Canadian Slavery Mythology

Very few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833, and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Canadian Slavery Mythology

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag….that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

The popular underground railroad legend creates an impression that escaped slaves found freedom and social equality in Canada, and standard historical accounts lead Canadians to believe that passage of Simcoe’s Bill in 1793; slavery actually remained legal in British North America until 1833. Author Robin Winks of Yale University wrote: “Canadians did give refuge to thousands of fugitives, and the mythology of the underground railway, the North Star, and the lion’s paw naturally fed the later Canadian assumption that Negroes fared better in Canada than elsewhere.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Jim Crow, Canadian Style

“Canadian law drew no distinction between black and white in matters of citizenship, of which education was one. In practice, however, there were not infrequently some distinctions likely to be drawn, the whites preferring that Negroes should have schools of their own. When Benjamin Drew visited [Amherstburg, Ontario] in 1854 he found the Negro separate school having neither blackboard nor chairs. The whole interior was comfortless and repulsive. The teacher was a colored woman, apparently doing the best she could under the discouragement of poor surroundings and frequent absences of her pupils.

The coming of so many people of another race and color into southwestern Ontario was not pleasing to all the white inhabitants. Deep prejudice manifested itself at times and an occasional outburst in some newspaper reflected the feelings of an element of the population. The Amherstburg Courier of October 27, 1849, prints a resolution of the district council passed on October 8 of that year, protesting vigorously against the proposed Elgin settlement which was planned by Reverend William King as a home for fugitives from slavery.

This resolution, which appears to have been instigated by a local politician, Larwill, resident in Chatham, declared that “there is but one feeling, and that is of disgust and hatred, that they (the Negroes) should be allowed to settle in any township where there is a white settlement.”

The resolution proceeded to ask for a disallowance of sale of lands to Negroes, suggested a poll tax on Negroes entering the country, asked for an enactment against amalgamation and a requirement that Negroes shall furnish good security that they will not become a burden. It was also suggested that it would be well to ascertain whether it would be impolitic to allow them the suffrage.

Dr. Samuel G. Howe, who visited [Amherstburg] in 1863 to investigate conditions….[was told by a Mr. Park of the town] that the Negroes were part of them indolent and part industrious. They tended to neglect their own poor and begged more than the whites. A Captain Averill who was interviewed said that the Negroes were satisfactory as sailors, “the very best men we have,” but they were never made mates and none owned ships of their own.”

(Amherstburg, Terminus of the Underground Railroad, Fred Landon, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. X., No. 1, January 1925, pp. 5-8)

Canadian Negro Slaves

“In my article on “The Slave in Canada,” printed in The Journal of Negro History for July, 1920, (Vol. V, No. 3), several instances of Negro slavery in Canada were given. The latest is mentioned in Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for October, 1927, (Vol. XXXIII, No. 10), at p. 584. I translate it from the French the article referred to. Honorable William Renwick Riddell, Justice of Appeal, Ontario.

A Singular Gift:

“In July, 1748, Jean-Pierre Roma, Commandant for the (French) King at the island of St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), on his passage to Quebec, made a singular gift to his friend, Fleury de la Gorgendiere, (the younger). He gave him a mulatto girl, five months old and named Marie.

The gift made to Mr. Fleury de la Gorgendiere is explained by the fact that the mother of the child, the slave of Roma, died in giving it birth. Roma not being able to charge himself with raising the orphan, preferred to give it to M. Fleury de la Gorgendiere.

The deed of gift was drawn up by the Notary, Jean-Claude Panet, July 15, 1748; and in it is the stipulation that in case of the death of Fleury and his wife, the mulatto will return Mdll. Roma (her grandmother). If she cannot take her it is stipulated that she will receive her freedom.

Such sales of the creatures of God may seem curious – they were, however, according to the customs of the time and were made almost in every country.”

(Journal of Negro History, Cater G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, page 207)

Nov 7, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Doing the Barbarous Will of the Abolitionists

The Old Guard was published from 1863 to 1867 by C. Chauncey Burr in New York, though not pro-Union. Articles that appeared during the war years were very critical of Lincoln and his administration, and blamed them either directly of indirectly, for the mass casualties on both sides of the fighting.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Doing the Barbarous will of the Abolitionists

“The following extract from a letter written by one of our officers the day after the slaughter at Fredericksburg will be read with mingled shame and indignation by every Northern man, except the abolitionists, who appear to delight in such theft and plunder.

