Washington (DC) National Era, “Colored Population of Canada,” November 26, 1857

    Source citation
    “Colored Population of Canada,” Washington (DC) National Era, November 26, 1857, p. 190: 6.
    Original source
    New York Tribune
    Newspaper: Publication
    Washington National Era
    Newspaper: Headline
    Colored Population of Canada
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Meghan Rafferty, Dickinson College
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as true to the original written document as possible. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    The New York Tribune has sent a commissioner to Canada, to inquire into his condition of the exiled negroes. So far as his reports have been published, they represent the fugitives from oppression to be generally in a comfortable condition. He says:

    “The large and thriving city of Toronto contains a more numerous colored population than any other town of Canada. Out of its 50,000 inhabitants, from 1,200 to 1,600 are estimated to be colored. Though the great majority belong to the class of unskilled laborers, among them are to be found followers of a great number and variety of occupations. One of them, a man of wealth, lives upon his means, attending to his own property, and occasionally discounting a note, when he is satisfied with the rate per cent and the soundness of the [illegible]. One is a regularly-educated physician; three are studying law, one medicine; two, at least, are master builders, taking contracts, and employing a number of journeymen, both white and black; four are grocers, and the store of one of them—the only one we visited—was in a good part of the town, handsome, neat, well stocked, and evidently doing a thriving business, the customers ding mostly white; one keeps a large livery stable, one of the best in town, and is employed to take the mails to and from the post office to the railroad depot, steamboats, &c.; several within the precincts of the city, are occupied in farming and gardening; others are bricklayers, carpenters, shoemakers, plasterers, blacksmiths, and carters. Many find employment in sawing and chopping wood, which is the general fuel; and the barbers and waiters in hotels and private families are almost exclusively colored men.”

    One colored man is reported as worth $100,000, another $35,000, a third $25,000; eighteen are each worth between $2,000 and $3,000. The commissioner visited London, in Canada, and says:

    “Of London, which in a population of 12,000 or 13,000 contains from 500 to 600 colored people, we have little to say. The condition of the blacks there resembles that of their fellows in Hamilton and Toronto. Pauperism and beggary are almost unknown among them, work is abundant, and labor fairly rewarded. The head of the police department thought that petty crime, particularly larceny, was more frequent among the blacks than among the inhabitants at large, though in both places they thought it was less so than among the low Irish. In London, this, however, was merely an opinion, as in the statistical statements of the police department the offences committed by the blacks were not separately recorded. At London, a neat and well-furnished drug store is kept by a black man, who twenty-three years ago escaped from Slavery in Kentucky.”

    And of Chatham:

    “Of this busy town, about one-third of the population are colored people, and they appear to contribute their full quota towards its industry. Among them are one gunsmith, four cabinet-makers working on their own account and employing others, six master carpenters, a number of plasterers, three printers, two watchmakers, two ship-carpenters, two millers, four blacksmiths, one upholsterer, one saddler, six master shoemakers, six grocers, and a cigar maker. Unskilled workmen find abundant employment in the various mills, in agricultural labor, and in cutting, sawing, and splitting the wood which is used for fuel. Common laborers obtain from a dollar to twelve shillings a day. The houses inhabited by the better class of colored people are two-story frame buildings, painted white, for the most part surrounded by well-kept gardens, and quite equal in appearance to those belonging to the same class of white residents. In one which we entered, the furniture was handsome, and a new piano occupied one corner of the parlor; the master of the house, a colored man, (acting by the way as a land agent,) and represented to me as a man of rare intelligence, was absent. The poorer blacks live commonly in small detached cabins, sometimes built of unhewn logs, consisting ordinarily of one room. The furniture was commonly one or two bedsteads, with bedding, a chest or two, chairs, tables, and cooking utensils, sometimes a looking-glass, clock, or bureau. In the garden-spot about the cabin were grown corn, beans, pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, &c.; their gardens, indeed, were quite as flourishing and well tended as those of their white neighbors. In every instance that came under my observation, the inmates seemed comfortable, well fed, and contented.”

    Yet these are the people unfit to take care of themselves, according to Pro-Slavery writers. We may be satisfied that the slave who has the sagacity and energy to escape from servitude to Canada and Freedom, will be able to earn a fair livelihood upon his arrival, despite the inhospitable climate.

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