The above is from a pamphlet put out by the Colonization Society, which conceived and established Liberia as an African colony in which freed slaves might be resettled.
Elsewhere in the pamphlet, which was called Things Which Every Emigrant to Liberia Ought To Know, the writers said this:
The colony is, in one respect, a great missionary station, a great centre of light and influence, and it is destined to make all the surrounding tribes and country just what it is, and continues to be.''
The hyperbole which is evident in those quotes becomes even more ironic in view of this story which appeared recently:
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minnesota (CNN) -- Thousands of Liberians living in the United States face deportation March 31 when a federal immigration status created for humanitarian purposes expires. Corvah Akoiwala is worried about what will happen to his children, born in the U.S., when he is sent to Liberia.
In the 1990s, a bloody civil war raged through the West African nation, killing 250,000 people and displacing more than a million, according to a U.N. report. The United States extended "temporary protection status" to all Liberians who could get to America, and 14,000 of them took advantage of that humanitarian offer.
Temporary protection status is an immigration status somewhere between political asylum and refugee status. Administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, it is extended to nationals of countries facing civil unrest or natural disaster.
For years, the temporary protection status for Liberians was extended as the situation there worsened under dictator Charles Taylor. But Taylor was ousted in 2003 and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected Liberia's first female president in 2006. In 2007, citing the progress in Liberia, President George W. Bush signed an order of "delayed enforced departure" for Liberians who had been under temporary protection status, giving them 18 months to return to Liberia.
Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, about an hour north of Minneapolis, has a thriving Liberian community. Many now worry about losing their jobs, homes and businesses.
Seyondi Roberts, a hairdresser, said 65 percent of her customers are Liberians facing delayed enforced departure.
"We're praying that they don't send them back. But if they do, it will have a serious effect on the business. I do mainly African hair, so it's going to have a real big, big impact on the business," she said.
Aba Hamilton Dolo also lives in the Brooklyn Center area and is slated for departure. She said she has nightmares and panic attacks at the prospect of being separated from her two young American-born children. "Please consider what would happen to our families if we were sent home," she begs.''
The rest of the article is the standard template story about hard-working immigrants/refugees who fear that their families will be 'torn apart' and that, horror of horrors, they will be sent home.
And here, in a later story, it appears that "our" own congressmen are pleading for these people to stay:
With high unemployment and an infrastructure that is still badly damaged, the US lawmakers argued, Liberia is in no place to welcome home its refugees. An influx of refugees the lawmakers agreed could have a destabilizing effect on the country’s fledgling economic and social structures.''
Fledgling? Is that some new usage of the word with which I'm not familiar? The country of Liberia has been in existence for more than a century and a half. How long before it passes from 'fledgling' status to self-sufficiency? Another century? Two?
There are a few obvious lessons in this story which should not need pointing out to anyone who reads this with open eyes and common sense.
But I can't help pointing out how vivid an illustration it is of the folly of imagining that any people can have a republic set up for them, prefabricated as it were, and simply become a well-functioning 'free', self-sufficent country. 'Democracy' or a republican form of government cannot simply be given to anybody like Red Cross supplies or food handouts. Our culture, including our political systems, are not necessarily adaptable to any and every people in the world; in fact, evidence suggests that only European-descended peoples are suited to or capable of this kind of system or way of life. Culture is not a suit of clothes that can be adopted, and it is not just a matter of learning by rote a certain political philosophy or ideology. Our way of life, including our governmental traditions, are intrinsically tied to our race.
And the story about Liberia should be doubly disillusioning for the liberal of either the left or right variety in that the supposed American influence of the original colonists who were American-born and raised seems not to have made much difference for the better. In fact, in this typical Wikipedia entry, the violence of Liberia is traced to the slave roots of some of the colonists:
The Americo-Liberians had been cut off from their African cultural inheritance by the conditions of slavery, and were entirely acculturated to contemporary Euro-American society. They were of mixed African and European ancestry and therefore generally lighter-skinned than the indigenous blacks. Crucially, they had absorbed beliefs in the religious superiority of Protestant Christianity, the cultural superiority of European civilization, and the aesthetic superiority of European skin color and hair texture. They created a social and material facsimile of American society in Liberia, maintaining their English-speaking, Americanized way of life, and building churches and houses resembling those of the Southern U.S.''
Again, it's Whitey's fault.
I have to wonder what the founders (and funders) of the Colonization Society would think if they could see what has become of the colony they worked so hard to establish. I believe they were misguided, but probably well-intentioned, and in their time they were harshly criticized by abolitionists who believed that it was cruel to repatriate freed slaves or their progeny. However I think they were trying to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. There was no ideal solution; there was a choice between problematic alternatives. Though the pro-colonization people were overly idealistic and naive, they still somewhat more practical than the abolitionists.
