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Making FreedomThe Underground Railroad and the Politics of Slavery$

R. J. M. Blackett

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781469608778

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9781469608785_Blackett

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. Making Their Way to Freedom

. Making Their Way to Freedom

Chapter:
(p.7) 1. Making Their Way to Freedom
Source:
Making Freedom
Author(s):

R. J. M. Blackett

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469608778.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter details Henry Banks' decision to leave Virginia in 1853 and the efforts of his former master to retake him. The actions of Banks and others who followed a similar course tell us a great deal about the enslaved's notions of freedom. But it is important to keep in mind that while Banks was successful, many others failed to attain their goal, were recaptured and returned to slavery, were sold further south and permanently separated from family, or, worse yet, lost their lives in the effort to reach freedom.

Keywords:   slaves, slavery, enslaved, Henry Banks, freedom

“I find myself in a Position to address you a few lines and I hope that they may find you in as good health as I am myself in.” There is nothing unconventional about this opening salutation except that it was written by a slave to his master soon after he had escaped. It is unusual in another way: the author clearly meant to thumb his nose at his master, to demonstrate his capacity for independent action, and to make clear his desire for freedom. But this sort of communication, written so soon after an escape, ran the risk of destroying the best laid plans. That it did not says something about the individual who executed what was a masterful plan of escape from slavery in 1853. The letter was written by Henry W. Banks to William M. Buck, a forty-three-year-old slave master of Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and postmarked from New York City February 15, 1853. Banks, who was described by contemporaries as a mulatto, had been hired by Buck in 1849 from his owner, Edward W. Massey, who lived a short distance from Front Royal. Evidently, Banks had requested the move so he could be near his wife. But he may have had other plans. Less than two years after the transfer, Massey got word that Banks was (p.8) planning to escape. Massey had him jailed, but Buck intervened and had him released, confident that the rumors were baseless. In April 1852, Massey got wind of another planned escape and this time sold Banks to a local slave trader. Again, Buck came to Banks's defense: family connections, he predicted confidently, would keep Banks close to home. To convince Massey that there was nothing to the rumor, Buck agreed to post a security of $800 should Banks escape before the expiration of the contract they had first signed in 1849 and renewed every year since. In less than a year, Banks was gone—where to no one knew. Massey was convinced he had fled with his brother Landon and despaired of ever retaking him. His “smartness,” Massey predicted, was a “sure guarantee for his escape.”

Two days after the escape, William Buck received his first letter from Banks, ostensibly from New York City. In it Banks spoke of plans to go to either Albany or Buffalo and, curiously, informed Buck of the escape route he had taken. First, he had gone north to Washington County, Maryland, a few miles short of the Pennsylvania line. But rather than cross into free territory at that point, he instead turned southeast to Baltimore, where he spent two days. From there, he headed north to Philadelphia, where he rested for one night before moving on to New York City. These details, it seems, were meant to throw off any likely pursuers. If Banks had escaped, as he states in his letter, on the 13th, then he could not have arrived in New York two days later, given the stops he says he had made on the way. But Buck was not fooled; he suspected Banks had gone directly to Philadelphia. In fact, he sent an advertisement announcing the escape to Kinzell and Doyle, slave traders in Clear Spring, Washington County, Maryland, in the hope they could cut Banks off before he reached free territory. Unfortunately for Buck, both were away on business in Pennsylvania at the time.

Among slaveholders at least, it was believed that Banks had not acted alone. Edward Massey suspected he had left in the company of his brother. While it is not clear that Banks had worked with (p.9) others, there seemed to have been a number of other escapes from the area around the same time, suggesting a degree of collusion and planning among the slaves. Two weeks after Banks left the area, Thomas Ashby, William Buck's stepbrother, was in Philadelphia searching for a slave named George who had escaped about the same time Banks did. George had written a number of letters to family and friends back home from an address in Philadelphia that Ashby described as “one of the receptacles for fugitives and their correspondence.” Ashby tracked him to the address from which the letters were written, but George had already moved on. He hired a policeman with fifteen years' experience tracking fugitives, but it was, as he told his brother, like “looking for a needle in a haystack” because there were so many places to hide and “such a variety of faces” that confuse and “throw difficulties in the way.” Ashby even contacted Edward D. Ingraham, the city's commissioner responsible for hearing fugitive slave cases, showing him several of the letters George had written, but Ingraham had few answers to the riddle of George's whereabouts. In the end, Ashby gave up, suggesting to his brother that he should instead employ someone who knew both Banks and George and could commit to spending “several weeks” in the city.

Following his stepbrother's advice, William Buck contacted Henry H. Kline, a deputy marshal who almost two years earlier had been a member of the Philadelphia posse that accompanied Edward Gorsuch, a Maryland slaveholder, to Christiana, Pennsylvania, on his ill-fated attempt to reclaim three of his slaves. In spite of his experiences at Christiana, Kline seemed to have remained active in the business of tracking down fugitive slaves. Buck suggested Kline hire a policeman from each of the city's wards where African Americans lived to help him capture Banks and George. Unfortunately, Kline was away when Buck's letter arrived. When he finally replied in April, he declined to follow Buck's advice because, as he observed, many of the policemen were under the influence of abolitionists and were opposed to hunting down fugitives. (p.10) He also did not think it wise to write Banks a letter in the hope of ferreting him out because, as he informed Buck, blacks in the city protected fugitives and quickly moved them out once they got wind of any danger. Instead, he proposed to hire two or three men he could trust. He had a few leads, he added hopefully, from a “pi-geon” who had informed him that Banks was not in the city at the moment but would soon return. This news must have raised Buck's spirits. If it did, they were soon dashed when Buck received a second letter from Banks in April, posted from a steamship on the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, saying he had changed his plans and was now on his way to California. Buck shared this latest letter with Edward Massey, who responded that Banks was leading them on a merry dance. This most recent letter, Massey believed, was meant to throw Buck's “attention away from him.” He knew Banks well enough to know that he was not on his way to California, nor would he settle on a farm or in a small town such as Aspinwall, Pennsylvania, along the Allegheny River, where a brother lived and where he would be most vulnerable, but would choose instead the security and anonymity provided by a large city such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or New York. That is where they should concentrate their search. But Ashby's efforts in Philadelphia had drawn a blank, as had Kline's. Massey also suspected that Banks had the support of someone who knew the preferred way of reaching California and was feeding him this information.

