Slavery in the Loyalist Era
From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com
Photograph of a slave collar, identifying A. Demill as the owner
Photo by Mike Meade, from the King’s Landing Historical Settlement web site
A posting about slavery in New Brunswick was made in this blog on July 18, 2012, entitled Ann, Otherwise Known as Nancy. It is located at https://johnwood1946.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/ann-otherwise-known-as-nancy/. Another posting was made on September 5, 2012 entitled Caleb Jones. Further RE: Ann, Otherwise Known as Nancy, and it is at https://johnwood1946.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/caleb-jones-further-re-ann-otherwise-known-as-nancy/.
A new and far superior reference written by T. Watson Smith has now been found, and today’s posting is from his Chapter 2 of The Slave in Canada, published by the Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1880.
The following is a very condensed version of Smith’s work. It is only about one-quarter of the original length, and includes facts that I found interesting, plus most of the information about New Brunswick. Please consult the original if you want more detail about Nova Scotia or P.E.I.
Slavery in the Loyalist Era
Of the great number of Negroes arriving in the remaining British provinces with the Loyalists, a large section consisted of freedmen, most of whom had escaped from rebel masters at the South. British generals—Sir Henry Clinton in particular—had offered protection to all such slaves fleeing within their lines, and numbers of these had reached New York after having served the British in various capacities.
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 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 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 liberty to all slaves who, when taking refuge within the British lines, had formally claimed the protection offered by British commanders. Washington demanded the restoration of all fugitives to their former owners, but Sir Guy refused to violate faith with the Negroes, as it “would be delivering them up, some possibly to execution and some others to severe punishments.” He undertook that, if the sending them away should hereafter be deemed an infraction of the treaty, compensation would be made to the owners by the British government and, in view of that, he 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.
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, 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 from South Carolina to Halifax, and to Digby, St. John, and adjacent points. It was to these freedmen that Lieutenant John Clarkson 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 brought 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. One of many examples of this was Captain Andrew Barclay’s company of fifty-five men and women and forty nine children who arrived with no less than fifty-seven servants, thirty six of these being owned by four families. The names of proprietors owning but one or two “servants” are too many for repetition, and on lists of “slaves or servants for life,” as ran the legal phrase, no free Negroes are included.
Slaves were also 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 larger number of Negro bondmen could be counted in the vicinity of Parrsboro. At Cornwallis and Horton, Windsor, Newport and Kennetcook were also numerous servants. About that time came also to Musquodoboit from Florida the Bayers and McInnes families, bringing slaves with them.
There are many types of records indicating the arrival of slaves, such as the muster roll of the transport Argo, at Halifax in July, 1784, on her way with Loyalists from Florida where there are the names “Prince, Susanna, Anne, Jane, Carry [and] Marsh, the property of John Todd;” and of “Liberty Sarah [and] Pegg, the property of James Lyle.”
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; and the few to be found in Charlotte County seem to have been taken there from other parts of New Brunswick.
In Charlotte 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 Loyalist corps. At the head of the agreement to remove to Nova Scotia was the prohibitory notice, in a 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.”
For what reason Messrs. Samuel Fairlamb, John Rankin and George Brown, agents selected by the association to locate the lands granted its members for new homes, chose a tract at Beaver Harbor and not one upon the River St. John is not known. A prompt departure from New York for the new homes in the wilderness must have taken place, since a letter written in October, 1783, mentioned a Quaker settlement at Passamaquoddy, and on January 10, 1784, Aaron Andrews received from the government of Nova Scotia payment for “71,000 ft. of boards and 141,000 shingles” certified by a government agent to have been “delivered to the Quaker Refugees settled at Beaver Harbour, Passamaquoddy.” A similar certificate shows that on an adjoining tract of land had been located another body of associated Loyalists called by the government agent the “Annabaptist Refugees.” From the quantity of building material allotted to the two bands of settlers, it may be presumed that the Anabaptists largely outnumbered their Quaker neighbors, but an inference of accordance on the subject of human bondage between the two groups may be drawn from the fact that the township or parish of which they were the earliest settlers bears at the present day the name of Pennfield, an abbreviated form of the earlier Quaker designation—Penn’s Field.
