(CANADA and the UNITED STATES, 1814-46 – continued)
The British inherited slavery in the French-speaking areas of North America when it took power there at the close of the Seven Year's War. At the close of the American Revolutionary War, freed slaves loyal to Britain arrived in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and slaves (commonly called "servants for life") arrived with the loyalists. The British government promised all of these people, including the slaves, protection. For the free it promised land and supplies, but the freed blacks received less of a share and felt cheated. Blacks lived either segregated in towns dominated by whites or they had their own small towns. Wages that the freed blacks earned were less than that paid to whites, and they were relegated to day labor, to sharecropping or indentured servitude. And hostilities between whites and blacks arose, including a ten-day riot at Shelburne and Birchtown in Nova Scotia in July 1784, put down by military force.
In the 1820s, slaves from the United States were escaping into Upper Canada, where white people in the small towns and villages were at first sympathetic. When the number of escaping blacks grew substantially, whites became alarmed, and they moved to keep the blacks segregated. Despite the difficulties, blacks developed communities at Chatham, Collingwood, Amherstburg, Windsor and elsewhere in Upper Canada, communities where some blacks advanced themselves as craftsmen, tradesmen and educators.
Many of the slaves in Canada had been freed before 1833, and the remaining 781,000 slaves were freed in 1833 when Britain's parliament passed the Abolition of Slavery Act. The law went into effect a year later, on August 1, with the British government prepared to compensate financially those who lost slaves. But no claims for compensation were submitted.
Slaves continued escaping to Canada, and extraditions of escaped slaves were requested by the United States government. The British held that such requests had to be accompanied by evidence that the escaped person had committed what British law recognized as a crime – which did not include running away from their enslavement.
Copyright © 2003-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.