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Isaac L. Stewart

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A Harsh Sentence: African-Islanders, Slavery, and Criminal Justice

G’day there!

Well, here we are at the penultimate post for Black History Month – time flies! Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the origins of the province’s African-Island community, as well as the institution of slavery as it once existed here. Today, we’ll continue on with the theme of slavery and examine the lifestyle led by the Island’s enslaved in the late 18th and early 19th centuries largely through the prism of criminal justice (I apologize up front for the lack of imagery, and will try my best to keep things shorter as a result).

I think it goes without saying that the life of a slave anywhere, and at any period in history, was one fraught with hardship, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with many (or any) examples of people forced against their will into servitude who at the same time managed to lead a posh existence. It just didn’t work that way, and the Island was certainly no exception to the rule. (Of course to be fair, there weren’t too many people on the Island during this time whose lives were anywhere close to lavish. For instance, our first chief justice, John Duport, had a daughter who actually died of starvation.) Life was hard across the board, but that still doesn’t make any better or easier to swallow the fact that this was the case for African-Islanders simply because they were forced into it, with little to no recourse at hand.

Painting of Charlottetown as it supposedly looked about 1778, from a sketch by Charles Randle.

As I’ve previously related, the large majority of African-Islanders ended up here during the 1780s amid the immigration of loyalists to these shores. Most (but not all) ended up in Charlottetown, while others could be found in more remote regions of the Island, such as Malpeque and the Three Rivers area. (In later years, the African-Islander diaspora would actually see a greater percentage living outside Charlottetown than were resident in the city). Most enslaved African-Islanders worked in domestic roles and as itinerant labourers, and nothing here ever developed akin to the plantation system that entrenched itself in the US.

It’s notoriously difficult to get intimate insight into the early lives of African-Islanders, mainly because there is, in general, little in the way of documentation from the period that concerns them. One area that bucks this trend, however, is the realm of criminal justice (or, as was often the case, injustice). For instance, thanks to Jupiter Wise’s theft of rum to supply a party in the summer of 1785, and a larger theft later that year, likewise to supply the necessities for a party, we learn that it was not uncommon for African-Islanders to gather together to have a good time and to discuss, among other things, plans to escape their unhappy situation. (Wise would eventually be brought to ground on both counts of theft, followed by assault. Although not charged for the former, he was sentenced to hang for the latter, a sentence later commuted to transportation from the Island to the West Indies, thanks to benefit of the clergy.) Neither were women exempt from such a harsh sentence. Ten years later, in 1796, Freelove Allen, aided and abetted by her husband and another man, burgled a house in Charlottetown. As the person who actively committed the crime, Freelove was sentenced to hang, but a petition got up by a group of women succeeded in having the death penalty reduced to transportation.

As Jupiter Wise and Freelove Allen both discovered, any acts committed which infringed on the perceived property rights of an individual were taken very seriously. Today, our justice system distinguishes between different degrees of theft, from petty thievery to grand larceny; it did in those days as well, but the lines could easily become blurred. While Wise and Allen were lucky to receive sentences of transportation, such was not the case for Sancho and Peter Byers.

The saga begins in October 1814, when Sancho Byers, son of John “Black Jack” and Amelia, was brought up and convicted on charges of having burgled the house of Matilda Brecken, the daughter of his former owner, helping himself to a single loaf of bread and about a shilling’s worth of butter. That’s it. Despite legal representation, Sancho was found guilty and sentenced to hang. While this was playing out, his brother Peter (known as “Black Peter”), was taken to court in early 1815, likewise on charges of theft. His crime? Break, enter, and theft in the amount of 5 pounds currency. Although he attempted to pin responsibility on an accomplice, he was still found guilty, and in March was likewise given the death penalty. The Byers brothers subsequently went to the gallows a mere twelve days apart. You really have to wonder if they weren’t so much hanged for the theft as they were hanged for having stolen and for being black.

But what about those who managed to avoid the hangman’s noose? There was always transportation, perhaps a trip to prison (‘gaol’), or, as was most often the case, physical reprimand. And as you might expect, although such punishment was meted out to both blacks and whites alike, it tended to be heavy-handed toward the former more so than the latter. In March 1817, William Bellinger (the accomplice implicated by Peter Byers in 1815) was publicly whipped at various places in Charlottetown, receiving a total of 117 lashes. The sentence was not abnormal, as crazy as that sounds; what was abnormal, however, is the fact that Bellinger had already been given a grand total of five hundred lashes in the past, for various other offences. Now the count was 617.