In a very few years the settlers were so reduced that privation and suffering made them glad to receive aid from Friends abroad. We quote from Mr. Vroom’s paper: “What little wealth the Friends had taken with them from their Pennsylvania and New Jersey homes had been long since exhausted in their sojourn in New York and their struggle with the hardships of the New Brunswick wilderness. The town at Beaver Harbor, like other Loyalist towns, had arisen in the expectation of a trade that never came. And yet they had remained, and kept up their struggle, and perhaps tried to hope for better times. But the end was near. A forest fire swept over the place in 1790, leaving only one dwelling house. A few of the inhabitants remained or came back to rebuild their dwellings at or near the old sites, but Pennfield was no longer a Quaker colony and the highways and landmarks of to-day bear no relation to the plans of the old town of Belle View.”
On the intervales of the River St. John, from its mouth to the site of the present town of Woodstock, officers and men of several disbanded Loyalist corps established themselves at various points. The number of slaves arriving with these settlers, according to a military return in the spring of 1784, was four hundred and forty; but this number was considerably increased by the arrival a very little later from Nova Scotia of several of the more important slave-proprietors in the county of Annapolis, to whom the formation of the new province offered the promise of a more speedy recognition of their claims and a wider opportunity for the attainment of positions of influence and emolument.
A detailed list of the slave-owners of New Brunswick cannot be attempted here. Several of them have been named in connection with Annapolis County, where they first landed after their expatriation, and whence they in a few months removed; others will find mention in other pages of this essay. They were found at Parr, re-named St. John, the commercial capital of the new province. The first mayor of that town, Gabriel G. Ludlow, former colonel and commandant of De Lancey’s Third Battalion, was the possessor of property in slaves; and not a few others, slave-owning citizens, were laid away in the “Old Burial Ground” of that city. Slaves were also to be found in the part of the county of King’s adjoining the county of St. John. The three black men and one black woman who arrived with John Coffin at St. John in May, 1784, and went with him and his family to the tract of land near Westfield, afterwards known as the Alwington or Coffin Manor, came, no doubt, in the capacity of slaves or “servants for life.”
In Queen’s County also slavery was endorsed by the practice of leading residents. The inventory of the estate of Richard Hewlett, Esq., of Hampstead shows him to have been, at the time of his death in 1790, owner of “one Negro boy valued at twenty-five pounds.” At Gagetown also were proprietors of slaves. Through an advertisement in the Royal Gazette and New Brunswick Advertiser for August 20, 1799, a reward of five guineas, or of three guineas for either of them, was offered for the capture of two Negro men—“Gill, a dark Mulatto with short curly hair, square shoulders, bow legs and walks clumsily;” and Dick, “remarkably black, with a scar on his cheek and another on his chin,” the “property of the subscribers,” who were Reuben Williams, and James Peters, both in 1799 being residents of Gagetown.
Among a number of others in Sunbury County were the Hardings and Elijah Miles, of Maugerville. In the lower section of the large county of York, and in the neighborhood of Fredericton, slave labor was for some years extensively employed. Among slave proprietors were Isaac Allen, later a judge of the supreme court; Edward Winslow, who became a member of the first Council formed in New Brunswick; in all probability Caleb Jones of St. Mary’s, whose name became prominent through his connection with the celebrated slave trial of 1800 at Fredericton; Captain Maxwell, also of St. Mary’s who as an absentee in 1788 appointed an attorney to dispose of any or every part of his “messuages, lands, tenements, negroes, hereditaments or premises;” and Stair Agnew, a prominent lawyer of that day. North of the capital and near the southern border of the parish of Dumfries was Jacob Ellegood, and above this, at the point where the Meduxnekeag enters the St. John were the Smiths and probably other disbanded Loyalists and slave-owners.
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 twelve hundred and thirty-two persons.
