A Dutch account of Liberia
in the Seventeenth Century:
Chevalier des Marchais


The People

The king who reigned in 1726 was called Captain Peter, a name which had long been common to the kings of Mesurado. When dealing with the Dutch and English, both parties took every precaution against roguery. They were armed, hostages were exchanged, and mutual caution observed. The French1, on the contrary, traded there without the least suspicion. The natives put themselves in their power, went on board French ships without fear, and on all occasions manifested the most friendly disposition towards them. The French dealt with them as with old and faithful friends, went on shore unarmed, committed their persons and effects to the safeguard of the natives, and never had any reason to repent of this confidence.

“The religion of the natives of Mesurado is a kind of idolatry, ill understood, and blended with a number of superstitions, to which, however, few of them are bigoted. They easily change the object of their worship, and consider their fetishes only as a kind of household furniture. The sun is the most general object of their adoration; but it is a voluntary worship, and attended with no magnificent ceremonies.”

“In the space of a few leagues are many villages swarming with children. They practise polygamy, and their women are very prolific. Besides, as those people deal no further in slaves than by selling their convicted criminals to the Europeans, the country is not depopulated like those in which the princes continually traffic in their subjects. The purity of the air, the goodness of the water, and the abundance of every necessary of life all contribute to people this country.”

“The natives are of large size, strong, and well proportioned. Their mien is bold and martial, and their neighbours have often experienced their intrepidity, as well as those Europeans who attempted to injure them. They possess genius, think justly, speak correctly, perfectly know their own interests, and, like their ancient friends the Normans, recommend themselves with address and even with politeness. Their lands are carefully cultivated, they do everything with order and regularity, and they labour vigorously when they choose, which, unfortunately, is not so often as could be wished. Interest stimulates them strongly, and they are fond of gain without appearing so. Their friendship is constant; yet their friends must beware of making free with their wives, of whom they are very jealous. But they are not so jealous with respect to their daughters, who have un unbounded liberty, which is so far from impeding their marriage that a man is pleased at finding that a woman has given proofs of fertility, especially as the presents of her lovers make some amends for that which he is obliged to give her parents when he marries her. They tenderly love their children, and a sure and quick way to gain their friendship is to caress their little ones and to make them trifling presents.”

Living conditions


Other explorers

A Dutch account of Liberia in the seventeenth century











[1] The French, through the Senegal Company, began a renewed intercourse with Northern Liberia at the close of the seventeenth century.







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