New York: Edward O. Jenkins' Sons, 1886. First Edition. First-person observations on the state of Liberia, from an eminent Americo-Liberian. Stewart (1853-1923), a native South Carolinian, was a graduate of both Howard University, the University of South Carolina (where he was one of the first Black graduates after integration), and the Princeton Theological Seminary. He gave up his first ministry, at Bethel AME Church in New York's Greenwich Village, to accept a position teaching at the newly-formed Liberia College (now the National University of Liberia) in 1883. He returned to the U.S. after a somewhat rocky two-year tenure, capturing his impressions of the young Republic in the current volume, which established his reputation as a scholar and author. A varied and peripatetic legal career followed, taking Stewart to New York, Honolulu, and London in succession; in 1903 he returned to Monrovia, where he became a prominent figure in the Liberian judicial system, serving on the Supreme Court and drafting much of the country's modern legal code (for reference, see David Schroeder's article on Stewart in AANB, v.7 pp.410ff).
In this brief but lively volume, Stewart offers a quite candid view of Liberia and its prospects, which he does not consider altogether auspicious. "We must candidly say," he writes," "That the Americo-Africans in Liberia are not in such a condition as to call forth our enthusiasm...most of the colored people who have emigrated to Africa were poor and comparatively ignorant. In this new country and hostile climate, they have enjoyed neither the support of large capital nor the direction of general intelligence..." (p.70). This rather paternalistic attitude towards his adopted countrymen, together with his own light complexion, evidently caused Stewart some trouble; his professorship at Liberia College was reputedly cut short after clashes with the college's President over his failure to integrate with either the culture of the university or of the larger Liberian culture. But though his sympathy for his African brethren may have been strained, his sympathy for the white oppressors of his homeland was clearly far moreso – Stewart concludes his chapter on Liberia's climate with an open and eloquent attack on European supremacism: "...if white men could thrive on the West Coast [of Africa], they would flock to it as they have done to South Africa, and assert their "divine right to rule" the land and subjugate the aboriginal population to their proud sway, as the Caucasians invariably do wherever they are able to congregate in large numbers...but God reserves Tropical Africa for the Negro race. He has stationed climate there as a gloomy, watchful sentinel, with special orders against white men..." (p.44).
An important and entertaining work by an underappreciated pioneer African-American lawyer, author, and civil rights activist. Quite uncommon in commerce, with only four copies recorded at auction in at least 25 years. Adequately represented in institutional collections, though it is hard to imagine that a prettier copy exists. BLOCKSON 1496. LCP AFRO-AMERICANA [Supplement] 2212. First printing. 12mo (20cm); publisher's deep blue cloth, lettered in gilt with floral decorations and rules in black to upper board, matching design in blind to lower board; decoratively printed endpapers; 107,(1)pp; illustrations in text; verso of final leaf is a prospectus for Liberia College, above ad for Thomas Fortune's The Negro in Politics. A stunning copy: traces of rubbing to bottom board edges, else practically as-new, boards retaining their deep navy hue, with gilt bright and un-rubbed on front cover. Ownership stamp of Maine author Jay S. Hoar to rear pastedown.