Mr. Lyon to Mr. Loomis.
Monrovia, February 15, 1904.
Sir: In accordance with my dispatch No. 11, dated September 23, 1903, and addressed to the Hon. John Hay, I have the honor to report to you the result of an inquiry into the nature of the opinions held on the subject of immigration, by the most prominent citizens and the highest government officials of this Republic.[Page 456]
Dr. W. C. Greene, the most prominent physician in the active practice of the Republic, speaking on this subject, said: “As to the poor, ignorant classes that would and do come to look for riches, as they are told, the last is a living experience for me. These should be protected by us and warned against ever coming here. There is nothing generally but death for these, for they are so poor they have no money to get back to the place where they were doing well, and no money to buy the necessary amount of food they could get here, so that most of them will surely die of disease and hunger.”
The Rev. L. C. Curtis, superintendent and acting bishop of the A. M. E. Church work in Liberia and the coast, among other things, writes: “Liberia needs immigration, but a select number of immigrants. Men with brains and money. Men who can make business and give jobs; not men who come to look for jobs. I do trust you will do all in your power to prevent any more poor immigrants from coming to Liberia until Liberia is in a position to take care of them.”
The Rev. C. A. Lincoln, pastor of the leading Methodist Episcopal Church in the Republic, expresses his view in these words: “An absolute discriminate immigration is needed and, therefore, preferred in Liberia. Such as a class possessing the characteristics capable of enabling the possessors to contribute largely their quota toward the advancement, development, and betterment of the Republic along the lines of Christian religion, various industries, statecraft, education, finance, etc. A class of decent, respectable, self-relying, energetic, progressive, loyal, and patriotic men and women. I do not favor a wholesale conglomeration of heterogeneous immigration to Liberia to-day.”
Col. Anthony Williams, ex-secretary of war and navy, after describing the class of men wanted in Liberia, says if they are not that class: “It would be far better for our Afro-American friends, no matter who they may be, to remain in the United States and work their destiny there, where they are better understood and more appreciated; where their opportunities for development will be far greater than could be expected in a new country.”
The Right Rev. Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and residing in Liberia, states the facts in this, able manner: “Notwithstanding the sad experience of recent years, those who have the management seem not to be sufficiently mindful of the necessity of providing for the comfort of the newcomers to this country. At the very best, some degree of suffering is always to be expected owing to the change of climate and the hardships incident to settlement in a new country. How much more when little or nothing is done to afford relief. In former years, when the American Colonization Society had the management of these matters, the necessary preparation was always made for each expedition beforehand. Receptacles were built, physicians and nurses employed, food, medicines, and other essentials provided, and everything done to promote the health and well-being of the people whom they sent out. The circumstances under which immigrants come to the country now have changed; but the necessity for similar provision for their maintenance and care will always exist. Indeed, for their good as well as for the good of this Republic, they should not be allowed to come unless some such arrangements are previously made. Even under [Page 457] the management of the said society, there were sometimes dissatisfied persons, who were anxious to return to the land whence they had come. But the percentage of such was never as great as at present, though it is owing, perhaps, to the financial condition of the immigrants, those who were not able to pay their way back having had to content themselves and remain. But aside from this consideration, it is a known fact that there has been much suffering among the people of recent expeditions, caused by a lack of previous arrangements for their well-being, and those of them who have returned to America must have carried a very unfavorable report of the country. It is a mistake; there is nothing the matter with the country. Why should it be blamed because people will not exercise a little judgment? Let them go to any other country in the same silly manner and they will find suffering awaiting them likewise. In cases where individuals or families come to Liberia on their own responsibility—i. e., unconnected with any regularly organized company, it seems to me-there should be an immigration bureau under Government appointment, with whom all such persons should correspond before coming in order that information might be had and the necessary arrangements made for them.
Dr. A. P. Camphor, president of the College of West Africa, published in the college paper a set of resolutions adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Conference at one of its recent sessions, and containing the following paragraphs:
Resolved, That we do encourage the immigration of such persons as have means enough to establish themselves comfortably and enough to support themselves for at least six months in this country; also that we do encourage men and women who have trades and professions in preference to those who have not, and those who have at least a common school education.
Resolved, That we invite our brethern to come over in small parties; but we discourage wholesale immigration, as we feel that it works injury to the country and to the few who might make a success.
Doctor Camphor, commenting on the resolutions aforesaid, at the time of publication, said: “A great many people abroad are of the opinion that wholesale and indiscriminate immigration is desirable in Liberia. But they do not express the views of the people here, as far as we have been able to observe. The sentiments expressed in the foregoing come from one of the oldest and most representative Christian bodies in the country. What it says is worthy of respect and consideration by those who are interested to know the thought of the people in Liberia on this question.”