Banks was also using stamps that were designed to throw Buck and Massey off his track: “He has found means,” Massey observed, “to have a very imperfect stamp put on his letters.” Not only was the stamp imperfect (whatever that means), but the letter was headed “steamship,” without giving the name of the ship. Massey suggested that Buck contact the postmaster at Front Royal to verify that the stamps used by Banks were legitimate. Massey may have been skeptical about Banks's ultimate destination, but others who Buck had hired to help him recapture Banks were convinced he was headed to his brother's home in western Pennsylvania. The (p.11) idea was not too far-fetched. If Banks was not heading to Aspinwall, then he may have been trying to make connections with Maria Cooper and her family, recently freed slaves from Front Royal who had settled in Washington County just south of Pittsburgh. In spite of his best efforts, Buck failed to locate Banks. The trail went cold until November 1853, when Buck received a third letter from Banks informing him that he had arrived safely in Hamilton, Ontario.1

While Banks's escape speaks to the fragility of the slave system, it does provide us with an opportunity to explore further the nature and consequences of what Henry Bibb, who had escaped from slavery in Kentucky, called the “work of self emancipation.” At first glance it seems odd that Banks would go to such lengths to stay in touch with his former master. There is no doubt that he felt some attachment to the man who had protected him from the dark unknown of the internal slave trade. Banks even offered in his final letter from Canada to repay Buck the $800 security he had to forfeit when Banks left. But neither his attachment to his wife and friends in Front Royal nor the gratitude he felt for Buck's treatment of him diminished Banks's determination to be free. His chances of reaching freedom were increased if he could throw off his tracks any slave catchers Buck might send. His first two letters were meant to do just that. Edward Massey was convinced they were part of a carefully laid plan of deception contrived by a smart slave who for years had been planning to run.2

Both Buck and Massey suspected that free blacks in and around Front Royal had helped Banks escape by providing him with a pass. This seems unlikely; after all, Banks was literate and did not need the assistance of anyone to write him a pass. To the dismay of slaveholders, the pass, which was meant as a mechanism to control the movement of slaves and limit their chances of escape, had been transformed in the hands of slaves into a passport to freedom. Advertisements for runaways frequently made reference to the fact that fugitives could read and write, had written passes for (p.12) themselves, or had acquired passes from others. We do not know the exact details of the poster Buck sent to Kinzell and Doyle, the slave traders operating out of Clear Spring, Maryland, but by the early 1850s advertisements made frequent reference to the fact that slaves were using their literary skills to effect their escape. When, for example, Prince, a twenty-five-year-old harness maker, escaped with five others from a “camp” in Athens in southeast Tennessee in September 1853, George Washington Reid informed readers of a Nashville newspaper that Prince had a map in his possession, that he could read and write, and that he was making his way to Illinois using a pass that Reid implied he had written himself. Three months later, John Patton, a fellow Tennessean, made public that a slave named Sam had escaped from Williamson County with free papers that were the property of David McLamore. The implication was that Sam had either stolen the papers or McLamore had given them to him to use in his escape to Illinois.3 In March 1851, John Gilliam of Powhatan County, Virginia, advertised for two runaways, Marigold and William, who, he believed, had acquired what he described as “spurious passes” or forged free papers with the help of free blacks that they were using to move around freely and to find work on the canal near Lynchburg and on the railroad. An Orange County, North Carolina, slaveholder, John Glenn, suspected that his slave Jack was making his way through Virginia to a free state using “forged free papers or the pass of some free negro.”4

The ease with which slaves moved about the rural South facilitated the transmission of news and pushed slave systems to enact laws to limit their mobility. The problem was exacerbated in urban areas, where slaves had even greater freedom to move around and to consort with fellow slaves and working-class whites. The situation in Nashville, Tennessee, was fairly typical. Periodically during the 1850s, the local authorities would make a concerted effort to clamp down on the movement of slaves in the city by fining those employers who broke the law prohibiting hiring slaves without written permission, and those whites and free blacks who (p.13) “entertained” slaves or sold them alcohol. William Graham, for instance, was fined $10 plus costs for allowing a slave to sleep in an outhouse without permission, $2 and costs for permitting the same slave to hire his time, and an additional $20 and costs for, as one newspaper put it, “combining with the same slave to hire his own time.”5 Periodic police raids had no perceptible long-lasting effects on these connections. Similar connections existed in small towns and settlements throughout the South. In Maddenville, a crossroads close to Stevensburg in Culpeper County, Virginia, for example, a small tavern, general store, and inn owned by Willis Madden, a prosperous free black, provided a meeting place where whites, free blacks, and slaves could “play cards and drink.” It was, Scott Christianson has written, an “important information clearing house for slaves as well. Many regarded it, like the courthouse and the plantation dining room, a gold mine of intelligence about what whites were up to.” It is, Julius Scott argues, in these settings of “people on the move”—places where they congregated—that news of developments elsewhere were orally transmitted, where rumors were legend. When James Redpath, the radical journalist, toured the South in the late 1850s, he was stunned by the speed with which news traveled among slaves in spite of strict surveillance on the plantations and the existence of patrols, which, he observed, did little to stem the movement of slaves “over large tracts of the country.” This system of “secret travel” had its origin, he reported, in the slaves' “love of gossip and wish to meet their friends and relatives.” The more oppressive the system became, the quicker gossip was replaced by a deep yearning for freedom.6 When William Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis's coachman, escaped from Richmond as Union forces gathered for a possible assault on the Confederate capital in 1862, Union commanders in Fredericksburg consulted him on the layout of the enemy's defenses. For years, Jackson had moved about the city with relative freedom, working as a messenger for a local bank before he was hired by Davis. When he later toured Britain to promote the cause of the Union, he added the (p.14) sort of legitimacy to the cause that only someone with first hand information on the inner workings of the Confederacy could.7

But Henry Banks's letters to Front Royal point to another feature of the system of communication employed by slaves. Apparently either slaves or free blacks in Front Royal had gotten word to George and Banks by mail that slave catchers were on their heels. It frustrated Thomas Ashby's carefully laid plans to intercept the fugitives in Philadelphia. “It is most unfortunate,” he wrote Buck, that “those letters fell into the hands they did. Could they have been intercepted without being known amongst the negroes, a correspondence kept up, purporting to be from either or all, his apprehension would have been without question. Now such a correspondence is out of the question for the reason I fear it is known in Front Royal that I came here for him.” Clearly, Ashby was baffled by the ease with which letters were exchanged between the fugitives and their friends and family in Front Royal. Both he and Massey wondered if the local postmaster was colluding with slaves or if he was simply ignoring his responsibilities under local law to prevent the transmission of such letters. Massey put it bluntly to Buck: the local postmaster should be asked whether it was “best to deliver letters to slaves without informing their masters.” He knew the answer, but that did little to ease his concerns.8

