Slavery didn't last very long in Toronto. The man who founded our city, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, wanted it banned from the beginning. But since some of the men he'd chosen to help him rule Upper Canada were slave owners, he was forced to compromise.
So when the English finally abolished it altogether in the 1830s, Toronto was already slave-free. By then, Canada had become a beacon of hope for Black Americans escaping to freedom along the Underground Railroad. And there are stories of slave hunters – men who came north to capture former slaves and take them back – being violently run out of town.
|Sir Francis Bond Head|
Anna Brownwell Jameson, while progressive for her time, could still be more than a bit condescendingly ethnocentric (as you can tell a bit from that excerpt). Her book, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, is full of interesting stuff from her travels here in 1836-37 though, so I'm thinking I'll be posting lots of quotes from it over the next while. You can read a volume of highlights from it in the much more terribly-titled Sketches in Canada, and rambles among the red men here.
The Solomon Moseby riot happened just a few years after the first race riot in Detroit's history, which was a similar story. In that case, it was Thornton Blackburn and his wife who escaped from slavery in Kentucky and ended up settling Toronto, where he founded our city's first cab company. You can read that story here.
I wrote about Bond Head's role in the Rebellions of 1837 in a post called "Bond Head The Bonehead" here.
And you can read more information about Solomon Moseby and the riot in places I've pieced all of this together from: here and here and here and this PDF here.
The photo of the court house I found here.
Update: Ooh cool. Mackenzie House tweeted some related William Lyon Mackenzie quotes from his paper, The Constitution, on September 27, 1837: "Moseby was doomed by law to perpetual slavery in Kentucky – his master might buy and sell and torture him...not because he was a criminal, but because his complexion was dark...they say he mounted his tyrant's horse and sought a home and freedom in Upper Canada. This is his crime with Sir Francis!" Mackenzie, as I briefly mentioned in the post, was in a huge political battle with Sir Francis Bond Head in 1837 that would culminate in outright rebellion that December.