“The Slave in Canada”
“This paper, read in part before the Nova Scotia Historical Society on March 18, 1898, is an attempt to supply a missing chapter in Canadian history — a sombre and unattractive chapter, it may be, but necessary nevertheless to the completeness of our records.
If instances given seem too numerous, it must be remembered that the scepticism of many of the best informed Provincials as to the presence at any time of Negro slaves on the soil of Canada has challenged the production, on the part of the author, of more repeated facts than he would otherwise have deemed necessary.
In the collection of these facts not a little difficulty has been encountered. Our historians have almost wholly ignored the existence of slavery in Canada. A few references to it are all that can be found in Kingsford’s ten volumes; Haliburton devotes a little more than a half-page to it; Murdoch contents himself with the reproduction of a few slave advertisements; Clement, the author of the school history accepted by nearly all the provinces, dismisses it with a single sentence; and in the long manuscript catalogue of Canadian books, pamphlets and papers gathered during a long life-time by the late Dr. T. B. Akins — a large and very valuable collection — the word “slavery” nowhere appears, even as a sub-heading. Other historians and collectors in general have given little more attention to the subject. Further difficulty has arisen from the fact that complete fyles of our early newspapers — those of Nova Scotia at least — cannot be obtained. I have had, therefore, to be a patient and persistent and often disappointed gleaner.”
SLAVERY IN CANADA PREVIOUS TO THE ARRIVAL OF THE LOYALISTS IN 1783
“Slavery in Canada, as that extensive province was formerly defined, was of French institution. The first slave sale recorded in the colony was that at Quebec of a negro boy from Madagascar by David Kertk in 1628 for fifty half-crowns. Kertk, the son of a Scotch father and French mother, and born at Dieppe, had gone to England; and with several ships fitted out with the assistance of two brothers and other relatives, under a commission from the English king, had done serious damage to French interests at Port Royal, Quebec, and other points on the Atlantic seaboard.
In a local history, reference is made to the presence of Indian slaves at Montreal in 1670. These slaves were known as Panis, members of a distant tribe, once numerous but greatly reduced in numbers by the attacks of more powerful Indian nations. Captured in war, and offered for sale by their captors at low prices, they had been purchased by Canadians at Detroit and other outlying posts, whence some of them had been carried towards the Atlantic coast. They seem to have been more easy of control as domestic servants than members of some other native tribes of this continent, but the propensity of these wild children of the woods to run off, with the presence of the ever-adjacent forest as a constant temptation, greatly lessened their value.
Towards the close of the seventeenth century the French in Canada began to look about for laborers. In 1688 representations were made in more than one letter from high officials at Quebec to Louis XIV., through his Secretary of State, that laborers were so few and labor so costly in the colony that all enterprise was paralysed; and that it was thought that the best remedy would be the importation of Negroes as slaves. The Attorney-general of Canada, then on a visit to Paris, confirmed this view, and assured the king that in case of his permission being given some of the inhabitants of the colony would be prepared to purchase slaves immediately upon their arrival from Guinea. As the result of these representations, with the suggested conversion of the heathen to the true faith as an additional motive for action, a royal mandate was issued in 1689, by which permission was given Canadians to avail themselves of the services of African slaves; the king, however, taking time, in spite of the gaieties of Versailles, to remind the Sieur de Frontenac, governor of the colony which had so vexed the royal mind, that the experiment which Denonville and de Champigny had urged was not without peril through the rigor of the climate; and to advise consequent caution.
The issuance of the desired mandate was soon followed by the importation and sale of Negroes; but the demand proved less pressing that had been expected. By an ordinance dated Nov. 13th, 1705, these Negroes were made moveable property. Another ordinance, issued in April, 1709, by Jacques Raudot, intendant at Quebec, and read at the close of mass in certain churches in Quebec, repeated the king’s permission to hold slaves, stated that Negroes and Panis had been procured as slaves, and added that, to remove all doubt as to ownership, it was declared that all Panis or Negroes who had been so bought or held should belong to the persons so owning them, in full proprietorship. Most of these Negros had been landed at Jamaica or other West India islands from English slave-ships: a very few may have been stealthily brought in from English colonies on the mainland. Kingsford states that of several young Canadians prosecuted in 1718 by the Quebec authorities on account of their relations with the English at Albany, maintained by way of Lake Champlain, one, M. de la Decouverte, had made himself remarkable by having brought to Montreal “a Negro slave and some silverware.” The continued legal recognition of the system is evident from several royal declarations respecting slaves in the colony, bearing dates 1721, 1742 and 1745; and from an ordinance of Intendant Hoquart, issued in 1736, regulating the manner of emancipating slaves in Canada. In parish records for 1755-56 both Negroes and Panis are mentioned; and slaves were often described in legal and other notices and documents of that day as “Negroes, effects and merchandise.”
In the system of bondage thus instituted in Canada under French rule no change took place through the transfer of the colony to the English crown. It had been provided by the 47th article of the capitulation of Canada in 1760 that all Negroes and Panis should remain in their condition as slaves; and no hesitation on the part of the English authorities could have been feared, since, by an act of the British Parliament in 1732, houses, lands, Negroes and real estate had been made liable for sale as assets to satisfy the claims of their owners’ creditors.
Slaves were brought into Nova Scotia at an early period. The prevalent impression that they were first introduced into the province by the Loyalists has no foundation in fact. That any were brought to the earliest English capital, Annapolis, or to Canseau, a point of much importance, is uncertain, as no records kept by the earliest Episcopal chaplain at the former place are to be found: as to the presence of slaves at Halifax a year or two after its settlement there can be no question. A letter written at Halifax in September, 1759, of which copies have been preserved in several families, contains an interesting reference to their employment. The writer was Malachy Salter, Esq., a Halifax merchant, and the person addressed was his wife, then visiting relatives at Boston. Mr. Salter, from New England and previously engaged in the fisheries, had visited Chebucto harbor five years before Cornwallis had arrived to rob it of its attractive Indian name; and soon after the advent of the original English settlers in 1749 he had established himself in business in the new town, where he became one of its first representatives in the colonial legislature, and the leading manager of the affairs of the Protestant Dissenting congregation, of which St. Matthew’s Presbyterian church is the present successor. Through the absence of Mrs. Salter, the good man had learned what husbands are apt to learn only in such cirumstances — that housekeeping or homekeeping has its peculiar worries. Malachy Salter, Jr., and the other little Salters were well and lively; Hagar, the cook — undoubtedly a slave — had done her best to please her master by maintaining his credit as a generous as well as frequent entertainer; but the worthy magistrate had found more than his match in the boy Jack. “Jack is Jack still,” he wrote to Mrs. Salter, “but rather worse. I am obliged to exercise the cat or stick almost every day. I believe Halifax don’t afford another such idle, deceitful villain. Pray purchase a Negro boy, if posssible.
The purchase of a Negro boy at that day in New England must have been easily possible. Slaves were more numerous at the time in Connecticut and Rhode Island than in Massachusetts, but in the latter province their number was by no means small. The General Court of the province in 1646, in its strong opposition to the “hainous and crying sinn of man-stealing,” had undertaken to send back to “Gynny,” with a letter of explanation and apology, some negroes who had been kidnapped and brought to New England; but rage at the cruelty of the savage red men, leading to the shipping of Indian captives to the West Indies for sale there, and the extreme difficulty of obtaining “help” for in-door and out-door work, soon blunted the feelings of the New England Puritan. In spite of the prohibition of “bond slaverie, villinage,” and other feudal servitude by the ninety-first article of the Body of Liberties, in less than half a century he adopted the universal and unquestioned practice of Christian nations, and negro slavery flourished in New England as in Virginia; Newport, in Rhode Island, being the northern centre of the African trade, and from 1707 to 1732 a tax of three guineas being imposed on each Negro imported into the colony. In 1687 a French refugee wrote home: “You may also here own Negroes and Negresses. There is not a house in Boston, however small be its means, that has not one or two….. Negroes cost from twenty to forty pistoles.” Advertisements of slave transactions, surpassing in heartlessness those of Southern journals in more recent days, furnished an important part of the revenue of the New England newspaper of the eighteenth century. In the Weekly Rehearsal in 1737 Samuel Pewter informed the public that he would sell horses for ten shillings if the horse sale were accomplished, and five shillings if he endeavored to sell and could not; and for Negroes “sixpence a pound on all he sells, and a resonable price if he does not sell.
Some opponents of the system — and many persons in New England were in accord with Judge Sewall, the writer in 1700 of “The Selling of Joseph,” the first anti-slavery tract published in America — were influenced by the motive which in part had prompted Louis XIV. to permit the introduction of slavery into Canada — the turning of the heathen from their idols. The genuineness of the motive may sometimes have been open to question, as in the case mentioned by Mrs. Earle of a respectable Newport elder who sent many a profitable venture to the Gold Coast for “black ivory,” and always gave thanks in meeting on the Sunday after the safe arrival of a slaver “that a gracious overruling Providence has been pleased to bring to this land of freedom another cargo of benighted heathen to enjoy the blessing of a Gospel dispensation.” On the other hand, the efforts made by ministers and laymen — themselves slave-holders — for the spiritual benefit of such slaves prove their citation of “Moses and the prophets” as authorities to have been sincere, and their words to have been no mere “cloak of covetousness.”