Slaves who had left the South used the postal service to communicate with loved ones and friends left behind. The Reverend Robert Ryland had to warn his congregation at the First African Church in Richmond, Virginia, against receiving letters from escaped former members of the church in which they described the best ways to reach freedom.9 The use of the mail by abolitionists in the mid-1830s riled slaveholders, who called for prohibiting the dissemination of abolitionist materials by this means. By the 1850s improvements in the postal system and a reduction of rates dramatically lowered the cost of sending a letter. Starting in 1851, mail sent between New York and California, for example, was charged a flat rate of “3 cents per half ounce.” This meant that anyone (and (p.15) that included fugitive slaves such as Banks) could correspond with distant family and friends cheaply.10

The streams of communication flowed in both directions. Slaves contemplating escape sometimes made plans with friends and family in the North and Canada before leaving. John Bull and Joe Mayo, two of five runaways found on the steamship Keziah in the James River in 1858, knew where they were going. Bull had arranged with friends in Canada to be hired as a waiter in a local hotel. Mayo was off to New York City to meet his wife, who had escaped a few years earlier. Samuel Green had heard of Canada and the UGRR from Harriet Tubman during one of her trips to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to abduct slaves. Susan Brook, forty, fled Norfolk in April 1854, six months after her son had arrived in Canada. It was three years after Caroline Aldridge's brother escaped to Canada from Maryland in 1854 before she, at age twenty-three, decided to follow him.11

William Still of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee received numerous requests from runaways in Canada asking him to contact family members left behind to arrange their departure. Samuel Miles, who took the name Robert King after he escaped from Somerset County, Maryland, in August 1855, wrote Still from St. Catherine, Canada, asking him to contact his wife Sarah, who was living in Baltimore, to let her know where he was and to encourage her to leave. Lewis Burrell escaped with his brother Peter from Alexandria, Virginia, in April 1856, leaving his wife Winna Ann and two children, Joseph and Mary, behind. After nearly three years in Canada, Burrell wrote Still, saying that he had found out his wife was then living in Baltimore and that she wanted to leave. But Burrell feared that a letter from Canada would alert both her master and local authorities. Instead, he suggested that Still write to Samuel Madden, a Baptist preacher—and the son of Willis Madden, whose tavern and inn at Maddenville, was a hub, as we have seen, of communication for slaves—who he knew would help. According to Christianson, Samuel Madden “occasionally returned to the (p.16) area to visit his kin and hold illegal prayer meetings at Berry Hill and other local spots; he also exchanged letters and intelligence on behalf of runaways and their loved ones.” In spite of warnings from Still, John Henry Hill wrote frequently to family and friends in Petersburg, Virginia, arranging for their escape. Hill, a twenty-six-year-old carpenter, had escaped from Richmond in January 1853. A slave in Petersburg, Hill was hired out, agreeing to pay his master, James Mitchell, $150 at the end of the hire in December 1852. Instead, Mitchell took Hill to Richmond where he planned to sell him. Hill put up a fierce fight when he was taken to an auction house and managed to escape. He was hidden by a friend of his mother for nine months before he could safely leave Richmond for Norfolk, where he boarded a ship for Philadelphia, leaving behind a wife who was free and two children. Over the next few years Hill kept up a constant stream of letters to Still with instructions and suggestions about the best way to get his family out. Hill's wife and children would later join him, as would his uncle Hezekiah, a sixty-three-year-old slave, in 1856 and his brother James in 1861.12

William Still was the conduit, the transmitter of communication, between Hill and his family in Virginia. He even arranged to have a large box of goods belonging to Hill's wife shipped out of Peters-burg to Canada. Still also used a number of unnamed black and white contacts to carry letters between Hill and his family. Writing letters was risky and dangerous business; should they fall into the wrong hands, it could lead to the imprisonment of the courier or contact person and the selling of the runaway's spouse. It was the discovery of a letter from his son of the same name who had escaped to Canada earlier that raised suspicions among authorities in Cambridge, Maryland, that the Reverend Samuel Green was involved in the frequent escape of slaves from the area. Authorities in others parts of the South were similarly vigilant. In Louisville, for example, they built several cases against local opponents of slavery on letters they had received from the North and Canada. When the local police raided the home of John C. Long, a white dyer and (p.17) scourer, who had helped a slave named Alfred to escape, they found a cigar box filled with letters from Westport and Chillicothe, Ohio, written by Long's brother, asking for a description of Alfred so he could write a free pass that would allow Alfred to travel to Canada. Another case in Louisville involved Rachel, twenty years old and the only slave of J. C. Wetherlee, who escaped to Chatham, Canada, in 1856 assisted by F. George Cope, a well-known white grocer. The evidence suggests that Rachel took in washing for Cope. But there was apparently more to the relationship. Rachel frequently visited Cope's shop and home and according to some witnesses spent an inordinate amount of time in Cope's room. Cope would later admit that she had become his “wife in Heaven.” Cope and Rachel planned her escape with the understanding that, once the anxiety caused by her escape had abated, he would join her in Canada. But Cope may have been deceived, for when a month later Wether-lee went to Canada to persuade Rachel to return, she handed him Cope's letters. They would be used by Wetherlee in his suit against Cope for aiding in Rachel's escape. When the case came to trial in 1859, the jury deadlocked, according to one wag because there were too many “amalgamating and kidnapping difficulties.” At a second trial ten months later, Cope was found not guilty, by which time he had languished in prison for two years.13

But if writing letters was risky business, it was a risk many were willing to take. The abolitionist, Laura Haviland, remembered frequent visits from former slaves who asked her to write letters to their family and friends using as conduits “white people who were their friends.” On the coastal arm of the UGRR, black seamen carried letters between slaves and northern friends and family. Slaves still in bondage, David Cecelski has argued, had extensive contact with slaves who fled or free blacks who migrated to northern cities. Those involved in getting word to family and friends by letter sometimes used what Still called “Underground Railroad parables,” but even this ruse proved unavailing at times.14 The mere suspicion that a white person in the South was partial to the cause of the (p.18) slave generally resulted in rough justice. The experiences of a white schoolteacher in Mississippi with the quaintly Dickensian name P. Smellee, was not atypical. Although Smellee was not involved in the UGRR, he was clearly partial to abolition. Not long after he was appointed principal of the Jackson public school in 1854, Smellee wrote a friend in the North but forgot to address the letter properly. The local postmaster opened the letter to see to whom it should be sent, read its content, and, when he discovered it contained “infamous Abolitionist sentiments,” passed it on to the mayor. Smellee was dismissed and left town ahead of an irate mob.15 Others were not so lucky.

