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The Founding of Liberia

The movement to repatriate freeborn and emancipated American blacks to Africa predated the American Revolution and had its origin in the efforts of the Quakers and other religious and humanitarian groups to firing an end to the slave trade and abolish the institution of slavery. American abolitionists were encouraged lay the success of a similar movement in Britain, but for many years they lacked the organization, funding, and political support for such an undertaking.

In 1807 the British Pariiatnent enacted legislation prohibiting the slave trade. The se ve ral decides of antislavery campaigning iii Britain that contributed to the adoption of the measure had been spearheaded by leaders of the Evangelical movement within the church and financed by philanthropists like Granville Sharp. A suit brought before the courts by Sharp had led to a judgment in 1772 that slavery did not exist in England and that slaves who disembarked there were automatically emancipated. With the backing of the British government, Sharp had sponsored the founding of a self?governing colony at Sierra Leone in 1787. There, several hundred liberated slaves were settled. They were joined a few years later by blacks who had left the United States with departing British troops at the end of the American Revoluti< and who had been living since that time in Nova Scotia. A small number of free blacks had also immigrated to the colony from the United States to start a new life in Africa.

The court's decision in the Granville Sharp case had added the weight of legal precedent to arguments made in Parliament by 1?ohollents of the abolition of the slave trade. The legislation that resulted explicitly forbade curly ships under British registry to engage in the trade, but the law's purpose was to end all traffic in slaves out of West African ports and was therefore applied to ships 1order other flags as well. To enforce the blockade, the Royal Navy detailed a squadron to patrol the West African coast. Captive blacks rescued?or "recaptured"?at sea by British naval vessels were usually transported to the port of Freetown in Sierra Leone and released there. Apprehended slave rumiers were tried at the West African station by naval courts and were liable to capital punishment when found guilty.

The year after passage of the British act of 1807, United States legislation went into effect, prohibiting the ficrther importation of slaves. Several ships of the United States Navy were assigned to police the blockade in West African as well as American waters. Cargoes of slaves recaptured from American vessels, cl<.pending on where they had been intercepted, were dropped in Sierra Leone or brought for ' internment to the United States, where they legally became wards of the government. In March 1819 the United States Congress enacted legislation authorizing the government to transport slaves removed from American ships engaged in the illegal trade and appropriated US$100,000 to cover the cost of the operation.

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