About Jehudi Ashmun
Jehudi Ashmun (April 21, 1794 – August 25, 1828) was a religious leader and social reformer who became involved in the American Colonization Society. He served as the United States government's Agent in the Liberia colony and as such its de facto Governor (1822–1828).
Early life and education
Born in Champlain, New York, Ashmun first studied at Middlebury College, Vermont. He spent his senior year at the University of Vermont and was ordained in Maine as a minister.
Marriage and family
Ashmun married in 1818 and his wife accompanied him to Bangor, where he took his first position.
Ashmun was appointed as the first principal, and one of the first two professors, of the Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine. He retained this professorship until 1827, despite leaving the country for a few years.
Drawn by other opportunities, Ashmun moved to Washington, DC, where he worked as the editor of an Episcopalian monthly. Interested in the work of the American Colonization Society (ACS), he founded the newspaper The African Intelligencer and wrote about their mission. His articles about the ACS, which was committed to repatriating free blacks to a colony in Liberia, led to his political appointment as representative of the U.S. government to the colony. At the age of 26, Ashmun was the leader in 1822 of a group of settlers and missionaries to Liberia on the ship Elizabeth. His wife went with him but died of malaria in Liberia.
As United States representative to Liberia as well as agent of the ACS, Ashmun effectively became governor of the colony from 1822 to 1828, from ages 28 to 34. He took a leadership role in what he found to be a demoralized colony and helped build the defenses of Monrovia, as well as building up trade. During his tenure in Liberia, Ashmun increased agricultural production, annexed more tribal land from the indigenous people, and exploited commercial opportunities in the interior.
He helped create a constitution for Liberia that enabled blacks to hold positions in the government. This was unlike what happened in the neighboring British colony of Sierra Leone, which was dominated by whites although founded for the resettlement of free blacks from Britain and Upper Canada. Ashmun's letters home and his book, History of the American Colony in Liberia, 1821–1823 (1826) constitute the earliest written history of the Liberia colony.
Legacy and honors
Lincoln University, a historically black college, was originally chartered in 1854 as Ashmun Institute in his honor.
In ill health in Liberia, Ashmun died in New Haven, Connecticut soon after his return to the US. He was interred in Grove Street Cemetery.