Remembering J. J. Roberts: The Vision, Courage and Sacrifice of Liberia’s First President

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The President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has by proclamation declared Saturday, March 15, 2014 as the 205th Birth anniversary of Liberia’s First President Joseph Jenkins Robert and is to be observed throughout the Republic as a national holiday, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced.

The Proclamation is in consonance with an Act of national legislature which was enacted at the third session of the forty-second Legislature, declaring the birth Anniversary of The Late President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, first president of the Republic of Liberia, as a National Holiday.

As with all national holidays, the proclamation directs all government offices, public buildings and business houses closed that day, in recognition of his invaluable sacrifices rendered as the founding father of Liberia.

The Proclamation started that the honor accorded the memory of this distinguished Statesman serves as a challenge to all Liberians to aspire to higher and nobler endeavors by emanating his courage, endurance, selflessness and commitment to the principles and deals of democracy, as portrayed in his works and life as Liberia’s first President. 

According to the release, celebration shows a mark of respect and relevance to his memory and for his untiring efforts in organizing the first government of the Republic as well as negotiating and concluding treaties with foreign powers which gave recognition to the foundation of the Liberian Nation.

We are pleased to publish an excerpt from the Last Will and Testament of Liberia’s first president, highlighting some of the reasons he is revered to this day:  

 

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

OF

JOSEPH JENKINS ROBERTS

(FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA)

Admitted to Probate

This 6th day of March, A. D. 1876

(Signed) M. I. CLUNTY

Clerk, Monthly and Probate Court, Montserrado County

Republic of Liberia

Know all men by these Presents that I, JOSEPH JENKINS ROBERTS,  of the City of Monrovia, County of Montserrado, and Republic of Liberia, being of sound mind and body, and mindful of the uncertainty of human life, do make, publish and declare, this my last WILL  and Testament in manner following, that is to say…..

SEVENTH, I hold Ten Thousand Dollars in United States Five Per Cent Bonds; and I do hereby give and grant to my faithful and affectionate wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS,  for and during her natural life, Three Hundred Dollars annually, of the amount of interest accruing on said bonds, and payable to her order. I also give and grant to my daughter, SARAH ANN, for and during her natural life Two Hundred Dollars annually of the amount of interest accruing on the above named bonds; which amount shall be drawn and paid to her by my Executrix hereinafter.

After the deaths of my wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS, and my daughter, SARAH ANN, the interest accruing on the aforesaid United States Bonds, shall be set apart, used and applied to the purpose of Education as hereinafter named and directed. It is my Will and Desire and I do hereby so direct that should the death of my wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS, occur before the death of my daughter, SARAH ANN, her heirs and assigns shall not be entitled to claim or to receive any part of the sum given and granted to my wife for and during her natural life of the interest of the aforesaid bonds; and in like manner, should the death of my daughter, SARAH ANN, occur before the death of my wife, JANE R. ROBERTS, my wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS, her heirs and assigns shall not be entitled to claim or to receive any part of the sum given and granted to my daughter, aforesaid, for and during her natural life-But that in either case, the sum to be set apart, used and applied to the purposed of Education.

EIGTH, I have had in contemplation for years past, to erect a suitable building in the City of Monrovia, to be used as school house; but circumstances have prevented me, up to the present, from putting up such a building. Having still a strong desire to have the Educational Facilities of the Country increased, and with the view of expecting one or more suitable buildings for school purposes, and for keeping the same in repair; as well as providing for the salaries or salary of one or more teachers, I give and bequeath, after the death of my wife and daughter, aforesaid, and to be applied thereto in perpetuity, the entire amount of annual interest accruing the aforesaid United States Bonds; and also in like manner, and to be used for the same purpose, after the death of my wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS, the net proceeds of all moneys accruing from the lease or rent of my coffee farm, as mentioned and described in the First section of this instrument, and bequeath to my wife, aforesaid, for and during her natural life, it is my Will and desire that said coffee farm shall NEVER be sold; but leased or rented for a term of years at a time.

And I do hereby direct that no part of the Ten Thousand Dollars being the principal of the aforesaid United States Bonds shall ever be used or consumed for any purpose whatsoever, but shall together with my coffee farm aforesaid, remain a PERPENIUAL FOUNDATION for the object herein stated. As the object of the bequest is for increasing the Educational facilities of the Country, it is desirable that it should be managed judiciously with strictest economy and accountability; I therefore direct that the management  of it, and whatsoever pertains thereto, shall be placed in the hands and under the control and direction of the Stewards of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the City of Monrovia, who shall be and authorized and fully empowered to appoint Three (3) Trustees who shall authorized and empowered to transact all business in the relation to this bequest, and in carrying out the object of the same in conformity with the provisions herein contained.

I desire that the aforesaid stewards of the aforesaid Church in the City of Monrovia shall affirm the three Trustees aforesaid, as soon as practicable after the death of my wife, JANE ROSE ROBERTS. The said Trustees shall be accountable to the said Stewards for the conduct of the business placed in their hands. It is desirable that all business transaction relating to this bequest should be above the signatures of these Trustees; nevertheless the act or acts, of any two of them within the scope of this instrument shall be valid and binding.

The said Trustees shall lay before the Stewards of the aforesaid Church; annually, a statement of their doings, showing the condition and prospect of the school, or schools and an account of the receipt and disbursements of the year; these being found satisfactory, the Stewards shall grant for the fund of this bequest such remuneration to the Trustees, as in the Judgment of the Stewards, shall be deemed reasonable and proper for their services of the past year.

The school or schools that shall be established from this bequest, shall be located in eh City of Monrovia, or elsewhere within the corporate limits of the same as the aforesaid stewards shall direct. ….

The whole of this Foregoing, contained on this page, and the preceding pages subscribed by me are my wishes and directives in respect to which I trust will be faithfully and strictly observed.

In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this tenth day of June in the year of  our Lord, One Thousand Eight-Hundred and Seventy Five.   

  S.S.

Seal: Court of Quarter Sessions                             

1875

 Signed: J.J. Roberts

Authors

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