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THE POLISH MISSION TO LIBERIA, 1934–1938: CONSTRUCTING POLAND'S COLONIAL IDENTITY*

  • PIOTR PUCHALSKI (a1)
Abstract
abstract

The Polish mission to Liberia (1934–8) was a series of diplomatic, commercial, and scientific initiatives carried out by Poland's Maritime and Colonial League and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Contextualizing the mission in terms of contemporary attempts to construct Poland's colonial identity, this article argues that Poland's colonial lobby imagined their presence in Liberia as a unique form of colonialism, distinct from its Western counterparts. Many participants in the mission considered Poland to have a special moral mandate in Africa by virtue of its own experience as a recently occupied nation. The grandiose visions of Liberia as a Polish colony and unfulfilled economic promises, however, contributed to the ultimate termination of the mission in 1938. The Poles’ concept of colonialism obscured their plausible objectives in Liberia and distracted them from executing their economic plan. The construction of a Polish colonial identity was a perfect means of rallying patriots around the flag and creating domestic support for Poland's maritime projects, but a colonial ideology was a double-edged sword in foreign affairs.

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Department of History, Mosse Humanities Bldg, 455 N. Park Street, Madison, WI 53706 puchalski.piotr@gmail.com
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*

The author submitted an early draft of this article to satisfy a requirement for a Master's degree in History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in May 2016. He would like to thank Profs. Giuliana Chamedes, Kathryn Ciancia, Fran Hirsch, Alfred McCoy, and David McDonald for their help in revising that draft.

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1 For a classic study of the Italian–Abyssinian War, see Barker A. J., The civilizing mission: a history of the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935–1936 (New York, NY, 1968).

2 For a summary of Polish Romantic ideas, see Miłosz Czesław, The History of Polish Literature (Berkeley, CA, 1983).

3 For a study of the concept of ‘civilizing mission(s)’, see Conklin Alice L., A mission to civilize: the Republican idea of empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, CA, 1997).

4 Brian Porter-Szücs has argued for a ‘normalization’ of Polish history to shift it away from the narrative of heroism and martyrdom and to consider the ways in which its trajectory resembled that of other, especially Western, nation-states. See Porter-Szücs Brian, Poland in the modern world: beyond martyrdom (Chichester, 2014), p. 3 .

5 Without examining the colonial actions sponsored by the Maritime and Colonial League of Poland in the broader geopolitical context, Taras Hunczak calls them a ‘political anachronism’ and argues that Poland lacked the ‘precondition[s] for great-power status’, such as a powerful navy and economic strength. See Hunczak Taras, ‘Polish colonial ambitions in the inter-war period’, Slavic Review, 26 (1967), pp. 648–56. More recent studies that mention the phenomenon have largely echoed this view.

6 For recent studies of the League of Nations and its relation to colonialism, see Callahan Michael Dennis, Mandates and empire: the League of Nations and Africa, 1914–1931 (Brighton, 2008); Pedersen Susan, The guardians: the League of Nations and the crisis of empire (Oxford, 2015); Mazower Mark, No enchanted palace: the end of empire and the ideological origins of the United Nations, Lawrence Stone Lectures (Princeton, NJ, 2009).

7 For interpretations of Wilsonianism, see Manela Erez, The Wilsonian moment (New York, NY, 2007); Mayer Arno J., Wilson vs. Lenin: politicial origins of the new diplomacy, 1917–1918 (London, 1969); Tooze Adam, The deluge: the Great War and the remaking of global order, 1916–1931 (London, 2014).

8 For a comprehensive biography of Piłsudski, see Hetherington Peter, Unvanquished: Joseph Pilsudski, resurrected Poland, and the struggle for Eastern Europe (2nd edn, Houston, TX, 2012).

9 For a comprehensive discussion of Polish nationalism(s), see, for example, Dabrowski Patrice M., Poland: the first thousand years (DeKalb, IL, 2014), pp. 338–67.

10 See, for example, Orlicz-Dreszer Gustaw et al. , Na nowe drogi (Warsaw, 1935), pp. 20–7.

11 Although this topic extends beyond the scope of this study, the relationship between colonialism and Polish–Jewish relations was evident, for example, in the pre-1939 ‘Madagascar Plan’, which both Zionists and anti-Semites supported. See Snyder Timothy, Black Earth: the holocaust as history and warning (London, 2016), pp. 5876 ; Mazower, No enchanted palace, pp. 113–22.