But what prompted slaves such as Henry Banks to begin the “work of self emancipation”? My interest here is in those who left the South permanently. As John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger have shown, they comprised a small but nonetheless significant number of the many who fled. The politics of self-emancipation took different forms and were driven by different considerations—some opportunistic, others calculated. In interviews with William Still runaways revealed their reasons for seeking freedom. Thomas Madd, twenty-two, left Easton, Mary-land, after being severely flogged for what he thought was a minor infraction. As in many other cases, Madd's owner had also threatened to sell him. A cruel flogging prompted Mary Epps, forty-five and the mother of fifteen children (four of whom had been sold away earlier), to leave in March 1855. She later paid $400 to get her husband Francis out, although the records are silent on what became of her children. In a system where the threat of family separation through sale was ever present, some slaves fled without their family, hoping to be reunited with them later. Nelson Harris, twenty-seven, escaped from Richmond in October 1853, leaving his wife and two children behind, because he was worried that he was about to be sold. When Jane Davis, a sixty-year-old mother of twelve, lost six of her children to the internal slave trade, she (p.19) decided to flee from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In these and other cases, escape became a way to reunite families. Peter Johnson escaped from Berlin, Worcester County, Maryland, to join his wife, who had left months before. In some cases where one spouse was free, escapes also led to the reuniting of families in freedom. Not long after John Judah escaped from Maryland in May 1855, his wife arrived in Philadelphia. Some runaways, such as Zechariah Mead, simply followed the example of others. He fled when fifteen of his mistress's twenty slaves decamped for the North.16

Slaves also fled when, in their minds, masters broke hiring and other agreements, unwritten labor contracts if you will. Hezekiah Hill, John Henry Hill's sixty-three-year-old uncle, had an agreement with his owner to buy his freedom, but his master reneged on the contract after Hill had paid almost $2,000. In 1855 Hill fled Petersburg for Richmond, where he was “hidden under a floor by a friend.” A number of attempts to get him out by boat had to be abandoned as too dangerous. Finally, after thirteen months, Hill was put on board a steamer for Philadelphia with the seven-year-old son of the man who had hidden him, leaving behind his wife and two sons. He arrived in Toronto in January 1856. When masters arbitrarily changed the terms of hire, slaves invariably resisted. Both Charles King, a twenty-three-year-old ship carpenter who paid his master $10 per month, and Robert White, thirty-five, who paid $9, left Norfolk Virginia in September 1854, when their masters demanded increased payments. Lewis Francis, twenty-seven, arrived in Philadelphia in December 1855, after leaving Baltimore, where he had been hired out since a boy to a barber. Francis was allowed to keep $250 annually from his wages, paying his owner, a Mrs. Delinas of Harford County, Maryland, $8 a month. When Delinas became dissatisfied with the amount she was receiving and threatened to sell Francis if the amount was not increased, he left.17

Henry Banks's first letter is a curious mix of longing for the people (p.20) and places he left behind and an expression of a firm determination to be free. Not only did he ask William Buck to pass on greetings to a number of friends and family, he also declared in no uncertain terms, “I never expect to return.”18 Others put if differently, but the meaning was equally clear: they were determined to be free and were aware of the existence of territory where they could find that freedom. Interviewed in 1863, William Cornish recalled that he had come to Canada in 1856 from the Eastern Shore of Maryland not because he was abused; “I came here just for freedom,” he declared. A fellow Maryland slave, Henry Williamson, echoed Cornish's sentiment when he told Benjamin Drew that he “wanted to be free.” Richard Newman has called this “a free soil consciousness,” and Sue Peabody a “free soil principle.”19 Lord Dunmore was aware of this when he issued his proclamation in 1775 at the start of the Revolutionary War offering freedom to any slave who would throw in his lot with the British. In issuing the proclamation, Dunmore opened up free territory to which slaves flocked in numbers that startled both their former owners as well as those who were leading the fight against the British. The speed and size of the exodus from plantations were best captured in the imagery used by W. E. B. Du Bois in his discussion of those who abandoned plantations and their masters in the early years of the Civil War: it was, he wrote, “like thrusting a walking stick into an ant hill.”20

Throughout the Americas, the existence of free land or the promise of freedom prompted slaves to abandon their owners. As Jane Landers has shown in her discussion of running away in the eighteenth century, long before the existence of the UGRR, “hundreds of Africans risked their lives to flee southward—to Spanish Florida,” responding to the offer and promise of freedom. One Texas slaveholder who, like his contemporaries had lost hundreds of slaves to the free soil of Mexico, may have spoken for many slaves when he lamented, the “negro he has got Mexico in his head.”21

The knowledge and awareness of free land and the desire for (p.21) freedom dominate the testimony and the actions of former slaves. John Henry Hill called on those he left behind in Virginia to follow this historical calling: “Come Poor distress men women and come to Canada where colored men are free.” John Clayton echoed these sentiments. A worker in a Richmond tobacco factory, Clayton, thirty-five, escaped with James Mercer and William H. Gilliam in February 1854 by hiding in a small space next to the boiler of a steamer bound for Philadelphia. Soon after, he wrote Still: “You may rest assured that I feels myself a free man and do not feel as I did when I was in Virginia thanks be to God I have no master into Canada but I am my own man.”

Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Hall left Baltimore in August 1855 because, as she told Still, “she wanted to be free.” Robert Jones, thirty-five, and his wife Eliza, forty, left Petersburg Virginia, in the same month as Hall. Jones reported that he left because he “wanted his liberty—always had from a boy.” Not long after he arrived in Canada, Jones organized the Queen Victoria Rifle Guards, a black military company, in which he, John Henry Hill, and Hezekiah Hill served as officers. Away from the system, those who were once slaves came together to express their sense of freedom in ways unimaginable just a few short years earlier. These were expressions of political, economic, and psychological independence, the ability to frame one's life and future untrammeled by the dictates of a master.22

To even the most casually observant slaveholder in the mid-nineteenth century the slave system seemed to be hemmed in by a wall of free territory about which their slaves were aware. To the north lay the Free States and Canada, to the southeast and south the recently emancipated territories of the British Empire, and to the southwest Mexico. Efforts by the American government to win concessions from the British through treaties failed to stem the tide of escapes into Canada. Whatever Texas slaveholders tried proved to be equally futile, as were efforts in contested territory such as Kansas, where some Indian peoples were not inclined to respond (p.22) positively to the entreaties and blustering of Missouri slaveholders. Finally, there were the islands of the British West Indies, particularly the Bahamas and Jamaica, that lay close to major U.S. shipping lanes. Slaves consciously exploited these points of vulnerability to effect their escapes. Although it is next to impossible to quantify the number of slaves who decided to head south rather than north, the evidence suggests that escapes along the Atlantic seaboard to islands such as Jamaica were not infrequent.

