historical importance of
the 1824 Constitution
1822 a group of colored people of the United States successfully
settled at Cape Mesurado, on the Grain or Pepper Coast, West
Africa, - though not without conflicts with the indigenous
tribal population. Their
sponsor, the American Colonization Society, named the colony 'Liberia'. The colonists built a town which, in 1824, was named
Monrovia, in honor of the then President of the USA, James Monroe. At
that time the settlement numbered approximately 100 persons. Gradually
the colony expanded as more immigrants arrived from the United States.
In August 1824 the colonists adopted a plan for the government of the colony, written by two agents of the American Colonization Society, Ashmun and Gurley. This in fact could be considered the first 'constitution' under which the colonists could enact laws for their own government.
newspapers in 1825 announced the First Constitution for the government
of the African Colony of Liberia. Among them a New York newspaper,
‘The National Advocate’, that published the constitution’s 10
Articles, without any comments, on page 2 of its Saturday morning
edition, on July 9, 1825.
is interesting to note that the First Constitution of the colony granted
the American settlers rights that they were denied in the country they
were coming from. At that time, and until the end of the Civil War in
1865, only white people were considered citizens of the United States.
it is worth noting that the constitutional provisions only applied to
the American settlers. It excluded the captured African slaves (‘Congo
people’) from intercepted slave vessels that were dropped at this
portion of the West African coast by the US Navy, and others, including
the indigenous Africans.
article reads as follows:
the Government of the African Colony of Liberia
persons born within the limits of the territory held by the American
Colonization Society, in Liberia, in Africa, or removing there to
reside, shall be free and entitled to all the privileges, as are enjoyed
by the citizens of the United States.
Colonization Society shall, from time to time, make such rules as they
may think fit for the government of the Settlement, until they shall
withdraw their agents, and leave the settlers to the government of
Societies Agents shall compose a board, to determine all questions
relative to the government of the Settlement, shall decide all disputes
between individuals, and shall exercise all judicial powers, except such
as they shall delegate to justices of the peace.
Agents shall appoint all officers not appointed by the managers,
necessary for the good order and government of the settlement.
shall be no slavery in the settlement.
common law, as in force and modified in the United States, and
applicable to the situation of the people, shall be in force in the
settler coming to the age of twenty-one years, and those now of age,
shall take oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution.
case of necessity, where no rule has been made by the Board of Managers,
the agents are authorized to make the necessary rules and regulations,
of which they shall, by the first opportunity, inform the board, for
their approbation; and they shall continue to be in force, until the
board shall send out their decision.
Constitution is not to interfere with the jurisdiction, rights and
claims of the United States, over the captured Africans and others,
under their care and control, so long as they shall reside within the
limits of the settlement.
alteration shall be made in this constitution, except by an unanimous
consent of all present at a regular meeting of the Board of Managers, or
by a vote of two thirds of the members present at two successive
meetings of the Board of Managers.”
‘The National Advocate’ , New York, Saturday Morning July 9, 1825,
More Colonization Societies
created a colony on the Grain Coast – along the lines set out by
the American Colonization Society for the Colony of Liberia. This
colonial expansion certainly enhanced the already historical importance
of the First Constitution of the African Colony of Liberia.
© fpm van der kraaij