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J. W. Lugenbeel to A. Thomas Smith, January 22, 1844. American Colonization Society, Library of Congress.

Transcribed and annotated by Onaje Williams. Original available on Fold3.org

Monrovia,[1] Western Africa

Jan. 24th, 1844

Dear Sir,

I have addressed a letter to the Honorable Secretary of the Navy,[2] in regard to the state of things connected with the United States Agency for liberated Africans; but assuming that a friendly epistle to yourself from this distant land may meet with a welcome reception. I embrace the present opportunity, the first afforded since my arrival to transmit to you a few lines. I arrived safely on the Coast of Africa, on the 16th of November last, after a passage of fifty-three days from Providence.[3] I was obliged to remain in that place nine days awaiting for the vessel to sail, which did not get to sea until the 24th of September. I was considerably benefited in health, by the voyage across the ocean; and I have had very little physical indisposition during a residence of more than two months in this country; which has the character of being so unhealthy and generally fatal to white men. I believe, however, that I have been undergoing a process of acclimation, for I have frequently experienced feelings to which I was not accustomed in the United States; such as considerable fullness, heat and pain in the head, occasionally attended with some febrile excitement in the system. I flatter myself, that with care and prudence I can live in Africa, at least for a few years in my official letter to the Secretary, I stated that there is property in Liberia, belonging to the United States; the building which was erected by Mr. Ashmun,[4] having been sold to the colonization society by Dr. Mecklin,[5] formerly a United States Agent and Governor of the colony. This information was obtained from the present governor, J.J. Roberts.[6] The goods which were purchased with the appropriation ($2,000 I believe) made by the President of the United States, for the purpose of erecting two buildings on the coast, were lost in the wreck of the “Renown” , some months ago; of which you no doubt are already aware.

For several years past no duties have devolved on my predecessors in the Agency in consequence of no recapture having been committed to this care; but as a regular squadron is now stationed on the coast. I think it is very probable that some may be taken; in which I will as I stated in my official letter, make the best arrangements in my power for them, at the last possible evidence to the United States. Very little disbursements will I presume, be necessary their account; as they can soon be settled on the rich, area lands within the territory of the colony; and be able to maintain themselves. Those who were sent to Africa by the United States Government, are located at a place called New Georgia,[7] on the St. Paul’s River, about seven men from Monrovia. They are among the most industrial and successful agriculturist in Liberia; and they furnish a considerable proportion of the provisions which the officers of the squadron get at this place. They have several schools in their community and they have not only made considerable advancement in civilization but also in acquiring a knowledge of the English language. At the last election held in the colony, one of them was elected a member of the Legislature. In my letter of instructions, I am requested to “Transmit to the 4th auditor, quarterly statements of my accounts for salary and expenditures”. But as I suppose that relates particularly to expenses which I may incur in providing for the comfort and support of recap lives. I presume that a compliance with this is not required for salary alone; or unless it may be necessary for me to make any disbursements on account of the United States.

All the vessels attached to the Africa squadron[8] have been in this harbor since my arrival; and I am happy to say that the officers and men have enjoyed remarkably good health since their arrival in the coast. I have had the pleasure of dining with Commodore Perry,[9] and at different times at Governor Roberts table, and also on board the vessels. An official statement has no doubt been transmitted to the Navy department, relative to an attack which was made early in December last on a native settlement below Cape Palmas;[10] in which the king and his interpreter together with four or five of his men were killed; the king himself having received a mortal wound inflicted by Captain Mayo[11] of the Macedonian with a pistol bayonet, while in actual contact. The Commodore also was personally engaged in the skirmish. The attack was made in consequence, the natives of that settlement having murdered the whole crew of an American trader and robbed and burnt the vessel, some twelve or fifteen months ago. Notwithstanding all the efforts which have been made, and which are still being made for the oppression of the slave trade that nefarious traffic, it still carried on to a considerable extent. There is a slave factory between this and Cape Palmas; but out of jurisdiction of both colonies; and one about sixty miles north of this place, from which slaves are frequently taken and carried to the West India Islands. I have just been informed that there was a slave trading vessel a few days ago lying at anchor, about sixty miles below this place having American colors flying. To give you an idea of the rapidity with which these unfortunate creatures are transported from the (barracoons?) on shore, in boats and canoes. The Captain of a trading vessel told me a short time ago that he saw 550 slaves shipped in the short space on the vessel anchored until she was off with her prize with cargo of human beings. Many persons in the United States think that the slave trade has been nearly suppressed; but that is not the case. It is carried on to a much less extent than formerly; but thousands are still torn from their native soil, the unwilling victims of the most abominable office that ever swelled the catalogue of human crime. (?) that I have filled my sheet, I hope that you pardon me for taxing your patience.

 Very Respectfully, Your old friend.

  J.W. Lugenbeel


Britannica, T. E. (2021, May 01). American Colonization Society. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/American-Colonization-Society

Britannica, T. E. (2021, May 01). Joseph Jenkins Roberts. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Jenkins-Roberts

Gilmer, Thomas Walker. (2021, May 01). Retrieved from History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives: https://history.gov/people/listing/g/gilmer,-thomas-walker-(g000218)

National, U. S. (2021, May 01). Letter Books of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Retrieved from Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=_7upKcdB7goC&pg=PP3&lpg=PP3&dq=commodore+perry+liberia+1844&source=bl&ots=Fg5G4VCToD&sig=ACfU3U1i1JjwsHoF9mHsw5Gnfpr3EAXIOw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjYg-nBjrPwAhVwF1kFHelXB-gQ6AEwEHoECAwQAw#v=onepage&q=commodore%20perry%20li

The African Repository: 8. (2018). United States: Creative Media Partners, LLC.

[1] Capital of Liberia; located on Bushrod Island and Cape Mesurado.

[2] Thomas W. Gilmer

[3] Providence, Rhode Island.

[4]Sold to Dr. Mecklin as a slave.

[5] Acquired Mr. Ashmun through the sale of a building Mr. Ashmun built.

[6] First Black governor of Liberia

[7] Small township located in Montserrado County, Liberia.

[8] United States naval unit involved in the blockade of Africa to suppress the slave trade.

[9] U.S. Navy commanding officer who led the Africa Squadron.

[10] Located in the Southeast of Liberia; is now known as Harper.

[11] Captain of the Macedonian which was part of the Africa Squadron.