New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Ann, otherwise known as Nancy

leave a comment »


 Ann, otherwise known as Nancy

Slavery came to New Brunswick with the Loyalists, but it is impossible to compile a list of the slaves or to tell many individual stories about their lives. The Mersereaus have long been said to have had slaves, for example, but the only record that I have ever seen is that John and Charity Mersereau arrived with one ‘servant’; who was likely a slave but the evidence is not definitive. Some Smiths are also said to have been slave owners as noted in the previous blog posting about the Miramichi Fire.

Despite these difficulties, it has been estimated that there were about 500 slaves in Saint John in 1784. This was in addition to indentured servants who had sold their services for a period of time in order to cover the costs of joining the evacuation of New York. These servants and slaves are mostly nameless in our history, which is doubly regrettable because they were working for and owned by our ancestors.

There were no laws permitting slavery in New Brunswick, but there were also no laws against the practice. New Brunswick was a colony of Great Britain, of course, and many people assumed in general that since slavery was legal elsewhere in the Empire then it was also legal here. There was, however, a law permitting the Loyalists to bring their slaves into the colony when they arrived, and this amounted to official sanction of slavery itself.

Slavery was being publicly debated in the late 1700s. Slavery was there for all to see, but several, or even many, people argued that it should be legally abolished. Thus emerged the Supreme Court case of R v. Jones involving a slave woman named Ann, otherwise known as Nancy.

Most details of Ann or Nancy life are a mystery despite the importance of her case. Her last name is usually given as Morton in writing about her but this came from early confusion between records. Her name was not Morton. The court records only identify her as ‘Ann, otherwise known as Nancy’.

Ann or Nancy was a black slave, owned by Caleb Jones, a prominent slave owner who lived at the mouth of the Nashwaak River. She was born to a slave woman in Maryland in 1762 and brought to New Brunswick in 1786. In July of the same year she escaped with, 30 year old Isaac, Ben (35), and Flora (27). Nancy took a four year old child named Lidge with her. Caleb Jones advertised for their return offering a reward. Nancy and Lidge, at least, were apprehended and returned to Jones.

We do not know why the case of Ann or Nancy was chosen for the Supreme Court case of R v. Jones. All we know is that a writ of habeas corpus was issued to Caleb Jones demanding that Nancy be brought before a judge and that Jones show on what legal basis she was being held. Caleb Jones responded, saying that the slave trade was common and legal in several of the American colonies before and during the war of independence and remained so thereafter. Ann, or Nancy, was born to a slave in Maryland and had always been his rightful slave for life. He had brought her to New Brunswick when he arrived in 1785, which was legal for him to do, and it was still legal for him to hold her as a slave.

Arguments were heard in court in 1800. The trial judges were Chief Justice George Duncan Ludlow, Joshua Upham, Isaac Allen and John Saunders. The first three were slave owners. Arguing against Jones’ reasons (i.e., for Ann or Nancy) were Ward Chipman and Samuel Denny Street. Opposing them for the master, Caleb Jones, were Attorney General Jonathan Bliss, assisted by Thomas Wetmore and two others. The two sides were well represented.

Not all of the court papers are available, but we do have Ward Chipman’s brief of eighty pages which examined every law and precedent and historical argument that he could muster. He even went so far as to discuss the absolute servitude of slaves in the Roman Empire and to analyze how this was different from anything that had ever existed in England.

In the end, Chief Justice Ludlow supported Jones’ right of ownership as did Justice Upham. Judge Allen and Judge Saunders ruled against Jones’ arguments and the court was divided two/two. Therefore no judgment was entered and Ann, or Nancy, was returned to Caleb Jones.

We do not know what happened to Ann or Nancy after the court case, or when, or whether, or under what circumstances she ever gained her freedom. Lidge was probably her son, and he tried to escape Jones in 1816 when he would have been in his mid-thirties. Caleb Jones advertised for his return, but we do not know if he, or Lidge, were successful.

Supporters of slavery introduced two bills into the Assembly in 1801 with the stated intention of ensuring that slaves were humanely treated. However, one of the bills would also have required that all sales be registered with the applicable County, much like land transactions; and the other bill would have made it a crime to conceal or harbour a slave. These measures would have at once legalized slavery and slave trading. This was contentious and neither of the bills proceeded beyond the Committee stage. Both were withdrawn.

The British Parliament passed an Act to abolish trading in slaves in 1807, but this did not stop the practice. A slave named Nancy was advertised in The Royal Gazette in 1809.

Slave ownership was outlawed in all of the British Empire on August 8, 1833, and emancipation day was set at April 1, 1834. There were likely no slaves remaining in New Brunswick by that time.


Written by johnwood1946

July 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: