Patrick Bullock:
Abandoned In Liberia

Cape MontserradoA troubled conscience persuaded Colonel David Bullock of Louisa County to emancipate twenty-two slaves for Liberia. It was 1827 and Virginia colonizationists hoped that the success of this group would encourage more slaveholders to emancipate for African colonization. Bullock did not intend to send Patrick Bullock, but the left-behind father of four-year-old Mary Ann grew distraught and induced Colonel Bullock to write the colonization agent at Norfolk to send the child back. Bullock did so, promising to educate the child for several years and send her, with her father, on to Liberia. But in the next mail Bullock reversed himself and consented to let Patrick take passage in the Doris with his wife, Judy, and small daughter and the other two emancipated families.1 Their destination was the farming community of Caldwell in Liberia.

The St. Paul RiverAlthough Virginia colonizationists thought the emigrants adequately supplied, the Bullocks in Liberia assessed the situation differently and wrote that "A man has to work very hard here to make a living and then he can just live: and as for becoming Rich it is out of the question unless he come out well provided…" The Bullocks added that: "…we have all been sick … our situation is deplorable … our provision is not more than half enough to support us. We have found nothing here as it was told us in America." They described their weekly rations as one pint of rice, one pint of meal, a half pint of palm oil, a half pound of meat, one hogshead of tobacco, two pipes, and two ounces of soap. The ex-bondsmen were told by ACS agents to use the tobacco and pipes to buy cassava and plantain from the natives.

Lack of adequate provisions was made worse for them by a lack of tools and money and by the fact that their clothes had rotted on the voyage. They asked for "a cross-cut saw, three axes, three spades, some tobacco powder, an old lock and keys, augers and anything else you can think of."2 The justified complaints of the emancipated Bullocks circulated among free and enslaved African Americans in Virginia and did much to cool any enthusiasm for emigration. The Bullocks were the first emancipated Virginians to write of their negative experience, but they would not be the last.

Marie Tyler-McGraw
April 28, 2008


  1. Benjamin Brand to R. R. Gurley, Richmond, Oct 23, 1827, Nov. 3, 1827, Nov. 5, 1827, Reel 3, Records of the American Colonization Society, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  2. Benjamin Brand to Lott Cary, Jan. 15, 1829, Brand papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia; Charles, Patrick and David Bullock to Col. Bullock via Benjamin Brand, enclosed in Benjamin Brand to R. R. Gurley, June 10, 1828, Reel 4, Records of the American Colonization Society, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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