“I went over the Rappahannock this morning (the 13th) and such a scene as I witnessed cannot possibly be described. The men [of the Northern army] had emptied every house and store of its contents, and the streets, as a matter of course, were filled with chairs and sofas, pianos, books and everything imaginable. The men were beginning to make themselves appear as ridiculous as possible. Some had hauled pianos to the front doors and were making hideous noises on them.

Others were in silk dresses with beaver hats on, parading the streets. Others were reading letters; while others turned their attention to obtaining tobacco of which there was an immense quantity in town. I have seen hundreds of men with from 50 to 100 pounds of it. I saw one man with a canary bird, and another with a banjo.

A more disgraceful scene I have never witnessed. If Richmond suffers the same fate this town has, no wonder that the [Southern] whites fight so. The shelling was a military necessity; but after the town was in our possession the pillaging should have ceased. I think our army has been disgraced today by this act.”

A federal officer, corresponding for the Chicago Times, gives an account of General Grant’s progress in Northern Mississippi which shows that our soldiers under that command are horribly demoralized:

“ Straggling through the country, and stealing everything that they can lay their hands on (says the correspondent), whether of use or not to them, goes on. Helpless women and children are robbed of their clothes and bedding, their provisions taken from them and by men who have no earthly use for them whatever.”

From Another Correspondent:

“A private letter received here not long since, from a soldier in one of our western armies states that their march South was characterized by acts of vandalism and wanton outrage, and fiendish cruelty disgraceful to a civilized people. Burning houses, desolated fields and homeless households marked their path; while unlicensed robbery, indiscriminate plunder, and, not infrequently, assassination completed the woeful picture presented by an invading army which appeared to be without restraint, and whose only purpose would seem to be as thus manifested, to burn, pillage and destroy as it went.”

Men who behave in this manner are not soldiers, but brigands. The officers who allow such crimes deserve to be execrated by the parents whose sons are under their command. It was one of the real causes of abolition complain against General McClellan, that he forbid marauding and plundering. It is painful to publish such things; but the people ought to know them, in order that they may understand why it is that the Southern people fight with such unnatural desperation, and why they have come to entertain such a sincere horror of Northern people.

Generals who allow these crimes on the part of their soldiers, it is certain, are not fighting to restore the Union—they are doing the barbarous will of the abolitionists, to drive the South so far out that it can never get back. We are sorry to say that General Grant has won for himself a most inglorious notoriety in this particular.”

(The Old Guard, September 1863, C. Chauncey Burr & Co. New York.)

 

Nov 7, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

Daniel Webster, A Prophet

“The Old Guard” was published from 1863 to 1867 by C. Chauncey Burr in New York, though not pro-Union.  Articles that appeared during the war years were very critical of Lincoln and his administration, and blamed them either directly of indirectly, for the mass casualties on both sides of the fighting.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circ1865

 
Daniel Webster, Prophet

“When the “great Expounder of the Constitution” read the speech of Mr. [William H.] Seward, which announced “the irrepressible conflict,” he exclaimed:

“If these infernal fanatics and abolitionists ever get power in their hands, they will override the Constitution, set Supreme Court at defiance, change and make laws to suit themselves, lay violent hands on those that differ with them in their opinion, or dare question their infallibility; and finally, bankrupt the country and deluge it with blood.”

We beg, with due respect, to call Mr. Lincoln’s attention to these words of terrible prophecy uttered by the immortal Daniel Webster. The flowers have blossomed over the grave of the great statesman but a few summers before his awful words are more than fulfilled. Will Mr. Lincoln deny that abolitionism has already wrought the work of destruction and death then foretold?”

(The Old Guard, September 1863 issue, C. Chauncey Burr & Co. New York.)

Nov 7, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Governor Spaight's Coffin

The father of Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was the first native-born governor of North Carolina, educated in Scotland at the University of Glasgow and aide de camp to General Richard Caswell.  Spaight the younger was the last North Carolina governor elected by the legislature.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Governor Spaight’s Coffin:

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. (1796-1850), son of a Revolutionary War veteran who was also a member of the North Carolina Legislature, United States Congressman and delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, served as governor of The Old North State from 1835 to 1837. He was born in New Bern, and prior to being governor, he served in the State Legislature from 1819 to 1822, and again from 1825 to 1834. Spaight was the last governor to be elected by the legislature, and was a member of the 1837 Constitutional Convention which transferred the gubernatorial election to popular vote.

