reconciliation with geographical features (for in 1892 the whole of the Liberian interior was unmapped) further negotiations were set on foot. In 1905 Liberia proposed to France that the boundary line should follow the river Moa from the British frontier of Sierra Leone up stream to near the source of the Moa (or Makona), and that from this point the boundary should run eastwards along the line of water-parting between the system of the Niger on the north and that of the coast rivers (Moa, Lofa, St Paul’s) on the south, until the 8th degree of N. latitude was reached, thence following this 8th degree eastwards to where it cuts the head stream of the Cavalla river. From this point the boundary between France and Liberia would be the course of the Cavalla river from near its source to the sea. Within the limits above described Liberia would possess a total area of about 43,000 to 45,000 sq. m. But after deliberation and as the result of certain “frontier incidents” France modified her counter-proposals in 1907, and the actual definition of the northern and eastern frontiers of Liberia is as follows:—
Starting from the point on the frontier of the British colony of Sierra Leone where the river Moa or Makona crosses that frontier, the Franco-Liberian frontier shall follow the left bank of the river Makona up stream to a point 5 kilometres to the south of the town of Bofosso. From this point the frontier shall leave the line of the Makona and be carried in a south-easterly direction to the source of the most north-westerly affluent of the Nuon river or Western Cavalla. This line shall be so drawn as to leave on the French side of the boundary the following towns: Kutumai, Kisi Kurumai, Sundibú, Zuapa, Nzibila, Koiama, Bangwedu and Lola. From the north-westernmost source of the Nuon the boundary shall follow the right bank of the said Nuon river down stream to its presumed confluence with the Cavalla, and thenceforward the right bank of the river Cavalla down to the sea. If the ultimate destination of the Nuon is not the Cavalla river, then the boundary shall follow the right bank of the Nuon down stream as far as the town of Tuleplan. A line shall then be drawn from the southern outskirts of the town of Tuleplan due E. to the Cavalla river, and thence shall follow the right bank of the Cavalla river to the sea.
(The delimitation commission proved that the Nuon does not flow into the Cavalla, but about 6° 30′ N. it flows very near the north-westernmost bend of that river. Tuleplan is in about lat. 6° 50′ N. The river Makona takes a much more northerly course than had been estimated. The river Nuon also is situated 20 or 30 m. farther to the east than had been supposed. Consequently the territory of Liberia as thus demarcated is rather larger than it would appear on the uncorrected English maps of 1907—about 41,000 sq. m.)
It is at the southern extremity of Liberia, Cape Palmas, that the West African coast from Morocco to the southernmost extremity of Guinea turns somewhat abruptly eastwards and northwards and faces the Gulf of Guinea. As the whole coastline of Liberia thus fronts the sea route from Europe to South Africa it is always likely to possess a certain degree of strategical importance. The coast, however, is unprovided with a single good harbour. The anchorage at Monrovia is safe, and with some expenditure of money a smooth harbour could be made in front of Grand Basa.
