AKA Tobe Kla Kade – 1830s – 1908

Seton was the first indigenous Liberian elected a full-fledged member of the Liberian House of Representatives as opposed to an appointed nonvoting referee of the House.  He was born in the 1830’s in Maryland County to Grebo parents, and educated at Protestant Episcopal mission schools in his home county.  Early in his life he was a seaman and a warrior.  He joined the Episcopal Church and on his baptism was given the surname Seton.  He was ordained a deacon in 1865 and a priest of the Episcopal Church in 1868.  In 1878, he was accused of moral turpitude and deposed from the church.  Early in his career, Seton faced the dilemma of “acceptance and rejection” that was the lot of many indigenous Liberians, especially in the nineteenth century.  Having acquired a modern education and developed a taste for aspects of repatriate culture, he attempted by his life style to identify less with his origins. His subsequent exclusion from settler society, stirred within him a feeling of independence, which led him to return through association with fellow Grebo to the traditional community.

Thus, by the early 1870’s, he had become an influential member of the Grebo community of Liberia, and in 1873, was a cofounder of the Grebo Confederacy, or Reunited Kingdom, which strongly opposed central government authority.  He was on the battlefield during the armed conflict with the government, which broke out in 1875, and also served at the negotiating table when peace was restored in 1876. Apparently convinced of the need for national unification under the leadership of Monrovia, he joined the government and served at various times as public school commissioner for ten years, a member of the National Legislature (1887-1893), and judge of the Monthly and Probate Court until his death.

It is reported that one of his greatest disappointments as a lawmaker was the tabling of a bill he had proposed for the conferral of full citizenship on all indigenous Liberians.

Between 1882 and 1885, Seton attempted to return to his priestly duties within the Episcopal Church, and when unsuccessful, he severed his relationship with the church and became an adherent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  His last days were spent writing and as public speaker. Among a series of articles he published in the Cape Palmas Reporter was “Migration of Grebo Tribes from the East” in 1899.  He died in February 1908 (Dunn and Holsoe, Historical Dictionary of Liberia, pp. 156-157).

Another Roadblock to Genuine Integration

Somewhere between 1887-1893, when Seton’s attempt genuine integration of African Liberians as citizens of the Republic of Liberia, President Arthur Barclay (1904–1912), who himself, immigrated to Liberia with his father in 1865 from Barbados, then the West Indies, established the criteria by which indigenous Africans could become citizens in their place of birth.

From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive

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One Response to “An Attempt at Integration: The Samuel W. Seton Story”

  1. Martin Wleh Pennie Says:

    Are there any details information regarding the death of this great son of Liberia? Was his death associated with politics?

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