Edward James Roye
|Edward James Roye|
|5th President of Liberia|
January 3, 1870 – October 26, 1871
|Vice President||James Skivring Smith|
|Preceded by||James Spriggs Payne|
|Succeeded by||James Skivring Smith|
|4th Chief Justice of Liberia|
|Nominated by||Daniel Bashiel Warner|
|Preceded by||Boston Jenkins Drayton|
|Succeeded by||C. L. Parsons|
February 3, 1815|
|Died||February 11, 1872|
|Political party||True Whig|
Edward James Roye (February 3, 1815 – February 11, 1872) served as the fifth President of Liberia from 1870 to his overthrow and subsequent violent death in 1871. He had previously served as the 4th Chief Justice of Liberia from 1865 until 1868. He was the first member of Liberia's True Whig Party to serve as President.
Roye was born into a prosperous African American family in Newark, Ohio. Roye was a descendant of the Igbo people. His father, John Roye, managed a ferry across the Wabash River at Terre Haute, Indiana and acquired considerable land in Terre Haute as well as Vandalia in the neighboring state of Illinois. As a result of the family's financial standing, young Edward was able to attend Ohio University in neighboring Athens, Ohio. In 1836, upon the premature death of his father, Roye relocated to Terre Haute where he established the community's largest barber shop, boasting a 79-foot (24 m) high barber pole, "the tallest in western Indiana".
In 1846, attracted by the American Colonization Society, Roye immigrated to Liberia and set up business as a merchant. Within three years of his arrival, he became active in Liberian politics. Before being elected president he served as Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Roye was inaugurated as President of Liberia on January 3, 1870.
The decades after 1868, escalating economic difficulties weakened the state's dominance over the coastal indigenous population. Conditions worsened, the cost of imports was far greater than the income generated by exports of coffee, rice, palm oil, sugarcane, and timber. Liberia tried desperately to modernize its largely agricultural economy.
As Roye took office, the country was in the midst of political instability exacerbated by a fiscal crisis. Roye began a program of reconstruction with the intention to build new roads and schools. In order to raise the funds for these projects, Roye sailed to England where he began negotiations with London banks. The terms of the loans were severe; among other things, the interest rate on the loan was 7 percent. Roye hastily agreed to the loans without consulting the legislature. Liberia actually received approximately $90,000, while bonds were issued for $400,000.
Because of increasing world competition from Brazilian coffee, European sugar beets, and steamers, Liberia was unable to generate sufficient export revenue, and defaulted on the loan negotiated by Roye. Recession forced Liberia into a series of ever larger loans. The decline of Liberia's exports and its inability to pay its debts resulted in a large measure of foreign interference.
No specific historical record is available detailing the date and circumstances of his death, although varying accounts indicate that he was killed on February 11 or February 12, 1872. Another account suggests that he drowned while trying to reach a British ship in Monrovia harbor, on Feb. 12, 1872.
- Brief biographical sketch of Edward James Roye along with a portrait
- see also History of Liberia, external links
James Spriggs Payne
|President of Liberia
1870 – 1871
James Skivring Smith
Boston Jenkins Drayton
|Chief Justice of Liberia
1865 – 1868
C. L. Parsons