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Black Lives Hanging in the Balance – Part Three of Three
copyright Stephen Davidson UE
Despite his orders from Congress, despite the fact that he had confronted Carleton face to face, and despite the fact that Washington had hand-picked three inspectors to insure that emancipated Blacks did not leave New York City, over 3,000 Black Loyalists were able to escape re-enslavement between April and November of 1783. Added to this massive failure was the fact that Daniel Payne, Deborah Squash and Harry Washington — three of Washington’s former slaves– were among those who found freedom in other parts of the British Empire.
Sir Guy Carleton, the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, had risked violating the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution. The seventh article of the Treaty of Paris stated very clearly that “any Negroes or other property” of American citizens were not to be carried away by the British. Carleton’s gamble was not based on his desire to see slavery abolished. It had much more to do with a sense of “fair play”.
Carleton considered that any Black formerly enslaved by Patriots who was found within the British lines at the time of the publication of the provisional peace treaty was not, in fact, the property of anyone. Such a person had been promised his/her freedom by a series of British officials, beginning with Lord Dunmore’s proclamation in Virginia in November of 1775. Promises, like treaties, were agreements that must be honoured, and the British government had promised freedom to any Blacks enslaved by Patriots who crossed over into British lines during the revolution.
By taking several pre-emptive measures, Carleton had out-manoeuvred Washington. Before ever sitting down with the American general, Carleton had set up a register to record the names and circumstances of Blacks, maintaining that this ledger could be used in the future for Americans to reclaim their human property. He chose American inspectors for the first fleet of evacuation vessels, and published his intentions in a New York newspaper. In an age that treasured documentation, he had emancipation certificates issued to the freed Blacks, reinforcing their status as British citizens. And in a test case when American inspectors demanded that he return a free Black, Carleton simply ignored their protests.
It is interesting to read the summary report that Washington’s appointed inspectors submitted to him after the last of the British troops and Loyalists left New York City. Daniel Parker, William S. Smith and Egbert Benson waited almost two months after the British departed to report to their new country’s commander-in-chief. Their letter of January 18, 1784 sounds very defensive, as if they knew that they had been outflanked but were powerless to defend American interests.
Because Carleton “exercised the authority of entering and clearing out merchant vessels, at this port, which were never submitted to any inspection“, it had been impossible for the American inspectors “to determine for a certainty the number of Negroes or the amount of other property belonging to the citizens of the United States which were carried away in those vessels.”
The inspectors complained that “Whenever the Negroes at an Inspection of an Embarkation were examined, they always, except in a very few Instances, produced a printed Certificate … purporting that they came within the British Lines in consequence of the Proclamations … We were sensible as there was no mode prescribed for investigating these matters, that it was impossible the Commandant … could in every case have sufficient Proof of the time of the Negroes coming in, and therefore concluded there must be an abuse.” (What is interesting here is that these complaints were not made to Washington earlier in the evacuation process. Why did the inspectors wait until the end to reveal these abuses?)
The report concluded, saying, “A Considerable Embarkation of Negroes took place the day this city was evacuated—The hurry of business on the part of the Britons is the ostensible reason why we were not invited to the inspection.” (Again, why had they not told this to American authorities in November of 1783?)
Thomas Jefferson, who, like George Washington, was a slave owner from Virginia, later wrote of the evacuation of “3,000 Negroes of whom our commissioners had inspection and a very large number more, in public and private vessels, of whom they were not permitted to have inspections“.
All of this might never have happened had Carleton paid attention to the “remonstrance” that he received from the three American inspectors in June of 1783. His refusal to hand a free Black named Thomas Francis back to his “owner” Philip Lott demonstrated how determined Carleton was to honour promises of freedom to its Black allies.
The fate of Francis is uncertain. He is one of the very few Black Loyalists to be featured in Lorenzo Sabine’s classic collection of Loyalist biographies, but little is said of him beyond the controversy of whether he was free or the slave of Philip Lott.
Because Carleton ignored the protest made by Washington’s three inspectors, Francis remained aboard the Fair American, a 16-gun brig that was initially employed as a privateer for the British. The vessel later helped to evacuate Loyalists to refuge in Nova Scotia. In the case of Francis, the Fair American was bound for Jamaica where he was suppose to serve in the Jamaica Rangers under a Captain Thelwell.
The Jamaica Rangers had been formed in the summer of 1782 and were composed of two battalions of “free mulattoes and Blacks”. The British military thought that those of African descent would be better able to endure Jamaica’s climate. This allowed for the redeployment of the regular British troops who had been serving on the island to be removed to “more healthy stations”.
The muster roll of free Blacks in Birchtown and Shelburne, Nova Scotia in September of 1784 lists a 39 year-old Captain Thomas Francis among the settlers. However, this Francis is listed in Carleton’s ledger as having been the slave of an Isaac Vermillia (a corruption of the Dutch “Vermelje”) of Philipse Manor, New York. This Francis sailed to Shelburne aboard the Elizabeth, a ship that left New York City two months before Philip Lott of New Jersey tried to reclaim his slave named Thomas Francis.
While their names may have been confused over the years, nevertheless, both Black Loyalists are examples of the thousands of Blacks whose fate would be determined by whether Carleton or Washington gained control of the evacuation of the king’s African allies. Fortunately for them and over 3,000 others, it was the tactics of Sir Guy Carleton that prevailed.
There is a strange footnote to this story of the American and British inspectors who supervised the 1783 evacuations of Black Loyalists. Among Carleton’s papers from his time in New York City is a bill for a meal at Roubalet’s Tavern on Broadway. The bill was for a dinner for the three American inspectors that was hosted by the British inspectors in October of 1783. They had taken Smith, Benson, and Parker to the Broadway public house in return for the dinner the Americans had earlier given them at Fraunces’ Tavern on Pearl Street. The bill also included “sundry expenses incurred while employed in the inspection of the many vessels loaded with Loyalists and Negroes.”
Is it possible that these British and American officials had become friends while Black lives hung in the balance?
To secure permission to reprint this article contact the author at