One incident that took place in 1855 shows both the inventiveness of the slaves and those who helped them when planning escapes and the impact their actions could have on relations between Washington and London. Relations between the two capitals had long been strained over the refusal of British authorities to return slaves on ships that had been driven by bad weather to take refuge in the Bahamas or Bermuda. In 1831 the brig Comet ran aground on a Bahamian island with 164 slaves on board. Three years later another brig, the Encomium, with 45 slaves, ran into similar difficulties. The following year the Enterprise, with 78, slaves was forced into Hamilton, Bermuda, by bad weather. In all three cases American authorities called unsuccessfully for the release and return of the cargoes, including the slaves. In another case, that of the Creole, it was a revolt by slaves and not bad weather that forced the ship into Nassau, Bahamas. Although Bahamian authorities were willing to hold for trial those who were involved in the revolt, in none of these cases, whether it was the action of slaves or the result of inclement weather that forced the ships into port, were the slaves returned.23

In May 1855 a crowd in excess of 300 gathered on the wharf of Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica, when it was rumored that there was a slave on board the brig Young America, which had recently arrived from Baltimore. Word spread rapidly that Samuel Rogers, the ship's captain, had confined the slave on board, worried that an attempt would be made to rescue him. Rogers had grounds to be concerned. Although the gates to the wharves were closed to prevent (p.23) access to the ship, a crowd of men and women got around this barrier by launching a number of rowboats from a beach nearby. Within minutes the slave was taken on board one of the boats, which brought him to shore, where he was taken into custody. The next day the slave was set free following a brief appearance before Justice R. F. Thomas in the Court of Petty Sessions.

Behind this simple outline lies a complex story. Prior to leaving Baltimore, Captain Rogers had hired on as a cook Phillip Nettles, reputedly a free black from the city, paying him $23 in advance. Before the ship could clear the Chesapeake Bay, however, Rogers realized he had made a terrible mistake: Nettles could not cook, which raised suspicions about his true identity. When confronted, Nettles first stuck to his story. Had he not shown Rogers his free papers and so proved his status as a free man who could be hired without violating any state or local laws? But under constant badgering Nettles was finally forced to admit he was not who he claimed to be. He was John Anderson—he is sometimes referred to as Joseph or James in reports—a twenty-five-year-old Baltimore slave who had been hired out by his owner, a Mr. Robinson, for many years and so had lived relatively freely, as did many others in the port city. His friend Nettles, a free black, had lent him his free papers. Complicating the picture even further is the fact that Anderson had been brought on board by his “landlord and a young woman.” The implication is that the landlord was white. At a time when local observers worried about the existence of elements of the UGRR in the city, it seems that Anderson had the help of Nettles, his landlord, and the unnamed woman in planning his escape. It was the sort of alliance that haunted southerners. Captain Rogers faced two problems. First, he knew that under Maryland law and Baltimore ordinances, he would be held liable for Anderson's escape even if he could prove he had been duped. Second, he was determined to recover the $23 he had paid Anderson. He concluded that the best way to resolve both problems was to keep Anderson on board rather than put him ashore in Norfolk or at some other (p.24) port along the coast, where he would be forced to answer potentially embarrassing questions.

Once the ship dropped anchor in Jamaica, the drama took a new if not unexpected turn. As a frequent visitor to Jamaica, Captain Rogers knew he was likely to lose Anderson. In a similar incident two years earlier, two Charleston, South Carolina, slaves, H. A. Handy and William Lewis, were freed from the Paraguay when it docked in Kingston. The freeing of Handy and Lewis and the refusal of the local authorities to hand over American fugitive slaves who had escaped to British territories meant that Rogers knew he was unlikely to get his way. His problems were compounded by the fact that he knew he would probably face prosecution in Maryland for allowing Anderson to escape. Keeping Anderson below deck and out of sight, then, seemed the best thing to do in an untenable situation.

Once it became known that Anderson was being held on board the ship, a group of Jamaicans went before a local magistrate and insisted he declare the slave free. But the magistrate refused to act, insisting that it was the sole responsibility of the people to whom the ship was consigned to take the initiative. In light of this ruling, the consignees sent for Captain Rogers, who in an attempt to prove Anderson was who he initially claimed to be, provided what were called “protection papers” signed by a notary in Baltimore stating that the man who came on board the Young America was Phillip Nettles, a free black. Rogers calculated that if he could show the courts that he honestly believed the person he had hired was Nettles, a free man, and acted on that belief, then there was no reason why a free man should be brought before the magistrate against his will. It was a long shot. And even if the magistrate bought his rather tortuous reasoning, Rogers knew that the decision would be appealed. But Rogers may also have been counting on such a delay to provide him with time and a cover to set sail from Jamaica unmolested.

The rescue and the hearing before the magistrate generated a (p.25) great deal of public interest locally and raised conflicting questions about the international reach of American laws meant to address domestic issues. Even to some observers who opposed slavery, forcefully freeing Anderson from an American ship, flying an American flag, which was considered American territory, was a “violation of international law.” If that were the case, a supporter of the rescue countered, and the “offence” was committed on American soil, would Anderson have to be handed over for trial in the United States? Such a conclusion would be preposterous, he insisted, as it would first have to ignore the fact that, at the time of the rescue, the ship was anchored in British waters. Once in British territory, he argued, everyone on board became answerable to British law “in the same manner as British subjects must conform to American laws in American ports and on American territory, even to be locked up in the ‘Calaboose,’ if they happen to be dark, till their departure.” What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, for under the laws of many southern states, black foreigners in ships docked in their ports were held, sometimes in prison, until the ship departed. But more to the point, he concluded, slavery is a form of kidnapping, and Jamaicans should have nothing to do with such illegal acts. “It matters not where from, in order to render the kidnapper amenable to our laws; and any person held in slavery in our territory, or in our waters, is kidnapped, without any reference to the laws of the country whence he comes.”24

Such legal niceties mattered little to Robert Monroe Harrison, the U.S. consul in Kingston, for whom the storming of the ship, the rescue of the slave, and the action of the magistrates were direct assaults on American property and a violation of international law. He demanded that the Jamaican governor conduct a full and impartial inquiry. In the meanwhile, Harrison kept his superiors in Washington fully informed of developments, especially Jamaican public opinion. In the years since his appointment as consul in 1832, this proud Virginian had kept up a constant stream of vitriolic criticism of West Indian emancipation, which he insisted (p.26) had lead to economic decline and social and political chaos in the island. The specter of racial equality and the emergence of black Jamaicans in leadership positions alarmed and galled Harrison. He viewed with dismay what he believed was the emergence of an alliance between blacks, mulattoes, and “a few jews who are such a cowardly set of wretches that fear alone makes them stick to the mulattoes.” Harrison never missed an opportunity to pour scorn on the alliance. The investigation, he hoped, would deter “not only the savage Negroes from insulting our fellow citizens, but unprincipled magistrates from abetting them in their villainous acts.” The most vociferous supporters of the mob action on the wharf, he declared, were the editors of the Morning Journal, a “wooly headed Sambo and quadroon.” Harrison spent a great deal of time and energy conjuring up the most lurid and insulting epithets of those who condoned the actions at Savanna-la-Mar. They were nothing if not “half savage negroes and magistrates, who as far as I can learn, were for the most part people of colour and natural sons of Jews by Negroes and Mulattos, prejudiced against everything American but negroes and their descendents.”25 Emancipation was an experiment with such dire social and economic consequences, he warned consistently, that the United States should avoid it at all costs.