12 For example, see Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer in Smoleński Jerzy, Pomoria: Poland's bastion on the Baltic (Poznań, 1932), pp. 911 .

13 See, for example, Fiedler Arkady, Madagaskar: Gorąca wieś Ambinanitelo (Pelplin, 2006), pp. 23 , 164–5, 169, 222–3, 341–2.

14 See Białas Tadeusz, Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 1930–1939 (Gdańsk, 1983), p. 167 .

15 See Chmielewski Jerzy, Angola: notatki z podróży po Afryce (Warsaw, 1929); Jarnecki Michał, ‘Fantastyka polityczna czy konieczność: Portugalska Afryka, Nikaragua, Boliwia i Ekwador w polskich planach kolonialnych’, Sprawy Narodowościowe, 36 (2010), pp. 93105 .

16 See Makarczyk Janusz, Nowa Brazylia (Warsaw, 1929).

17 See Białas, Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 1930–1939, pp. 11–31.

18 See ibid., pp. 27–31.

19 For example, see The Square Rigger (Fox Film Corporation, 1932), http://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/2116743.

20 For biographies of Orlicz-Dreszer, see Kardela Piotr, Gen. Gustaw Konstanty Orlicz-Dreszer (1889–1936): zarys biografii wojskowej i politycznej (Warsaw, 1993); Olstowski Przemysław, Generał Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer (Toruń, 2000).

21 See, for example, Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer, ‘Nr. 230/Kol/36 Autorisation’ (Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 3 Mar. 1936), 154/734, Józef Piłsudski Institute of America.

22 For Orlicz-Dreszer's efforts to consolidate the Polish diaspora, see ‘II Zjazd Ligi Morskiej w Ameryce’, Morze, Oct. 1937.

23 Smoleński, Pomoria, pp. 6–11.

24 Michał Pankiewicz quoted in Kardela, Gen. Gustaw Konstanty Orlicz-Dreszer, p. 98.

25 See Białas, Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 1930–1939, pp. 19–21.

26 See Levy Jonathan, The Intermarium: Wilson, Madison, & East Central European federalism (Boca Raton, FL, 2007), pp. 167–75.

27 See Miłosz, The history of Polish literature, pp. 195–203.

28 For example, see Czekanowski Jan, W głąb lasów Aruwimi: dziennik wyprawy do Afryki Środkowej (Wrocław, 1958), p. 65 . For a deeper examination of this analogy, see Lenny A. Ureña Valerio, ‘The stakes of empire: colonial fantasies, civilizing agendas, and biopolitics in the Prussian-Polish provinces, 1840–1914’ (Ph.D. thesis, Michigan, 2010).

29 See, for example, ‘Czy Polska ma prawo do zamorskich kolonij’, Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny, 5 Jan. 1929, p. 5.

30 Beniowski Maurycy, Memoirs and travels of Mauritius Augustus count de Benyowsky (London, 1904), pp. 456620 .

31 Janikowski Leopold, W dżunglach Afryki: wspomnienia z polskiej wyprawy afrykańskiej w latach 1882–1890 (Warsaw, 1936), p. 7 .

32 Ibid., pp. 134–43.

33 For example Lepecki, Maurycy August Hr. Beniowski, pp. 208–9.

34 Aleksander Chrząszczewski, ‘Ewolucja polityki kolonialnej’, Morze, Oct. 1936.

35 Załęcki Gustaw, I. O zasadniczych pojęciach polityki kolonialnej i kolonizacyjnej. II. Uwagi nad gospodarczym stosunkiem człowieka ‘białego’ do ‘kolorowego’, Studia Kolonialne (Warsaw, 1928), pp. 68 .

36 See Sundiata I. K., Black scandal, America and the Liberian labor crisis, 1929–1936 (Philadelphia, PA, 1980).

37 This danger came to the attention of many famous African and black American activists, for example W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, ‘Liberia, the League and the United States’, Foreign Affairs, July 1933.

38 ‘Request for Assistance Submitted by the Liberian Government. Report by the Representative of Poland’ (League of Nations, 23 Nov. 1932), 4–10, 4606/5, Microfilm/Media Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

39 ‘An appeal to Liberia’, Weekly Mirror, 28 Sept. 1932.

40 Smyke Raymond J., ‘An indigenous Liberian quest for the presidency: Momolu Massaquoi and the 1931 election’, Liberian Studies Journal, 30 (2005), p. 18 .