The King’s Colour: A Broadside of Early Upper Canada
Introducing “The King’s Colour: A Broadside of Early Upper Canada” a micro-periodical that explores historical aspects of the colony that later became the Province of Ontario. Military, settlement, and the early development of the region are its main themes.
Published as a two-page, monthly broadside, free of charge, “The King’s Colour” mimics the aesthetic style of early colonial printings. Each issue contains a single article, embellished with period illustrations, that addresses a narrow topic. Supported by primary and secondary sources, the articles delve deeply into the subject matter.
The King’s Colour is distributed via Facebook (an account is not required).
The inaugural issue has been published. It contains the article titled “Beehives and Honeycombs: The Canadian Secret Weapons of 1813.”

In the late autumn of 1813, partway through that war, the largest antebellum army formed by the United States began its descent down the mighty St. Lawrence River, eastward from Lake Ontario. The specific objective of their invasion of British Canada was Montréal. Little did they know that their Canadian adversaries were about to deploy secret weapons to retard their progress: beehives and honeycombs.
Stuart Manson UE

JAR: Examining Public Opinion during the Whiskey Rebellion
by Jonathan Curran 7 September 2021
The Whiskey Rebellion often falls into the background of the Federalist Era, overshadowed by the rise of a divisive two-party political system. This armed uprising in 1794, over taxation by the fledgling new government, threatened to destroy the new union within six years of the Constitution’s ratification. Regardless of the outcome of the military confrontation, public support for the rebels’ cause or indignation over President George Washington’s response could have escalated into another revolution like the one that occurred in France. Yet this never materialized. Was the short life of this rebellion natural or artificial? Did public response to the excise differ by location or politics? How did the public react to Washington’s response and why did the public respond in the way it did? An examination of press records indicates change in the general level of interest in the rebellion, but not of opinion, with the South far less interested than New England and the Middle States. Furthermore, the violently divergent opinions expressed in the press prior to open rebellion morphed abruptly into full support of the federal government and praise for both Congress and Washington in their handling of the crisis. This change arose primarily from existing opinions of Washington and the nation, aided by a lack of argumentation reaching the public sphere from the rebels. Read more…

JAR: A Donkey, A Suit, and a Quixote for George Washington
by Elisa Vargas 9 September 2021
At the beginning of March 1777, Arthur Lee, a delegate to the United States Congress, urgently requested to meet with the Marquis de Grimaldi, who until just a few weeks before had been the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs of King Carlos III of Spain, and who was now on his way to take charge of the Spanish embassy in Rome. Coming from Paris, Lee was part of the American delegation in charge of obtaining financial and logistical support for the independence cause of the thirteen colonies. Although the meeting between Grimaldi and Lee in Burgos did not result in the expected official Spanish support for the American cause, it did open the doors to important secret aid that would be channeled through the mercantile company of the man who had organized and acted as translator of this meeting: Don Diego María de Gardoqui y Arriquibar.
According to Lee’s information to the American Commissioners in Paris, Spain agreed to send clothes, blankets, and tents from the city of Bilbao, leaving the operation in charge of Diego de Gardoqui, who would personally hire the ships and crew, and monitor the shipment of supplies to Havana and the port of New Orleans. Louisiana’s Governor, Bernardo de Gálvez, would add ammunition and other supplies to the rebel army’s cache. Once in American waters, the rebel ships would be authorized to pick up the cargo in Spanish ports in America. A secret line of credit of four million reales de vellón (equivalent to half a million Continental dollars) was established with the Spanish treasury for the purchase of medicines, muskets, tents, blankets, buttons, shoes, socks, blue woolen cloths, and white fabrics to make uniforms for the continental army, as well as anchors, ropes, and sails among other naval objects. Read more…