Negativity aside, not all stories played out so tragically, and some could even be characterized (surprisingly) as feel-good. While many African-Islanders found themselves to be very marginalized and unfairly treated (even after slavery was abolished), there were others for whom the same could not be said, a fact perhaps best exemplified by the story of Dimbo Suckles.

While the beginning of Dimbo’s story parallels that of other African-Islanders, it eventually diverges in an unexpected way. According to sources, he might actually have been born in Africa, about 1761, and depending on what version of events you hear, he was either brought to the Island by David Higgins, a merchant and early settler in the Three Rivers region and later acquired by Captain William Creed, or he was taken to the Island  from New England by Creed in the mid 1780s. Whatever the case, he eventually became a slave of Creed’s, although their relationship was atypical and on far more equal footing than most.

In 1796, Dimbo and Creed entered into an agreement whereby he (Dimbo) would remain indentured for another seven years (until 1803), at which point he would be liberated. While some believe that he was freed before then, on or about the occasion of his formal liberation, Dimbo received a town lot in Georgetown courtesy of Gov. Fanning, and had even married one of his freed slaves, Polly, in 1802. Through sheer hard work and perseverance, he would later acquire an additional 100 acres near the Montague River in Lot 59, and  passed away in November 1845 at the purported age of 84, having obtained the admiration and respect of all who knew him. It’s that last bit that stands his story in stark contrast to those of his counterparts elsewhere on the Island.

Like I said, the general paucity of African-Islanders in early records makes it rather tricky to gain a full understanding of the lives they led here within the institution of slavery, but hopefully this post provides you with at least some perspective. There is still much to be learned, but whether or not we’ll ever actually be able to remains to be seen. Next week, we’ll finish off Black History Month with a romp through The Bog and explore the heart of the Island’s African-Island community!

Cheers,

PEI History Guy

P.S. – The stories of individuals I told in brief, as I hope to revisit them in greater detail in the future in addition to others.

The Origins of African-Islanders

G’day there!

Last I wrote, I said that all material for the month of February would be given over to discussing the Island’s black heritage in honour of Black History Month. That plan hasn’t changed. For this week, I thought it best to kick things off with a general primer on the origins of Black (or African) Islanders, and the state of said heritage today, before diving into other matters in greater detail.

It often comes as a surprise to many, the fact that the Island has black heritage. I’ll admit that I myself really didn’t learn about it until I enrolled in an Island history class in high school. Despite the fact I was first exposed to Island history in Grade 6, in two of the textbooks long used in the education system here (at the lower levels), The Story of Prince Edward Island (1963) and Abegweit: Land of the Red Soil (1985), the subject of African-Islanders was completely ignored, with the exception of a brief side note in the latter (I’m told, however, that the curriculum has since been updated, and although I’ve not seen the new material, I’m hoping that omission has been amended).

Academically, the subject has merited some study. There has been one book written on it, Jim Hornby’s fantastic Black Islanders (1991), a couple of articles in The Island Magazine, and a piece by historian Harry Holman in a 1982 edition of Acadiensis, in addition to passing references in various publications. But that’s about the whole of it. While there have been efforts by such organizations as the Black Islanders Cooperative and the Black Cultural Society of PEI to raise the profile of the Island’s black heritage, said efforts have been (largely) ignored.

The front cover of Jim Hornby’s ‘Black Islanders’. You’d do well to get your hands on a copy.

So, where does the story begin?

It was after the Acadians had been deported, after Holland had performed his feats of cartographic brilliance, and after the whole of the Island had been carved up, subjected to a lottery, and granted away to well placed individuals in elite social circles in Britain that the first African-Islanders (that we know of) came to the Island. It was the latter part of the 18th century. The province was by then a British colony, and they arrived much as you would expect given the time period: enslaved. Yes. Believe it or not, not even Prince Edward Island was exempt from the institution of slavery.

With war raging in the US, those loyal to the British cause (Loyalists), either pre-emptively or because their allegiance caused them to be displaced, began making their way to safer havens in British North America. A good number of them opted to put down roots in the Maritimes, including Prince Edward (then St. John’s) Island. They came from all walks of life, and, although refugees, some had previously led gilded lives. While many were forced to leave behind their material possessions, they took with them what they could. More often than not, that included any slaves.

