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President Roye and the British Loan

President Payne (1868?70) had no choice but to acquiesce to the British ultimatum. Because it was impossible to pay the indemnity with the assets available in the country, the government tried to arrange payments on installment. The British refusal to consider such an arrangement threatened Liberia with bankruptcy and threw the country into a financial panic. On coming to office, President Roye . authorized the negotiation of a 100,000 loan from British banks that would enable Liberia to pay the indemnity in full and also make funds available for economic development, especially road building and modernization of the coastal sailing fleet. But Liberia negotiated from an extremely week position, and, under the terms of the loan as finally approved, the government had to pay 30,000 in advance to its creditors while being forced to accept 7 percent annual interest on the principal. Customs revenues were pledged as security for the loan. Much of what reached the treasury after payment of the indemnity was misappropriated, and too little was left to carry out the planned development projects.

The Republican majority in the legislature and commercial interests, which were largely mulatto and Republican, were outraged at the terms accepted by Roye, who compounded his political problems when he announced that the 1871 elections would be postponed because of the economic crisis and that his term would be extended to four years. The legislature voted a joint resolution calling on the president to resign; when he refused to step down, Roye was impeached and imprisoned. He died under mysterious circumstances a short time later, apparently while attempting to escape.

The legislature turned again to Roberts, electing him to a two?year term as president to begin when Roye's vice president, James Skivring Smith, had completed the unexpired term. Roberts was reelected in 1873 and was succeeded in 1876 by former president Payne. These Republican administrations, which marked the final period of mulatto ascendancy in Liberia, attempted to extend economic penetration in the interior to compensate for rapidly declining income from cash crops, but their efforts were frustrated by the lack of funds for investment in development.

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