Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Toronto Dreams Project on Simcoe and Slavery

In Toronto, the August long weekend holiday Monday is called Simcoe Day in honour of John Graves Simcoe, first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The Toronto Dreams Project, a lively website by Adam Bunch, contributed a look at Simcoe's complicated relationship with slavery,
He saw no place for the practice in his new province. "The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns," he wrote before he officially took his post. "The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada, under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe."
But the legislative council Simcoe himself had appointed was dominated by slave-holders
He was forced into a compromise — the exact thing he had promised never to do. The new law didn't abolish slavery immediately; instead, it would be gradually phased out. No new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada, but any who were already here would spend the rest of their lives in slavery. Their children would be born into captivity, too; they wouldn't be free until they turned twenty-five. Finally, anyone who wanted to free a slave was discouraged from doing so: they would be forced to provide financial security to ensure the newly freed slave wouldn't be a drain on the resources of the state.
When he returned to Britain, he was assigned to lead troops in assisting the French royalist regime in Haiti to suppress the slaves' growing independence war there -- a task he eventually dropped out of.

Image: from Toronto Dreams Project.
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