During the War Between the States, Northern occupation troops used the Stevenson House (corner Pollock & George Streets) in New Bern as a hospital for wounded soldiers. In a truly unbelievable act of barbarism, “the body of Governor Spaight was dug up by Northern soldiers, the skull placed on a gate post, and the metal coffin used to send the body of a federal soldier back North.”

(A New Geography of North Carolina, Bill Sharpe, Sharpe’s Publishing Company 1961, page 1232)

Sovereign States in a Federated Union

John Taylor of Caroline viewed the economic life of the country as being local in character and only under the jurisdiction of the individual States – that is, popular institutions. Therefore he concluded, “the entire nationalistic program of the Federal Government as to banking, funding, tariff, and internal improvements is unconstitutional.” If one sidesteps the victor’s claim that they fought to end slavery 1861-1865, one finds that the Hamiltonian drive for concentrated federal power was underlying reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sovereign States in a Federated Union:

“The States, located in the center of the political landscape, perform a stabilizing function with sufficient power to protect the whole [federal] structure from the onslaughts of inimical forces that attack from two directions. They are essentially buffer States.

They represent a compromise between two types of concentrated power – one in the Federal Government, the other in the people, the turbulence of whom may lead to the reintroduction of monarchy such as followed the French Revolution.

Mobs and tyrants generate each other. Only the States can prevent the clashes of these two eternal enemies. Thus, unless the States can obstruct the greed and avarice of concentrated power, the issue will be adjudicated by an insurrectionary mob. The States represent government by rule and law as opposed to government by force and fraud, which characterizes consolidated power whether in a supreme federal government, in the people, in factions, or in strong individuals.

Republicanism is the compromise between the idea that the people are a complete safeguard against the frauds of governments and the idea that the people, from ignorance or depravity, are incapable of self-government.

The basic struggle in the United States is between mutual checks by political departments and an absolute control by the Federal Government, or between division and concentration of power. Hamilton and Madison presented an impressive case for a strong national government, supreme over the rights of States.

They are supported by all the former Tories who benefit from the frauds of the paper system. Those who take this view are referred to as variously as monarchists, consolidators, and supremacists. The basic fallacy of their way of thinking is that they simply refuse to recognize “the primitive, inherent, sovereignty of each State” upon which basis only a federal form of government can be erected.

They assume the existence of an American Nation embracing the whole geographical reach of the country, on which they posit their argument for a supreme national government. But this is merely a fiction….The Declaration, the [Articles of] Confederation, and the Constitution specifically recognize the existence of separate and sovereign States, not of any American Nation or consolidated nation or people of the United States or concentrated sovereignty in the Federal Government. The word “America” designates a region on the globe and does not refer to any political entity.”

(The Social Philosophy of John Taylor of Caroline, A Study in Jeffersonian Democracy, Eugene Tenbroeck Mudge, Columbia University Press, 1939, pp. 65-66)

New England Federalist Secession Doctrine

An irony of history has the doctrine of secession originating in the South when it was first advanced by New England over the issue of Louisiana’s admission to Statehood. Jefferson and Madison, both Southerners, opposed secession; New England Federalists demanded it.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

New England Federalist Secession Doctrine

“The final political phenomenon to arise out of the North-South competition of the 1790s was the doctrine of Secession. It represented the death rattle of the Federalist party. The pivotal year was 1800 when the Democratic leaders Jefferson and Burr succeeded in putting together a coalition of the have-nots of the country – the agriculturalists of the South and the proletarians of the Northern cities. They won control of the nation.

The Federalist party survived another sixteen years, although it never again won control of the House, Senate or presidency. It did not take defeat well.

Barely three years after the Democratic rout, Northern Federalists began arguing for the secession of the New England States from the Union. There was nothing understated about their secessionist position. It was widespread, and if it could not be done peaceably, they said, it should be done violently.

Listen to one of the many secessionists, Josiah Quincy III, scion of the New England Quincy’s, future mayor of Boston and future president of Harvard University. In 1811 he was a thirty-eight-year-old congressman standing opposed to the admission of Louisiana as a State:

“It is my deliberate opinion,” he said, “that if this bill passes, the bonds of this union are virtually dissolved, that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare, definitely, for a separation; amicably if they can; violently if they must.”