In the Maritime Provinces the system of slavery, promised through the Loyalist arrivals, a new development. The colonies to the south previous to the Revolution might have been regarded as forming three groups—the planting, the farming, and the trading 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 wholesale baptism of slaves took place in St. Paul’s church, Halifax, on February 10th, 1784. The minister, the Rev. Dr. Breynton, wrote “Negroes christened belonging to Governor Wentworth.” A letter from John Wentworth, Esq., dated Halifax, N.S., Feb. 24th, 1784, and addressed to “Paul Wentworth, or to his attorney at Surinam,” Dutch Guiana, where his “affectionate kinsman” had a large estate in which the writer of the letter had some concern, has an interesting reference to this baptism: [J. Wentworth forwarded nineteen slaves to Paul Wentworth, and added that] “I am much interested for them, insomuch that I have had them christened, and would rather have liberated them than sent them to any estate that I am not sure of their being treated with care and humanitv, which I shall consider as the only favour that can be done to me on this occasion.”
During subsequent years of the decade several transactions in slaves took place, records of which have escaped destruction. In 1786 an advertisement of “A Negro boy for Sale,” appeared in the Royal Gazette of St. John, N.B.; in July of the same year a “likely Negro wench” was offered through the columns of a Halifax newspaper; in October, 1788, a “stout, likely and very active young black woman, late property of John H, Carey,” was offered for sale in the St. John Gazette and Weekly Advertiser, “not for any fault,” being “ singularly sober and diligent;” and in May, 1789, Abraham Treadell, of St. John, surveyor, sold to John Ward, merchant, of the same place, “his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns forever,” Toney, a Negro boy, for twenty-five pounds. [Here,as elsewhere, the author lists many other examples.]
Some interesting facts are found in the late Dr. Patterson’s “Life of James McGregor, D.D.” The Rev. Daniel Cock, a Presbyterian pastor at Truro in 1788, received an unusually bulky letter from James McGregor, the young Presbyterian minister at Pictou. The latter minister had learned that Mr. Cock had had in his possession two slaves—a mother and daughter. He had sold the mother because of her unruly conduct, but the daughter he had retained. To young McGregor, recently from Britain, the very thought of a minister of Christ retaining a fellow-being in bondage was so revolting that he made it a special reason for refusing all communion with a presbytery tolerating such conduct in one of its members. Bewildered by Mr. McGregor’s letter, Mr. Cock took it to a friend, Matthew Archibald. These neighbors were soon, however, to be more greatly surprised by the appearance in print of a paper, entitled, “A Letter to a Clergyman, urging him to set free a Black Girl held in Slavery.” “Permit me to speak freely,” wrote the young preacher, and without awaiting permission he “spoke freely,” solemnly charging Mr. Cock to liberate his slave, since until he should do so none of his services could be acceptable to God. The ministers of the Truro presbytery became very indignant, and one of their number, the Rev. David Smith, pastor at Londonderry, took up a heavy pen in behalf of his mild-tempered but slave-owning friend. If, however, the members of the presbytery and a number of their friends were very indignant at the action of James McGregor, not a few persons in that section of the country read the published paper with warm approval. The slave girl, often called “Deal McGregor” continued under Mr. Cock’s roof until his death in 1805.
In an old volume in the office of the registry of deeds, Halifax, may be found an interesting “deed of gift” drawn up in August, 1787, by Edmund Crawley. By this document he claims as his own “property” his Negro woman, Tamar Cole, and all her children born before March 1, 1783. To Tamar Cole he gives her freedom, and at the same time their freedom to the young children she may have had since the date named, as these were not born under his “family’s care and expense.” But of the children born previous to that date he gives one each to four young nephews and nieces at Halifax, the slaves to be under the guardianship of the young people’s parents. “The girl Sophia excepted,” were to be the joint property of the nephews and nieces; and were to be held as their property until the “property” should be of the age of thirty-six years. Each slave upon the attainment of that age was to be free upon the production of a certificate from the minister and church wardens of St. Paul’s of good behavior “as becomes negro slaves.”
There are few legally-attested, manumissions are to be found among the records of that period, but 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.”
