and late seventeenth century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had
contacts and trading posts in Liberia. The Portuguese had named the area Costa
da Pimenta, later translated as Grain Coast, because of the abundance of grains
of melegueta pepper.
In 1822, the
American Colonization Society established in Cape Mesurado as a place to send
black people who were formerly enslaved. Other African Americans, who were
never enslaved, chose to emigrate to Cape Mesurado as well. African-Americans gradually migrated to the
colony and became known as Americo-Liberians, from whom many present day
Liberians trace their ancestry. On July 26, 1847, the Americo-Liberian
settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia.
From the outset the symbols associated with
Liberia are an oil palm (Elaeis guineensis - Palmae), a ship, and a
The oldest ship we meet is the USS Aligator
which brought the first Afro American settlers to Liberia
The USS AIligator's keel was
laid 26 June 1820 and was launched 2 November 1820 by the Boston Navy Yard
and commissioned in March 1821. Master Commandant R.F. Stockton was placed in
command and she set sail on a mission for the west coast of Africa with Dr.
Eli Ayres on board on 3 April. Previously, the American Colonization Society
(ACS) had been established in December 1816 in Washington, D.C. It sought the
return of African Negroes to Africa. Dr. Eli Ayres was to select and acquire
territory to colonize free men of color in their native continent.
Drawing of the USS Alligator.
Alligator is seen on a coin minted by the American Colonization Society in
1833, together with the oil palm, planted by one of the first colonists.
Liberian coin issued by the American Colonization Society, 1833.
Two cents of the 1847 series of coinage
showing a palmtree on the shore and a ship in the
In 1862 the palmtree was heraldised by
placing it on a shield. At the same time a smaller arms and an achievement
was adopted. This consisted of the American eagle supporting the palm-tree
Arms of Liberia, 1864
surrouned by a branch of oak and a palm-leave
Achievement of Liberia, 1865
The America eagle supporting the arms with the palmtree
Smaller arms 1889
In a 1889 version of the arms the similarity
with the arms and achievement of the United States is even greater. For the
occasion the palmtree was abandoned and the arms became the star-and-stripes
from the flag.
was adopted 16 July 1847 and displayed
officially on 27 August of the same year. It consists of elven stripes red
and white and a blue canton with a white five-pointed star. The flag is
clearly inspired by the flag of the United States. The eleven stripes
symbolize the eleven signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Smaller arms and garland,
Some years later the achievement (officially
called a seal) was thoroughly restyled. This can be seen on stamps issued in
1892. The coat of arms on these stamps is:
ocean with a sailing vessel on the breakers of the sea, at the horizon a
rising sun, in the sky a dove of peace, on the shore an oil palm and a
plough, all proper.
Liberian Flags on their staffs in saltire.
Motto: THE LOVE OF LIBERTY BROUGHT US HERE.
The elephant statant was common for
all badges of the British West African colonies. An elephant with a castle on
his back occurred also in the coat of arms of the Danish West Indian Company
and as a crest in the achievement of the African Company. (ð Ghana)
of 1860, the United States Government contracted with Dr. John M. McCalla,
Jr., a resident of Washington, D.C., to serve as their agent aboard the ship Star
of the Union. His mission was to accompany 383 Africans rescued from the
slaver Bogota on their voyage to Liberia, and make sure that the
provisions of the contract between the US and the American Colonization
Society were satisfactorily executed.
Oil of the Star of the Union
This ship can be seen on stamps issued in 1860, that is the same year of the expedition of Mc.Calla. This time the ship is accompanied by a sitting Liberty with the word LIBERIA on her seat. This may well have been the first seal of the Republic.
Scan: Courtesy Mus. Pal. Het Loo, Apeldoorn.
The coat of arms on the diplom is:
Arms: A sailing vessel on the sea, on the shore
an oil palm and a plough, in the sky a sun radiant and in chief a dove with a
document, alle proper.
rising sun Gules, radiant Or, over the globe a listel with the word LIBERTY.
star and ribbon of the Liberian Order of African Redemption.
branch of Olive and a branch of Oak.
Star and Ribbon of the Order of African Redemption.
About 1921 the achievement was changed again
by leaving out the elephant crest and replacing it by a listel with the name
of the republic: REPUBLIC
The dove of peace is bearing now a scroll
containing the message of renunciation from the American Colonization
After WWII the arms
were changed. The name of the
republic and the motto on their listels changed places: the motto is now
above and the name below the arms. Also, the double wheeled plough was replaced
by a single wheeled one.
The last change dates from 1963. The arms
remained the same but the flags were left out. (See illustration in the
head of this article).
The Deshield Commission Report of 24 January 1978 recommended that the motto
be changed from “The Love of Liberty Brought us Here” to “Love, Liberty,
Justice, Equality”, but due to opposition of certain members of the commision
the change was never implemented.
The Liberian people which is the sovereign of Liberia, is represented by an allegory. It
has the shape of a Virgin, in the French tradition called Liberty. For that
reason she has a Cap of Liberty or Phrygian Cap on her head, at first charged
wit a single star (making her the Liberian People). More recently the star
was omitted and instead, the head was made of a negroid complexion.
In other instances, she was sitting and with
a Cap of Liberty in her left hand and the arms of Liberia ensigned with the
word LIBERTY in her right. Above her head is the Liberian single star radiant.
The presidents’ flags at frist showed the smaller arms as adopted about 1889.
© Hubert de Vries 2009.01.19. Updated 2012-11-09; 2013-02-23