In their pamphlet, the colonization proponents gave advice to those planning to emigrate:
It is of vast importance, that whoever contemplates going to Liberia, should be fully and correctly informed in regard to their prospects.
1. They should understand that they are going to a new country. -- They will not see houses built in the same style that they are here, and filled with all the conveniences that time and wealth have so lavishly provided here. It is little more than twenty years since the first colonists landed on that coast. They have, during all this time, had to struggle through almost unparalleled obstacles. Of course, we must not expect to find them as far advanced in the refinements of a civilization as we are. It is yet a new country, and those who go there must carry with them the courage and the energy to bear the dangers and surmount the obstacles naturally belonging to such a state of things.
2. They must expect to begin life for themselves. They will not have any friends there who will think and act and contrive and plan for them. They must rely on themselves. -- They receive a tract of land, in its wild and uncultivated state, and if it is ever cleared and planted, they must do it. They must build a house for themselves, and begin to keep house. And if they have but few of the necessaries, and none of the conveniences and luxuries of house-keeping, still they must not be discouraged, but "struggle on and struggle ever." Brighter days will come. Every brilliant noon must be preceded by its morning. They must not despise the day of small things, but cheered and sustained by the example of many around them, who commenced life just as they are doing, and are now comfortable and happy, they must press their way onward, and they will find that industry and perseverance will secure to them plenty and happiness.
3. They must not depend upon the Colonization Society. The business of the Society is to help them to get to that country, where they can thenceforward help themselves. Many persons have supposed that the Society would do every thing for them; pay their passage, furnish them every thing to eat and drink after they get to Liberia, and let them live in ease. But the truth is far otherwise. And hence, when they reach Liberia, and begin to find provisions running low, and are made to understand that the time has arrived when they must support themselves, they become offended, abuse the colony and the Society, and pretty nearly every body and every thing else, and then perhaps they write home to their friends, and advise them not to come to so horrible a place. -- "These things ought not so to be."
4. They must expect to work for their living. How else can they hope to live? Liberia is no unearthly paradise. If men there have not money enough to live on, they must make a living some other way. By the labor of their heads or the labor of their hands, they must get bread for themselves. And it would be well for them to understand that there is no business more honorable or more important to the welfare of the colony, and profitable to the individual, than the cultivation of the soil. It always yields a liberal reward to the industry of the husbandman.''
From that excerpt, it's clear that they had a rather realistic perception of the dependent mindset that was common among the would-be colonists, yet unfortunately they put their faith in the malleability of human beings, believing people to be much more amenable to instruction than they have proven to be.
I think these idealistic men who promoted the colony in Liberia believed in what they were doing, but it seems that even by the early 19th century, liberal ideas about human beings as blank slates were widely believed.
And nearly 200 years on, some people stubbornly believe those things, despite all that has happened in the interim.
In the late 1960s, Carleton Putnam in Race and Reality wrote, of people who believed in the 'divine right of self-governance' for all people:
What troubles me is that any civilized White man should write such nonsense. It discloses a total failure to understand or appreciate his own civilization. He has forgotten, if he ever knew, what centuries of effort it took to develop the capacity for self government. He has no real comprehension of the worth of what his forefathers bequeathed him. Consequently, he can have little pride in himself as the legatee.''
He is right; the men of the Colonization Society seemed to take it for granted that if their own ancestors could build a prospering Republic from the ground up, out of an untamed wilderness, then the Liberian colonists could also. I think they gave too little credit to their own forefathers. Such is one of the effect of believing in egalitarianism: it has to diminish our appreciation of the rarity of the accomplishments of our own ancestors.
And then again, there is the issue of whether 'liberty' is the due of every man just by virtue of his being a human, or whether it is a prize that must be striven for, and earned, like any other good or valuable thing.
John C. Calhoun thought the latter.
“… it is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty. [Liberty] is a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike – a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving – and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it. … [A]n all-wise Providence has reserved [liberty], as the noblest and highest reward for the development of our faculties, moral and intellectual. A reward more appropriate than liberty could not be conferred on the deserving – nor a punishment inflicted on the undeserving more just, than to be subject to lawless and despotic rule. This dispensation seems to be the result of some fixed law – and every effort to disturb or defeat it, by attempting to elevate a people in the scale of liberty, above the point to which they are entitled to rise, must ever prove abortive, and end in disappointment. The progress of a people rising from a lower to a higher point in the scale of liberty, is necessarily slow – and by attempting to precipitate, we either retard, or permanently defeat it.” -