Although there remains the possibility that some African-Islanders might have come to the Island alongside the first government officials and men of rank in the 1770s, they most assuredly did throughout the 1780s. Of course, it wasn’t just anyone who could afford to “own” a slave, and so you can imagine the sorts of people who did. Take, for example, the Island’s second Lieutenant-Governor, Edmund Fanning: He is believed to have had four. Unlike in the United States, there was no plantation system here, and most of the enslaved African-Islanders are known to have worked in households as domestics.

Slavery, however, never became entrenched on the Island as it did in other places. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it also never reached the extremes it did elsewhere; in fact, it began to diminish not long after it began. Religious and social pressures have been cited as the reason why many of those who owned slaves began granting them their freedom in the waning years of the 18th century, and the first years of the 19th. By about 1810, those African-Islanders who had been liberated began to group together, forming the nucleus of the Island’s black population. The majority established a community in Charlottetown, in a marshy, undesirable portion of the city known as “the Bog”. Not long after, in 1825, slavery was formally abolished on the Island. Both the Bog and the institution of slavery are topics that will be looked at in far greater detail throughout the month.

As Jim Hornby points out, small numbers combined with assimilation by the white population led to African-Islanders quickly disappearing as a visible minority. Unlike in Nova Scotia, where a number of different waves of black immigrants were able to form distinct communities and retain some semblance of their culture, it was a lost cause here. There was, historically, only one migratory group of blacks that came to the Island (and against their will at that), and with a population that numbered probably no more than two hundred at its peak, it simply wasn’t sustainable. It also didn’t help that, even when slavery was removed from the books, African-Islanders were still very much subjugated members of society, and continued to be long after the fact.

Today, there are many on the Island who can lay claim to being of black heritage; some are aware of it, but there is without doubt an even greater number who have absolutely no idea. My hope is that this post, and those to come, will inspire you to learn more about the Island’s black history, and to help give it the recognition it deserves. History is meant to be studied, to be discussed and debated, and above all to be shared.

It is not meant to be ignored.

Cheers,

PEI History Guy

P.S. – I should point out that I am in no way an expert on the history of African-Islanders. I’m merely someone with a keen interest. If you have anything you’d like to add to what I’ve written, please feel free to comment. Dialogue is important!

P.P.S. – So it’s two days later (February 7), and I just found this extensive article, “Slave Life and Slave Law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769-1825” (Acadiensis, Summer 2009). I’m not sure how that one escaped my notice, but go check it out!

 

 

Welcome to the Bog

G’day there!

To cap off Black History Month, I thought this week we would veer away from focussing on the subject of slavery and turn our attention instead to an exploration of ‘the Bog’, where could once be found Charlottetown’s black community. Home to freed slaves and their descendants throughout the 19th century, it was a region in the west-end portion of the city’s original 500 town lots, bordered by Euston, Pownal, Richmond, and West streets. Here’s a graphic to give you a visual sense.

Present-day satellite imagery of Charlottetown. The Bog falls within the encircled area.
Present-day satellite imagery of Charlottetown. The Bog falls more or less within the encircled area.

Recognize the area? I imagine you probably do. Today, a large section in the centre of it has been physically altered by the construction of provincial government offices (Shaw, Sullivan, and Jones buildings),as well as a sizeable parking lot, begun in the mid 1960s, and the streetscape in general has been improved.

So what’s the deal with the Bog, anyway?

The story begins with one Samuel Martin, known widely as “Black Sam”. In 1812, he began to petition for a small plot of land at the bottom of Fitzroy Street bordering on the south side of Government Pond (now a parking lot). Given that he was black, not to mention a former slave, council wasn’t all that keen on the idea, and did what it could to find anyone else who might be able to lay claim to that property. Martin persisted, submitting additional petitions and – whether he actually obtained title to the land, or squatted on it – took up residence there a couple of years later. And thus the Bog was born.

“Black Sam” Martin is an interesting character, a person who became a legend in his own day. It’s believed that he was born sometime in the 1750s, and he passed away for certain in November 1863, aged at least 100. After obtaining his freedom, he was a licensed chimney sweep, a profession he practiced into his seventies, and he even operated something of a notorious bawdy house (not uncommon in the Bog) into his eighties. For many years before and after his passing, a small span that crossed over Government Pond (where today Euston Street meets Brighton Road) went by the name “Black Sam’s Bridge”. Sometime before 1812, Martin married another former slave, Kesiah Sheppard (Wilson). Kesiah, or ‘Kissy’, had previously been married to David Sheppard, who disappears under unknown circumstances from the historical record around 1802. Together, she and Martin would have two daughters.

