Following up on last week’s image about the new Canadian stamp featuring Chloe Cooley, here is a newspaper advertisement for a runaway in 1795. Although the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery was the first of its kind in British North America, many enslaved people still living in Upper Canada remained in bondage.
Ironically, for some who remained enslaved, the act had an unintended effect. Some who slaves, understanding that their situation would never change, decided to escape to the United States in search of freedom. Places such as New York were awakening to the abolitionist movement with more rigorous legislation.
Henry Lewis, enslaved by the Jarvis Family of Queenston, wrote to his enslavers in 1798 and stated that he left because the woman, Hannah Jarvis, “vexed me to so high a degree that it was far beyond the power of a man to support it.”
He wanted to work as a free man and offered to pay for his freedom, 16 pounds, with installments paid through the mayor of Schenectady. Lewis knew if he remained in Upper Canada, he would never feel the reward of his own labour so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
This summer, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, in partnership with local Black historians, will host an exhibition on enslavement in Upper Canada.