The Province of Freedom, Freetown, Liberia — such proud titles affixed to the coastline of West Africa in the days of the transatlantic slave-trade betrayed vast ambitions. They signalled nothing less than a determination to subvert that devilish commerce and refashion relationships between Guinea, the homeland of the Negroes, and the Christian West on a new and libertarian basis. Such optimism partly derived from the prevailing religious atmosphere, reflecting the expectations of the evangelical religious revival for dramatic conversion in Africa. It should be noted that Christians often drained ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ of political meaning in an African context, holding that what was essential was that Africans be unfettered from the slave-chains of ignorance in order to enjoy true spiritual liberty through communion in Christ. Nevertheless the buoyant optimism of the times carried over into the secular field, sustaining hopes of rapid West African progress through a process of political reconstruction. The transfigurations of mass revivals seemed matched by a series of stupendous political events: the American Revolution itself, and then, in black-white relations, the abolition of the slave-trade and slavery in the British Empire in 1807 and 1834, and the American Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction in the 1860s. Freetown and Liberia were ranged in this exhilarating sequence.
KeywordsGold Coast Religious Sense Civilise Nation Political Progress Bicameral Legislature
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