During the same period more numerous transactions in slaves took place in New Brunswick, though trace has been probably lost of a still larger number through lack of care in the preservation of the earlier documents of more than one county. In the probate records of St. John no slave is mentioned later than 1795, when Samuel H., of the city of St. John, “gives and bequeaths” to his “beloved wife a negro woman named Phillis,” one chest of drawers and all the pictures, etc.; but several sales of Negroes took place in the years immediately following that date. George Harding, of Maugerville, in July, 1797, transferred in due legal form to his son John a Negro boy named “Sippio” for the sum of fifteen pounds; a week later Munson Jarvis, a leading merchant of St. John, sold and delivered to Abraham DePeyster, “one negro man named Abraham and one negro woman named Lucy.” In the St. John Gazette and Weekly Advertiser of March 1, 1799, a Negro woman and child, the mother about nineteen years old, was offered to purchasers, “sold for no fault.” Other advertisements of that period indicate that a growing uncertainty was attending any investment in slaves. Legal documents were strengthened; absconding slaves were advertised for.
Several slave sales took place in Nova Scotia during the first decade of the 1800’s. In the years 1801 and 1802 several Negroes were bought and sold in the county of Yarmouth. One bill of sale is quoted by the Rev. J. Roy Campbell, according to which in December, 1801, a slave-owner sold for thirty-nine pounds a “certain Negro boy named Jack” born in his own house of parents “both my property.” Precisely the same amount was paid from whom Dr. Bond of Yarmouth in the same month for Manuel Jarvis, a slave believed to have been brought from the West Indies by his owner, Colonel Lewis Blanchard, from whom Dr. Bond, as an old ledger shows, also purchased in March, 1802, for forty pounds another slave named Kate, then or soon after married to Manuel.
A later document—the latest of the kind in Nova Scotia of which I have any knowledge—possesses a peculiar interest from its date, the names it bears, the doubt respecting the legality of the transfer to which expression is given, and the absence of the usual guarantees: “Know all men by these presents that Alice Allison of Horton, Widow and Relict of Joseph Allison, late of Horton in the County aforesaid, yeoman deceased, Administratrix, William Allison and John Allison, Administrators … [for] and in consideration of the sum of Thirty-nine pounds lawful money of the Province aforesaid to them in Hand paid by Simon Fitch, of Horton … Bargained, and Sold … a certain Negro woman named Nelly …, which Negro woman was and is a part of the Personal Estate of the said Joseph Allison (if a Negro can be considered personal property in Nova Scotia) and all the Right, Title ….”
Some faded old documents furnish proof that slavery continued to exist several years later than the date of the above transaction in that part of New Brunswick lying nearest to Nova Scotia. Slaves, never very numerous there, seem to have fallen chiefly into the hands of two leading men, both of them magistrates. One of these, James Law was said to have slaves described as “a petted and useless lot” who thought so much of themselves to be described “as proud as Law’s Negroes.” The several slaves owned by Titus Knapp had been purchased by him, according to his grandson, at different auction sales at Fort Cumberland. He owned at one time “Sippio Milligan, Peter Martyn, Lucy Martyn, Newton Bacchus, and several others whose names are forgotten.” A bill of sale in the possession of W.C. Milner, Esq., Point de Bute, dated January 9, 1804, proves the transfer by James Law to Titus Knapp of a Negro boy named Peter for the sum of forty-two pounds. This boy was again sold, about 1810, to James Isaac Hewson, with whom he remained “until after the emancipation of slaves.”
A still later transaction appears in another bill of sale, also in the possession of Mr. Milner: Know all men by these presents that I, Sarah Allen of the county of Westmoreland and Province of New Brunswick, for and in consideration of Thirty Pounds, to me in hand … have bargained and sold … a Mulato Boy about Fourteen Years Old named Bacchus, to have and to hold ….
The latest known advertisement of a public slave sale in the Lower Provinces appeared in the Royal Gazette and Nova Scotia Advertiser on September 7, 1790, where in the column of “Sales by Auction” William Millet offered at his auction room, Halifax, on “Thursday next, the 9th inst., ship bread, mess pork, Indian and Rye meal, some household furniture, a stout, likely Negro man, and sundry other articles.” No later advertisement of the private, unconditional sale of a slave is found in any paper in the Lower Provinces than that which appeared in the New Brunswick Royal Gazette of October 16, 1809, when Daniel Brown offered for sale Nancy, a Negro woman, to any purchaser of whom he guaranteed a “good title.” And it is probable that the latest offer of a reward for the apprehension of a runaway slave to be found in a Lower Provinces paper, was that which was made through the Royal Gazette of New Brunswick for July 10, 1816.