“The presence of a young Negro slave in Halifax in 1759 would not have caused any great excitement among its citizens. It is possible that a few Negroes may have accompanied the original settlers of the town over the ocean. The number of unnamed male “servants” connected with the families of certain individuals — ten in one case belonging to that of a shipwright — is otherwise difficult of explanation. Their employment in the work incident to the building of a city on a site so rocky as that selected would be reasonable, while the great number of “slaves or servants for life” — as they were termed in legal documents of that period — to be at all times found in ports of the United Kingdom would render their transfer across the ocean easy of accomplishment. That slaves were present about that period at Halifax, whether from Britain or from New England, is certain, since in September, 1751, when the pressure of building operations had become lighter, the Boston Evening Post advertised: “Just arrived from Halifax and to be sold, ten strong, hearty Negro men, mostly tradesmen, such as caulkers, carpenters, sailmakers and ropemakers. Any person wishing to purchase may inquire of Benjamin Hallowell of Boston.”
The name of one slave who in 1752 trod the streets of Halifax may be found in a will made on February 28 of that year and preserved among the probate records of the city. In this document the testator, Thomas Thomas, “late of New York, but now of Halifax,” having arranged for the disposition of all his “goods, chattels and negroes,” his plate excepted, of which he should “die possessed in New York,” adds: “But all my plate and my negro servant Orange, that now lives with me at Halifax, I leave and bequeath to my son.”
Still more suggestive of slavery in its most sombre aspects is an advertisement in the Halifax Gazette for May 15, 1752: “Just imported, and to be sold by Joshua Mauger, at Major Lockman’s store in Halifax, several Negro slaves, as follows: A woman aged thirty-five, two boys aged twelve and thirteen respectively, two of eighteen and a man aged thirty.” And in 1760, the year following that in which Malachy Salter’s letter was written, citizens of Halifax read in their paper of November 1st: “To be sold at public auction, on Monday, the 3rd of November, at the house of Mr. John Rider, two slaves, viz., a boy and a girl, about eleven years old; likewise, a puncheon of choice cherry brandy, with sundry other articles.” Thirteen years later, when the property of Joseph Pierpont was being disposed of at the same popular auction mart, his slave “Prince” was reserved for private sale. Other sales of slaves by auction had, however, taken place during the intervening period, for in 1769, an advertisement appeared in the Halifax paper, which stated that “on Saturday next, at twelve o’clock, will be sold on the Beach, two hogsheads of rum, three of sugar and two well-grown negro girls, aged fourteen and twelve, to the highest bidder.”
Advertisements of absconding slaves at this time were somewhat numerous, and annexed cautions to sea captains indicate the most common method of escape. In 1773 Jacob Hurd, whose name is still attached to a lane in Halifax, offered a reward of five pounds, with the payment of all necessary charges, for the apprehension of his runaway Negro — Cromwell — described as a “short, thick-set, strong fellow,” badly marked by smallpox, “especially on the nose,” and having on when he went away as a part of his grotesque apparel a green cloth jacket and a cocked hat. A smaller sum was also offered for any trustworthy intelligence concerning his movements. During the autumn of 1780 two similar rewards were offered: in the first instance one of three guineas for the apprehension and delivery at the office of the Commanding Engineer at Halifax of two runaway Negro men; in the second a “handsome reward” to be paid by Benjamin DeWolfe, Esq., of Windsor, to any one securing a Negro boy named Mungo, “about fourteen years old and well built,” in “some of His Majesty’s jails,” and “notifying his said owner or sending him home.” In a newspaper of the following year Abel Michener, of Falmouth, promised five pounds for the capture of a Negro named James, and Samuel Mack, of Port Medway, Queen’s county, a smaller sum for the return to him of another, known as “Chance.” A year later the master of the transport ship “Friends” notified the public of the departure of his Negro lad, Ben, and requested all masters of vessels not to ship him as a seaman, as, said Captain Wilson, “he is my own property.”
One other instance may be given, as the odd name of the heroine obtained a place in the local journal of that day and also in the records of the probate court: “Ran away from her master, John Rock, on Monday, the 18th day of August last, a Negro girl named Thursday, about four and a half feet high, broad-set, with a lump over her right eye. Had on when she went away a red cloth petticoat, a red-baize bed-gown, and a red ribbon about her head. Whoever may harbour said Negro girl, or encourage her to stay away from her said master, may depend upon being prosecuted as the law directs; and whoever may be so kind as to take her up and send her home to her said master shall be paid all costs and charges with two dollars reward for their trouble.”14 Poor Thursday’s liberty, in consequence of her conspicuous outfit, or the cupidity of some mean-spirited individual, proved short; for in the “inventory of the late John Rock,” as recorded in the Halifax probate court in 1776, this item — “A Negro wench, named Thursday,” appears in a very varied list of property. The poor slave girl was valued by the appraisers at twenty-five pounds, Nova Scotia currency; but the executors in their final account of the estate report her as sold to John Bishop for only twenty pounds.
Other interesting facts in relation to slavery may be gathered from these old court records. The executors of the estate of John Margerum, deceased, acknowledge the receipt of £29. 9s. 4½d — “nett proceeds of a Negro boy sold at Carolina” in 1769. In their report, 1770, from the estate of Joseph Gerrish of Halifax, the executors announce a loss of thirty pounds on three Negroes appraised at one hundred and eighty pounds, but actually sold for one hundred and fifty to Richard Williams and Abraham Constable. In the same acount occurs an item of mixtures: “By sundry wine, cloathing, linnen, stationary, a Negro Boy named John Fame, two coach horses, one post-chaise and harness divided among the heirs as per Inventory.”
Certain names associated with a codicil added to her will in April, 1770, by Mrs. Martha Prichard, widow, of Halifax, give it some degree of interest. By this codicil Mrs. Prichard bequeathed to her daughter Eleanor, wife of Moses Delesdernier — one of the original grantees of Windsor, but then resident at Sackville, Cumberland county, a Negro slave woman named Jessie. If at the end of a year’s probation the daughter should not wish to retain the slave the executors were to dispose of her and place the proceeds in Mrs. Delesdernier’s hands. In case the lady should prefer to retain her, the slave was to become, at the lady’s decease, the property of her son, Ferdinand. According to the same codicil Mrs. Prichard gave to Mrs. Delesdernier’s daughter Martha, in subsequent years wife of the well-known Richard John Uniacke, a mulatto slave, John Patten, two and a half years old, for whose maintenance, until he should be old enough to pay his own way by labor and service, the executors, Messrs. John and Henry Newton and Benjamin Green, Jr., — all leading citizens of the capital — were to make adequate provision out of the funds of the estate. In 1779 Daniel Shatford, a school teacher who had reached Halifax from New York soon after the arrival of Cornwallis’s fleet, willed to his wife his “Negro man slave,” Adam; Adam at the wife’s death to become the property of the testator’s daughter, Sarah Lawson.
It will already have been seen that Halifax had not a monopoly in the slave business. In other parts of the province slaves were also held. In one of the early registry books at Bridgetown may be found the conveyance of a “Mulotta” girl, Louisa, sold in July, 1767, by Charles Proctor of Halifax, merchant, for fifteen pounds currency to Mary Wood of Annapolis, wife of the Rev. Thomas Wood, and by Mrs. Wood “assigned over” to her daughter, Mrs. Mary Day, during the following year. According to the census returns of January 1, 1771, seven Negroes were owned in the township of Annapolis. Magdalen Winniett was the possessor of a man, woman and girl; Joseph Winniett of a woman and boy; and Ebenezer Messenger and Ann Williams each of a man: John Stork, of Granville, was the owner of a man, the only Negro, according to the census, to be found in that township. In the previous year Henry Evans, of Annapolis, was also the proprietor of a colored girl. In 1776, a Windsor farmer, Joseph Wilson, devised to his wife, with one half of his real estate, the two Negro women, Byna and Sylla, for her use and benefit during her life, at the termination of which, with the “messuages, lands, tenements, hereditaments and barns,” the slave women were to become the property of his son Jonathan, “his heirs and assigns for ever.” One of the witnesses of this will was Isaac Deschamps, afterwards chief justice of the province.
Some idea of the cash value of slaves may be obtained from the account presented in 1780 by the executors of the estate of Colonel Henry Denny Denson, one of the original proprietors of West Falmouth, a section of which still bears the name of Mount Denson. For “Spruce” they had received seventy-five pounds, for “John” sixty pounds, and for “Juba” thirty. Two of these slaves were sold to buyers or dealers in Halifax, as the estate is charged with £2. 11s. 6p., paid a man for taking them to the city and delivering them there.
A recorded document, dated Truro, 1779, proves complicity with slavery on the part of the early Scotch-Irish settlers in Nova Scotia, the larger number of whom had come by way of Pennsylvania and other Middle American provinces. Through this paper Matthew Harris of Pictou, yeoman, “bargains, sells, aliens and forever makes over” unto Matthew Archibald of Truro, tanner, his heirs and assigns, “all the right, property, title or interest he now has or hereafter may pretend to have to one Negro boy named Abram, about twelve years of age, born of Harris’s Negro slave in Harris’s house in Maryland.” For this boy Harris received fifty pounds. According to a census of the township of Onslow, in 1771, the Rev. James Lyon, sent to Nova Scotia in 1764 as the first Presbyterian minister of the province, by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, in New Jersey, had a colored boy, the only Negro then in the township. In a will proved in 1791, Richard McHeffey of Windsor, farmer a member of another leading Scotch-Irish family, “gives and bequeaths” his “Negro wench, Clo’,” to his son Joseph, after the decease of the son’s mother. Of the same origin, it is probable, was John Huston, of Cornwallis, who in 1787 “gave and bequeathed” to his “dear and well-beloved wife” his “Negro man named Pomp, and all the live stock, utensils, and implements,” etc., of which at the time of his decease he shold be owner.