There was another consequence of West Indian emancipation that seemed to haunt Harrison: he was convinced that, in an effort to destroy slavery in the United States, the British had frequently dispatched abolitionist emissaries from Jamaica to America. Following the rescue of Handy and Lewis, he insisted that they were “induced to fabricate” their claims to freedom by a “petty fogging Lawyer who was in the United states about a year ago lecturing on Slavery in various parts of the country by the name of William W. Anderson.” There is no evidence that William Anderson, a Scotsman and lawyer long resident in the island, was doing any such thing; he had been sent to the United States by Jamaican plantation owners to encourage black Americans to migrate to Jamaica. (p.27) But the frequent visits of black and white American abolitionists to the island since emancipation, as well as missions like William Anderson's, was proof enough, as far as Harrison was concerned, of the existence of an abolitionist conspiracy aimed at destroying American slavery. Harrison's claims of an international conspiracy against American slavery seemed to be reinforced by regular commentaries and letters to the editor of Jamaican newspapers that placed the rescue of Anderson in the wider context of political developments in the United States, especially community resistance to enforcement of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. With an eye on a failed attempt to rescue a slave named Anthony Burns in Boston a few months earlier, “A Freeman” had asked rhetorically, “if you sympathize, and probably would have taken part, with the worthy Bostonians, had you been amongst them, in their fruitless endeavours to rescue the slave from the grasp of the oppressor, how can you find fault with precisely a similar act in a seaport in free Jamaica?” Not only was it the right thing to do in spite of the constant carping of the “sensitive Yankees” about violations of the American flag, he reasoned, the actions of the rescuers were a clear reaffirmation of the island's determination to protect its nationals as well as a message that Jamaicans would no longer tolerate, as they had in the past, American slaveholders coming to Jamaica and acting with impunity.26

“A Freeman” also reminded his readers of the occasions on the eve of emancipation when free blacks were taken from Montego Bay by Americans and sold into slavery. There was an even more recent case, which, surprisingly, he did not mention. In May 1853, African Americans and sympathetic whites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got word from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in Philadelphia that Thomas J. Adams from Montgomery County, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, was on his way to Pittsburgh by train, along with a black youth named Alexander Hendrickure, who they suspected had been kidnapped. A large crowd met the train when it arrived in Pittsburgh. Adams was taken into custody, and Hendrickure (p.28) was freed under a writ of habeas corpus. Adams was later freed when he agreed to give up the youth. As it turned out, while on a stopover in Jamaica, Adams had persuaded the young Jamaican to accompany him to the United States with promises of opening riches for him in California. The evidence suggests, however, that his plan was to sell Hendrickure into slavery in Kentucky.27

To “A Freeman” such incidents justified the rescue of Anderson as both an act of abolitionist solidarity and a defense of the island's citizens from potential abduction. But the Anderson case also provides an opportunity to widen our lens the better to understand the range and scope of responses to the Fugitive Slave Law. Soon after the law's enactment in September 1850, a meeting held at the Bible Depository in Bridgetown, Barbados, adopted a series of resolutions expressing abhorrence of the “spirit of the act, the principles on which it was passed, and the objects it was intended to accomplish.” The meeting also made plans to collect funds to help fugitive slaves in “affecting their escape from such injustice, tyranny and oppression.”28 The meeting may have articulated the sentiments of many in the region. But to some Jamaican observers the Anderson case raised thorny questions about the consequences of resistance to established law. The editors of the Colonial Standard, for instance, echoed the views of those in the United States who feared that resistance to any duly enacted law would inevitably result in political anarchy. “A riotous rabble,” the editors insisted, “had no more right to board an American vessel in order to rescue a slave, than they would have had to commit the same outrage, in order to take a white seaman articled to the ship from before the mast.” Even the editors of the Falmouth Post, who thought Anderson should have been freed, wondered about the consequences of popular resistance to laws however heinous they might be. Put in the starkest terms, illegal action could under no circumstances be condoned even if its aim was the laudable freedom of a slave. Any-one, who “outraged the laws” opened themselves to “prosecution and punishment,” the editors suggested. A slave had every right (p.29) to try to escape, but the people of Savanna-la-Mar could not “set up a law of their own, in opposition to the law of the land, for the purpose of ‘freeing a brother in captivity.’”29 The nicety of the argument was lost on supporters of the action, for as “A Freeman” countered, slavery was morally if not legally akin to kidnapping. Much of the hearing in the Court of Petty Sessions was devoted to an examination of whether the “rabble” had acted riotously. Anderson was removed from the ship while Rogers was on shore, and there is no evidence that the five men who took him threatened anyone on board the ship, although one would be surprised if those on board considered themselves a friendly welcoming committee. All of those who witnessed the events on shore admitted that women in the crowd treated Captain Rogers roughly, in one case snatching the “protection papers” from him. But there was a general consensus that the crowd, made up of a “mixed concourse of different classes of people,” many of them women, was on the whole peaceful. Harrison had met a similar reception at the end of the hearing for Handy and Lewis when a crowd made up mainly of women “hooted and hissed” at him.30 This description of the crowd that greeted Anderson makes it sound very much like the groups who attempted to protect fugitive slaves from recapture in the United States. They were large, a mixture of men and women, boisterous, but above all else convinced that the slave should be free.

