Liberian Declaration of Independence

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Liberian Declaration of Independence
RatifiedJuly 26, 1847
Author(s)Hilary Teage
Signatories11 delegates and one secretary to the Liberian Constitutional Convention
PurposeTo announce and explain independence from the American Colonization Society.

The Liberian Declaration of Independence is a document adopted by the Liberian Constitutional Convention on July 26, 1847, to announce that the Commonwealth of Liberia, a colony founded and controlled by the private American Colonization Society, was an independent state known as the Republic of Liberia. The Declaration was written by Hilary Teague and adopted simultaneously with the first Constitution of Liberia. The anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and accompanying Constitution is celebrated as Independence Day in Liberia.

The Declaration articulates the history of the Americo-Liberians that settled the original colony and lays out the aspiration of Liberia to be accepted as a free and independent state within the "comity which marks the friendly intercourse of civilized and independent communities." Listing the injustices committed against African Americans as a result of slavery in the United States, the Declaration notes the foundation of the colony by the American Colonization Society, as well as their gradual withdrawal from governance in favor of increasing self-governance by the immigrated colonists. The noted goal of Liberia is declared to be both to establish a state built upon the structure and principles of the law of nations and the Christianization and modernization of the indigenous peoples of the region.

The Declaration partially relied upon the United States Declaration of Independence, in particular its discussion of natural law:

We recognize in all men certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the right to acquire, possess, enjoy, and defend property.

Furthermore, its listing of injustices perpetrated by the United States parallels the charges set forth in the United States Declaration of Independence against King George III. However, the Liberian Declaration asserts no right of revolution but instead frames its independence as the inevitable and planned purpose of the colony by the American Colonization Society. The Society, having surrendered all control of the colony in January 1846, fully encouraged the independence of Liberia. The Commonwealth of Liberia declared its independence from the American Colonization Society on July 26, 1847, as the Republic of Liberia, creating Africa's first independence republic. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a free man of color born in Norfolk, Virginia, United States of America, was elected and became Liberia's first president.

The Liberian constitution and flag was modeled after the United States Constitution and flag because nearly all of Liberia's founders were freed slaves and free people of color from the United States. Likewise, Liberia was founded as a colony of the American Colonization Society, a private organization established in Washington, D.C. in 1816.

On February 5, 1862, after 15 years of avoiding the issue, the United States officially recognized Liberia's independence.

Signatories[edit]

Eleven delegates and one secretary representing the three counties of Liberia signed the Declaration along with the Constitution of Liberia:

References[edit]