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The Tubman Era

In his inaugural address in January 1944, Tubman announced an ambitious new program aimed at ameliorating the social and political differences that existed between the AmericoLiberian elite and the rest of the country. He also made proposals for developing Liberia economically and socially into a modern nation. The twin pillars of Tubman's program were to be the Unification Policy, directed toward social and political integration of all Liberians, and the subsequent Open Door Policy, designed to attract foreign capital to Liberia.

Tubman was 49 years old when he, assumed the presidency. A descendant of freed slaves who had come to Liberia from Georgia in 1834, he had been raised at Cape Palmas, educated at a Methodist seminary, served in the militia during the tribal uprisings, and started his political career by being elected to the House of Representatives from Maryland County in 1922. He built a political base nationally among lower echelon Americo?Liberians and tribal Africans but also had impeccable credentials as a inemher of the inner circle of the True Whig Party and as an officer of the Masonic Order. Over the years he built an impressive patronage network that incorporated relatives, in?laws, and wards. During the 1943 presidential campaign, Tubman committed his administration to evolutionary change within the context of continued True Whig rule. He spoke convincingly, as no other high?ranking Americo? Liberian official had before him, of removing class distinctions and of introducing policies that would draw tribal Africans into the political mainstream.

The biggest obstacle to Tubman's program was that many of the elite class upon whom he had to depend to carry out his policies were afraid that the proposed measures would endanger the way of life and standard of living they had come to consider their birthright; consequently, they gave the program less than full support. The uncompromising approach of the party's old guard was to resist the new forces of nationalism that were brewing in Africa by isolating the tribal population from change and allowing as little new foreign influence as possible, including economic development, that might upset the established order. Tubman was also interested in protecting the special interests of his own class and keeping the direction of the country in its control, but he argued that reform was the best guarantee of preserving the status of the Americo?Liberians, The route that he chose to prevent radical movements from emerging among young Americo? Liberians, as well as among tribal Africans, was to redress some of the more obvious grievances before they became serious issues threatening the country's stability.

Tubman's vice-presidential running mate in 1943 was Clarence L. Simpson, who had been Barclay's secretary of state and the leading contender against Tubman for the presidential nomination. Simpson was a person of liberal temperament who had kinship ties with the Vai, but he was a staunch party man as well whom the old guard saw as a counterweight to Tubman. Although the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate were influential figures identified with the old guard, there was no real opposition to administration policies in the legislature. The old guard continued to dominate party councils, but power within the government shifted decisively to the new president and to his family network, whose members were appointed to important government positions through the patronage system. In order to cope with the large task of modernization, Tubinan relied extensively on foreign advisers and technicians who were not influenced by party intrigues,

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