LIBERIAN CONSTITUTIONS (1820-1984)
In 1818 the American Colonization Society (ACS) sent two representatives to West Africa to find a suitable location but they were unable to persuade local tribal leaders to sell territory. In 1820, 88 free black settlers and 3 society members sailed for West Africa. Before departing they had signed a constitution requiring that an agent of the ACS administer the settlement under U.S. laws. This constitution became a "constitution" of sorts, between the emigrants to Liberia and the ACS. The constitution essential gave all powers of governance and administration of Liberia to the ACS.
The 1839 Constitution was an extension of the 1820 ACS constitution. The new constitution provided that legislative powers would reside in a governor and council, the latter to be chosen by popular vote. However, the laws enacted by the council could be revoked by the ACS. Executive powers were to be vested in a governor appointed by the ACS.
Declaration of Independence
Several issues led to the declaration of Independence in Liberia, ranging from the reluctance of France and England to pay customs duties to a private colony to the protection that came with being a sovereignty nation. On July 26, 1847, the Liberian Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. In it, Liberians charged their mother country, the United States, with injustices that made it necessary for them to leave and make new lives for themselves in Africa. They called upon the international community to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Liberia. Britain was one of the first nations to recognize the new country. The United States did not recognize Liberia until the American Civil War.
The 1847 Constitution (which was revised to include numerous amendments) was based on the American Constitution, and it echoed the American principles of centralism, popular sovereignty, limited government, government of general powers, separation of powers; and the supremacy of the judiciary.
1983 (DRAFT) Constitution
Following the coup d'etat of April 1980, the military leaders suspended the Constitution of 1847, which had been in force continuously for 133 years, subject to a number of amendments. The draft retained the essential republican form with three separate, independent and coordinate branches-the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. It sought to exclude certain 19th-century embellishments that were in the 1847 Constitution, to limit each president to two consecutive four-year terms; to create a Judicial Service Commission, for vetting candidates for judicial appointments; to create an Ombudsman Commission,with powers to investigate misfeasance and malfeasance in the public sector; and to ban military personnel from participation in partisan politics.
A 59-member Constitution Advisory Assembly was empowered by the military council to make any revision or write a new draft if necessary. There were major revisions made to the 1983 draft, ranging from extension of the presidential term, to the removal of clauses banning military personnel from engaging in partisan politics.