True Whig Party

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True Whig Party
Liberian Whig Party
LeaderReginald Goodridge
Historic leadersEdward James Roye
Anthony W. Gardiner
William Tubman
William Tolbert
Clarence Lorenzo Simpson
Founded1869 (1869) (first incarnation)
DissolvedApril 1980 (first incarnation)
Preceded byOpposition Party
Merged intoCoalition for the Transformation of Liberia
HeadquartersMonrovia, Montserrado County, Liberia
IdeologyBlack conservatism[1]
Whiggism (until 1940s)
Political positionRight-wing
Colors  Green
Historical ethnic affiliationAmerico-Liberians
Seats in the Senate
0 / 30
Seats in the House
0 / 73
Party flag

The True Whig Party (TWP), also known as the Liberian Whig Party (LWP), is the oldest political party in Liberia and one of the oldest parties in Africa. Founded in 1869 by primarily darker-skinned Americo-Liberians in rural areas, its historic rival was the Republican Party. Following the decline of the latter, it dominated Liberian politics from 1878 until 1980. The nation was virtually governed as a one-party state under the TWP, although opposition parties were never outlawed.[2][3]

Initially, its ideology was strongly influenced by that of the United States Whig Party (from which it took its name). Much of the TWP's support came from the Americo-Liberian community who held an influential position over Liberian politics and society. The TWP's long term leader and President William Tubman was widely regarded as the father of modern Liberia.

The TWP fell out of power following the 1980 Liberian coup d'état in which many of its leading members died or fled, ending its dominant position. The TWP ceased to be officially recognized following the coup, although it was never disbanded and continued as a rump party. The party went on to participate in the unsuccessful Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL) ahead of the 2005 general election before de-coalition and winning fewer votes at the 2017 elections.


The True Whig Party was founded in the township of Clay-Ashland in 1869 as a reorganised version of the Opposition Party.[4][5][6] It presided over a society in which black American settlers and their descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, though a small minority of the population, constituted nearly 100% of the citizens able to vote. It primarily represented them, often working in tandem with the Masonic Order of Liberia.[7]

The True Whig Party was initially formed as an alliance of "mostly dark-skinned upriver planters and the dark-skinned faction among the coastal merchants", opposed to the lighter-skinned mulatto elite represented by the Republican Party.[8] The party first came to power after Edward James Roye won the 1869 Liberian general election and was sworn in as president the following year. The Republican Party had tended to be supported by Americo-Liberians of mixed African and European ancestry while darker skinned Americo-Liberians initially rallied around the TWP,[9] however as the Republican Party began to decline in influence most Americo-Liberians transferred their support to the TWP.

After Anthony W. Gardiner was elected president in 1878, the TWP went on to govern Liberia for over a century. While opposition parties were never made illegal and Liberia was not classed as a dictatorship, the TWP more or less ran the country as a one party state and held a monopoly on Liberian politics.[2]

The party was accused of endorsing systems of forced labour. In 1930 they sent "contract migrant laborers", under conditions tantamount to slavery, to Spanish colonists on Fernando Pó in Spanish Guinea (now Bioko in Equatorial Guinea).[10] This led to an investigation by the League of Nations, a five-year U.S. and British boycott of Liberia followed by the resignation of President Charles D. B. King. Despite this dispute, the West generally considered the True Whig Party as a stabilizing, unthreatening force in the period after. The US and Britain later invested extensively in the nation under William Tubman's long period of rule (1944–1971).

Under the leadership and Presidency of William Tubman, the TWP took a pro-American stance in international policy, encouraged foreign investment, promoted industrialization and embarked on a mass modernization program of Liberia's domestic infrastructure. This led to a period of economic prosperity during the 1960s, was credited with putting Liberia on the map and establishing the country as a modern power in Africa. Although opponents of Tubman's government accused it of being authoritarian, Liberia was widely regarded internationally as being a stable and successful nation in the region whilst other African states were undergoing civil wars and political strife.[11]

Following Tubman's death in 1971, the TWP leadership and Presidency was taken over by William Tolbert. Tolbert diverted from the TWP's traditional policies by seeking to stress Liberian sovereignty and political independence, as opposed to a nation reliant on international businesses and governments. He initiated some socially liberal reforms, pledged stricter regulation of foreign businesses operating in Liberia, granted official recognition status to opposition parties and tried to re-balance economic disparities between Americo-Liberians and native ethnic tribes. He also pursued open diplomatic and economic relationships with the Soviet Union and shifted Liberia's focus to other African nations as opposed to the West.[12] However, some of these reforms were reversed following the Maryland County ritual killings and the Rice Riots in which Tolbert called for the arrest of opposition leaders. Opposition parties also accused Tolbert of using corruption and political nepotism to retain power while traditionalist members of the TWP and some of Tolbert's cabinet were angered by his initiative of appointing native Liberians into government positions which they saw as usurping their position.

