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Tue, 03.07.1843

Joseph Cheeseman, Politician born.

Joseph Cheeseman

*Joseph Cheeseman was born on this date in 1843. He was a Black African politician.

Born in Edina in Grand Bassa County, Liberia, Joseph James Cheeseman was the son of Rev. John H. Cheeseman and Martha Cheeseman.  He was educated at Liberia College (now the University of Liberia). In the decades after 1868, escalating economic difficulties weakened Liberia's dominance over the coastal indigenous population. Conditions worsened, as the cost of imports was far greater than the income generated by exports of coffee, rice, palm oil, sugarcane, and timber.

Liberia tried to modernize its predominantly agricultural economy. Cheeseman was elected the 12th president of Liberia on January 4, 1892.  That year, the French forced Liberia to cede to the Ivory Coast, the area beyond Cape Palmas, which Liberia had long controlled. President Johnson (1884–92) was responsible for this negotiation but retired before the treaty was signed. The boundaries of Liberia were beginning to be officially established this year. Whenever the British and French seemed intent on expanding the neighboring territories they had already controlled at Liberia's expense, periodic appearances by U.S. warships occurred. This helped discourage encroachment, even though successive American administrations rejected appeals from Monrovia for more forceful support.

Some tribal people living in the hinterland of Montserrado County and further north were at war since the mid-1880s and would stay at war until the late 1890s. On the one hand, there was a war between Gola and Mandingo over trading routes in the region, while various factions of the Gola were fighting with each other too. Ethnic struggles with the Kru, Gola, and Grebo tribes, who resented incursions into their territory, occurred several times during Cheeseman's reign.

Cheeseman initially attempted to settle tribal conflicts by peaceful negotiations. One notable uprising occurred in 1893 when the Grebo tribe attacked the settlement of Harper. Troops and the gunboat Gorronomah defeated the tribesmen. President Cheeseman died in office on November 12, 1896, and Vice President William David Coleman served the remainder of the term and another four years until 1900. Cheeseman was interred at the City Cemetery of Monrovia.

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