Coast Features.—The coast is a good deal indented, almost all the headlands projecting from north-east to south-west. A good deal of the seaboard is dangerous by reason of the sharp rocks which lie near the surface. As most of the rivers have rapids or falls actually at the sea coast or close to it, they are, with the exception of the Cavalla, useless for penetrating far inland, and the whole of this part of Africa from Cape Palmas north-west to the Senegal suggests a sunken land. In all probability the western projection of Africa was connected by a land bridge with the opposite land of Brazil as late as the Eocene period of the Tertiary epoch. The Liberian coast has few lagoons compared with the adjoining littoral of Sierra Leone or that of the Ivory Coast. The coast, in fact, rises in some places rather abruptly from the sea. Cape Mount (on the northern side of which is a large lagoon—Fisherman Lake) at its highest point is 1050 ft. above sea level. Cape Mesurado is about 350 ft., Cape Palmas about 200 ft. above the sea. There is a salt lake or lagoon between the Cape Palmas river and the vicinity of the Cavalla. Although very little of the coast belt is actually swampy, a kind of natural canalization connects many of the rivers at their mouths with each other, though some of these connecting creeks are as yet unmarked on maps. Mountains.—Although there are patches of marsh—generally the swampy bottoms of valleys—the whole surface of Liberia inclines to be hilly or even mountainous at a short distance inland from the coast. In the north-east, French explorers have computed the altitudes of some mountains at figures which would make them the highest land surfaces of the western projection of Africa—from 6000 to 9000 ft. But these altitudes are largely matters of conjecture. The same mountains have been sighted by English explorers coming up from the south and are pronounced to be “very high.” It is possible that they may reach to 6000 ft. in some places. Between the western bend of the Cavalla river and the coast there is a somewhat broken mountain range with altitudes of from 2000 to 5000 ft. (approximate). The Pō range to the west of the St Paul’s river may reach in places to 3000 ft. Rivers.—The work of the Franco-Liberian delimitation commission in 1908–1909 cleared up many points connected with the hydrography of the country. Notably it traced the upper Cavalla, proving that that river was not connected either with the Nuon on the west or the Ko or Zo on the east. The upper river and the left bank of the lower river of the Cavalla are in French territory. It rises in about 7° 50′ N., 8° 30′ W. in the Nimba mountains, where also rise the Nuon, St John’s and Dukwia rivers. After flowing S.E. the Cavalla, between 7° and 6° N., under the name of Dugu, makes a very considerable elbow to the west, thereafter resuming its south-easterly course. It is navigable from the sea for some 80 m. from its mouth and after a long series of rapids is again navigable. Unfortunately the Cavalla does not afford a means of easy penetration into the rich hinterland of Liberia on account of the bad bar at its mouth. The Nuon (or Nipwe), which up to 1908 was described sometimes as the western Cavalla and sometimes as the upper course of the St John’s river, has been shown to be the upper course of the Cestos. About 6° 30′ N. it approaches within 16 m. of the Cavalla. It rises in the Nimba mountains some 10 m. S. of the source of the Cavalla, and like all the Liberian rivers (except the Cavalla) it has a general S.W. flow. The St Paul, though inferior to the Cavalla in length, is a large river with a considerable volume of water. The main branch rises in the Beila country nearly as far north as 9° N. under the name of Diani. Between 8° and 7° N. it is joined by the Wé from the west and the Walé from the east. The important river Lofa flows nearly parallel with the St Paul’s river and enters the sea about 40 m. to the west, under the name of Little Cape Mount river. The Mano or Bewa river rises in the dense Gora forest, but is of no great importance until it becomes the frontier between Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Dukwia and Farmington are tortuous rivers entering the sea under the name of the river Junk (Portuguese, Junco). The Farmington is a short stream, but the Dukwia is believed to be the lower course of the Mani, which rises as the Tigney (Tige), north of the source of the Cavalla, just south of 8° N. The St John’s river of the Basa country appears to be of considerable importance and volume. The Sino river rises in the Niete mountains and brings down a great volume of water to the sea, though it is not a river of considerable length. The Duobe rises at the back of the Satro Mountains and flows nearly parallel with the Cavalla, which it joins. The Moa or Makona river is a fine stream of considerable volume, but its course is perpetually interrupted by rocks and rapids. Its lower course is through the territory of Sierra Leone, and it enters the sea as the Sulima. Climate and Rainfall.—Liberia is almost everywhere well watered. The climate and rainfall over the whole of the coast region for about 120 m. inland are equatorial, the rainfall in the western half of the country being about 150 in. per annum and in the eastern half about 100 in. North of a distance of about 120 m. inland the climate is not quite so rainy, and the weather is much cooler during the dry season. This region beyond the hundred-miles coast belt is far more agreeable and healthy to Europeans. Forests.