title: A Durable Memento

Edward James Royespacer Edward James Roye (1815-1872)

Born in Newark, Ohio, Edward J. Roye studied at Ohio University and was a successful merchant and entrepreneur in Indiana before immigrating to Liberia in 1846. Unlike many immigrants, who arrived with little or no capital, Roye reportedly brought $1,000 with him to Liberia and soon amassed a sizeable fortune in the shipping business. He first sought political office in 1849, winning both a seat in the House of Representatives and its speakership. Following an unsuccessful bid for the vice presidency, he was elected to the Senate in 1856. He next served as Chief Justice of Liberia's Supreme Court (1865-1868). Roye's business also prospered as he shipped camwood, palm oil, sugar, coffee, and ivory to the United States and Britain. By 1870, his fortune was estimated at $200,000.

The standard-bearer of the True Whig Party in the hotly contested 1869 presidential election, Roye broke the Republican Party's long domination by defeating incumbent James Spriggs Payne. However, Roye's presidency came to an abrupt end in October 1871. Accused of corruption in connection with a national loan secured from Great Britain, Roye was also charged with unlawfully contriving to extend his presidential term and was forcibly removed from office. Imprisoned, tried, and convicted, Roye escaped from jail but died while attempting to reach a British ship anchored offshore.

Roye's pose in this laterally reversed daguerreotype is nearly identical to that in the Liberian Senate watercolor.

Attributed to Augustus Washington
Sixth-plate daguerreotype, circa 1857
Image courtesy Prints and Photographs Division
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Click here to view the Liberian Senate watercolor.


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