By the settlers of New England origin in the large county of Kings, which then included the present county of Hants and a large district now included in Cumberland county, the use of slave help seems to have been readily accepted. In one line in an “inventory of all and singular the goods and chattels of John Porter, late of Cornwallis, deceased,” signed in 1784 by leading men of the township, are these items: “One grain fan, fifteen shillings; one negro man, eighty pounds; books, thirty shillings.” As those of kind and thoughtful slave-owners may be quoted the well-known names of Jonathan Shearman and Benjamin Belcher, both of Cornwallis. The first of these, in a will dated in 1809, when slaves had become virtually free, makes as a condition of his will the maintenance by his wife and daughter of “my Negro woman, Chlœ, comfortably during her life, should she remain with them as heretofore.” The willl of Mr. Belcher, made in 1801, shows his slaveholding to have been upon a more extensive scale; and to have been conducted, according to the circumstances of that day, with a solicitude for the higher interests of his slaves in harmony with his position as a leading manager of the affairs of the parish church. In a section of this will his executors are instructed: ” I give and bequeath my Negro woman to my beloved wife during her lifetime and after her death at her disposal; I give and bequeath my Negro boy called Prince to my son, Stephen Belcher, during his life, after that to his eldest surviving son; I give my Negro girl called Diana to my daughter, Elizabeth Belcher Sheffield, and after her death to her eldest male heir of her body; I give my Negro man named Jack and my Negro boy Samuel and Negro boy James and Negro girl called Chlœ to my son Benjamin and his heirs for ever; charging these my children unto whom I have entrusted these Negro people with never to sell, barter or exchange them or any of them under any pretension except it is for whose bad and heinous offences as will not render them safe to be kept in the family, and that to be adjudged of by three Justices of the Peace in said Township, and in such case on their order they may be sold and disposed of. And I further request that as soon as these young Negroes shall become capable to be taught to read, they shall be learnt the Word of God.”
In the extensive county of Cumberland, which then included all the lands in Nova Scotia lying north of King’s county and a large portion of the present province of New Brunswick, but few slaves could at this period be found. These had been brought from the other colonies, at the close of the final conflict with France and her Indian allies on the Canadian border, by Captain Sennacherib Martyn and other officers of disbanded colonial corps to whom lands were granted about 1760 in the township of Cumberland, between the rivers Aulac and La Planche. Of the presence of slaves among other settlers from the neighboring colonies but slight mention has been made. The one representative of the colored race in the township of Amherst in 1771 — a boy — was in the possession of John Young. For a number of years the sturdy English imigrants from Yorkshire held themselves aloof from slave-help, but tradition and record combine to prove occasional complicity with an institution for which in general they had little favor. Mention is yet made of a slave owned by William Bulmer, called “Black Jack” from the intensity of his complexion, to whom freedom was given on the death of his owner in 1792. Thomas Watson, of Fort Lawrence, said in a document of 1774 to be “late of Yorkshire,” and known to be sheriff of Cumberland county in 1783, in 1796 bequeathed to a daughter money, silver and china ware, “together with the Negro girl called Sarah,” who was known at a very advanced age by a subsequent generation as “Sally Surrey.”
James S. More, in his history of Queen’s county, states that the earlier colored people of Liverpool came with their masters from New England rather as servants than as slaves. “Violet,” who belonged to Colonel William Freeman, was said to have been an African princess, who with her attendants had been kidnapped while gathering wild flowers, and carried over the ocean amid the horrors of the crowded hold of a slave-ship. “There are no records of slave sales in Queens county,” says Mr. More, but, he adds, “bondmen and bondwomen were treated with the kindness which greatly tempered the evils of slavery during its existence in the more northern settlements of the time.” No documents, it is understood, indicate the presence of any slaves at this period among the German settlers in the county of Lunenburg, though according to tradition one or more were held by Colonel Creighton, one of the most distinguished men of the county.”
SLAVERY IN CANADA AFTER THE ARRIVAL OF THE LOYALISTS IN 1783
“African slavery has been shown to have been established by France in Quebec in 1689. Its presence in Nova Scotia, some sixty years later, and its gradual extension under the tacit permission of law and sanction of society have also been illustrated by numerous instances. Having thus reached a position of partial establishment, it seemed possible that the immense Loyalist inrush of 1783-85 would lead to its acceptance as an inevitable part and parcel of the social arrangements of the several colonies, and secure for it a permanent place in British American life.”
“At the termination of the war the two thousand escaped slaves in New York were seized with consternation in consequence of a rumor that they — some of whom had been with the British for three or four years — were to be delivered up to their former owners. Terrible confirmation of the rumor seemed to be afforded by the presence in New York of slave-owners from Virginia, the Carolinas and other parts of the South, who were known to be seizing their former slaves in the streets and even to be dragging them from their beds. To allay this terror, the British Commander-in-chief, Sir Guy Carleton, issued a proclamation guaranteeing their liberty to all slaves who, when taking refuge within the British lines, had formally claimed the protection publicly offered by British commanders. To a demand by Washington for the restoration of all fugitives to their former owners, Sir Guy, throughout whose whole career moderation, justice and prudence, as well as genius, can everywhere be recognized, replied, declining to violate faith with the Negroes, more especially as it “would be delivering them up, some possibly to execution and some others to severe punishments;” and observing that, if the sending them away should hereafter be deemed an infraction of the treaty, compensation must be made to the owners by the British government, in view of which event he had directed a register to be kept of all Negroes sent away, specifying the name, age and occupation of each slave, and the name and place of residence of his former master. “Had these Negroes,” he concluded, “been denied permission to embark, they would, in spite of any means to prevent it, have found various methods of quitting this place, so that the former owner would no longer have been able to trace them, and of course would have lost in every way all chance of compensation.”
This arrangement having been reached, each fugitive received a certificate which dispelled his fears; and in a short time, in transports provided by the commander-in-chief, a large number were conveyed to Burchtown(sic), near Shelburne, Nova Scotia, where they received lands as soon as these could be surveyed for them, and, for three years, if not for a longer period, such rations as were distributed by the British government to the Loyalists in general. About the same time other liberated slaves were brought in British warships direct from Charleston, S. C., to Halifax, whence part of them made their way to lands promised them at Shelburne and Preston. Other freed blacks were similarly settled at Digby, St. John, and adjacent points. It was to these freedmen, at the solicitation of their representative to England — Thomas Peters, a former sergeant in the Black Pioneers, that Lieutenant John Clarkson of the Royal Navy, a brother of the celebrated Thomas Clarkson of anti-slavery fame, was sent to Nova Scotia in 1791 by the Sierra Leone Company to arrange, at the expense of the British government, for the transportation of all freedmen desirous of removal to the new African colony; as the result of which mission a fleet of fifteen ships with eleven hundred and eighty Negroes on board, from various parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, sailed from Halifax on January 15, 1792, for Sierra Leone.
The still-enslaved Negroes brough by the Loyalist owners to the Maritime Provinces in 1783-84 were classed as “servants” in some of the documents of the day. Lists of Loyalist companies bound for Shelburne, made out, it is probable, under the direction of British officers whose dislike to the word “slave” would lead them to use the alternative legal term, contain columns for “men, women, children and servants,” the figures in the “servants” column being altogether disproportionate to those in the preceding columns. With Captain Andrew Barclay’s company of fifty-five men and women and forty-nine children were no less that fifty-seven servants, thirty-six of these being owned by four families. Stephen Shakspeare was accompanied by twenty servants, and Charles Oliver Breuff, goldsmith of New York, who died many years later at Liverpool, by fifteen. The brothers James and Alexander Robertson, publishers in New York and afterwards at Shelburne of the Royal American Gazette, brought twenty, and Alexander Robertson, jr., of Pennsylvania, six servants with his family of four persons. Isaac Wilkins, of Westchester county, New York, a brother-in-law of Lewis Morris — one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and father and grandfather of two highly respected Nova Scotia judges of the supreme court bearing the name of Lewis Morris Wilkins, is said to have brought a number of slaves to the beautiful spot on the shores of Shelburne harbor called by his family Ridge Vale, but popularly known for many years as “Wilkins’s Folly.” Col. Simeon Perkins, a leading man of Liverpool, wrote in his private diary, May 7, 1783: “Two small schooners from Halifax with people for Port Roseway came in here in the night. A Colonel Campbell is in one of them. He is said to be a man of property; has several slaves with him.”
Official lists show that with Loyalists making permanent or temporary homes in the central and lower sections of the fertile Annapolis valley came numerous slaves, and that a good number also accompanied those exiles to whom were granted lands on or near the picturesque site of Digby. The names of proprietors owning but one of two “servants” are too many for repetition. At Wilmot, early in 1784, were Beverley Robinson, lieutenant-colonel in the recently disbanded Loyal American regiment, with seven servants above ten years and two below that age; Thomas Barclay, his brother-in-law, major in the same corps, with seven slaves; Isaac Allen, previously of Trenton, N. J., and late lieutenant-colonel of the Second Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, with seven; and Timothy Ruggles, Esq., of previous distinguished service and subsequent honorable provincial record, with three. At Granville were Richard Betts, Charles Coulborne, George Cornwell, J. T. de St. Croix, Abel Hardenbrook, Thomas Robblee, each with three slaves; Edward Winslow, with four; and Christopher Benson and John Hicks, each with six. Among the names of slave-holders at Annapolis appeared those of Frederick Davoue, Andrew Ritchie, David Seabury, Lieut. J. Reid, Abel Morrison, and Mrs. Kane, with three each; O’Sullivan Sutherland and Joseph Totten, each with four; the widow S. Grant and George Sutherland, each with five; and Mrs. Chandler, with six servants. According to the returns from Clements and Moose River, Captain Douwe Ditmars was the owner of four slaves; Gabriel Purdy, of five; James De Lancey, lieutenant-colonel of the disbanded First Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, of six; and John Ditmars, of seven. John Bridgewater, and Captain deMolitor — late in the Anspach service, settlers at Bear River, respectively posessed three and four servants. James Hatfield and some others at Digby had three slaves each; John Burkitt and Richard Hill, five each; Major Robert Timpany, the Irish school-teacher and brave soldier, five; and James Hughstone, six. On the Digby roll also were “Pompey, Absalom, Charles — Negroes, slaves to Captain Isaac Young, who is gone to New York for his family.” In this enumeration of “slaves or servants for life,” as ran the legal phrase, no free Negroes are included.