41 Makarczyk Janusz, Liberia, Liberyjczyk, Liberyjka (Warsaw, 1936), p. 84 .

42 Leo Sajous, ‘Copy of the confidential report to the president of Liberia from Dr. Sajous after his visit to Poland’, 26 Aug. 1934, FO 371 18042, British National Archives.

43 Umowa kolonizacyjna między Polską a Liberią', Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny, 28 Nov. 1934, p. 6.

44 See Pachoński Jan and Wilson Reuel K., Poland's Carribean tragedy: a study of Polish legions in the Haitian War of Independence, 1802–1803 (New York, NY, 1986).

45 Makarczyk, Liberia, Liberyjczyk, Liberyjka, pp. 35–6.

46 ‘Kopia umowy między Liberią a Ligą Morską i Kolonialną’, n.d., 10–18, 5/10–18, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

47 See van der Kraaij F. P. M., The open door policy of Liberia: an economic history of modern Liberia (Bremen, 1983), p. 41 ; Patton Adell, ‘Liberia and containment policy against colonial take-over: public health and sanitation reform, 1912–1953’, Liberian Studies Journal, 30 (2005), pp. 4065 .

48 Sajous, ‘Copy of the confidential report to the president of Liberia from Dr. Sajous after his visit to Poland’.

49 Makarczyk, Liberia, Liberyjczyk, Liberyjka, p. 5.

50 Ibid., pp. 5–7.

51 Ibid., pp. 17–18.

52 Ibid., pp. 33–7.

53 Ibid., p. 36.

54 Ibid., pp. 35–6.

55 Ibid., p. 61.

56 Barclay James Edwin in Dunn D. Elwood, The annual messages of the presidents of Liberia 1848–2010: state of the nation addresses to the National Legislature (Berlin, 2011), p. 898 .

57 Makarczyk, Liberia, Liberyjczyk, Liberyjka, p. 43.

58 Ibid., p. 80.

59 Ibid., p. 81.

60 Ibid., p. 82.

61 Makarczyk Janusz, Widziałem i słyszałem (Warsaw, 1957), p. 74 .

62 See, for example, Franciszek Gerhardt-Grzywa, ‘Co nam może dać Liberia’, Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny, 20 Mar. 1935, p. 23.

63 Dreszer Zygmunt, Pionierski rejs: dziennik podróży handlowej do portów Afryki Zachodniej (Warsaw, 1936), pp. 57 .

64 See, for example, Michał Pankiewicz, ‘Dodatni objaw’, Morze, Nov. 1936.

65 ‘Konsulat Liberii w Warszawie’, Kurier Poznański, 30 Apr. 1935, p. 1.

66 Nnamdi Azikiwe, ‘Poland wants Liberia’, Weekly Mirror, 28 Aug. 1936.

67 ‘Liberia may be gobbled up by Poland's greed’, Pittsburgh Courier, 17 July 1937; ‘Poland aims to grab Liberia’, Pittsburgh Courier, 3 Oct. 1936; ‘Threats of German and Polish aggression dim gayety of Liberia's 90th birthday’, Pittsburgh Courier, 7 Aug. 1937.

68 The Pittsburgh Courier hinted at such a strategy on the part of Liberia in an article from 3 Apr. 1937. See ‘Liberia making foreign alliances’, Pittsburgh Courier, 3 Apr. 1937.

69 See, for example, ‘Niezłomna wola’, Morze i Kolonie, May 1939; Jerzy Świrski, ‘Polska nie może istnieć inaczej, jak tylko w mocnem oparciu o własne wybrzeże morskie’, Morze, Mar. 1933.

70 ‘Offending our friends’, Weekly Mirror, 4 Sept. 1936.

71 ‘Nr. 667 do Stefana Paprzyckiego, Konsula R. P. w Monrowii, od Konsula Generalnego R. P. w Marsylii’, 18 Nov. 1936, 5/1, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii; ‘Polish Foreign Office denies Liberia grab’, Pittsburgh Courier, 4 Dec. 1937.

72 ‘Clifford R. Wharton's telegram to R. Walton Moore’, 26 Nov. 1936, 882.01/62: pp. 406–7, United States Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1936. The Near East and Africa (1936). Liberia.

73 ‘The “hungry' powers”: Poland and League collaboration’, London Times, 23 June 1936.