Washington’s Quill: George Washington and Charity
by Adrina Garbooshian-Huggins 3 September 2021
George Washington was a lifelong supporter of charitable causes, as evidenced by the hundreds of expenditures recorded in his ledgers for “Charity.”1 Even at the outset of the Revolutionary War, when a number of serious matters weighed heavily on Washington’s mind, he maintained an awareness of his duty to help the poor. He wrote his distant cousin and Mount Vernon farm manager Lund Washington in November 1775: “Let the Hospitality of the House, with respect to the Poor, be kept up; Let no one go hungry away . . . and I have no objection to your giving my money in Charity to the amount of Forty or Fifty pounds a year, when you think it well bestowd. What I mean by having no objection, is, that it is my desire that it should be done.” At the same time, Washington recommended that Lund observe frugal practices and consider the importance of savings, especially because he had refused to accept a salary for his service as commander-in-chief.2 Instances of Washington’s charitable giving became rather frequent by the end of his life; he even performed such acts while en route to Mount Vernon in March 1797, just after retiring from the presidency. Read more…

Ben Franklin’s World: History of the Blackfeet
Rosalyn LaPier is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and a member of the Métis, one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada. She’s also a University of Montana professor, historian, ethnobotanist, and award-winning Indigenous writer who joins us to investigate the life, history, and culture of the Blackfeet People.
During our exploration, Rosalyn reveals the location of traditional Blackfeet homelands and information about how the Blackfeet lived on their lands during the early American period; Blackfeet environmental knowledge and how the Blackfeet continue to transfer this tribal knowledge from one generation to the next; And, details about the Blackfoot Confederacy and its diplomacy and details about Blackfoot cosmology and religion. Listen in…

The Fascinating History of the Foundling Hospital — London’s First Children’s Home
By Laura Porter 29 July 2021
Founded in the 18th century, the Foundling Hospital was the first children’s home in Britain. After much campaigning, sea captain and philanthropist Thomas Coram opened the doors in 1739 to care for babies at risk of abandonment.
In the 18th century, the main provision for illegitimate babies was the parish poorhouses. From 1722 there were workhouses, but, sadly, children frequently died of neglect. Over 74% of children born in London died before they were five years old. In workhouses, the death rate increased to over 90%.
Foundlings, abandoned infants were a common feature of life in the eighteenth century. England was far behind other European countries in catering for their welfare through the provision of charitable foundations.
Apathy, puritan morality, and disapproval of illegitimacy (the usual reasons for deserted children) produced inaction in Britain. The only establishment dealing with foundlings as well as legitimate orphans was Christ’s Hospital in the City of London. It was founded in 1552, but by 1676, the illegitimate were prohibited.
Thomas Coram, a retired sea captain, and shipbuilder returned from the Americas in 1722. He was shocked to see the homeless and hungry children on the streets of London as well as the abandoned dead and dying newborns. Parents who were unable to care for their babies due to poverty or illegitimacy had few options, and many chose to abandon them in the street. It is estimated that around a thousand babies a year were abandoned in London. Read more…

All Things Georgian: A cup of tea anyone, made the 18th century way?
By Sarah Murden 31 May 2018
At the beginning of the 1700s, according to the Daily Courant of 1705, green tea was very popular, but it was to be served correctly i.e. with milk. Tea at that time was extremely expensive at 10 shillings per pound, in comparison with chocolate which sold at 3 shillings a pound; chocolate with added sugar was only 2 shillings and 6 pence a pound.
There appear to have been two main types of tea on the market Bohe-Tea (black tea) and green-tea. Read more…


Victoria Branch Meeting The History of British Child Migration by Patricia Skidmore Sat 25 Sept 10:00AM PT (1:00PM ET)

Patricia, an author, is a daughter of a British child migrant. Researching the layers of British child migration has enabled her to understand her family’s role in this incredible 350-year-history of Britain shipping children to the colonies. She lives on Vancouver Island, BC. More about Patricia and her books at
To apply to attend this free virtual via Zoom meeting on Saturday 25 September 2021 @10.00 am PT, send an email to and indicate if you are a member of UELAC or not; if so, which branch.

Kingston Branch, WHEREAS it is Unjust”, Jean Rae Baxter, Sat 25 Sept 2:00PM ET

Kingston and District Branch, UELAC next meeting is Saturday, September 25, 2021, 2:00 p.m. EDT. Author Jean Rae Baxter will speak on “WHEREAS it is Unjust” — Upper Canada’s Role in the Fight to End Slavery. More Loyalists than you might think arrived in Canada with Black “servants.” Pre-register here, and you’ll receive a confirmation email that can serve as a reminder. The registration process also gives you the opportunity to add the meeting to your online Google or Outlook or Yahoo calendar.

Fort Plain Museum Conference: Sir William Johnson and the Wars for Empire. Oct 15-17

Registration is now open for the Conference on October 15-17, 2021 in Johnstown, NY.
This Conference includes 9 speakers and a bus tour. David L. Preston, an award-winning historian of American military history and author of Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution is the conference’s Head of Faculty. See details and registration.

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