In smaller numbers slaves had been carried to other parts of Nova Scotia. Among the exiles establishing themselves at Westchester, Cumberland, Minudie, Barronsfield, and other points in the county of Cumberland, were several slaves, while a large number of Negro bondmen could be counted in the vicinity of Parrsboro’. At Cornwallis and Horton, Windsor, Newport and Kennetcook were also numerous servants; one owner, John Grant, previously of Brooklyn, New York, having taken nine of various ages to Loyal Hill, in the neighborhood of the last-named settlement. About that time came also to Musquodoboit from Florida the Bayers and McInnes families, bringing slaves with them.
The muster roll in 1784 of the disbanded South Carolina Royalist corps, to whom lands had been allotted at Stormont, on the east side of Country Harbor, shows thirteen Negro servants, the “property” of four officers of that corps. A few officers of the King’s Carolina Rangers, in the list Captain Joseph Marshall, father of the late Judge John G. Marshall, had at that date seven slaves. At Guysborough, where were several officers of the “Department of the Army and Navy,” eight slaves were catalogued by name as the property of five owners. And on the muster roll of the transport “Argo,” at Halifax in July, 1784, on her way with Loyalists from St. Augustine, Florida, for Guysborough — then Chedabucto, are the names of “Prince, Susanna, Anne, Jane, Carry, Marsh, the property of John Todd;” and of “Liberty, Sarah, Pegg, the property of James Lyle.” Several documents in relation to the last three, registered in Guysboro’ county in 1793 by David Martin, show that James Lyle had in the previous February paid seventy pounds sterling for them in St. Augustine, and that the man had been previously a slave in Georgia, the woman and child slaves in East Florida.
A very large section of the bondmen being brought into Nova Scotia was carried into that part of the country which a few months later — in the autumn of 1784 — was set off as the province of New Brunswick. It is improbable that any slaves were taken to the county of Northumberland: from Westmoreland county no large number of slaves was ever reported, though colored bondmen and bondwomen were bought and sold there at a later date than in some other sections of the Lower Provinces; the few to be found in Charlotte county seem to have been taken there from other parts of New Brunswick.
In the last-named county was the colony at Beaver Harbor, of Quaker Loyalists — the only avowed anti-slavery settlement known to have existed in the British North American Provinces. These Quakers, most of whom had fled from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York, had formed an association in that city to settle “together on the River St. Johns in Nova Scotia.” A very few of their number, who must have been included in the list of those having a “Birthright among the people commonly called Quakers,” rather than in the membership of the “Society,” had served as officers in certain Loyalist corps. At the head of the agreement to remove to Nova Scotia, drawn up and signed in New York in June, 1783, was the prohibitory notice, in bold hand-writing, “No slave master admitted;” in accordance with which it was ruled, as the fourth regulation, “that no slaves be either Bought or sold nor kept by any person belonging to said society on any pretence whatsoever.””
“The total number of Negro slaves brought into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island from the revolted colonies previous to the summer of 1784 may be estimated with some approach to certainty. Under instructions from Sir Guy Carleton, Colonel Morse, commanding Royal Engineer, made a tour of the Provincial settlements in the autumn of 1783 and early part of the summer of 1784, and to his report appended a “return of the disbanded troops and Loyalists settling in Nova Scotia,” for the purpose of ascertaining the number entitled to the “Royal Bounty of Provisions.” In the column allotted to “servants” are, Dartmouth, 41; Country Harbour, 41; Chedabucto, 61; Island St. John, now Prince Edward Island, 26; Antigonish, 18; Cumberland, etc., 21; Partridge Island, now Parrsboro’, 69; Cornwallis and Horton, 38; Newport and Kennetcook, 22; Windsor, 21; Annapolis Royal, etc., 230; Digby, 152; St. Mary’s Bay, 13; Shelburne, —; River St. John, 441; a total number, inclusive of some small figures not quoted, of 1,232 persons, to nearly all of whom must have belonged the appellation of “slave.” During the two or three succeeding years some others were brought into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Cape Breton — that island being then under a separate government.
The island of Cape Breton finds no place in Colonel Morse’s return of Loyalists “settling or about to settle” in the Maritime Provinces. That distrust of Governor Parr and the authorities in Nova Scotia, which led many influential men to think of the intended province of New Brunswick, delayed the settlement of Cape Breton until it had been definitely learned that a separate government under a lieutenant-governor would be granted the island. In a memorial to the king, dated Feb. 21, 1784, Abraham C. Cuyler, previously mayor of Albany and colonel of a Loyalist corps, but then in London, announced his intention, and that of a number of others, of settling in Cape Breton. About the end of October one hundred and thirty persons, among whom were officers of the disbanded Royal Rangers, reached the island from Quebec; about eight hundred others settled in various parts of it in the early summer of the following year; and governor Desbarres announced later than an accession of four thousand persons had speedily followed the publication of the proclamation of September first. Many disbanded soldiers of the regular army were among the settlers: of the six hundred and thirty families of disbanded Loyalists, previously serving in Canada, who had sent Lieutenant Jones to explore Cape Breton and had requested Alexander Cuyler to act as their agent in England in securing lands there, only the party arriving in Ocober, 1784, seems to have really reached the island.
That slaves were held in Cape Breton about that time is certain: in the absence of such returns as Cuyler, the provincial secretary and registrar of grants, for some reason delayed or failed to make, their number is unknown. Cuyler himself was a slave owner, as the old records of the parish of St. George, Sydney, containing an entry of the burial on September 15, 1792, of “Diana Bestian, a Negro girl belonging to Abraham Cuyler, Esq.,” sufficiently atttest. Among several other entries in the same “register of baptisms, marriages and burials,” which explicitly or by implication bear witness to the presene of slaves on the island, is one which reads: “Cæsar Augustus, a slave, and Darius Snider, black folks, married 4th September, 1788.” In the early days of the present century there stood on the property of the Barringtons, between North Sydney and Sydney Mines, a building known to have been occupied by the slaves of the original owner — Boisseau, who had brought them from the West Indies. One other slave is known to have borne the name of Matthews, attorney-general of the island, her owner; another had been brought from the West Indies, a gift to a member of the family with which she had come. Another Negro was killed in 1791 by a blow dealt him, it is said, with a spade as he was endeavoring to force his way into a building in which a public ball was being held. For this man’s death a citizen of Sydney was “excluded for killing a slave” by the Masonic lodge of that place, and was brought to trial before the supreme court in August, 1792. By the court he was “honourably acquitted,” and at a later period was reinstated in membership among his Masonic brethren.”
During the second session of the first parliament of Upper Canada, which met at Newark — now Niagara — on May 31, 1793, a bill to “prevent the further introduction of slaves” and “to limit the term of contracts for servitude within the province” was introduced. There is reason to suppose that it was prepared by the chief-justice under an impulse from the lieutenant-governor, who strongly supported it, though Dr. Canniff may be correct in his statement that “Upper Canada was primarily indebted” for this praiseworthy action to Robert Gray, solicitor-general, “an earnest friend of the African race.”
In the preamble to the bill it was declared to be unjust that a people who enjoy freedom by law should encourage the introduction of slaves, “and to be highly expedient to abolish slavery in this Province, so far as the same may be gradually be done without violating private property.” It was therefore proposed to enact that “from and after the passing of this Act, so much of a certain Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, entitled An Act for encouraging new settlers, etc., as may enable the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor of this Province, heretofore parcel of His Majesty’s Province of Quebec, to grant a license for the importing into the same any negro or negroes, shall be, and the same is hereby repealed; and that from and after passing of this Act it shall not be lawful for the Governor to grant a license for the importation of any negro or other person to be subjected to the condition of a slave, or to a bounden involuntary service for life in any part of this province, nor shall any negro, or other person who shall come, or be brought into the Province after the passing of this Act, be subject to the condition of a slave, or to such service as aforesaid, within this Province, nor shall any voluntary contract of service or indentures that may be entered into by any parties within this Province, after the passing of this Act, be binding upon them or either of them for a longer term that a term of nine years.”
The second clause of the bill provides that the owners of slaves, at the time within the province, should be secured in their property, and that contracts already made should not be affected; but in the third clause, “in order to prevent the continuation of slavery within this Province,” it was proposed to enact that “immediatly from and after the passing of this Act every child that shall be born of a negro mother, or other woman, subjected to such service as aforesaid, shall abide or remain with the master or mistress in whose service the mother shall be living at the time of such child’s birth, (unless such mother and child shall leave such service, by and with the consent of such master or mistress), and such master or mistress shall, and is hereby required to give proper nourishment and clothing to such child or children, and shall and may put such child or children to work when he, she or they shall be able so to do, and shall and may retain him or her in their service until every such child shall have obtained the age of twenty-five years, at which time such child shall be entitled to demand his or her discharge from, and shall be discharged by such master or mistress from any further service.” It was also provided, to prevent any difficulty from uncertainty of age, that the “master, mistress or mother” of any child born in slavery should duly register the date of birth of such child, any master or mistress refusing to do this to be subjected to a penalty of five pounds.
