Stephen Allen Benson

Stephen Allen Benson
2nd President of Liberia
In office
January 7, 1856  January 4, 1864
Vice President Beverly Page Yates
Daniel Bashiel Warner
Preceded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts
Succeeded by Daniel Bashiel Warner
3rd Vice President of Liberia
In office
January 2, 1854  January 7, 1856
President Joseph Jenkins Roberts
Preceded by Anthony D. Williams
Succeeded by Beverly Page Yates
Personal details
Born (1816-05-21)May 21, 1816
Cambridge, Maryland, United States
Died January 24, 1865(1865-01-24) (aged 48)
Grand Bassa County, Liberia
Political party Republican

Stephen Allen Benson (May 21, 1816 – January 24, 1865) served as the 2nd President of Liberia from 1856 to 1864. Prior to that, he served as the 3rd Vice President of Liberia from 1854 to 1856 under President Joseph Jenkins Roberts.

Benson was born in Cambridge, Maryland, United States, to free African American parents.[1] In 1822, his family expatriated to the newly created country of Liberia, on the ship Brig Strong.[2] Shortly after his arrival in August 1822, the colony was taken over by African natives, holding Benson and his relatives captives for four months.

For four years, he was a military shopkeeper. He was also a private secretary to Thomas Buchanan, the last of Liberia's white governors. Benson later became a successful businessman. Benson joined the militia in 1835 and in 1842 became a delegate to the Colonial Council. After Liberia's independence in 1847 he became a judge. He was also a Methodist preacher.

Presidency (1856–64)

In 1853 Benson became the vice president to Joseph Jenkins Roberts, and after Roberts left office in 1856 Benson succeeded Roberts as president.

Foreign relations

Benson obtained the recognition of Liberia from Belgium in 1858. In 1862 Benson also achieved diplomatic recognition from the United States. That same year he visited Europe, and obtained recognition from Italy. Norway and Sweden recognized Liberia either in 1863 or 1849, Haiti in 1864 or 1849 (accounts differ).

Expansion; relations with indigenous people

In 1857 Benson organized the annexation of Republic of Maryland. Benson, who knew many indigenous languages, sought collaboration with the native tribes, in contrast to previous Liberian policy, which emphasized American-Liberian superiority and Western customs. Regrettably, this new policy remained largely unimplemented. By 1860, through treaties and purchases with local African leaders, Liberia had extended its boundaries to include a 600-mile (1000 km) coastline.


Whereas government revenue decreased as a result of the restrictive law, increased military spending to suppress the numerous revolts and wars added to the public deficit. This deteriorated an already precarious financial situation. Consequently, the Liberian Government faced financial bankruptcy on more than one occasion. The overall Liberian economy was also contracting during these years, as palm kernel oil exports to the U.S. declined. This was due to competition from the whale oil industry and the new mineral oil industry, still in its infancy. Whereas palm kernel oil was once a prized source for lantern light oil, market tastes had changed. This would also prove true of certain coffee exports, as Coffee Arabica would replace blends grown and traded locally as the world markets flavor of choice after this period.


After the end of his presidency Benson retired to his coffee plantation in Grand Bassa County where he died in 1865.

See also


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Anthony D. Williams
Vice President of Liberia
Succeeded by
Beverley Yates
Preceded by
Joseph Jenkins Roberts
President of Liberia
Succeeded by
Daniel Bashiel Warner
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