—Outside a coast belt of about 20 m. and south of 8° N. the country is one vast forest, except where the natives have cleared the land for cultivation. In many districts the land has been cleared and cultivated and then abandoned, and has relapsed into scrub and jungle which is gradually returning to the condition of forest. The densest forest of all would seem to be that known as Gora, which is almost entirely uninhabited and occupies an area of about 6000 sq. m. between the Pō hills and the British frontier. There is another very dense forest stretching with little interruption from the eastern side of the St Paul’s river nearly to the Cavalla. The Nidi forest is noteworthy for its magnificent growth of Funtumia rubber trees. It extends between the Duobe and the Cavalla rivers. The extreme north of Liberia is still for the most part a very well-watered country, covered with a rich vegetation, but there are said to be a few breaks that are rather stony and that have a very well-marked dry season in which the vegetation is a good deal burnt up. In the main Liberia is the forest country par excellence of West Africa, and although this region of dense forests overlaps the political frontiers of both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, it is a feature of physical geography so nearly coincident with the actual frontiers of Liberia as to give this country special characteristics clearly marked in its existing fauna. Fauna.—The fauna of Liberia is sufficiently peculiar, at any rate as regards vertebrates, to make it very nearly identical with a “district” or sub-province of the West African province, though in this case the Liberian “district” would not include the northern-most portions of the country and would overlap on the east and west into Sierra Leone and the French Ivory Coast. It is probable that the Liberian chimpanzee may offer one or more distinct varieties; there is an interesting local development of the Diana monkey, sometimes called the bay-thighed monkey (Cercopithecus diana ignita) on account of its brilliant orange-red thighs. One or more species of bats are peculiar to the country—Vespertilio stampflii, and perhaps Roussettus büttikoferi; two species of shrew (Crocidura), one dormouse (Graphiurus nagtglasii); the pygmy hippopotamus (H. liberiensis)—differing from the common hippopotamus by its much smaller size and by the reduction of the incisor teeth to a single pair in either jaw, or occasionally to the odd number of three; and two remarkable Cephalophus antelopes peculiar to this region so far as is known—these are the white-shouldered duiker, Cephalophus jentinki, and the zebra antelope, C. doriae, a creature the size of a small goat, of a bright bay brown, with broad black zebra-like stripes. Amongst other interesting mammals are four species of the long-haired Colobus monkeys (black, black and white, greenish-grey and reddish-brown); the Potto lemur, fruit bats of large size with monstrous heads (Hypsignathus monstrosus); the brush-tailed African porcupine; several very brightly coloured squirrels; the scaly-tailed flying Anomalurus; the common porcupine; the leopard, serval, golden cat (Felis celidogaster) in two varieties, the copper-coloured and the grey, possibly the same animal at different ages; the striped and spotted hyenas (beyond the forest region); two large otters; the tree hyrax, elephant and manati; the red bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus); the West African chevrotain (Dorcatherium); the Senegalese buffalo; Bongo antelope (Boocercus); large yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus sylvicultrix), black duiker, West African hartebeest (beyond the forest), pygmy antelope (Neotragus); and three species of Manis or pangolin (M. gigantea, M. longicaudata and M. tricuspis).
The birds of Liberia are not quite so peculiar as the mammals. There is the interesting white-necked guineafowl, Agelastes (which is found on the Gold Coast and elsewhere west of the lower Niger); there is one peculiar species of eagle owl (Bubo lettii) and a very handsome sparrow-hawk (Accipiter büttikoferi); a few sun-birds, warblers and shrikes are peculiar to the region. The other birds are mainly those of Senegambia and of the West African forest region generally. A common and handsome bird is the blue plantain-eater (Corythaeola). The fishing vulture (Gypohierax) is found in all the coast districts, but true vultures are almost entirely absent except from the north, where the small brown Percnopterus makes its appearance. A flamingo (Phoeniconaias) visits Fisherman Lake, and there are a good many species of herons. Cuckoos are abundant, some of them of lovely plumage, also rollers, kingfishers and horn-bills. The last family is well represented, especially by the three forest forms—the elate hornbill and black hornbill (Ceratogymna), and the long-tailed, white-crested hornbill (Ortholophus leucolophus). There is one trogon—green and crimson, a brightly coloured ground thrush (Pitta), numerous woodpeckers and barbets; glossy starlings, the black and white African crow and a great variety of brilliantly coloured weaver birds, waxbills, shrikes and sun-birds.
