Liberia, the League and the United States

I REMEMBER standing once in a West African forest where thin, silver trees loomed straight and smooth in the air. There were two men with me. One was a black man, Solomon Hood, United States Minister to Liberia; a man of utter devotion, whose solicitude for the welfare of Liberia was like a sharp pain driving him on. And he thought he had found the solution. The solution was the white man beside us. He was a rubber expert sent by the Firestone Corporation of the United States to see if rubber could be grown in Liberia.

Those were rather ticklish times in the rubber situation. England was attempting to corner the world's production and prices were shooting up. Henry Ford flew south to seek plantations. Edison experimented with new plants. Firestone sent his representative to Liberia.

Most people cannot easily visualize the peculiarly helpless position of a small outland in the modern world of industry. It seems that a rich country like Liberia ought easily to be self-supporting and to secure machinery, experts and modern luxuries in return for its raw material. But this is much more easily said than done. In the first place, it must raise the raw materials which the world at the moment demands, and it often finds that the price of its product is so manipulated that absolutely no dependence can be put on it. In fact, between changing and disappearing markets, freight-carrying monopolies, high cost of machinery, and absence of expert knowledge, Liberia, like many other small, isolated countries, has been in continual financial difficulties. She needs expert advice; but expert advice from white men, accompanied by invested capital, means loss of political power. And Liberia is jealous of her independence -- jealous and proud. Indeed, the record of peace, efficiency and ability made by this little poverty-stricken settlement of the rejected and despised, sitting on the edge of Africa and fighting the world in order to be let alone, is, despite querulous criticism, one of the most heartening efforts in human history.

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