Edward James Roye

Edward James Roye (February 3, 1815 – February 11, 1872) served as the fifth president of Liberia from 1870 to his overthrow in 1871 and subsequent death. He had previously served as the fourth Chief Justice of Liberia from 1865 until 1868. He was the first member of Liberia's True Whig Party to serve as president.

Edward James Roye
Edward James Roye2.jpg
5th President of Liberia
In office
January 3, 1870 – October 26, 1871
Vice PresidentJames Skivring Smith
Preceded byJames Spriggs Payne
Succeeded byJames Skivring Smith
4th Chief Justice of Liberia
In office
Nominated byDaniel Bashiel Warner
Preceded byBoston Jenkins Drayton
Succeeded byC. L. Parsons
Personal details
Born(1815-02-03)February 3, 1815
Newark, Ohio, United States
DiedFebruary 11, 1872 (aged 57) or February 12, 1872 (disputed)
Political partyTrue Whig

Early lifeEdit

Born in 1815 in Newark, Ohio, Roye was a descendant of the Igbo people of present-day Nigeria.[1][2]

Emigration to LiberiaEdit

In 1846, attracted by the American Colonization Society's promotion of the relocation of African Americans to the colony of Liberia in West Africa, Roye emigrated to the colony with his family at the age of 31. There he set up business as a merchant. The next year, the colony gained independence. Within three years of his arrival, Roye became active in Liberian politics, serving as a representative and speaker (1849-1850)[3] of the Liberian House of Representatives, and as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. He was also the Secretary of the Treasury.[4]

Presidency (1870-71)Edit

Roye was inaugurated as President of Liberia on January 3, 1870. In the decades after 1868, escalating economic difficulties weakened the state's dominance over the coastal indigenous tribal peoples. Conditions worsened, the cost of imports was far greater than the income generated by exports of its commodity crops of coffee, rice, palm oil, sugarcane, and timber. Liberia tried desperately to modernize its largely agricultural economy.

Financial problemsEdit

In 1871, Roye tasked the speaker of the House of Representatives, William Spencer Anderson, with negotiating a new loan from British financiers. Anderson secured $500,000 under strict terms from the British consul-general, David Chinery, but was heavily criticised and eventually arrested. Anderson was apparently tried the following year for his part in securing the loan. He was found not guilty, but he was shot to death while leaving the courthouse.[5]

End of presidencyEdit

Roye was removed from the presidency on October 26, 1871, in what some allies called a coup d'état. The circumstances surrounding his removal from office, however, remain murky and highly partisan. What is known is that he was jailed for several months following his ouster and soon died under equally mysterious circumstances. His unpopular loans with Britain as well as fears from the Republican Party that he was planning to cancel the upcoming presidential election were among the reasons for his forced removal.[6]


No specific historical record is available about the date and circumstances of Roye's death. Varying accounts indicate that he was killed on February 11 or February 12, 1872. Another account suggests that he drowned on February 12, 1872, while trying to reach a British ship in Monrovia harbor.[citation needed]

The portrait of President Roye in the gallery of the Presidential Mansion in Monrovia notes his date of death as February 11, 1872.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lynch, Hollis R. (1970). Edward Wilmot Blyden. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780195012682.
  2. ^ "E.J. Roye, President of Liberia 1870-71". Retrieved 2009-01-16.
  3. ^ Dunn, D. Elwood (4 May 2011). The Annual Messages of the Presidents of Liberia 1848–2010: State of the Nation Addresses to the National Legislature. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783598441691 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Edward J. Roye » LiberiaInfo". LiberiaInfo. 6 March 2012.
  5. ^ Shavit, David (1989). The United States in Africa – A Historical Dictionary. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood press. p. 11. ISBN 0-313-25887-2.
  6. ^ Burrowes, Carl Patrick (2004). Power and Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1870. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press. pp. 86–88. ISBN 9781592212934.
  7. ^ "E.J. Roye", Liberia Past and Present

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by President of Liberia
1870 – 1871
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Chief Justice of Liberia
1865 – 1868
Succeeded by