Although experience told Harrison he had little chance of winning the return of Anderson, he insisted that the governor order an inquiry. Within days, the custos (or mayor) of Westmorland (the parish in which Savanna-la-Mar is located) submitted a report on the incident to Governor Henry Barkley, who agreed with many of its findings. The excitement, as he delicately described the events that took place on the wharf, was caused by Captain Rogers not allowing Anderson to come on shore. It was very likely Rogers would have gotten redress for the attacks by men on his ship and by the women on shore had he applied to the authorities. In the (p.30) end, Barkley wondered what more could be done beyond calling on magistrates to be more cautious and to act less precipitously in the future. Not surprisingly, Harrison vigorously opposed both Barkley's reasoning and his conclusions, but in the end, he could do no more than hope that, in the future, magistrates would be prevented from acting as they did and that the perpetrators of such riots would be brought to justice. Harrison believed that the governor must have known that such a “national insult” should only be addressed by the respective governments and not by two or three “prejudiced Magistrates of Colour who were themselves implicated in the matter, and were in reality the cause of the insult to our Flag.” Falling back on his customary view of what motivated the island people in their relations with the United States, Harrison was not very optimistic that anything would be done to prevent similar events in the future. From his “knowledge of the character of the inhabitants of the West Indian colonies, and more specifically those of this Island, who are more hostile to us than any other class of people I have met,” he concluded, almost in despair, that “the abduction of black or coloured persons from our vessels will never cease unless our Government address England on the subject in terms not to be mistaken.” But Americans also had to be more vigilant if they ever hoped to defend their property against a combined assault from slaves and their abolitionist instigators. Following the Handy and Lewis incident, Harrison had written collectors at the main ports in the United States, calling on them not to allow black seamen to ship out on vessels, especially those bound for the West Indies and South America. Such was the “power and audacity of the Negro and coloured population here just now,” he had warned, “heightened and stimulated by a plentiful distribution of Uncle Tom's Cabin that I feel certain that they would take any of their colour out of an American Vessel be they free or otherwise!” The U.S. government could have followed Harrison's suggestion and taken the dispute before the joint commission set up by the United States and Britain to deal with such cases, but in the end it chose not to (p.31) do so. Following receipt of Barkley's report, the British Colonial Office concluded cryptically, “It does not seem possible that the US Government can make anything of this case.31

The Anderson case is eerily similar to that of another fugitive slave, also named John Anderson, who fled to Canada at the end of the 1850s to avoid prosecution for murder. Arrested and brought before the Court of Queen's Bench, Anderson was finally freed on a technicality following intense public pressure on the British government organized by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.32 Both cases also raise intriguing questions about the political reach of American fugitive slave laws and the many ways opponents found to resist their enforcement at home and abroad. Like Banks and many others before them, Anderson, Handy, and Lewis took the decision to act, and their actions were a direct political challenge to slavery. Banks and Anderson knew this, and so did Handy and Lewis. They had a profound sense of the meaning of freedom. When asked by the magistrate in Savanna-la-Mar why he went on board the ship in Baltimore, Anderson replied poignantly: “I have been kept in bondage and hearing that this was a free country I tried to get here.” Handy was equally clear: “My object for going on board was for the purpose of achieving my liberty.”33 They spoke for all those slaves such as Henry Banks who knew why they were leaving and where they were going. They were engaging in self-emancipation.

Notes:

(1) . H. W. Banks to Dear Friend, New York, February 15, 1853, William M. Buck to Dear Sir, Front Royal, February 1, 1854, Buck Family Papers, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (my thanks to Ervin Jordon for copies of this and other letters from the collection); Thomas Ashby to William M. Buck, Philadelphia, February 28, 1853, C. B. Fristoe to Dear Sir, Front Royal, April 13, 1853, H. H. Kline to William M. Buck, Philadelphia, April 22, 1853, E. W. Massey to William Buck, n.p., May 2, 1853, Buck Family Papers, in Kenneth Stampp, ed., “Records of the Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War” (microform), series J, reel 9; Ellen Eslinger, “Freedom Without Independence: The Story of a Former Slave and Her Family,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 114, no. 2 (2006): 264–66. On Henry Kline, see Thomas P. Slaughter, Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North (New York, 1991), 52–53, and William Still's letter to the Voice of the Fugitive, January 1, 1852, in Black Abolitionists Papers Project (microform) (hereafter cited as BAP), reel 7, 318.

(2) . For Bibb, see John Blassingame, Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies (Baton Rouge, 1977), 50. Harriet Jacobs used a similar ruse. In an effort to lead her owner to think she had escaped to New York City, Jacobs wrote two letters, one to her owner and the other to her grandmother. She had a friend take the letters, which were postdated New York. The one to her grandmother asked that a reply be sent to Boston and not to New York, which she visited frequently. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861; repr., New York, 2001), 101–2.

(3) . Nashville Union and American, September 20, 1853; Nashville True Whig, February 8, 1854; Southern Illinoisan, February 24, 1854.

(4) . Richmond Whig, March 4, 1851, August 3, 1852. For a discussion of literacy among slaves and the employment of free papers by runaways, see John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (New York, 1999), 118–19, 230–31; Steven Hahn, A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), 42–3; and Janet Duitsman Cornelius, When I Can Read My Title Clear: Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South (Columbia, S.C., 1991), 8–9, 90–93.

(5) . Nashville True Whig, August 2, 12, 26, 29, 1854.

(6) . Scott Christianson, Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the (p.105) Civil War (Urbana, Ill., 2010), 25–26; Julius Sherrard Scott III, “The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of the Haitian Revolution” (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1986), 114–15. Steven Hahn calls these “channels of slave communication” (A Nation under Our Feet, 41). John R. McKivigan, ed., The Roving Editor or Talks With Slaves in the Southern States, By James Redpath (1859, repr., University Park, Pa., 1996), 239–41. On a visit to South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, John Adams was stunned by the speed with which news was transmitted among the slaves. He wrote in his diary: “The negroes have a wonderful art of communicating intelligence among themselves; it will run several hundreds of miles in a week or fortnight.” See Sidney Kaplan and Emma Nogrady Kaplan, The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution (Amherst, Mass., 1989), 25.

(7) . For Jackson's life and activities, see, for example, Chester Record, April 25, 1863; Bradford Review, March 21, 1863; Bury Times, April 18, 1863.

(8) . Thomas Ashby to William M. Buck, Philadelphia, February 28, 1853, E. W. Massey to William Buck, n.p., May 2, 1853, Buck Family Papers, in Stampp, ed., “Records of the Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations,” series J, reel 9. As an example of the very complex and sophisticated method of communication employed by fugitives and their families, see the case of Sally Thomas, a Nashville laundress; her free black son, John, living in Florence, Alabama; and her son Henry, a fugitive slave living in Buffalo, New York. John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, In Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South (New York, 2006), 47.

(9) . Robert Ryland, “Reminiscences of the First African Church, Richmond, VA.,” American Baptist Memorial 14 (November 1855): 323.

(10) . For a discussion of changes in the postal system, see Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge, Mass., 1995), 160–61.

(11) . John T. Kneebone, “A Breakdown of the Underground Railroad: Captain B. and the Capture of the Keziah, 1858,” Virginia Cavalcade 48, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 78; William Still, The Underground Railroad (1872; repr., Chicago, 1970), 251–55, 215, 417–18.

(12) . Still, The Underground Railroad, 298–99, 399–400, 191–205; Christianson, Freeing Charles, 27; Blassingame, Slave Testimony, 427–29.