74 Paraphrased in ‘Genewskie Wystąpienie’, Morze, Nov. 1936.

75 Jan Dębski, ‘Polski pominąć nie można’, Morze, Apr. 1938.

76 See Miller T. Christian and Jones Jonathan, Firestone and the warlord: the untold story of Firestone, Charles Taylor and the tragedy of Liberia (ProPublica, 2015).

77 ‘No. KM.5/39 do Konsulatu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w Marsylii dot. akcji L. M. i Kol. w Liberii’, 17 Jan. 1939, 5/8, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

78 Janusz Lewandowski, ‘Z Republiki Liberyjskiej’, Morze, Apr. 1936.

79 ‘Decorations’, Liberia Official Gazette, July 1937.

80 ‘Curriculum vitae’, n.d., University of Texas Medical Branch, Moody Medical Library, Truman G. Blocker, Jr, History of Medicine Collections, Ludwik Anigstein, Microbiology Papers (1932–5), Biographical.

81 Studies from the Institute for Medical Research Federation of Malaya, vol. 25 (Kuala Lumpur, 1900–50, 1951), p. 194 .

82 See Anigstein Ludwik, First report on the medical survey of Liberia (central province of the hinterland) (Monrovia: Goverment Printing Office, Department of State, 1936); Anigstein Ludwik, ‘Medical exploration in Liberia’, Bulletin of the Health Organization of the League of Nations, 6 (1937).

83 Ludwik Anigstein, ‘Słoneczne dni wśród czarnych ludzi: Z pamiętnika wyprawy do puszczy liberyjskiej’, 1935, p. 1, University of Texas Medical Branch, Moody Medical Library, Truman G. Blocker, Jr, History of Medicine Collections, Ludwik Anigstein, Microbiology Papers (1932–75), Liberia 1971–4.

84 Dreszer, Pionierski rejs, pp. 6–7.

85 Ibid., p. 28.

86 Ibid., p. 48.

87 Jan Hirschler, Ze Lwowa do Liberii (Lwów, 1938), p. 7.

88 Ibid., pp. 7–8.

89 Michał Pankiewicz, ‘Nasza wyprawa do Afryki’, Morze, Apr. 1935.

90 ‘Comparative statement showing foreign trade’, Liberia Official Gazette, 30 Nov. 1935.

91 ‘Notatka w sprawie akcji L. M. i Kol. w Liberii’, n.d., 3, 5/19–21, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

92 ‘Rapport sur les possessions et les plantations de la Ligue Maritime et Coloniale Polonaise dans le secteur de Rapputown’, n.d., 5/22–30, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

93 ‘No. KM.5/39 do Konsulatu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w Marsylii dot. akcji L. M. i Kol. w Liberii.’

94 Makarczyk, Liberia, Liberyjczyk, Liberyjka, p. 12.

95 Hirschler, Ze Lwowa do Liberii, p. 71.

96 Makarczyk, Widziałem i słyszałem, p. 73.

97 ‘Notatka w sprawie akcji L. M. i Kol. w Liberii’, p. 2.

98 See Białas, Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 1930–1939, p. 223.

99 ‘No. KM.5/39 do Konsulatu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w Marsylii dot. akcji L. M. i Kol. w Liberii’, p. 1.

100 Wanda Firley, ‘P. Armin – plantator z Liberii tęskni za słońcem Afryki’, ABC – Nowiny Codzienne, 3 Apr. 1938, p. 4.

101 ‘Projekt oświadczenia L. M. i K. złożonego Rządowi R. L.’, 25 Nov. 1938, 2, 5/5–7, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

102 Ibid.

103 Białas, Liga Morska i Kolonialna, 1930–1939, pp. 223–4.

104 Makarczyk, Widziałem i słyszałem, p. 67.

105 Marian Tarkowski, ‘Wstęp do inwentarza zespołu akt Konsulatu Honorowego RP w Monrowii z lat 1934–1939’, May 1958, p. 1, Archiwum Akt Nowych. Konsulat Honorowy w Monrowii.

106 Rudolf Rathaus, ‘Liga Morska i Kolonialna: agreement with Liberia, 1934’, 18 Apr. 1941, 3/35, Hoover Institution, Poland, Konsulat Generalny (New York) Collection 76004.

107 Ibid.

* The author submitted an early draft of this article to satisfy a requirement for a Master's degree in History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in May 2016. He would like to thank Profs. Giuliana Chamedes, Kathryn Ciancia, Fran Hirsch, Alfred McCoy, and David McDonald for their help in revising that draft.

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