As regards reptiles, there are at least seven poisonous snakes—two cobras, two puff-adders and three vipers. The brilliantly coloured red and blue lizard (Agama colonorum) is found in the coast region of eastern Liberia. There are three species of crocodile, at least two chameleons (probably more when the forest is further explored), the large West African python (P. sebae) and a rare Boine snake (Calabaria). On the sea coast there is the leathery turtle (Dermochelis) and also the green turtle (Chelone). In the rivers and swamps there are soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx and Sternothaerus). The land tortoises chiefly belong to the genus Cynyxis. The fresh-water fish seem in their affinities to be nearly allied to those of the Niger and the Nile. There is a species of Polypterus, and it is probable that the Protopterus or lung fish is also found there, though its existence has not as yet been established by a specimen. As regards invertebrates, very few species or genera are peculiar to Liberia so far as is yet known, though there are probably one or two butterflies of local range. The gigantic scorpions (Pandinus imperator)—more than 6 in. long—are a common feature in the forest. One noteworthy feature in Liberia, however, is the relative absence of mosquitoes, and the white ants and some other insect pests are not so troublesome here as in other parts of West Africa. The absence or extreme paucity of mosquitoes no doubt accounts for the infrequency of malarial fever in the interior. Flora.—Nowhere, perhaps, does the flora of West Africa attain a more wonderful development than in the republic of Liberia and in the adjoining regions of Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. This is partly due to the equatorial position and the heavy rainfall. The region of dense forest, however, does not cover the whole of Liberia; the Makona river and the northern tributaries of the Lofa and St Paul’s flow through a mountainous country covered with grass and thinly scattered trees, while the ravines and watercourses are still richly forested. A good deal of this absence of forest is directly due to the action of man. Year by year the influence of the Mahommedan tribes on the north leads to the cutting down of the forest, the extension of both planting and pasture and the introduction of cattle and even horses. In the regions bordering the coast also a good deal of the forest has disappeared, its place being taken (where the land is not actually cultivated) by very dense scrub. The most striking trees in the forest region are, in the basin of the Cavalla, the giant Funtumia elastica, which grows to an altitude of 200 ft.; various kinds of Parinarium, Oldfieldia and Khaya; the bombax or cotton tree, giant dracaenas, many kinds of fig; Borassus palms, oil palms, the climbing Calamus palms, and on the coast the coconut. The most important palm of the country perhaps is the Raphia vinifera, which produces the piassava fibre of commerce. There are about twenty-two different trees, shrubs and vines producing rubber of more or less good quality. These belong chiefly to the Apocynaceous order. In this order is the genus Strophanthus, which is represented in Liberia by several species, amongst others S. gratus. This Strophanthus is not remarkable for its rubber—which is mere bird lime—but for the powerful poison of its seeds, often used for poisoning arrows, but of late much in use as a drug for treating diseases of the heart. Coffee of several species is indigenous and grows wild. The best known is the celebrated Coffea liberica. The kola tree is also indigenous. Large edible nuts are derived from Coula edulis of the order Olacineae. The country is exceedingly rich in Aroids, many of which are epiphytic, festooning the trunks of tall trees with a magnificent drapery of abundant foliage. A genus much represented is Culcasia, and swampy localities are thickly set with the giant Cyrtosperma arum, with flower spathes that are blotched with deep purple. Ground orchids and tree orchids are well represented; Polystachya liberica, an epiphytic orchid with sprays of exquisite small flowers of purple and gold, might well be introduced into horticulture for its beauty. The same might be said of the magnificent Lissochilus roseus, a terrestrial orchid, growing to 7 ft. in height, with rose-coloured flowers nearly 1 in. long; there are other orchids of fantastic design in their green and white flowers, some of which have spurs (nectaries) nearly 7 in. long.