Provision was also made against any undue detention after the age of twenty-five of a child born in the service of any master or mistress; and it was “provided always that in case any issue shall be born of such children during their infant servitude or after such issue shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges of free-born subjects.” It was at the same time enacted that “whenever any master of mistress shall liberate or release any person subject to the condition of a slave from their service they shall at the same time give good and sufficient security to the church or town wardens of the parish or township where they live that the person so released by them shall not become chargeable to the same, or any other parish or township.”
This bill, which reflects so much credit upon the first legislators of Upper Canada, was passed on the 9th of July, 1793, but not without strong opposition. During the Revolutionary war many slaves had been purchased from the Indians at a low price, and the holders of these desired to reject the bill entirely. “The greatest resistance,” wrote the lieutenant-governor to the Secretary of State — Dundas, “was to the Slave Bill, many plausible arguments being brought forward in respect to the dearness of labour and the difficulty of obtaining servants. Some, possessing Negroes, knowing that it was questionable if any subsisting law authorized slavery, wished to reject the bill entirely; others wished to supply themselves by giving leave to import for two years.” In his address at the close of the session Lieutenant-governor Simcoe gave expression to the great relief he felt at being no longer liable to be called upon to sign permits for the importation of slaves. Canadian legislators saw thus early, as did Southern leaders during the Kansas conflict more than a half century later, that any restriction upon slavery presaged its destruction.
Slavery in this restricted form continued to receive recognition for some years in the journals of the time in Upper Canada. In the Upper Canada Gazette and American Oracle of October 11, 1797, Messrs. W. & J. Crooks, of West Niagara, informed the public of their wish to “purchase a Negro girl of good disposition, from seven to twelve years of age.” In the course of years, however, cash and lands came to be regarded as less precarious property than human chattels, and sellers apparently proved more numerous than buyers. At York (Toronto), in December, 1800, the Gazette announced “to be sold — a healthy, strong Negro woman, about thirty years of age,” who understood “cooking, laundry, and the taking care of pantry,” and could also “dress ladies’ hair.” In the Niagara Herald of January 2, 1802, there was offered for sale “a Negro man slave, eighteen years of age, stout and healthy,” who had “had the small-pox” and was “capable of service either in the house or outdoors.” Terms would be made easy to the purchaser, and “cash or new lands received in payment.” A few days later, through the columns of the same paper, “the Negro man and woman, the property of Mrs. Widow Clement,” were offered “for sale.” They had “been bred to the business of a farm,” and would be “sold on highly advantageous terms for cash or lands,” on application to Mrs. Clement. In 1806 the Hon. Peter Russell, of Toronto, who had previously been receiver-general of the province, and during the absence in England of Governor Simcoe administrator of the government, advertised for sale, in the Gazette and Oracle, two of his slaves, both of them “servants for life.” “Peggy,” who three years before been advertised as absent without her owner’s leave, was aged forty years, and “Jupiter,” her son, about fifteen. For the mother the price was one hundred and fifty dollars; for the boy, “tall and strong for his age,” two hundred dollars, payable in three years, with interest from the day of sale, and to be secured by bond, etc. For ready money one-fourth less would be taken. A sister of Mr. Russell was the owner of a Negress who attended her mistress in the head-gear of a red turban and under the high-sounding title of Amy Pompadour, and who was afterward legally given by Miss Russell to Mrs. Captain Davison, of Toronto. As late as March, 1811, William Jarvis, the Secretary of the province, had before the court at Toronto a “Negro boy and girl, his slaves,” who “had the evening before been committed to prison for having stolen gold and silver out of his desk and escaped from their said master.”
Indian slaves were also to be found in Ontario at the beginning of the present century, for through the Niagara Herald of August 25, 1802, Charles Field, of Niagara, informed his neighbors: “All persons are forbidden harbouring, employing, or concealing my Indian slave Sal, as I am determined to prosecute any offender to the extremity of the law, and persons who may suffer her to remain in or upon their premises for the space of half-an-hour, without my written consent, will be taken as offending, and dealt with accordingly.”
A telegram to Canadian papers from Cornwall, Ont., in January, 1871, called attention briefly to the life story of one of the slaves brought into Ontario under the operation of the Act passed in 1790 by the British government. This very aged man — one hundred and five years old at his death — had seen service in the Revolutionary war, and had in 1792 been brought by his master, Major James Gray, to Canada. At the death of the master, a little later, his slave woman and her children passed into the hands of the son, Robert D. J. Gray, solicitor-general of the colony. The latter, by his will, made in 1803, and duly proved after his loss in 1804 by the foundering of H. M. S. “Speedy” on Lake Ontario, discharged from the state of slavery in which, in the words of the document, “she now is,” his “faithful black woman and servant, Dorinda,” and gave her and her children their freedom, and to protect them against want directed that twelve hundred pounds should be invested and the interest applied to their maintenance. To his black servants, Simon and John Baker, sons of Dorinda, he gave with their freedom two hundred acres of land each, as well as pecuniary legacies. Simon Baker went down with his master in the “Speedy;” John lived to serve through the war of 1812, receiving a wound at the battle of Lundy’s Lane, and enjoying a pension for fifty-seven years.
Another old colored man, born in New York State in 1766, and brought to Canada as a slave by a United Empire Loyalist, had an interesting record. This man appeared at the court of assize at Ottawa at the advanced age of one hundred and one years and in full possession of all his faculties, to prove the deaths of two persons at the very beginning of the present century. He, too, had fought on the side of the British — through the war of 1812, during which he was present at the battles of Chippewa and Lundy’s Lane, and was wounded at Sackett’s Harbor.
In the Maritime Provinces the system of slavery promised, through the Loyalist arrivals, a new development. The colonies to the southward, previous to the Revolution might have been regarded as forming three groups — the planting, the farming, and the trading colonies. Earlier slave-owners in the Lower Provinces had come from the farming and trading sections; at the close of the Revolutionary war came more numerous representatives of the three classes of colonies, the Loyalists from the planting portions, where the severer style of slavery was in vogue, being in the majority. Hence the term “servant” proved one of only temporary application, and the designations “slave” and “the property of” appeared almost as frequently in official records of early Shelburne as they might have been expected to occur half a century since in a Southern city.
A detailed statement of advertisements to be found in the Halifax weekly journal during the three years succeeding the eventful immigration of 1783, having reference to absconding slaves or slaves to be sold, would become wearisome to general readers, although a few might pause to read an announcement in as large letters as the style of the day would permit, in the Nova Scotia Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of June 24, 1783: “To be sold at Public Auction on Saturday, the 28th inst., at the Golden Ball, a Negro wench, twenty-five years of age, a good house servant.” Of documents relating to the legal transfer of slaves, a sufficient number has been found in several of the county registry offices to vary the monotony of real estate transfers and the arrangements of probate courts, but from various circumstances it may be presumed that only a few of the transactions in human chattels during those years are now known on earth.
Recorded papers establishing the transfer of a slave woman to successive owners in Halifax can be seen in book twenty-three, in the registry of deeds’ office of Halifax. On December 11, 1783, “Alexander Campbell, late a captain in the South Carolina Loyalists, for and in consideration of the sum of forty pounds currency,” conveyed to Thomas Green, Esq., late a captain in the Royal Nova Scotia Regiment of Foot, a “certain Negro wench named Nancy,” who, on the same day, “personally appeared” before Geo. Wm. Sherlock, J. P., and “freely acknowledged herself a slave and the property of the within-named Captain Alexander Campbell.” Nearly two years later Thomas Green, by a similar document and for the same amount, transfers the said Negro woman to Abraham Forst, gentleman, of Halifax, who one year later conveys, with all his other property, the “certain Negro woman or wench called Nancy, with her child called Tom,” to Gregory Townsend, Esq., assistant naval storekeeper.
By similar documents on May 2, 1787, John Hume, “late of the Island of Carriacow (one of the Leeward Islands) but now of the city of St. John, New Brunswick,” gave their freedom to a “certain Negro wench now called Betty Hume,” about thirty-three years old, purchased by him at Carriacow in 1780, and to her child, a Mulatto boy born in Grenada in 1785 “in a state of slavery to the said John Hume.” Through an earlier instrument, drawn up in May, 1779, and recorded in the registry of deeds’ office, Bridgetown, Annapolis county, Robert Baird, “for divers good Causes and Valuable Considerations me hereunto moving” did “give, grant, quit-claim and manumitt unto a certain Negro named Thomas of all and all manner of servitude and bondage whatsoever” which he or any possible claimants through him could ever have upon him.
Several facts indicative of the existence of slavery in the Maritime Provinces at the beginning of the last decade of the century are furnished by Lieutenant John Clarkson, during his mission in 1791-92. When the governor, Sir John Wentworth, generally correct in his estimate of public affairs, wrote in October, 1796, to the Duke of Portland in reference to the Negroes still in the province, that “Slavery being almost exterminated here, distinctions naturally painful to these people are gradually dying away,” he saw with the eyes of the judiciary rather than with those of the general public. The truth of his words in relation to Nova Scotia seemed to admit of question; had the statement been applied to New Brunswick it might have been declared to be untrue. In Nova Scotia wills probated between the years 1796 and 1799 at Halifax, Amherst, Shelburne, authorize the transfer of slaves to heirs; in 1798 Jeremiah Northrup offered a reward through the Royal Gazette to any person who would bring to Mr. David Rudolph at Halifax, or to himself at Falmouth, a “Negro boy named James Grant, a smart, likely lad;” through the same medium Reuben Tucker of Digby sought the apprehension of a colored man named Francis Webb; and by a certificate acknowledged before a justice of the peace James Cox, of Shelburne, in 1800 hired “my slave, George Cox, to Captain Samuel Mann, of the brig Greyhound, for a coasting voyage to Newfoundland and back.” John Herbert, of Shelburne, in a will recorded in March, 1799, gave and bequeathed to his wife, Sarah Herbert, a Negro woman named Venus; and to his “son Thomas the house I now live in, as also all the land and lots I hold in the township of Shelburne,” and “to my said son Thomas a slave named Isaac.”