The party lost power after Tolbert was killed in a military coup on 12 April 1980 by a group of AFL soldiers led by Samuel Doe, who formed the People's Redemption Council (PRC). They had opposed Tolbert's clampdown on the political opposition and what they saw as his tolerance of corruption. Many high-ranking officials of the TWP such as E. Reginald Townsend, Frank E. Tolbert (William's brother) and Cecil Dennis were executed, depleting much of its executive leadership whilst others fled the country. The new government subsequently restricted activities of the TWP and it lost its official status; the vast majority of its members and supporters left the party, but other TWP members vowed to continue and it struggled on as a minor rump party without official recognition. Members of indigenous groups began to exert more political power following the coup, in keeping with their dominance in number of the national population, further diminishing the TWP's support which had come from the formerly more influential but demographically smaller Americo-Liberian population. Doe's government also realigned Liberia's foreign policy back to a pro-US position, making it harder to gain international recognition as an opposition group with fears over communist expansionism and the rise of Soviet backed client regimes in Africa during the Cold War. In 1985, all political opposition (including the TWP) were banned following a coup attempt against Doe.[13]


In 1991, the party faced a challenge from a new group, which identified as the "National True Whig Party of Liberia." TWP chairman Momo Fahnbulleh Jones threatened legal action to induce the newly founded party to change its name.[14]

The TWP was officially reconstituted in 2005 under the leadership of Peter Vuku.[13]

The TWP participated in the 2005 general election as part of the Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia (COTOL). The COTOL coalition won eight seats but was dissolved the next year after some of its members left to join the ruling Unity Party. The TWP registered to compete as an individual party for the House of Representatives in the 2011 general election, while endorsing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's bid for a second term at Presidential level.[15] However, the party had strife over its leadership five months before the election,[16] and it failed to nominate any candidate for any legislative seat and did not compete as a result.

In 2013, members of the TWP became embroiled in a dispute over Edward J. Roye Building in Monrovia which had been constructed as the party headquarters. The building had been appropriated by the Liberian General Services Agency which provoked anger among TWP members who stated they are still the rightful owners and that Chairman of the Council of State David D. Kpormakpor had decreed that it should be returned to the TWP's possession.[17][13]

In 2015, the TWP appointed former government information minister Reginald Goodridge as its new chairman and was successfully registered to stand as an individual party for the 2017 election but ended up gaining 0.96% of the vote.[13][18]


The True Whig Party initially sought to emulate the policies of the American Whig Party (from which it took its name) and the philosophy of Whiggism. The TWP was also described as promoting conservatism and black conservatism in the twentieth century during Tubman's rule.[1] Although the party favored protectionism in its early years, it later pursued deregulation, free-market and economically liberal policies known as the "porte ouverte" ("open door") under Tubman to attract investment and stimulate growth.[11] In terms of foreign policy, the TWP took a pro-Western and particularly pro-American stance owing to the fact much of the TWP's support and membership came from the Americo-Liberian population. Although Liberia did not declare war on Germany and Japan until 1944, the party supported the Allies against the Axis powers during the Second World War.[19] Under Tubman, the party was also anti-communist during the height of the Cold War.[20] It later supported America's foreign policy during the Vietnam War and maintained friendly relations with the state of Israel, being among African governments who voted Yes to Israel becoming an independent sovereign nation as a Jewish-dominant state. Under the leadership of William Tolbert (who sought to stress Liberia's political independence), the ruling TWP shifted away from a pro-Western stance to a neutral posture by fostering partnerships with other African states and opening up relationships with the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Bloc nations, pursuing liberal domestic policies and attempting to bring more native Liberians into governing circles. These ideological changes caused consternation among both TWP supporters and politicians in Tolbert's administration.

Electoral history[edit]

Presidential elections[edit]

Election Party candidate Votes % Result
1869 Edward James Roye Elected Green tickY
1877 Anthony W. Gardiner Elected Green tickY
1879 Elected Green tickY
1881 Elected Green tickY
1883 Supported Hilary R. W. Johnson Elected Green tickY
1885 Hilary R. W. Johnson 1,438 62.25% Elected Green tickY
1887 Elected Green tickY
1889 Elected Green tickY
1891 Joseph James Cheeseman Elected Green tickY
1893 Elected Green tickY
1895 Elected Green tickY
1897 William D. Coleman Elected Green tickY
1899 Elected Green tickY
1901 Garreston W. Gibson Elected Green tickY
1903 Arthur Barclay Elected Green tickY
1905 Elected Green tickY
1907 Elected Green tickY
1911 Daniel Edward Howard Elected Green tickY
1915 Elected Green tickY
1919 Charles D. B. King Elected Green tickY
1923 45,000 Elected Green tickY
1927 243,000 96.43% Elected Green tickY
1931 Edwin Barclay Elected Green tickY
1939 Elected Green tickY
1943 William Tubman Elected Green tickY
1951 Elected Green tickY
1955 244,873 99.5% Elected Green tickY
1959 530,566 100% Elected Green tickY
1963 565,044 100% Elected Green tickY
1967 566,684 100% Elected Green tickY
1971 714,005 100% Elected Green tickY
1975 William Tolbert 750,000 100% Elected Green tickY
2005 Supported Varney Sherman (COTOL) 76,403 7.8% Lost Red XN
2011 Supported Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (UP) 607,618 90.7% Elected Green tickY