Many trees offer magnificent displays of flowers at certain seasons of the year; perhaps the loveliest effect is derived from the bushes and trailing creepers of the Combretum genus, which, during the “winter” months from December to March, cover the scrub and the forest with mantles of rose colour. Smaethmannia trees are thickly set at this season with large blossoms of waxen white. Very beautiful also are the red velvet or white velvet sepals of the Mussaenda genus. Bamboos of the genus Oxytenanthera are indigenous. Tree ferns are found on the mountains above 4000 ft. The bracken grows in low sandy tracts near the coast. The country in general is a fern paradise, and the iridescent creeping Selaginella (akin to Lycopodium) festoons the undergrowth by the wayside. The cultivated trees and plants of importance are, besides rubber, the manioc or cassada, the orange tree, lime, cacao, coffee, pineapple (which now runs wild over the whole of Liberia), sour sop, ginger, papaw, alligator apple, avocado pear, okro, cotton (Gossypium peruvianum—the kidney cotton), indigo, sweet potato, capsicum (chillie), bread-fruit, arrowroot (Maranta), banana, yam, “coco”-yam (Colocasia antiquorum, var. esculenta), maize, sorghum, sugar cane, rice and eleusine (Eleusine), besides gourds, pumpkins, cabbages and onions. Minerals.—The hinterland of Liberia has been but slightly explored for mineral wealth. In a general way it is supposed that the lands lying between the lower St Paul’s river and the Sierra Leone frontier are not much mineralized, except that in the vicinity of river mouths there are indications of bitumen. The sand of nearly all the rivers contains a varying proportion of gold. Garnets and mica are everywhere found. There have been repeated stories of diamonds obtained from the Finley Mountains (which are volcanic) in the central province, but all specimens sent home, except one, have hitherto proved to be quartz crystals. There are indications of sapphires and other forms of corundum. Corundum indeed is abundantly met with in the eastern half of Liberia. The sand of the rivers contains monazite. Graphite has been discovered in the Pō Hills. Lead has been reported from the Nidi or Niete Mountains. Gold is present in some abundance in the river sand of central Liberia, and native reports speak of the far interior as being rich in gold. Iron—haematite—is present almost everywhere. There are other indications of bitumen, besides those mentioned, in the coast region of eastern Liberia.
History and Population.—Tradition asserts that the Liberian coast was first visited by Europeans when it was reached by the Dieppois merchant-adventurers in the 14th century. The French in the 17th century claimed that but for the loss of the archives of Dieppe they would be able to prove that vessels from this Norman port had established settlements at Grand Basa, Cape Mount, and other points on the coast of Liberia. No proof has yet been forthcoming, however, that the Portuguese were not the first white men to reach this coast. The first Portuguese pioneer was Pedro de Sintra, who discovered and noted in 1461 the remarkable promontory of Cape Mount, Cape Mesurado (where the capital, Monrovia, is now situated) and the mouth of the Junk river. In 1462 de Sintra returned with another Portuguese captain, Sueiro da Costa, and penetrated as far as Cape Palmas and the Cavalla river. Subsequently the Portuguese mapped the whole coast of Liberia, and nearly all the prominent features—capes, rivers, islets—off that coast still bear Portuguese names. From the 16th century onwards, English, Dutch, German, French and other European traders contested the commerce of this coast with the Portuguese, and finally drove them away. In the 18th century France once or twice thought of establishing colonies here. At the end of the 18th century, when the tide was rising in favour of the abolition of slavery and the repatriation of slaves, the Grain Coast [so called from the old trade in the “Grains of Paradise” or Amomum pepper] was suggested once or twice as a suitable home for repatriated negroes. Sierra Leone, however, was chosen first on account of its possessing an admirable harbour. But in 1821 Cape Mesurado was selected by the American Colonization Society as an appropriate site for the first detachment of American freed negroes, whom difficulties in regard to extending the suffrage in the United States were driving away from a still slave-holding America. From that date, 1821, onwards to the present day, negroes and mulattos—freed slaves or the descendants of such—have been crossing the Atlantic in small numbers to settle on the Liberian coast. The great migrations took place during the first half of the 19th century. Only two or three thousand American emigrants—at most—have come to Liberia since 1860.