Postcard of depicting Government Pond as it looked in the early 20th century. 'Black Sam's Bridge' is visible to the left.
Postcard depicting Government, or Brighton Pond as it looked in the early 20th century. ‘Black Sam’s Bridge’ is visible to the left. The house on the right is 8 Euston Street, and can still be seen today, while the one on the left may be 5 Euston.

When Martin settled in the Bog, there was as yet no established community of African-Islanders in Charlottetown; however, it wasn’t long after that one began to develop as slavery increasingly became a thing of the past. Throughout the 19th century, individuals with surnames such as Byers, Carpenter, Crosby, Sheppard, Bass, Jackson, Mills, De Courcey, Ryan, Potter, and Stiles would become part of the fabric, toiling in a variety of working-class capacities. But the Bog wasn’t just the enclave of Charlottetown’s African-Islanders. Joining them was an even greater number of whites who found themselves at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.

Inevitably – and really through no fault of its own – the Bog gained a reputation as something of a slum region. Land there ranked as some of the least desirable in the capital, and therefore was some of the cheapest to be had. It was marshy (hence the name), tended to attract people (especially African-Islanders) who were largely impoverished and marginalized, and had a high(er) concentration of “questionable” locations such as bawdy houses. To make matters worse, before Charlottetown instituted a sewerage system, it was not uncommon for people to dispose of waste in the adjacent Government Pond, rendering it rather unpleasant.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Easily the most important institution in the Bog was the educational establishment known simply as the Bog School. A saving grace in a destitute locale, it was established in 1848, intended to cater to poor(er) children in the area, black and white alike, and was built at the corner of Rochford and Kent Streets on land donated by Captain John Orlebar (later Admiral John Orlebar). From April 1848, when the school opened its doors, Sarah Harvie, the daughter of Nicolas Harvie who operated the jail (‘Harvie’s Brig’) on nearby Connaught Square, assumed the duties of educator, a capacity in which she would tirelessly serve for over five decades.

Like other schools during this period, the Bog School was denominational, and fell under the auspice of the Church of England (Anglican). Until 1877, the education system on the Island was ruled by religion, with separate schools for Catholics and Protestants. It had increasingly become a contentious issue, and by the 1876 provincial election it actually created political schisms. That year, a Protestant Liberal/Conservative faction known as the “Free School Coalition” faced off against their Catholic counterparts (the Denominationalist Coalition). The former advocated for a school system not centred on religious divide, while the latter ran on a platform to maintain the status quo. The Free Schoolers won the election and passed the Public School Act the next year, which did away with a denominational school system (in principal; in practice, it took a bit longer).

In 1868, the original Bog School had been replaced with a newer, larger structure at the same location, and continued to be operated by the Church of England (despite the events of 1876/7), remaining in use for another four decades until December 1903 when, after 56 years at the helm, Sarah Harvie was forced to retire her post, and the vacancy she left was never filled. Instead, the Bog School close its doors, and its students transferred next door to West Kent.

When the Bog School was boarded up following Sarah Harvie’s departure, the Bog itself (as a community of African-Islanders) had just about reached the end of the line. It was a decline that had actually been playing out over the previous fifty years, beginning in the mid 1850s, from which it never bounced back. Part of this decline can be attributed to outmigration – some people simply up and moved away. African-Islanders only ever formed a small percentage of the Bog’s overall population, at its height numbering about 100. By 1881, less than 84 persons residing in the Bog were recorded as black. Intermarriage was another factor. The Bog was home to a greater number of whites than blacks, and as a result unions between the two were inevitable, unions that quickly obscured African-Islanders as a visible minority. None of this was helped by the fact that the Bog wasn’t able to shed the “slum” stigma attached to it, and remained an area of poverty into the latter part of the 19th century, never quite progressing as did other parts of the city.

Detail of the Bog, as it appeared in Meacham's 1880 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Prince Edward Island.
Detail of the Bog, as it appeared in Meacham’s 1880 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Prince Edward Island.

