Saturday, July 20, 2019

American Imperialism in Liberia :: African History Essays

Until the late 19th century, America was not an imperialist nation in the sense that the western European nations were. The wars with Native Americans were not so much a colonization effort as it was sheer conquest. Imperialism is an oppression of a foreign land and people for the purpose of enhancing the economy and political prowess of the imperialist nation, as well as enforcing the imperialist nation’s culture and often religion on the native population. The Native American oppression was too domestic to be considered imperialism, and was done strictly for the land and the American belief in Manifest Destiny. In short, the Indian wars were no more imperialistic then the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire or the NAZI invasion of Europe. As a nation, America did not become imperialistic until the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, under whom the U.S. acquired its first foreign colony. America did have a significant influence in Liberia, despite a void of military presen ce. The American government’s allowance of slavery and the ensuing anti-slavery campaign led to the rise of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1817. The ACS, headed by Robert Finley, bought land on the West Coast of Africa in what is now called Liberia. This project was funded by members of the ACS and the American government, the latter of which donated one hundred thousand dollars in 1819. The ACS had a very strong influence in the American government due to some of its most prominent members, who included James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. Free blacks in America and newly freed blacks off of slave ships in the West Indies were transported to Liberia from 1819 until the end of the Civil War, when the organization’s funding diminished. During that time, over thirteen thousand blacks immigrated to Liberia including over two-thousand six-hundred African-Americans. This immigration did not make a significant dent in the population of free blacks in the United States, which at that time was approximately two hundred thousand. The motives for the black colonization of Liberia were polar opposites. Some slaveholders were at one end of the spectrum, arguing that free blacks were dangerous to American society and should be taken back to Africa. Supporters of free blacks, on the other hand, reasoned that blacks would never surmount the racial prejudice in America and thus would be better off in among the blacks of Africa.

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