A Liberian Colonial

     John Russwurm received the master of arts degree from Bowdoin College in the summer of l829 and left for Liberia in November, eight months after his departure from Freedom's Journal. The American Colonization Society sent him there as Superintendent of Public Schools. Four months after his arrival in the African colony he founded and edited the Liberia Herald at Monrovia. It was published on four letter-size pages once a month and printed on a press donated five years earlier by friends of the Society living in Boston.

     In the first issue a salutatory addressed "To Our Readers" occupied all of the front page and half of the second. The journal aimed to generate personal and group development, to disseminate knowledge of all kinds, and, like Freedom's Journal, to emphasize education, household economy, religion, and judicious politics. Above all it aspired to expose the thriving slave trade as witnessed in passing ships from Liberian shores.

     A short letter to the editor lauded the arrival of the Liberia Herald. The second, much longer, defended the Colonization Society in the face of damaging references in an issue of Rights of All to the dysentery and "deadly climate" in Africa. Under the heading "Liberal Feelings" the Herald grouped such brief "good news" items as the completion of a long-needed roadway, the apprehension of several plunderers, the rescue of master and crew of a shipwrecked schooner, arrivals of both passengers and boxes of books from the States. One of the few advertisements announced the opening of a new school in the courthouse with a curriculum of the three R's and geography.

     The prospectus, placed at the bottom of the last page, promised to give the reader election results, provisions of Liberian laws, court decisions and government committee reports, as well as sketches of native manners and customs. There were also essays serving to unify the population and develop respect for law and authority.

     Russwurm eventually entered politics and became governor of the Maryland Colony at Cape Palmas in l836, a position that he held until his death in l85l.

 

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February 2000