ORIGIN OF THE SLAVE. HIS TREATMENT IN CANADA, CAUSES OF THE DECLINE OF SLAVERY IN CANADA
“The slave in Canada was not in every case a Negro. Among bondmen in Quebec were Indians known as Panis, or, as some have called them Pawnees; and a few of these captive Panis, if one may judge from the advertisement of Charles Field, before quoted, were also found in the western province. Of the slaves brought to the Maritime Provinces by settlers from the Northern states, either before or after the war of the Revolution, a number were of mixed race.
Not many years after Dutch traders had introduced African slaves into Virginia, the fortunes of war threw numbers of Indian captives into the hands of the English settlers in America, who enslaved them as their Anglo-Saxon forefathers had enslaved their prisoners more than a thousand years before. At the close of the fierce Pequod war, when about seven hundred Indians had been slain or captured, the captives were divided between the colonists of Connecticut and Massachusetts. By the authorities of the latter province the male children were sent to the Bermudas; the women and girls being distributed as slaves among the settlements at home: a somewhat similar course was no doubt adopted by the managers of the first-named province. Many other Indian captives were thrown into the hands of New England settlers by the King Philip war. These could be held as slaves at home, but could not at the time be lawfully taken out of the country. Another terrible war — between the South Carolinians and Tuscaroras — ending in the defeat of the latter, left a large number of Indian prisoners in possession of the Carolinians, who shipped them as slaves to the other colonies. There the commission of cruel outrages by several of them led the General Courts, in the northern colonies in particular, to prohibit, under severe penalties, the further introduction of Indians as slaves. In the meantime, many Guinea slaves, regarded as of greater value than the Indians, who had proved poor and dangerous house servants, had been brought into the colonies; and both at the north and south the two races had intermarried, the Indians at length becoming absorbed in the much greater number of blacks, a limited amalgamation also taking place between the latter and the whites. Besides these blended races were also some others whom the cupidity and cruelty of English captains had led them to carry away from other sections of Africa than Guinea and from ports in the East Indies. A similar variety of race was found in the free Negroes sent to Nova Scotia, as these were described in the lists prepared by order of Sir Guy Carleton at New York.
Slavery throughout British North America was generally of a mild type, like that of the Northern states. The Rev. John Wiswall, the first rector of Wilmot, N. S., driven by the Whigs in 1776 from his parish at Casco Bay, Maine, sent this message to his slave, Dinah, in a letter from Boston to a near relative: “Remember me to Dinah. I allow her to live with you or where she pleases until she hears from me. I am determined not to sell her to anybody. This you can assure her from me.”56 Judge Reeves, in speaking of slavery in Connecticut, whence a number of the New Englanders came to Nova Scotia, shows the system in practice in that province to have been “very far from the absolute rigid kind. The master had no control over the life of his slave. If he killed him, he was liable to the same punishment as if he had killed a freeman. The master was as liable to be sued by the slave, in an action for beating and wounding, or for immoderate chastisement, as he would be if he thus treated an apprenctice. A slave was capable of holding property in the character of devisee or legatee. If the master should take away such property his slave would be entitled to an action against him by his prochain ami. From the whole, we see that slaves had the same right of life and property as apprentices, and that the difference betwixt them was this, an apprentice is a servant for time and the slave is a servant for life” In accordance with this interpretation of the right of the slave the man who in Cape Breton was charged with the death of a Negro was brought to trial, only escaping a severe penalty on the plea of self-defence.”
“In the New England colonies a large degree of social as well as legal freedom seems to have been permitted. Madam Knight, of Boston, who travelled through Connecticut in 1704, gives us a glimpse of slave life in that province, and as quoted by Mrs. Earle says that the Negroes were too familiar, being permitted to sit at the table with the master and dip into the same trencher. Of the New England slaves Hawthorne has written: “They were not excluded from the domestic affections; in families of middling rank they had their places at the board; and when the circle closed around the evening hearth its blaze glowed on their dark shining faces, intermixed familiarly with their master’s children.”
The laws of the Southern provinces, humane to the white man, were severe to the Negro. The statute of Virginia which declared who were slaves had adopted, as we learn from Bancroft, the idea long prevalent through Christendom that “all servants not being Christians, imported into this colony by shippings, shall be slaves.” Yet it was added, “Conversion to the Christian faith doth not make free.” The early Anglo-Saxon rule, interpreting every doubtful question in favor of liberty, declared the children of freemen to be free: doubts arose in Virginia whether the offspring of an Englishman by a Negro woman should be bond or free, and the rule of the Roman law prevailed over that of the Saxon. The offspring followed the condition of its mother — a rule generally adopted throughout the colonies and in the West Indies. From the same authority we learn that Virginia law also made the master absolute lord over the Negro. “The death of a slave from extremity of correction was not accounted felony, since it cannot be presumed — such is the language of the statute — that prepensed malice, which alone makes murther felony, should induce any man to destroy his own estate” — a conclusion which fails to take into account the force of human passion. “Finally it was made lawful for persons, pursuing fugitive coloured slaves, to wound or even to kill them.”59 But even the slavery of the Southern colonies, at the period at which numerous Southern Loyalists found their way to the territory of the present Canadian provinces, had not developed as much general harshness in practice as was seen when the rapid growth in the trade in rice, sugar and cotton, the trinity that dominated the industry of the South, had led to greater effort to supply the imperious demands of a widening market; and when the advance of Abolition sentiment at the North had made slavery a great political interest in the country, while on the plantation it was promoting greater restiveness on the part of the slave, and increased suspicion on that of the owner.
Instances of the treatment of slaves in Canada after the Southern fashion there apparently were. Mr. T. W. Casey, of Napanee, Ont., writes that “for years a tree that stood at Finkle’s Point, above Bath, was pointed out as one to which a slave had been tied to be severely thrashed.” Among the dwellings destroyed at Windsor, N. S., upon a fateful Sunday in October, 1897, was one at which I had often looked askance in childhood, because of the story that a slave boy, killed by a blow from a hammer in the hand of his master, had been known to put in an occasional appearance there. Mrs. J. M. Owen, of Annapolis, to whom the writer of this paper has to express his indebtedness for more than one item of interst, has referred in the Halifax Herald to the tradition that Mrs. Barclay, wife of Colonel Barclay, of Annapolis, was responsible for the death of a slave through a severe whipping she had ordered him. In his “History of Pictou” the Rev. Dr. Patterson says: “We have not heard of any cases of those in Pictou who owned slaves ill-treating them. On the contrary, a poor woman who belonged to Matthew Harris and obtained her freedom used to confess that her life had never been so free from anxiety as when living with him; but in other places tradition has preserved the remembrance of some cruel deeds, showing the character of the system. We have heard, for example, of a Negro slave in Truro who was so treated by his master that several time he ran away, usually making for Pictou. On one occasion his master, having caught him, cut a hole through the lower lobe of his ear, through which he passed the end of a whiplash, and knotting it he mounted his horse and rode off, dragging after him in that way the poor man, who shortly after died, it was believed in a large measure through the treatment he had received.”
Some serious revelations are made in Lieutenant Clarkson’s journal. Three or four years before the arrival of that officer in this province — in 1791 — on his philanthropic mission, slavery, especially in the more populous settlements of Nova Scotia, had assumed a fast-and-loose character. During the war of the Revolution Loyalist slave-owners had been unable to exercise over their slaves the previous strict control; and after their arrival in the remaining British colonies, where opportunities for employment were uncertain and the cost of maintenanace great, not a few necessitous proprietors were glad, especially when the issue of the food rations was about to cease, to let their slaves forage as best they could for themselves and their families. The consequence of this cessation of government supplies was a sad one, not only to the cast-off slaves, but to many of the free blacks as well, especially at Burchtown and Shelburne, where several Negroes, after having parted with what little they had, died on the streets from hunger.60 Liberty was not, however, purchased by this responsibility of the bondman for personal and family maintenance. His human owner had only relaxed, and not abandoned, his hold upon his convenient property. “There are many instances,” wrote Clarkson in Halifax, December, 1791, when he had one day been calling on several persons to “give up some children whose parents were about leaving with him” for Sierra Leone — “many instances, after seven years had elapsed, that the master has retaken his slaves because they were useful, and sold and disposed of them as he thought proper.” Among men so unprincipled and base as these Clarkson found some of his strongest opponents.
Other persons also grieved the spirit of the perplexed philanthropist. On one occasion he called upon a Mrs. H, at the dockyard, to intercede for the freedom of a Negro girl, whose family, after the burning of their house at Preston, had indentured her to this woman for five years, three of which she had served. Believing that the girl, all whose relatives were to go to Sierra Leone, would at the end of the five years’ term be sold as a slave, the lieutenant pleaded for her freedom, but to no purpose. All appeals to Mrs. H. as a woman and mother, he states in his journal, were “fruitless.” At another time he waited upon a Mr. Lee, an “honest, well-meaning, good sort of a man,” whose slave, Clarkson had reason to believe, ought to have been free. The owner insisted upon the legality of his title, and declined to liberate his man, and the lieutenant withdrew, having concluded that Captain Mason, of the “Delaware,” and his surgeon had forged a title to the boy and then sold him to Lee. In another instance, in spite of the partial acquiescence of two Halifax magistrates in the scheme of a butcher about to carry off a colored lad to the United States, he rescued the lad, and no one having appeared against him when he presented himself to justify his action, he placed the boy with the boy’s father and enrolled him with the father’s family for embarkation for Western Africa.
