Liberia from 1930 to 1944

Edwin Barclay, having completed the last term of C.D.B. King became President of Liberia in 1930 and served until 1944. During his tenure, President Barclay had to deal with a campaign against the Kru Tribes of Sinoe County, economic depression, and the beginning of World War II.
The Kru Campaign
Actually, the Kru campaign began towards the end of the King administration. The unsettlement of the population was a result of several factors: rumors saying the Government had lost authority and the Kru Coast would be placed under foreign sovereignty; bitter political canvassing campaign preceding the general election of 1931; resentment of the tribes whose social economy was disturbed by the rigid enforcement of the Act with regard to inter-tribal slavery; and economic distress resulting from the world wide trade depression.
To resolve this situation, Barclay invited the leaders of several tribes involved to Monrovia for an inquiries. The government concluded the unrest was promoted by the tribesmen themselves and not the Liberian Government. The main factors were: disputes over tribal boundaries, power struggles for political supremacy within the tribes; and misrepresentation of the purpose of the Anti-Slavery Act. These misrepresentations included the removal of the Frontier Force and the change in sovereignty. When the government forcse did if fact leave, this spurred the people to believe the rumors were true, and passive resistance toward the Liberian government increased. The tribesmen refused to pay the hut tax, refused to allow movements of the interior tribes to the coast land, and exacted heavy toll on the trade passing through their land. These conditions became the source of conflicts between the tribes.
Barclay dispatched a special Commission with one company of troops to patrol the Kru Coast from Maryland County to Nana Kru. Their mission was to settle conflicts between warring tribes but avoid hostile conflicts at all cost and no reprisals toward any tribe for any reason. The beginning of the endeavor was carried out without incident. As the Commission began traveling up the coast from Maryland, one chief near Sinoe refused passage and a conflict resulted with one man being killed. The passage resumed to Sasstown where Chief Nimley refused to cooperate with a planned meeting of chiefs. The next day, Nimley's tribesmen attacked the Government troops and after seven hours of fighting, the chief's two principle towns were captured and destroyed. Similar unrest was dealt with successfully in Bassa Co. and in some western province without the need for force.
As a result of the tribal unrest, Barcley reorganized the native administration. And a consistent new land policy was established to remove the inequities inherent in the previous policy. All notables of the tribes involved gave approval.
Another situation that was eradicated was the "pawn system." This was the practice of chiefs of certain tribes to send children of their tribe to coastal tribes for work for payment to the chief. By stopping this practice, the interior tribes said they could not generate money for the hut tax. And the carriers, formally pawns, refused to work for the one shilling per day wage.

The Depression
Liberia's economy is very much dependent on the economy of the rest of the world and especially the United States. When America was suffering through the depression of the '30's, Liberia also had a depression. The Government of Liberia had made a loan in 1926 secured by the Firestone Company who began a one million acre rubber plantation the same year. However, by the year 1931, it became apparent to the Liberian administration that payments on that loan were not possible. The government ask for consideration from the lending bank and Firestone to no avail. Therefore, the Liberian Legislature past the Moratorium Act suspending payment of this loan until terms more suitable to Liberia ability to pay could be negotiated.
The Council of the League of Nations was willing to assist Liberia with certain stipulations. The negotiations dragged on for nearly a year. Many trips, telegraphs, and meeting were put forth to solve this problem. One chief sticking point was the League's requirement to have their delegates place in key position in the administration of the Liberian government. Barcley and other Liberian officials felt this was an infringement of sovereignty of Liberia. Eventually, two key officials were placed in positions to advise the government, but with limitations set forth by the Liberian government. Loan payment were continued with the assistance of the League.
The War
During the final years of the Barcley administration war broke out in Europe. Barcley declared that the British currency be withdrawn as legal tender and only the Liberian coins and the United States coins and notes be the official currency. The war cause the government to ration some scarce commodities. Several Inter-Allied conferences were held and after the Casablanca conference in 1943, United States President, F.D. Roosevelt, visited Liberia and met with President Barcley. Barcley and President elect William V.S. Tubman also traveled to the United States it meet again with the U.S. President.
< Back Next >
Time line