The Barclay Administration
Immigration policy was an issue in the 1931 election in which Barclay faced Faulkner, who was once again the candidate of the People's Party. Already known as the champion of native African rights, Faulkner also favored unrestricted immigration by American blacks. The two positions were not unrelated because both implied that the Americo?Liberian community would have to share power with other groups. Speaking for the True Whigs, Barclay also favored immigration but would have restricted admission to American blacks bringing new skills into the country that would attract investment. Faulkner increased his share of the vote over the 1927 election and lost in Monrovia only by a narrow margin, but Barclay still won handily across the nation. As he had after his defeat in 1927, Faulkner charged that the True Whig had stuffed the ballot boxes.
With the approval of the legislature, Barclay assumed extraordinary powers. Public expenditures were slashed, and a moratorium was declared on loan repayments to the FCA until revenues improved. The debt service, which equaled 20 percent of total revenues in 1926, had increased to 60 percent in 1932. The United States Government warned that it would interpret the action as a repudiation of the debt but refused to go to the lengths urged by Firestone to force Liberia to pay on schedule.
Washington took a much more benevolent approach to its relations with Liberia after Franklin D. Roosevelt became president of the Unted States in 1933. The Roosevelt administration served notice that it would not tolerate foreign intervention in the country's affairs and offered Liberia diplomatic assistance in a number of matters involving the colonial powers.
Under the terms of the 1926 agreements, the American financial adviser to the Liberian government was principally concerned with ensuring prompt payment of the loan, but after revision of the terms, he became more closely involved in cooperation with Liberian officials to improve the country's fiscal management to the benefit of both Liberia and American interests there.
Special legislation in 1935, confirmed by a referendum, extended Barclays current term to eight years, bypassing the election scheduled for that year. Prolonging the presidential term was explained as an economy measure, but the Barclay administration also feared that a disruptive election would further weaken the confidence of foreign powers and creditors in Liberia's ability to maintain political stability. Barclay was re?elected to a four?year second term in 1939. As war threatened, France worried about a coup d'etat being carried out in Liberia, inspired by German nationals there, and submitted a plan for training a Liberian army of 5,000 men, which would also be essential to defending the rubber plantations. Barclay called the plan unacceptable, pointing out that Liberia could not bear the cost of larger defense forces without contravening the agreements made with the League of Nations. When war broke out, Barclay issued a declaration of strict neutrality, but in 1942 Liberia broke diplomatic relations with Germany.
At Firestone's urging, Pan American Airways had inaugurated regular traps?Atlantic service between the United States and Liberia in 1941. Pan American had also obtained a contract for ferrying aircraft that had been acquired by Britain under the Lend?Lease Act to the Royal Air Force in Egypt. Commercial facilities in Liberia that were used for stopovers proved inadequate, and construction of a new runway was begun 50 miles from Monrovia at what became Roberts Field. Supplies of rubber were also flown out from the new airfield.
In 1942 Liberia granted the United States permission to construct, control, and operate bases in the country under the Defense Areas Agreement. Concurrently, it was granted the right to defend those bases and other strategic interests in Liberia. Roberts Field made possible the airlifting of supplies to United States forces during the North Africa campaign, and antisubmarine patrols were flown by seaplanes based at Fisherman's Lake (Lake Piso). About 5, 000 United States troops, including engineers' and all?black combat units as well as air crews, were stationed in Liberia during World War II.
Roosevelt visited Liberia in January 1943, landing at Roberts Field on his way home from the Casablanca Conference, and held talks with Barclay. Later in the year Barclay and President?elect William V. S. Tubman visited the United States on Roosevelt's invitation and signed additional agreements for the construction of modern port facilities at Monrovia and for technical assistance.
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