Hilary R. W. Johnson

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Hilary R. W. Johnson
Hilary Johnson2.jpg
11th President of Liberia
In office
January 7, 1884 – January 4, 1892
Vice President James Thompson
Preceded by Alfred Francis Russell
Succeeded by Joseph James Cheeseman
Personal details
Born Hilary Richard Wright Johnson
June 1, 1837
Monrovia, Liberia
Died 1901
Monrovia, Liberia
Political party True Whig

Hilary Richard Wright Johnson (June 1, 1837 – 1901) served as the 11th President of Liberia from 1884 to 1892. He was elected four times.[1] He served as Secretary of State before his presidency, under the administration of Edward James Roye.[2]

An Americo-Liberian, Johnson was the first Liberian president born in Africa.[1][3] His father was Elijah Johnson,[1] one of the original African-American settlers who founded the colony at Cape Mesurado. His son Frederick Eugene Richelieu Johnson was Liberia's longest serving Chief Justice.

Nominated by both the Republican Party and True Whig parties,[1] Johnson ran unopposed in his first election and then declared himself a True Whig after winning the election.[3] The endorsement of Johnson by the two political parties — which stood on opposite sides of the color divide — signaled a truce regarding colorism between mulatto Americo-Liberian settlers and darker-skinned Americo-Liberian settlers and was replaced on concentrating overall Americo-Liberian political power and economic wealth.[3]


In the decades after 1868, escalating economic difficulties weakened the state's dominance over the coastal indigenous population. Conditions worsened, as 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.

In 1885, Johnson agreed to the annexation of the Gallinas territory after the US Government had advised him to yield to the British demands.[3] In November of that year, the Havelock Draft Convention, which finalized the boundary between Liberia and Sierra Leone, was ratified by both Liberia and Great Britain. Since then, the Mano River has formed the boundary between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Internal uprising[edit]

U.S. President Grover Cleveland, in an 1886 message to the United States Congress, spoke of the "moral right and duty of the United States" to help Liberia. "It must not be forgotten that this distant community is an offshoot of our own system," he said. But when Liberia asked for military assistance against an internal uprising, which the French were thought to have helped instigate, Cleveland's secretary of state refused on grounds that Liberia lacked standing to make such a request.

Some tribal people living in the hinterland of Montserrado County and further north would stay at war until the late 1890s. On the one hand there was a war between Gola and Mandingo over trading routes in the region, while various factions of the Gola were fighting with each other as well.

See also[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Francis Russell
President of Liberia
1884 – 1892
Succeeded by
Joseph James Cheeseman