The Hon. T. W. Haynes, retiring attorney-general of Liberia, after stating his position and supporting it with the clearest reasoning and abundance of facts, uses the following language: “Long before this time I have come to the conclusion, from observation of the class of people coming to this country from America, especialty within the last four or five years, and the results which have followed, that in spite of what the most learned advocates of a wholesale immigration to Liberia of an indiscriminate class of negroes have said and may still say, I maintain that it is not just the best thing for Liberia at present.”
The Hon. Robert Sherman, secretary of war and navy, and regarded as one of the best informed men in Liberia, thus describes the class of negroes wanted in Liberia: “It is the spirit of every [Page 458] intelligent Liberian to encourage immigration, especially that class of negroes that would be a blessing to the country and race. In my opinion Liberia stands much in need of that kind that will forget that they were Americans and consider themselves Liberians in spirit and in truth. A class that will come here with push, energy, and a self-sacrificing and an industrious spirit in them, that class that will laugh at impossibilities, hardships, privation, and the African fever; then all things would become possible unto them, and in a few years by patiently toiling they would not regret their coming here, for they would become wealthy and independent citizens on their own soil.”
The Hon. Daniel E. Howard, secretary of the treasury, expressed himself in these fitting words: “The people of Liberia are ready and willing to welcome all worthy and thrifty negroes who have a right idea of manhood and freedom, and who are willing to endure hardships and are really persuaded in their own minds that they can live in Liberia. If those who desire to emigrate have really gotten enough of all they can get out of America, the good and the bad, then, and not till then, let them come. They must be willing to leave the fleshpots as well as the lynching. Of course, every sane person will agree that an indiscriminate, heterogeneous, wholesale influx of negroes or anybody else would be undesirable here or anywhere else.”
The Hon. S. T. Prout, postmaster-general of the Republic, couched his views in this appropriate paragraph: “Too many should not come at one time. They should be able to support themselves for at least six months, and prepared to build their houses, and open farms, etc. The kind of immigration wanted: First. Men and women who are not ignorant, worn-out, or needy. They will only be a burden to our Government. They should, therefore, be skilled laborers, and possess a certain amount of capital to give them a start. Second. They should bring their books, if professional men; or their tools and implements, if mechanics or farmers. Doctors should come supplied and prepared for work. Third. Men and women are wanted who are patriotic lovers of freedom; self-reliant men, men of push, men who can originate ideas and execute them, responsible men, men who come determined to stand by the Republic of Liberia and succeed as she succeeds, or fail as the Republic fails. Moral, industrious, Christian men. These are the men and women wanted to emigrate from America to Liberia. Anything short of this had better remain where they are.”
The Hon. Thomas W. Howard, postmaster of Monrovia, in delivering the oration on the fifty-sixth anniversary of the Republic, and after depicting the horrors which have attended the coming of immigrants in recent years, continues: “Some of them sicken and die, while the greater portion of the rest long to return to the fleshpots of Egypt. Will you then say, my fellow-citizens, that more of this kind are needed to assist in the development of Liberia? I say, no! We want men of honor, men of tact and talent, men of skill, ability, and purpose, free from any other motives saving to assist in the upbuilding of this our negro nationality.”
His Excellency the Hon. Arthur Barclay, President of Liberia, speaking in his inaugural address on the subject of immigration, employed these words: “This question profoundly interests us. [Page 459] Placed in the middle of a large semicivilized population there is great desire that we have more centers of civilization. The Liberian has been wont to regard the country as held in trust for his relatives in the United States. The colored American, of, rather, the class that would be a valuable acquisition to the country—the men of some culture, the small capitalist, and the man of initiative and push, are not inclined at present to come to Liberia. The leaders of the colored people are opposed to emigration to Liberia. They are in the fight for social and political equality with the white American. The success of the struggle is for them very doubtful, if not entirely hopeless. The negro masses are being lifted gradually and slowly, learning self-reliance, thrift, and initiative. It is important that the intending immigrant possess these qualities, and it can not be denied that the country is not prepared for the movement. While preparing a home the immigrant must have facilities for procuring work. At present these do not exist. There is a class of men slowly coming into the country who will likely prove a most useful acquisition. They are rather above the average. As the country develops and opportunities offer they will encourage their friends to come over. This class should zealously be encouraged. About the masses our policy should be ‘Hasten slowly.’ * * * I regret the glowing account so often published with respect to Liberia. It attracts an undesirable class of persons who are as useless here as in America.”
The foregoing contains every expression of opinion possible to be obtained from the communications sent out on the subject of immigration. They are submitted without comment. In submitting them, however, it is hoped that the position of the legation of impartially giving the facts will not be misunderstood by the American public, to whom some previous dispatches have been given. This information is for the class of negroes who are not prepared to come to Liberia, and whose coming in the future as in the past will be attended with suffering and death and a few possible returns to the United States. The legation does not oppose the right kind of immigration. The effort is to prevent the coming of that class which is a tax upon the legation and the limited resources of the community.
I have, etc.,