Edward James Roye

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Edward James Roye
Edward James Roye2.jpg
5th President of Liberia
In office
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
In office
Nominated by Daniel Bashiel Warner
Preceded by Boston Jenkins Drayton
Succeeded by C. L. Parsons
Personal details
Born (1815-02-03)February 3, 1815
Newark, Ohio, United States
Died February 11, 1872 (aged 57)
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 in 1871 and subsequent violent death. 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.

Early life[edit]

Born into a prosperous African American family in Newark, Ohio, Roye was a descendant of the Igbo people.[1][2] 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".[citation needed]

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.

Presidency (1870-71)[edit]

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.

Financial problems[edit]

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.

In 1871, Roye tasked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, William Spencer Anderson, with negotiating a new loan from British financiers. Anderson secured $500,000 under strict terms from the British consul-general, David Chinery, but was heavily criticised, and was eventually arrested. Anderson was apparently tried the following year for his part in securing the loan. He was found not guilty, but was shot to death while leaving the courthouse.[3]


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.

A portrait of President Roye in the gallery of the Presidential Mansion in Monrovia gives the date of his death as February 11.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lynch, Deidre Shauna; Hollis R. Lynch (1970). Edward Wilmot Blyden. Oxford University Press US. p. 3. ISBN 0-19-501268-2. 
  2. ^ "E.J.Roye, President of Liberia 1870-71". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  3. ^ Shavit, David (1989). The United States in Africa – A Historical Dictionary. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood press. p. 11. ISBN 0-313-25887-2. 
  4. ^ http://www.liberiapastandpresent.org/EJRoye.htm

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
James Spriggs Payne
President of Liberia
1870 – 1871
Succeeded by
James Skivring Smith
Legal offices
Preceded by
Boston Jenkins Drayton
Chief Justice of Liberia
1865 – 1868
Succeeded by
C. L. Parsons