Letter from Alexander Crummell to John Jay II
Collection of John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
Gift of Friends of John Jay Homestead
8th August 1853
My Dear Mr Jay,
I left England, with my family according to expectation on the 24 June; and we reached Monrovia on the 15th July. Our passage included the usual incidents, vicissitudes and trials of a sea-voyage: we stopt at Madiera, Tenneriffa Gorce (?), Bathurst & Sierra Leone: and perhaps a notice of the Events that occurred and these several places not be interesting to you. That I judge that you will be more interested in some notice and references to Liberia; and therefore passing by the former, send omitting observations relating to myself; I will note a few lines about this young Republic.
I have been here nigh over three weeks and have taken pains to see with my own eyes as much as possible; and I assure you that reports you have Seen and read of the progress and improvement of this people are not exaggerated: all things considered John Jay Esq. (written at bottom of page in Crummell’s hand)
they have performed honours. I speak of the exterior of Liberian life & Society; and I am surprized at what I see. I c’d hardly trust my own eyes, when on my arrival I had passed thro the main street, and saw substantial brick and stone buildings in this little town; and neat and well-arranged streets; and neat and commodious houses. In the harbour a number of small craft belonging to the merchants; tough & substantial stones are erected on the banks of the River; several small vessels are on the Stocks, being built by the Skillful and ingenious ship-builders.
I have just returned from a visit up the St. Paul’s. I ascended it 20 miles. I will tell you a plain and unvarnished tale: Towns and villages are springing up on both sides of the river. You will see the Literality of my words when I tell you that within 3 or 4 years four different towns have been opened in the wilderness. One of these is divided into streets: is continually receiving accessions; and bids fair to become a great inland City. I visited intelligent farmers, some of whom have not been over two years, who now have large & beautiful farms. I regard one of these men, an extraordinary character. He has collected a large number of plants shrubs, trees, flowers from the wilderness, & is experimenting on them. I have seldom seen a more beautiful well arranged farm. The Nations & their Kings have come from the interior to see it; and one, after looking around in silence, at last sd — “Daddy Yr news gone clear into the bush!” This man has planted — do not marvel at the number: it is literally true: I have seen them with my own eyes —- 100,000 coffee trees! And in less than ten years, with God’s favor he will be an opulent man: and he is but one among many: I saw several other coffee plantations; and I feel quite sure that this comity, ere long, will become the Great coffee-growing country of the world. It is also destined to grow & export much sugar. I visited another farmer —- a man formerly a slave in Louisiana. I went & saw his Sugar fields, and to his factory. I found his sugar so good that I have engaged him to supply me altogether at 10 cents per pound, he makes 12,000 lbs a year: nor is he the only sugar-planter: I saw several others and I have no doubt that sugar wd soon be exported if these men only had Capital to obtain machinery.
On the river I saw several brick kilns, and large piles of bricks for sale: I walked a mile, at several places on nice roads. I am told that two years since there were but three brick houses on the river: now there are 15 —- several new ones building, — besides frame buildings.
The farmers & Citizens have Cows, oxen, sheep, Goats, Chickens Ducks: Their breeds are very small: they have not been crossed it is probable for centuries; and the farmers have not been able or perhaps, enterprising enough, to send abroad for new breeds.
As you may judge there is much unthrift among many of these people: much waste of labor: a lack of scientific acquaintance; often a feeling of early easy content upon a small return of labor. But when I think of what these my brethren and their fathers were for centuries in America — how they were driven from their native land and cast, homeless, houseless, penniless upon these shores — a dense wilderness before — a savage population behind them; and how they have had to work their way up, with fever and disease in their frames — with the sword in one hand, and the hoe or the spade in the other; — I am surprized and wonderstruck at the great work they have been enabled to do in the short space of 30 years!
I speak above of the external of Liberian life and Society: I fear that socially there is a vast deal to be done, and that in this respect I shall have many annoyances: but I am determined, please God, I __?__ that my wife and children shall not be dragged & __?__ to a Cow __?__, whether I please or displease my neighbours.
I can say nothing about the acclimating fever: none of my family have had it. But so far as appearances go the black Colonist/population appears as strong and healthy as they do in New York or Philadelphia: their children as active & a deal more free of spirit. These things I see before me, and cannot but acknowledge them: and altho I hate the principle of Colonization, I must appreciate the providence of God. I feel thoroughly assured that there is a great work for thousands of my race to do in America, and that there were sent to do it: but I feel equally convinced that if many of my acquaintances in New York City knew & saw what I see here: they wd flock here. — go in the country — become opulent farmers; and by their sugar & Cotton lay the axe to the roots of the tree of slavery, and send our retribution for the wrongs of their race & their shameful expatriation.
The Bishop has sent me word from Cape Palmas to remain here until his visitation about 4 weeks hence. Then it becomes quite certain that I shall have to remain here six months or more. So soon as I see the Bp then I shall know my destination wd that I cd enter upon it at once with all my heart and hand, without delay! But I must be prudent for a while at least; altho it is trying to see such land & friends of usefulness open before one — Colonists & heathen – needing & seeking the Gospel and the CH. — and set to be kept from preaching & laboring among them. The CH _?_ has now the finest opportunity; and if she only embraces it, she will establish her supremacy immediately, for all future times. I have been here 3 weeks, and already one Candidate for orders, is leading the Gr. Leest with me, and I am directing him in Theology; another will be with me in a few days; and a third desires me take him also; all these are Colonists & lay men. I have already received invitations to establish the CH in 3 different places; and I hope ere long to commence occasional services at a small town on the St Paul’s.
I presume you have heard from Mr Auriol (?) ere his relation to the CH fund; and I hope recd a printed paper of accts.
I did not ask for anything for myself, after much consideration I came to this decision. [“August 8 — 1853” written in superscript] I recd a letter from Mr Tyson on previous to my sailing — a letter wh I will not characterize: Mr Tyson informed me I am indebted to him some $40 and more. Mr Tyson had recd some 6 or $700 from me from England for the CH; and is now receiving the interest of money I collected in England. Now inasmuch as I have labored for nothing for the CH; ought he not have settled this matter in my favor long ago. The CH ought to ___?___, a certain sum every time it gets funds from England; until this acct is settled: and when I say the CH — it is as much as saying Mr Tyson himself; all the monies pass thro his hands: and know this I cannot do otherwise than express dislike of Mr Tyson’s course. I was in hopes I shd have nothing more of a disagreeable __?__ to __?__ relation to this.
Please remember me to Judge Jay, Mrs Banyer & Miss Jay. I hope Mrs Jay and yr children are well.
Ever Dear Sir, Most truly & gratefully yrs Alex Crummell. —-