Two even more sad illustrations of the working of slavery in Nova Scotia belong to the same period. During a visit of some days to Shelburne Clarkson was called upon by a “black slave” — John Cottrell, the property of Mr. Farish. He had been taken in execution by the sheriff, with all the rest of his master’s property. Clarkson describes the interview as very affecting. With tears, the slave, whose wife and children were free, stated that though separation from them would be like death itself to him, he had come to the conclusion to resign them for ever, because he was convinced that that course would ultimately render them more comfortable. “Much more,” adds Clarkson, “he said which it is impossible to convey in language adequate to our feelings on this occasion.” Touched by the man’s deep emotion and noble spirit, Clarkson promised to purchase his freedom, and at once approached his owner, from whom with sorrow he learned that the intricacy of law, as it affected this slave’s condition, was such as to prevent his sale by his owner. The worthy Major Skinner, the leading magistrate of Shelburne, also gave the lieutenant no ground for hope of success in rescuing the slave during the short time remaining to him in Nova Scotia; he had therefore to abandon the attempt.
The second illustration takes us to other sections of Nova Scotia. A certain resident at Manchester, Guysboro’ county, according to Clarkson, had succeeded in getting a young colored woman, under pressure of want, to indenture herself to him for a year. Taking advantage of her ignorance, he had inserted in the document “thirty-nine years” instead of one year, and had obtained her mark by way of signature. He then told her that she was to serve for the year with a Dr. B. of Lunenburg, to whom she was sent. On arrival at Lunenburg the poor girl learned with intense surprise that she had been bound for a term of thirty-nine years and made over to Dr. B. for the sum of twenty pounds. At the end of three years of alleged cruel treatment she had made her escape from the German town, and after the endurance of great hardship had reached Halifax. In this woman’s behalf Clarkson wrote Dr. B. and also sought legal advice. Having been informed that she might recover wages from the doctor, but that the slowness of the process of law would prevent a final settlement of her case in time for removal to Sierra Leone, he was obliged to abandon further effort in this instance also. “And,” he adds, “there were many others of a similar nature.” Can one very greatly wonder that in sheer disgust, on the very eve of sailing from Halifax in January, 1792, he should have written words which seem libellous? — “the Black people being considered in this province in no better light than beasts!”
The uncertain character of slave property, especially in the neighborhood of the sea, had also its effect in hastening the decline of the traffic. In ports like Quebec and, in particular, Halifax, where at any moment the press-gang might patrol the streets to hurry on board the king’s ships any stragglers unable to escape their clutches; and where, through departures of vessels for more or less distant ports, were frequent opportunities for the escape or stealing of slaves, the owners of Negroes were never secure. A striking illustration of the uncertain tenure of this species of property is furnished in the records of the probate court, Halifax. In the inventory of the estate of Balthazar Creamer, Halifax, recorded April 1, 1796, the item of a “tract of land at Preston” is followed by “one black man by the name of Benjamin,” estimated by the appraisers at sixty pounds; “one black woman by the name of Mary,” sixty pounds; “one black girl by the name of Sary,” thirty pounds. In a seond inventory, rendered necessary by the death during the following year of Catharine, widow of the said Balthazar, these items are repeated, with some explanatory notes of a brief but significant character: “One black man, forty pounds, carried off in the Raison frigate; one black woman, ran away at Chester, thirty pounds; one black girl, died.”71
But most powerful of all the causes of the final extinction of slavery in the several British American provinces was the action of the courts of law. The decision in 1772 of Lord Mansfield, elicited by the harsh treatment of James Somerset, a slave carried from Virginia to England and on his capture after escape from his master sent on board ship to be sold in Jamaica, to the effect that no master could compel a slave to go from Britain to any foreign country, or even to any British colony, gave a strong impulse to the anti-slavery movement in Britain toward the close of the last century; and affected legal circles throughout the empire. A further impulse in the same direction was given by the passage in 1797 by the Imperial parliament of an Act which repealed a certain Act of Geo. II. in so far as it had provided for the compulsory sale of Negro slaves taken under execution in His Majesty’s plantations.
In Upper Canada where the first legislators had put serious restrictions upon slavery, some misconception of the Act of 1797 seems to have hastened the decline of the institution. Some bondmen were set free by will, as in the instance of Solicitor-general Gray in 1804; some were enfranchised by their living masters at different periods, and a few others were held according to the Act of 1793, until they took their freedom under the Imperial Emancipation measure of 1833. The “Township Book” of the township of Louth, in the county of Lincoln, contains a memorandum in which are mentioned the names of two or three slaves iving there in 1824. Mr. J. C. Hamilton mentions two young slaves, known as Hank and Sukey, who claimed their liberty in 1834; and Dr. Canniff writes of an assignment in 1824, for seventy-five dollars, of a Mulatto boy, Tom, from an owner in Haldimand, Newcastle, to a citizen of Thurlow, in which it was stated that the said boy had ten years to serve, according to the laws of the province, from the 29th February, 1824, as the chid of a female save. This lad, if living, would have been for five months only a freeman on August 1, 1834, the date fixed for emancipation throughout the empire: it may therefore be supposed that a few others in Upper Canada besides those named by Mr. Hamilton became really self-proprietors under the Imperial Act of 1833.
Several legal conflicts prepared the way for the extinction of slavery in Quebec. In February, 1798, Charlotte, a slave, was claimed by her mistress in Montreal, and released on habeas corpus by Chief-justice James Monk. Soon after this another Negress, “Jude,” was arrested as a runaway slave by order of a magistrate. The Negroes in Montreal, acquainted with the “Charlotte” affair, threatened to rise in revolt, but when the woman was brought before the chief-justice, he released her also, declaring as he did so that in his opinion slavery had no longer an existence in Lower Canada. On February, 1800, however, the case of “Robin” came before the full court of King’s Bench, Mr. James Fraser claiming the Negro as his property, but after the argument had been heard it was ordered that the said “Robin alias Robert, be discharged from confinement.” An effort was soon after made through the legislature to obtain a definition of the true position of slavery in the province, but without success. Petitions were presented in 1799-1800 by citizens of Montreal, asking the legislature to vindicate the right of masters over their slaves. The applicants invoked in favor of their demand the ordinance by Raudot of 1709, which edict, they urged, was in force when the definitive treaty of peace was signed, and was, in consequence, part and parcel of the laws, usages and customs of Canada, recognised by the Act of Quebec. Bills, in accordance with the requests, were introduced in 1800, 1801 and 1803, but none were accepted The slave-owners were nearly all residents of Montreal and Quebec; and the country members of the legislature, having little interest in the matter, and no inclination to maintain the system for the benefit of certain wealthier citizens, took no action upon it, and the slave-owners had to bow finally to the decisions of the courts.
No precise date for the extinction of slavery in Lower Canada can be given. Several writers on that province apparently following each other, trace it back to an adverse decision by Chief-justice Osgoode in 1803, but these are manifestly in error. That gentleman, who had been removed from Upper Canada to Lower Canada, returned to England, according to the “Report on Canadian Archives for 1892,” during the summer of 1801, and there resigned his office early in 1802. James Monk, who had discharged his duties and applied to be appointed his sucessor, remained chief-justice of Montreal, whie Elmsley, previously of Upper Canada, succeeded Osgoode as chief-justice of the lower province. The decision is said to have been rendered at Montreal; it is altogether probable, therefore, that reference is intended to the judgment given at that place about 1799 by Chief-justice Monk, whose opposition to slavery may have been partially due to his associations with certain other judges.
In the Maritime Provinces the action of the higher courts was equally interesting and important. The Hon. Thomas Andrew Strange, chief-justice of Nova Scotia for the five years ending in 1797, when he was made a baronet and appointed to a more responsible position in Bombay, had been throwing the whole weight of a powerful influence in favor of freedom to the slave. His successor, Sampson Salter Blowers, he seems to have impressed with his own views; and it is not improbable that his teachings had in a less direct way affected Sir James Monk at Montreal. In January, 1800, Chief-justice Blowers, writing confidentially to Ward Chipman, afterwards a judge of the supreme court of New Brunswick, informed him that “the question of the slavery of Negroes had been often agitated in Nova Scotia in different ways, but had not received a direct decision.” “My immediate predecessor, Sir Thomas Strange,” he added, “dexterously avoided an adjudication of the principal point, yet, as he required the fullest proof of the master’s claim in point of fact, it was found generally very easy to succeed in favour of the Negro by taking some exceptions collateral to the general question, and therefore that course was taken;” and “several trials have been had in which the jury decided against the master.” “I had frequent conversations with Mr. Strange,” Mr. Blowers went on to say, “on this important question, and always found that he wished rather to wear out the claim [of the slave-holders] gradually than to throw so much property, as it is called, into the air at once.” Chief-justice Blowers, on his appointment in 1797, adopted precisely the policy of his predecessor. “Since I have been chief-justice,” he wrote, “a black woman was brought before me on habeas corpus from the jail at Annapolis. The return was defective and she was discharged, but as she was claimed as a slave I intimated that an action should be brought to try the right, and one was brought against a person who had received and hired the wench. At the trial the plaintiff proved a purchase of the Negro in New York as a slave, but as he could not prove that the seller had a legal right so to dispose of her, I directed the jury to find for the defendant, which they readily did.” The rejection, by a large majority of the Nova Scotia legislature in 1787, of a clause recognizing the slavery of Negroes as a statute right brought into a bill for the “regulation of servants,” and the adoption of two successive leading judges of the policy described by Mr. Blowers, had its intended effect. “This course,” that genteman informed Ward Chipman, “has so discouraged the masters that a limited service by indenture has been very generally substituted by mutual consent.” “Mr. Strange,” said he, “always aimed to effect this and generally succeeded.”
