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Liberian Government Archives I, 1828-1911

Scope and Content

Five boxes of materials, 1828-1911, that range chronologically from Liberia’s colonial period under the American Colonization Society through the end of Arthur Barclay’s term as the fifteenth president of Liberia. The collection consists of correspondence, reports, records, minutes, and other miscellaneous manuscript items. These materials are typically either photocopies of items from the Liberian Archives in Monrovia, Liberia, or are typescript copies/notes created by Dr. Holsoe in the course of his research (however, there are some manuscript notes and, in at least one case, photographs of documents).

The collection is divided into three main sections to reflect the three branches of Liberian government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The Executive Branch is further broken down by executive department, with the Presidential materials under the heading “Executive Mansion;” the Legislative by House, Senate, and General (for those materials deriving from, or going to, both Houses); and the Judicial by geographic area and then by court. The organization is intended to reflect the inventory of the Liberian Government Archives as established by Dr. Holsoe and Tom W. Schick (see bibliography).

Because so much of the correspondence comes in the form of Letterbooks or Letter Despatch Books, items of correspondence can be found in many different places. For example, someone looking for Presidential correspondence will find much of it under Executive Mansion General Correspondence, but there will also be materials to be found in the Despatch Books of the Department of State or of the Treasury Department.

Researchers using the Holsoe Collection Liberian Government Archives will find many items of interest: there is a wealth of correspondence, both intra- and extra-governmental, and the cabinet minutes and Legislative materials provide great insight into the workings of government. Of particular note are the Legislative materials from 1871-1872 covering the impeachment of President Roye and members of his cabinet; there are also court records from Montserrado County during the same period that cover related trials. The court records from Maryland County contain a wealth of information concerning wills and estates, giving one a glimpse into the possessions and livelihood of early Twentieth Century Liberians. Other notable items include Arthur Barclay’s office diary from 1909; correspondence relating to the “Regina Coeli” affair (1857-1858); and the Native Shipping Bureau Correspondence, which consists primarily of ledger books detailing the traffic in native labor in the late Nineteenth Century.