Charles D. B. King
|17th President of Liberia|
5 January 1920 – 3 December 1930
|Vice President||Samuel Alfred Ross (1920–1924)|
Henry Too Wesley (1924–1928)
Allen Yancy (1928–1930)
|Preceded by||Daniel E. Howard|
|Succeeded by||Edwin Barclay|
|Born||12 March 1875|
|Died||4 September 1961 (aged 86)|
|Political party||True Whig|
Charles Dunbar Burgess King (12 March 1875 – 4 September 1961) was a Liberian politician who served as 17th president of Liberia from 1920 to 1930. He was of Americo-Liberian and Krio descent. He was a member of the True Whig Party, which ruled the country from 1878 until 1980.
King was Attorney General from 1904 until 1912, and Secretary of State of Liberia from 1912 until he was elected president in 1919. In this capacity, he attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and the accompanying First Pan-African Congress. Though a moderate supporter of reform, he continued to support the patronage machine and corrupt dominance of the True Whig Party.
President King’s administration was marked with scandal. Charles D. B. King, was the first president of Liberia and one of the few presidents in the world to freely give out power of an elected office, to which the United States expressed concern. His economic agenda and development plan constantly fell short of expectations, although literacy rates increased steadily in regards to wider access to public education. He failed to prevent Liberia from political unrest, and often fought sporadically with his neighbors. This hindered any real growth for the newly established nation.
In 1927, he won the presidential election with over 15 times more votes than there were electors, causing concern for a rigged and corrupt election, but a forced labor and slavery scandal forced his resignation in 1930. Charles King resigned in disgrace and retired from seeking higher office thereafter until his death. His presidency was marked by extreme corruption, nepotism for the hiring of officials rather than by skill, and a lack of transparency regarding the decisions his administration was making regarding the welfare of the people and utilization of slave labor.
King became Liberia's President in 1920 and served for 10 years. Though a moderate supporter of reform, he continued to support the patronage machine and dominance of the True Whig Party. As president, he helped establish the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Kakata in 1929.
By the early 1920s, Liberia's financial crisis had worsened to the point where President King headed up a commission which traveled to the United States to seek reorganization of its staggering debt burden. They arrived in March 1921, shortly after President Harding had taken office. The United States Congress had suspended all foreign cr and extension of foreign loans, even though the State Department was sympathetic to the request from the Liberian delegation. Negotiations dragged on until October before the State Department finally granted Liberia a loan for $5 million.
The United States government under President Harding proposed anew (after an attempt made during World War I from Liberian President Howard to get a loan from the previous Woodrow Wilson Administration) to Congress a $5 million loan to Liberia. The House gave its approval but the Senate refused, creating great disappointment and a sense of desperation among Liberian officials, who worried that British and French designs on their country might now prove unstoppable. Liberia had become a charter member of the League of Nations in 1919, and Monrovia was determined to safeguard its sovereignty.
Firestone Rubber Company began exporting rubber from Liberia in 1934, having obtained a concession to lease land in 1926. The Liberian economy soon came to depend on it. Through subsidiary Finance Corporation of America, Firestone also boosted the Liberian economy with a $5 million loan that permitted the government to consolidate and bond debts and fund public improvements.
King was stiffly challenged in the presidential election of 1927 by Thomas Faulkner. According to an official statement, King received 234,000 votes; however, Liberia only had 15,000 registered voters at the time. Thus, King earned the dubious achievement of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most fraudulent election reported in history.
After losing the 1927 presidential election to King, Thomas Faulkner accused many members of the True Whig Party government of recruiting and selling contract labor as slaves. Despite Liberia's firm denials and a refusal to cooperate, the League of Nations established a commission under the leadership of British zoologist Cuthbert Christy to determine the extent of forced labor and slavery still practiced by Liberia. U.S. President Herbert Hoover briefly suspended relations to press Monrovia into compliance.
In 1930 the League of Nations published the committee's report, dubbed the ‘Christy Report’ after the Committee's chairman. The report supported many of Faulkner's allegations and implicated many government officials, including vice president Allen Yancy. It was found that forced labor was used for the construction of certain public works such as roads in the interior. And certain tribes did practice domestic servitude that could be considered as slavery.
The report found:
Subsequently, King and Vice-President Yancy, along with other implicated leaders, resigned.
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