Letter from Alexander Crummell to John Jay II

Collection of John Jay Homestead State Historic Site

Gift of Friends of John Jay Homestead





West Africa.

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. —-