Reluctant Imperialists: The U.S. Navy and Liberia, 1819–1845
Abstract

When white Americans began the process of establishing colonies along the West African coast in 1819, it reflected more than their desire to alleviate tensions over slavery in the United States. Some colonizationists wished to expand American interests abroad; the settlements that eventually made up the nation of Liberia were part of their efforts. The United States Navy assisted colonizationists in their endeavors. At times, naval officers directly aided the fledgling colonies; in other cases, the influence of the American navy was less overt. Although the assistance rendered to the colonization movement varied depending on leadership and official government directives, the U.S. Navy played a significant role in both colonizing Africa and projecting American interests in the Atlantic World. This essay examines the interplay between colonizationists, colonists, officers of the U.S. Navy, and government officials in advancing early American expansion outside North America through a study of the activities of members of each group involved in African colonization between 1819 and 1845.


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