In New Brunswick slavery found in the person of the leading judge, the Hon. George Duncan Ludlow, no such opponent. Mr. Ludlow had been a judge of the supreme court in New York, whence he had been driven, with the loss of his whole estate, at the close of the Revolutionary conflict. In New Brunswick, to which province he had retired, he occupied a first place in public affairs. Ward Chipman wrote in 1800 to Sampson Salter Blowers, of Halifax:
Our chief-justice is very strenuous in support of the masters’ right as being founded on immemorial usage and custom in all parts of America ever since its discovery: he contends that customs in all countries are the foundations of laws and acquire their force: that there was a system of laws in every British colony regulating slavery under the idea of its existence independently of those laws, and that there never was a law in any of the colonies directly establishing it: that Negroes when first imported into the Plantations were considered as villeins in gross and were afterwards by some local laws in some of the colonies made [word undecipherable]: that the legal presumption in the colonies was always against the Negro unless he could show a manumission: that in Carolina by their original charter, framed by the great Locke, the importation of slaves was prohibited, but that after a short experiment they were obliged to give it up, after which slaves were imported there without any positive law to authorize it: that the custom is so universal that the courts are bound to take notice of it: that this being the established universal custom in the Colonies (and as such having acquired the force of law) at the time Nova Scotia was settled proclamations were issued to encourage settlers to go there from the other colonies, in consequence of which these settlers carried with them their slaves which they continued to hold without any legal decision against their right: that the several Acts of Parliament and the courts in England in their adjudication recognize slavery as being established and made lawful by universal custom in America: that as all the Acts of the Colonial Assemblies are sent home for the approbation of the Crown, it cannot [but] have been known in England that there was no law directly establishing it: that the judges therefore could never have held slavery as lawful in the Colonies if they had not recognized it as legally established by universal usage and custom independently of Colonial Acts of Assembly; and he relies much upon the Statutes 7 and 8 Wm. III., C. 22, §9, as an implied recognition of the usages and customs in the colonies as having the force of law, if not repugnant to the provisions of Acts of Parliament relating to the Colonies.
“Chief-justice Ludlow,” Ward Chipman wrote further to Chief-justice Blowers, “grounds himself principally upon what he calls the Common Law of the Colonies, by which, he says, this doctrine [the right to hold slave] has been uniformly recognized and established without any Act having ever been passed in any one of them directly authorizing slavery. I confess the idea of any such Common Law in the colonies not only unknown but repugnant to the Common Law of England appears to me to be altogether fanciful.” In reply Mr. Blowers wrote that “The right to hold a Negro by this tenure is supposed by us to be only maintainable either by the Common Law of England, the Statute Law of England or the Colony, or upon adjudged cases, and such seemed always to be Mr. Strange’s opinion. No lawyer with us ever talked of the Common Law of the Colonies as distinguished from that of England, nor would I think our late chief-justice have countenanced a position of the kind. The Common Law of England has been claimed and recognized as the birthright of every British subject in the Colonies, and has been so considered, as well by the most eminent lawyers in England as by the superior courts of judicature in most if not all the British colonies in North America before the Revolution.”
This difference in opinion between the two leading judges of the two provinces may have been in some measure the result of their training. Chief-justice Blowers, a graduate of Harvard, was a Massachusetts man, as was also Ward Chipman, who in the main agreed with him; while Chief-justice Ludlow had been a judge in New York. There was also the further fact, pointed out by Murdoch in his “History of Nova Scotia,” that “the institutions of New Brunswick resemble those of the province of New York… while Nova Scotia followed more closely the pattern of Massachusetts.” In Massachusetts slavery obtained but a weak foothold, and died early and quietly, through a very simple legal decision, one case having been brought in 1783 before the courts in Worcester, which determined that the system was inconsistent with the Declaration of Independence and the Counstitution sequent; and by that single decision dealt it a death blow. In New York slavery had an earlier establishment and a more extensive development. As early as 1652 — thirty-seven years before Louis XIV. by a royal mandate permitted Negro slavery in Quebec — the government in Holland consented to the exportation of slaves to New York for sale, and by the end of the century they had greatly increased in number. In that state slavery died later, and in a large measure from the influence of an uncongenial climate. The effect of environment on Chief-justice Ludlow was recognized by his fellow chief-justice in Nova Scotia when the latter wrote to Ward Chipman: “It is not improbable that in New York the principles of the Common Law were contaminated by the more arbitrary notions of the Dutch.”
In speaking of slavery in the Maritime Provinces the few who have recognized its existence as an historical fact have assumed that during some one or other of the first years of the century it became illegal through some special decision of the courts. In Nova Scotia a distinct condemnatory judgment was passed, according to the late John George Marshall, who in 1823 was appointed chief justice of the common pleas for Cape Breton. Judge Marshall has stated — naming no year — that a slave suddenly left the service of his master in Shelburne and came to Halifax. The master followed him and was about to take him back to Shelburne, when application was made on the slave’s behalf to Mr., afterwards Judge, Wilkins, who obtained a writ of habeas corpus, under which both master and slave were taken before Chief-justice Blowers. When the case itself, and the question of slavery in general, had been pretty fully argued by counsel on each side, Chief-justice Blowers, — to use Judge Marshall’s own words — “legally and righteously decided that this province was not debased with that cruel and abominable slave system which John Wesley appropriately characterized as the ‘sum of all villainies.'” On the other hand Judge Thoms C. Haliburton, in his “History of Nova Scotia,” published in 1829, only five years before the general emancipation, says that this question had then in Nova Scotia “never received a judicial decision.”
An indication of the prevalent uncertainty as to property in slaves is seen in the bill of sale made out in King’s county in 1807 and copied in full on a previous page. In this document the presence of the expression, “If a Negro can be considered property in Nova Scotia,” and the absence of the guarantees used in earlier papers of the kind are very significant. That Daniel Brown, in his advertisemnt of a Negro woman in the New Brunswick Royal Gazette of October 16, 1809, should guarantee a good title to any purchaser of the woman accentuates rather than removes the doubt.
Many persons possessing slaves took advantage at this period of the system of limited arrangement which Chief-justice Strange had sought some years before to introduce. In the last year of the century there appeared in a Halifax newspaper a characteristic advertisement: “For sale for a term of years, as may be agreed on, a likely, stout Negro girl, aged eighteen years, good natured, fond of children, and accustomed to both town and country work. For full particulars apply at the old parsonage, Dutchtown” — the name at that time of the north suburbs of Halifax. One of the latest known advertisement of the kind appears in a Halifax paper for 1820: “To be sold:— Two years and a half time of a black servant man; is a good plain cook, understands family work and the care of horses.”
In some instances the assignment of a more or less distant period for freedom may have been prompted by motives of justice to young slaves. A probable illustration of such arrangement is found in the will of the Rev. James Scovil, first rector of Kingston, King’s county, N. B., dated in 1804, proved in 1809 and duly recorded: “I give to my wife Amy,” so runs the document, “the use of one-third of my landed property as the law directs and likewise I give and bequeath to my said wife the use of my servant boys, Robert and Sampson, the first being twelve years old the twelfth of March last, the other ten the twentieth of August next, under the following restrictions — that is to say — that at the age of twenty-six years they shall be set at liberty provided they do faithfully discharge the duties of servants until that period; and I do constitute and appoint my son, Elias Scovil, and my said wife their overseers to see that they are kept at service and reasonably treated. At the decease of my said wife, provided the time fixed for their freedom be not expired, for the remainder of the time they may have to serve they shall be disposed of in such a way as my said wife may think proper.” The son, Elias Scovil, became his father’s successor as the second rector of Kingston; the witnesses, Richard Clarke of Gagetown, and Oliver Arnold of Sussex, were, like the testator, Loyalist clergymen.
A final effort for relief by legislative action was made by Nova Scotia proprietors in 1808. During the session of that year Mr. Warwick, member for the township of Digby, presented a petition from John Taylor and a number of other proprietors of Negro servants brought from the old provinces, in which they stated that, owing to the doubts entertained by the courts, such property was being rendered useless, the Negro servants leaving their masters daily and setting them at defiance. In consequence of these facts they prayed the passage of an Act for “securing them their property or indemnifying them for its loss.” It was, no doubt, with a view to such an end that Thomas Ritchie, member for Annapolis, during the same session introduced a bill to regulate Negro servants within the province. This bill, which passed its second reading on January 11, 1808, but never became law, was in all probability the last struggle of a system which merited only death.”
“…in the list of “fifteen souls” at Cape Sable, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, in 1686 — more than half a century earlier — there was a solitary negro whose name of La Liberté, or Liberty, a name sometimes given to slaves in the colonies, especially those at the South, implies that he also as an aspirant for freedom had in some way to us unknown reached that quiet French settlement.”
“In 1810 there were no slaves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Ohio, and in the course of a few years subsequent to that date in the Northern states in general the freedom of the bondmen was secured or provided for; but in the South, where at the formation of the constitution eminent men who regarded slavery as a great evil had consented to give the system certain advantages which they hoped would be only temporary, that system had so far ceased to be disliked as at first, that many of its numerous advocates, “supposing that gain is godlines,” professed to find in that word of God which teaches the sacredness of humanity a Divine warrant for a system which trampled upon rights that no law or oppression should dare touch. “The North emancipated: the South fortified.”
T. Watson Smith, “The Slave in Canada”, Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. X, 1899