- Stephen Allen Benson
name=Stephen Allen Benson
order=2nd President of Liberia
January 7 1856
January 4 1864
Joseph Jenkins Roberts
Daniel Bashiel Warner
Maryland, United States
Grand Bassa County, Liberia
Stephen Allen Benson (
May 21 1816-1865) served as President of Liberiafrom 1856 to 1864.
Benson was born in
Maryland, United States. In 1822 his family expatriated to the newly created country of Liberia. Shortly after his arrival, the colony was taken over by African natives, holding Benson and his relatives captives for a few months.
He became a successful businessman. Benson joined the
militiain 1835 and in 1842 became a delegate to the "Colonial Council". After Liberia's independence in 1847 he became a judge.
In 1853 Benson became the
vice presidentto Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and after Roberts left office in 1856 Benson succeeded Roberts as president.
Benson obtained the recognition of Liberia from Belgium in 1858. In 1862 Benson also achieved
diplomatic recognitionfrom the United States. That same year he visited Europe, and obtained recognition from Italy. Norway and Sweden recognized Liberia either in 1863 or 1849, Haiti in 1864 or 1849 (accounts differ).
Expansion; relations with indigenous
In 1857 Benson organized the
annexationof Republic of Maryland. Benson, who knew many indigenous languages, sought collaboration with the native tribes, in contrast to previous Liberian policy, which emphasized American-Liberian superiority and Western customs. Regrettably, this new policy remained largely unimplemented.By 1860, through treaties and purchases with local African leaders, Liberia had extended its boundaries to include a 600 mile (1000 km) coastline.
Closed Door Policy; tribal uprising
English merchants, supported by their government, refused to acknowledge the political sovereignty of Liberia and evaded the import and export duties to a large extent. This refusal on the part of European merchants was one of the reasons which motivated the Liberians to partially close the country to foreigners. The 1864 “Ports of Entry” Law limited international trade activities to the main six ports along the coast, and heralded the era of a Closed Door Policy. This protective policy was also based on the desire to safeguard the economic interests of the political leaders.The Ports of Entry Law added another reason for the inland and coastal tribal population to rise against the authority of the Monrovia based government.
Whereas government revenue decreased as a result of the restrictive law, increased military spending to suppress the numerous revolts and wars added to the public deficit. This deteriorated an already precarious financial situation. Consequently, the Liberian Government faced financial bankruptcy at more than one occasion.
After the end of his presidency Benson retired to his
plantationin Grand Bassa Countywhere he died in 1865.
History of Liberia
*see History of Liberia, further reading
* [http://www.liberianforum.com/history.htm Biography]
*see also History of Liberia, external links
NAME=Benson, Stephen Allan
SHORT DESCRIPTION=former President of
DATE OF BIRTH=
21 May 1816
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=1865
PLACE OF DEATH=
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