While the Bog was a feature of the Charlottetown landscape for the better part of a century, you’ll find no formal monument today that hints at its existence, no physical reminder of the community of African-Islanders that once lived there. Nothing. In 2013, applications were submitted to P.E.I. 2014 Inc., the government body responsible for coordinating the year-long celebration in 2014 of the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. Money had been authorized to be granted to a slew of arts and culture projects aimed at commemorating the event, and to serve as a legacy. Jim Hornby, author of Black Islanders, took the lead on three applications in a bid to secure the funds for projects to highlight the Bog as it existed in 1864, and the African-Islanders who called it home. All three were shut out while other (dubious) projects were given the go-ahead, and a good deal of financing.

I remember being incredibly disappointed at the time, but not at all surprised. As I’ve said the before, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Historically, African-Islanders (by and large) have been ignored and often mistreated, and it remains the case today. The purpose of these past four weeks has been to highlight said heritage and shed a bit of a spotlight on it. If it’s caused you to stop and reflect at any length, then mission accomplished.

But we still have a long way to go.

Cheers,

PEI History Guy

 

Enacted, Repealed: The Institution of Slavery on Prince Edward Island

G’day there!

If you’ll recall, last week I touched upon the issue of slavery as it relates to the history of Prince Edward Island and African-Islanders. Today, I thought I would get into its origins as an institution. It’s a touchy subject in general, which is perhaps why, here on the Island, it continues to be ignored and remains little understood by many. But as I last wrote, history is not meant to be ignored. There’s no rule that says you have to like it, but you do have to acknowledge it, as it hard as that may be by times.

Let’s kick things off with a surprising – and obscure – factoid of Island history: Did you know that this province (when it was a colony of British North America) is the only such place in Canada to ever enact its own law enforcing the institution of slavery? Sadly, it’s true.

The year was 1781. The Island, then known as St. John’s Island, had had its own government since 1769, and was still helmed by the man first appointed its governor, a man with a chequered career in political office and largely deemed a rogue by historians: Walter Patterson.

 

Walter Patterson, the Island's first governor.
Walter Patterson, the Island’s first governor.

Patterson has long been a polarizing figure in Island history, but the thing you have to understand about him is that, time and again, he proved to be the sort of person who would do whatever he could to succeed and get ahead in life. There really wasn’t much that was beneath him.

In March 1781, he sent a letter to London notifying his superiors there of the laws and acts to which he had given his assent, and which required their approval. This was just before the wheels began coming off his political cart, and one item in particular perhaps foreshadows his ignominious actions to come:

An Act, declaring that Baptism of Slaves shall not exempt them from Bondage (or, An Act Respecting the Baptism of Slaves)

The act stipulated the following:

Whereas some Doubts have arisen whether Slaves by becoming Christians, or being admitted to Baptism, should, by virtue thereof, be made free:

1. Be it therefore enacted by the Governor, Council and Assembly, That all Slaves, whether Negroes or Mulattoes, residing at present on this Island, or that may hereafter be imported or brought therein, shall be deemed Slaves, notwithstanding his, her or their Conversion to Christianity; nor shall the Act of Baptism performed on any such Negro or Mulatto alter his, her or their Condition.

2. And be it further enacted, That all Negro and Mulatto Servants who are now on this Island, or may hereafter be imported or brought therein (being Slaves), shall continue such, unless freed by his, her or their respective Owners.

3. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Children born of Women Slaves shall belong to and be the property of the Masters or Mistresses of such Slaves.

In simpler terms, what the act laid out was that, if you were a slave who came to the Island as such, then you remained in that capacity, as did your children, unless your “Masters or Mistresses” saw fit to grant you your freedom. Having been baptised a Christian would not get you off the hook. Through 21st century lenses, it was a major human rights violation, but switch them out for an 18th century pair and it really wasn’t abnormal legislation at all. Another sad fact.

Of course, even without Patterson to grease the wheels, it’s entirely likely that slavery would have come to the Island anyway, as it did in other places; in fact, more recent research indicates that a trickle (of slaves) had already begun before 1775. So why did he give the nod to such an act at all? What was the motive?

It’s a question that remains unresolved, although it has been speculated by people far more knowledgeable than I (such as Black Islanders author Jim Hornby) that Patterson’s Act Respecting the Baptism of Slaves was an attempt to attract the prospective eye of those loyalist slave owners looking to relocate to British North America by giving them a framework within which they could simply pick up as they had left off – basically, it secured slaves as property.