The colony was really founded by Jehudi Ashmun, a white American, between 1822 and 1828. The name “Liberia” was invented by the Rev. R. R. Gurley in 1824. In 1847 the American colonists declared their country to be an independent republic, and its status in this capacity was recognized in 1848–1849 by most of the great powers with the exception of the United States. Until 1857 Liberia consisted of two republics—Liberia and Maryland. These American settlements were dotted at intervals along the coast from the mouth of the Sewa river on the west to the San Pedro river on the east (some 60 m. beyond Cape Palmas). Some tracts of territory, such as the greater part of the Kru coast, still, however, remain without foreign—American—settlers, and in a state of quasi-independence. The uncertainty of Liberian occupation led to frontier troubles with Great Britain and disputes with France. Finally, by the English and French treaties of 1885 and 1892 Liberian territory on the coast was made continuous, but was limited to the strip of about 300 m. between the Mano river on the west and the Cavalla river on the east. The Sierra Leone-Liberia frontier was demarcated in 1903; then followed the negotiations with France for the exact delimitation of the Ivory Coast-Liberia frontier, with the result that Liberia lost part of the hinterland she had claimed. Reports of territorial encroachments aroused much sympathy with Liberia in America and led in February 1909 to the appointment by President Roosevelt of a commission which visited Liberia in the summer of that year to investigate the condition of the country. As a result of the commissioners’ report negotiations were set on foot for the adjustment of the Liberian debt and the placing of United States officials in charge of the Liberian customs. In July 1910 it was announced that the American government, acting in general agreement with Great Britain, France and Germany, would take charge of the finances, military organization, agriculture and boundary questions of the republic. A loan for £400,000 was also arranged. Meantime the attempts of the Liberian government to control the Kru coast led to various troubles, such as the fining or firing upon foreign steamships for alleged contraventions of regulations. During 1910 the natives in the Cape Palmas district were at open warfare with the Liberian authorities.
One of the most notable of the Liberian presidents was J. J. Roberts, who was nearly white, with only a small proportion of negro blood in his veins. But perhaps the ablest statesman that this American-Negro republic has as yet produced is a pure-blooded negro—President Arthur Barclay, a native of Barbados in the West Indies, who came to Liberia with his parents in the middle of the 19th century, and received all his education there. President Barclay was of unmixed negro descent, but came of a Dahomey stock of superior type. Until the accession to power of President Barclay in 1904 (he was re-elected in 1907), the Americo-Liberian government on the coast had very uncertain relations with the indigenous population, which is well armed and tenacious of local independence. But of late Liberian influence has been extending, more especially in the counties of Maryland and Montserrado.
The president is now elected for a term of four years. There is a legislature of eight senators and thirteen representatives. The type of the constitution is very like that of the United States. Increasing attention is being given to education, to deal with which there are several colleges and a number of schools. The judicial functions are discharged by four grades of officials—the local magistrates, the courts of common pleas, the quarterly courts (five in number) and the supreme court.