(13) . Easton Gazette, August 28, 1858; Still, The Underground Railroad, 251–55; Richard Albert Blondo, “Samuel Green: A Black Life in Antebellum Maryland” (M.A. thesis, University of Maryland, 1988), 15–17; Kate Clifford Larson, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (New York, 2004), 141–43; Jean M. Humez, Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories (Madison, Wisc., 2003), 225; Louisville Courier, October 6, 8, 12, 1855, August 28, 29, 31, 1857; Louisville Journal, January 19, 20, 21, 1859.

(14) . Laura Haviland, A Woman's Life-Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland (Chicago, 1887), 195; David S. Cecelski, “The Shores of Freedom: The Maritime (p.106) Underground Railroad in North Carolina, 1800–1861,” North Carolina Historical Review 71, no. 2 (April 1994): 199–200; Still, The Underground Railroad, 30.

(15) . Pittsburgh Gazette, October 5, 1854.

(16) . Journal C of Station 2 of the UGRR, 1852–1857, BAP, reel 7, 13435, 13481–82, 13488, 13552; Still, The Underground Railroad, 317, 323, 410.

(17) . Still, The Underground Railroad, 205, 346–47; BAP, reel 7, 13553.

(18) . H. W. Banks to Dear Friend, New York, February 15, 1853, Buck Family Papers, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

(19) . Blassingame, Slave Testimony, 423; Benjamin Drew, The North-Side View of Slavery (1856; repr., New York, 1968), 133; Richard S. Newman, “‘Lucky to be Born in Pennsylvania’: Free Soil, Fugitive Slaves and the Making of Pennsylvania's Anti-Slav-ery Borderland,” Slavery & Abolition 32, no. 3 (September 2011): 414. For a discussion of the “free soil principle,” see Sue Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Regime (New York, 1996), chap. 1. Philip Troutman argues that escaped slaves created a “covert network of information and knowledge,” a “geopolitical literacy.” Troutman, “Grapevine in the Slave Market: African American Geopolitical Literacy and the 1841 Creole Revolt,” in Walter Johnson, ed., The Chattel Principle: Internal Slave Trades in the Americas (New Haven, 2004), 203–4.

(20) . For a discussion of the effects of Dunmore's proclamation, see Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (New York, 2005), chap. 1. , Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (1935; repr., New York, 1971), 62. Edwin H. Cotes described the leave taking as akin to “sheep jumping over a fence w[h]en one goes the[y] all follow.” Quoted in Joseph A. Barome, “The Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 92 (July 1968): 324.

(21) . Jane Landers, “Southern Passage: The Forgotten Route to Freedom in Florida,” in David W. Blight, ed., Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory (Washington, D.C., 2004), 117; see Jane Landers, American Creoles in the Age of Revolutions (Cambridge, Mass., 2010), for more comprehensive coverage. Sean Kelly, “‘Mexico in His Head’: Slavery and the Texas-Mexico Border, 1810–1860,” Journal of Southern History 37, no. 3 (Spring 2004): 709.

(22) . Still, The Underground Railroad, 44, 278–79; BAP, reel 7, 13515.

(23) . Edward D. Jerry and C. Harold Huber, “The Creole Affair,” Journal of Negro History 65, no. 3 (Summer 1980): 206.

(24) . Falmouth Post, June 8, 1855.

(25) . For Harrison, see Edward B. Rugemer, “Robert Monroe Harrison, British Abolition, Southern Anglophobia and Texas Annexation,” Slavery & Abolition 28, no. 2 (August 2007): 172, and The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, 2008), 185–86; Joe B. Wilkins Jr., “Window of Freedom: The South's Response to the Emancipation of the Slaves in the British (p.107) West Indies, 1833–1861” (Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1977), 117; Harrison to William L. Marcy, Kingston, Jamaica, June 21, July 5, 17, 1855, Despatches from the United States Consul in Kingston, Jamaica, 1796–1906 (microform) (hereafter cited as Despatches), vols. 16 and 17.

(26) . Falmouth Post, June 15, 1855; for Harrison's comments on the connections between the Handy and Lewis case and the visit of William W. Anderson to the United States, see Robert Harrison to W. Marcy, Kingston, April 26, 1853, Despatches, vol. 14.

(27) . Pittsburgh Gazette, May 30, 1853; Pittsburgh Post, May 31, 1853; Pittsburgh Commercial Journal, May 31, 1853; C. Peter Ripley et al., eds., Black Abolitionist Papers, Vol. 4, The United States, 1847–1858 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1991), 157–60; Rugemer, The Problem of Emancipation, 283–84; R. J. M. Blackett, “Black Pittsburgh's Aid to the Fugitive Slave,” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 61, no. 2 (April 1978): 131; for information on Adams, see 7th United States Census, Montgomery County, Tenn., and 7th United States Census, Slave Schedules, Montgomery County, Tenn.

(28) . Pennsylvania Freeman, April 10, 1851. Many of the organizers of the meeting would emigrate to Liberia in 1864 in the wake of what they saw as the failure of West Indian emancipation. For a study of these emigrants, see Caree Banton, “‘More Auspicious Shores’: Post-Emancipation Barbadian Emigrants in Pursuit of Freedom, Citizenship and Nationhood in Liberia, 1834–1912” (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 2013).

(29) . Colonial Standard, n.d., in Harrison to Marcy, Kingston, June 21, 1855, Despatches, vol. 16; Falmouth Post, June 19, 1855; Kingston Morning Journal, April 27, 1853; Colonial Standard and Jamaica Dispatch, April 26, 1853. My thanks to Shani Roper, former assistant curator at the Institute of Jamaica, for providing copies of these newspapers.

(30) . See undated newspaper reports of the inquiry in Harrison to Marcy, Kingston, May 24, July 12, 17, 1855, Despatches, vols. 16 and 17.

(31) . Henry Barkley to Harrison, King's House, July 12, 1855, and Harrison to Barkley, Kingston, July 19, 1855, both in Harrison to Marcy, Kingston, July 19, 1855, Harrison to Marcy, Kingston, July 26, 30, 1855, April 26, 1853, Despatches, vol. 17; Barkley to Lord Russell, King's House, July 25, 1855, CO 137/327, Colonial Office Document, National Archives, London.

(32) . Robin W. Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History (New Haven, 1971), 174–75; Fred Landon, “The Anderson Fugitive Case,” Journal of Negro History 7, no. 3 (July 1922): 233–42. See also Patrick Brode, The Odyssey of John Anderson (Toronto, 1989), for a biography of Anderson.

(33) . Kingston Morning Journal, April 27, 1853; National Anti-Slavery Standard, May 28, 1853; Falmouth Post, June 15, 1855.