House of Representatives elections[edit]

Election Votes % Seats +/– Position
1955 244,873 99.5%
29 / 29
New Increase 1st
1959 No data
1963 No data
1967 No data
1971 No data
52 / 52
Increase 23 Steady 1st
1975 750,000 100%
71 / 71
Increase 19 Steady 1st
1985 Did not contest
0 / 64
Decrease 71
1997 Did not contest
0 / 64
Steady 0
2005 137,897 14.74%
as part of COTOL
8 / 64
Increase 8 Decrease 2nd
2011 Did not contest
0 / 73
Decrease 8
2017 14,723 0.96%
0 / 73
Steady 0 Decrease 18th
2023 8,574 0.47%
as part of RA
0 / 30
Steady 0 Decrease 25th

Senate elections[edit]

Election Votes % Seats +/– Position
1955 244,873 99.5%
10 / 10
New Increase 1st
1959 No data
1963 No data
1967 No data
1971 No data
1975 750,000 100%
18 / 18
Increase 8 Steady 1st
1985 Did not contest
0 / 26
Decrease 18
1997 Did not contest
0 / 64
Steady 0
2005 232,636 13.76%
as part of COTOL
7 / 30
Increase 7 Decrease 2nd
2011 Did not contest
0 / 30
Decrease 7
2014 Did not contest
0 / 30
Steady 0
2020 9,577 1.09%
as part of RA
0 / 30
Steady 0 Decrease 6th
2023 6,552 0.36%
as part of RA
0 / 73
Steady 0 Decrease 14th

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carl Patrick Burrowes (2004). Power and Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970. Africa World Press. p. 312.
  2. ^ a b "Liberia Country Study: The True Whig Ascendancy" Global Security
  3. ^ Kilson, Martin L. (1963). "Authoritarian and Single-Party Tendencies in African Politics". World Politics. 15 (2): 262–294. doi:10.2307/2009376. ISSN 1086-3338. JSTOR 2009376. S2CID 154624186.
  4. ^ Shillington, Kevin (2005). Encyclopedia of African History. Vol. 1. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 978-1-57958-245-6.
  5. ^ Donald A. Ranard, "Liberians: An Introduction to their History and Culture" Archived 2015-04-09 at the Wayback Machine, Center for Applied Linguistics, April 2005
  6. ^ Carl Patrick Burrowes (2004) Power and Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970: The Impact of Globalization and Civil Society on Media-government Relations, Africa World Press, p85
  7. ^ Monrovia – Masonic Grand Lodge
  8. ^ Sawyer, Amos (1992). The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia: Tragedy and Challenge (PDF). Institute for Contemporary Studies. p. 160. ISBN 1558151648.
  9. ^ Tue (7 August 2014). "Whither, Party Politics In Liberia?". Faily Observer. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  10. ^ Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into The Existence of Slavery and Forced Labor in the Republic of Liberia. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1931.
  11. ^ a b Otayek, René. "Libéria," Encyclopédie Universalis, 1999 Edition.
  12. ^ Flomo, J. Patrick. "Liberia: Two–Party Electoral System Is the Best Option". Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  13. ^ a b c d "THE TWIN TOWERS OF MONROVIA". February 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  14. ^ "True Whig Party To Sue If...", The Eye, 23 July 1991: pp. 7/8
  15. ^ Kwanue, C.Y. (17 June 2011). "TWP Endorses Ellen's 2nd Term". Daily Observer. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  16. ^ "Power Struggle in TWP: Partisans Demand Leadership Out But...", Liberian Observer 2011-05-23: 1/10.
  17. ^ Concerned TWP Members Take Gov't to Court, The Inquirer, 2011. Accessed 2016-03-16.
  18. ^ "Reginald Goodridge Heads 'New TWP'". Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  19. ^ Hecking, Hans-Peter. "La situation des droits de l'homme au Libéria : un rêve de liberté." p.6. Archived 2008-06-26 at the Wayback Machine "The Situation of Human Rights in Liberia: A Dream of Freedom." Google Translate. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  20. ^ Roberts, T.D. et al. (eds.), p. 238