1781 was an interesting year for Patterson (in hindsight, it would prove his undoing). A major issue had, in his opinion, reached a crisis point: Absentee proprietors. It had been an ongoing theme since 1767, that of landlords who held large chunks of the Island and who were making absolutely no efforts to settle their townships as they were obligated to under the terms and conditions of their owning them. These conditions set forth that you, a proprietor, were required to populate your landholdings, collect rent (known as quit rent) from your tenants, which was funnelled upwards and intended to keep the colony functioning. Long story short, that just wasn’t happening.

On the heels of signing off on the Act Respecting the Baptism of Slaves, Patterson took drastic action. Turning to the legal process known as “escheat”, by which he was entitled to strip deadbeat landlords of their holdings and either give or sell said land to tenants, Patterson scooped up about 600,000 acres in one fell swoop; however, instead of turning around and making it available to one and all, he decided to use it as an opportunity to pay himself and his fellow politicos what he felt they were owed in back wages. Hosting a secret auction, those 600,000 acres were distributed to a close knit circle of friends. After taking his share, Patterson’s own holdings grew to about 170,000 acres alone. All in a day’s work (literally) for the Governor of St. John’s Island.

But what to do with all that land? In 1784, said beneficiaries opted to pool their sizeable resources and offer up about 150,000 of that acreage to entice a group of people to settle here that they hoped would stir up an immigration boom, and perhaps score them a few supporters in their political corner: Loyalists.

Unfortunately for Patterson and his crew, the anticipated boom largely came to naught. While loyalists did make their way to the Island, their numbers never reached hoped-for targets. The situation became even messier for those who opted into Patterson’s scheme when the results of his escheat and secret auction were overturned by the Crown, which landed him in a whole whack of trouble and had the effect of disenfranchising those loyalists who thought they’d received land free and clear, turning them into squatters.

So where does this leave us with slavery?

Some (but not all) of the loyalists who came to the Island during this time brought with them the slaves they’d acquired in the United States and elsewhere. The exact numbers of enslaved individuals have never been satisfactorily determined, and while it certainly wasn’t a torrent, it wasn’t an insignificant amount either, especially with the above-mentioned legislation in place. I won’t get into the lifestyle led by enslaved African-Islanders today; suffice it to say, however, that life wasn’t easy and came with much hardship to endure. But thankfully, although slavery was enforced on the books and did exist here, in practice it never took serious hold and in fact began to diminish not long after.

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that, over the course of about two decades, between 1790-1810, the large majority of slaves on the Island were liberated. Some just even upped and ran off and were never pursued. This despite the fact that General Edmund Fanning, himself a slave owner who replaced the ousted Walter Patterson in 1786/7, put out public notices in late 1791 announcing Britain’s An Act for encouraging new Settlers in his Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in America (1790). This act allowed for those immigrating to British colonies from the United States to take with them, among other things, any slaves not exceeding a certain monetary value, in addition to permitting the sale of slaves (and yes, slave sales did happen here). So what caused the shift in public sentiment toward slavery?

Gen. Edmund Fanning. The Island's second governor, he came here a slave owner, but was also among the first to liberate his slaves.
Gen. Edmund Fanning. The Island’s second governor, he came here a slave owner, but was also among the first to liberate his slaves.

This is another question yet to be given a concrete answer, and so I defer to the experts. As far as they’re concerned, the 1790s brought about a host of religious and social pressures which heralded the demise of slavery on the Island. A key figure in it all was the Reverend James MacGregor (1759-1830), founder of the abolition movement in British North America (Canada), known to have made a number of visits to the Island during the final years of the 18th century to trumpet his cause. His arguments (thankfully) proved convincing to many.

By 1825, the institution of slavery on the Island was well and truly finished (although its ramifications would continue well into the 19th century). In January of that year, the benevolent and ever-popular Col. John Ready, the colony’s fifth governor, led the way in pushing through An Act to repeal “An Act declaring that Baptism of Slaves shall not exempt them from Bondage. It was a thorough abolishment of slavery, and came nearly a full decade before Britain’s Imperial Act of 1833, which accomplished the same throughout the Empire.

Col. John Ready, under whose tenure as Governor slavery was abolished on the Island.
Col. John Ready, under whose tenure as governor slavery was abolished on the Island.

In the span of 44 years, the Island went from having the legal framework for a full-on slave state to striking it from the books in its entirety. Next week, we’ll take a look at what life was like for African-Islanders here during that period.

Cheers,

PEI History Guy

P.S. – That was a long post. Apologies.

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