One man who listened carefully that year was a freshman congressman from South Carolina. He was John C. Calhoun, who had been taught the secessionist doctrine in the law schools of New England, who had listened to it in the Congress, and who would one day carry it back down South . . . . Meanwhile, it is an unfair stroke that history has identified the South with secession when in fact the earliest and clearest arguments against it were proposed by Jefferson and Madison.

The creators of secession doctrine, and the teachers of it from 1800 to 1817, were New England Federalists.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, A Revisionist History, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday & Company, 1977, pp. 114-116)

American Historians and Their History

Quickly becoming a people devoid of a historical memory, the United States as a proposition nation will continue to rewrite or invent history to suit the political and entertainment industry elite, and their subject peoples.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

American Historians and Their History:

“Almost a lifetime of considering what historianship is, I am satisfied that what it is or should be is storytelling. Assuredly it cant be a scientific experiment, nor a logical proposition, nor the illustration of a theory. Our existence is drama, that is, a story, taking place in the mind of God. Through history we have our only knowledge of the mysterious drama of our existence beyond what has been granted us as Revelation.

I like the delightful saying of the English historian Veronica Wedgewood: “History is not a science – it is an art, like all the other sciences.” Or more seriously, we can make the same point by calling on John Lukac’s perfect definition: “History is a kind of memory, organized and supported by evidence.” With emphasis on the evidence. In asserting that history is not certainty, I don’t deny that there are varying degrees of honesty and competence in the handling of evidence that allow us to judge the quality of a historian’s work.

If history is best understood as a story, at least two things follow. First, a story – like that of the Alamo – is somebody’s story – it is not everybody’s story as is claimed by those with an agenda, whether they be nationalist ideologues or mulitculturalists. Everybody can learn from a story, but if it is to be real and valid, it is some people’s story. It follows that American in our time cannot have a real history because America today does not have a real people.

There was a time, peaking in the World War II era, when the inhabitants of this vast and diverse nation-state almost mingled into one people. That opportunity is now past. The inhabitants of the United States are corralled under the same territorial monopoly of force and exploitation; they share the same bread and circuses.

They are not a people, only the motley subjects of an empire. Aggregations of Oprah watchers, sports fans, and mall shoppers do not make a people. After Augustus the story of Rome ceases to be the story of a heroic and patriotic people. The Roman people pass from sight. The history of rome becomes only an account of more or less evil emperors and a chaos of peoples without stories. Such is American in the era of Bush. The future history of the last national election can be written only as a meaningless contest in which the jocks barely beat out the nerds for possession of the imperial palace.

Most of the work of academic historians today can portray the American story in no other terms except as an abstract fantasy of oppressors and oppressed. No society has ever had more professional historians and devoted more resources to historical work of all kinds than modern America – or produced so many useless, irrelevant, and downright pernicious products. I know a historian who teaches that the great Virginians of the American Revolution were like the Taliban. Presumably because they carried weapons and were not feminists. This is to reduce human experience to a paltry and partial perspective, to remove from it everything that is worthwhile and ennobling, usable and true. But this is what academic historians mostly do these days.

A historian should be trying to say something true and useful about human beings, and doing so modestly and cautiously. No historian can discover indisputable truth, at least not about anything important. But that is what historians are claiming to do these days by reducing the drama of human experience to abstract, supposedly universal theory.”

(Defending Dixie, Searching for Fleas: American Historians and Their History, excerpt, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, pp. 44-45)

Nov 5, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

Government Replete With Insupportable Evils

Patrick Henry was outspoken in his resistance to the adoption of the Constitution, pleading with the delegates to “consider what you are about to do before you part with [the articles of Confederation]”  He stated that history was replete with “instances of people losing their liberties by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Government Replete With Insupportable Evils

“The [proposed United States] Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints toward monarchy, and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American?

Your president may easily become king. Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed to what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue for ever interchangeably this government, altho horribly defective. Where are your checks in this government? Your strongholds will be in the hands of your enemies.

It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the world, from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad?

Show me the age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.

If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute? The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him, and it will be the subject of long meditation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design, and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens?

I would rather infinitely – and I am sure most of this Convention are of the same opinion — have a king, lords, and commons, than a government so replete with such insupportable evils. If we make a king we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them; but the president, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke.

But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition? Away with your president! We shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch; your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force? What will become of your rights? Will not absolute despotism prevail?

(Patrick Henry, “Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death” speech, March 23, 1775, before the Second Revolutionary Convention of Virginia; The World’s Famous Orations, William Jennings Bryan, editor, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1906, pp. 74-76)