The customs service includes British customs officers lent to the Liberian service. A gunboat for preventive service purchased from the British government and commanded by an Englishman, with native petty officers and crew, is employed by the Liberian government. The language of government and trade is English, which is understood far and wide throughout Liberia. As the origin of the Sierra Leonis and the Americo-Liberian settlers was very much the same, an increasing intimacy is growing up between the English-speaking populations of these adjoining countries. Order is maintained in Liberia to some extent by a militia. The population of Americo-Liberian origin in the coast regions is estimated at from 12,000 to 15,000. To these must be added about 40,000 civilized and Christianized negroes who make common cause with the Liberians in most matters, and have gradually been filling the position of Liberian citizens.
For administrative purposes the country is divided into four counties, Montserrado, Basa, Sino and Maryland, but Cape Mount in the far west and the district round it has almost the status of a fifth county. The approximate revenue for 1906 was £65,000, and the expenditure about £60,000, but some of the revenue was still collected in paper of uncertain value. There are three custom-houses, or ports of entry on the Sierra Leone land frontier between the Moa river on the north and the Mano on the south, and nine ports of entry along the coast. At all of these Europeans are allowed to settle and trade, and with very slight restrictions they may now trade almost anywhere in Liberia. The rubber trade is controlled by the Liberian Rubber Corporation, which holds a special concession from the Liberian government for a number of years, and is charged with the preservation of the forests. Another English company has constructed motor roads in the Liberian hinterland to connect centres of trade with the St Paul’s river. The trade is done almost entirely with Great Britain, Germany and Holland, but friendly relations are maintained with Spain, as the Spanish plantations in Fernando Pō are to a great extent worked by Liberian labour. The indigenous population must be considered one of the assets of Liberia. The native population—apart from the American element—is estimated at as much as 2,000,000; for although large areas appear to be uninhabited forest, other parts are most densely populated, owing to the wonderful fertility of the soil. The native tribes belong more or less to the following divisions, commencing on the west, and proceeding eastwards: (1) Vai, Gbandi, Kpwesi, Mende, Buzi and Mandingo (the Vai, Mende and Mandingo are Mahommedans); all these tribes speak languages derived from a common stock. (2) In the densest forest region between the Mano and the St Paul’s river is the powerful Gora tribe of unknown linguistic affinities. (3) In the coast region between the St Paul’s river and the Cavalla (and beyond) are the different tribes of Kru stock and language family—Dē, Basā, Gibi, Kru, Grebo, Putu, Sikoñ, &c. &c. The actual Kru tribe inhabits the coast between the river Cestos on the west and Grand Sesters on the east. It is known all over the Atlantic coasts of Africa, as it furnishes such a large proportion of the seamen employed on men-of-war and merchant ships in these tropical waters. Many of the indigenous races of Liberia in the forest belt beyond 40 m. from the coast still practise cannibalism. In some of these forest tribes the women still go quite naked, but clothes of a Mahommedan type are fast spreading over the whole country. Some of the indigenous races are of very fine physique. In the Nidi country the women are generally taller than the men. No traces of a Pygmy race have as yet been discovered, nor any negroes of low physiognomy. Some of the Krumen are coarse and ugly, and this is the case with the Mende people; but as a rule the indigenes of Liberia are handsome, well-proportioned negroes, and some of the Mandingos have an almost European cast of feature.
Authorities.—Col. Wauwerman, Liberia; Histoire de la fondation d’un état nègre (Brussels, 1885); J. Büttikofer, Reisebilder aus Liberia (Leiden, 1890); Sir Harry Johnston, Liberia (2 vols., London, 1906), with full bibliography; Maurice Delafosse, Vocabulaires comparatifs de plus de 60 langues et dialectes parlés à la Côte d’Ivoire et dans la région limitrophe (1904), a work which, though it professes to deal mainly with philology, throws a wonderful light on the relationships and history of the native tribes of Liberia. (H. H. J.)
- Amongst other remarkable negroes that Liberian education produced was Dr E. W. Blyden (b. 1832), the author of many works dealing with negro questions.