Mary has been a leader in the North for the last four decades. She served as president of Makivik Corp., the Nunavik land-claim body, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization. She was Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and also served as the country’s ambassador to Denmark.
Madame Simon is an Anglophone Inuit, and she has promised to learn French during her tenure as Governor General. But the truth is that Madame Simon has a mother tongue of her own, which she must keep. The era and mindset that led to the creation of Residential schools is a by-gone era, never to return.
I hope Madame Simon’s appointment will help consolidate the position of Amerindians in Canada. Europeans intruded on their land but if anyone belongs to a country, it is its indigenous population. Canadians must realize fully that Amerindians were its first inhabitants.
Simon is well known for her role in negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec, the provincial government and Hydro-Quebec in 1975. The deal affirmed Inuit and Cree hunting and trapping rights in the area and established $225 million in compensation over 20 years in exchange for construction of hydroelectric dams.
Canada’s new Governor General is married to Whit Fraser, a former CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) producer. They have three children.
Canadians are removing or vandalizing statues, including a statue of Queen Victoria and one of Elizabeth II. That is destruction and it will not help. Nor will it help to burn churches. Let us go forward together and make Canada a better country.
I wish Mary Simon a happy tenure as Governor General. Her appointment as Governor General is genuine progress. Mary Simon is a very accomplished person whose achievements have been recognized.
“The native depicted in the image at the top of this post does not look powerless. As for Benjamin West’s native, he is a ‘Noble savage.’ Did Canada need the Indian Act? Canada Day, a celebration of Confederation, is fast approaching. But Confederation led to the creation of Indian Reserves and Residential Schools. Moreover, Quebec became the only Canadian province where the language of instruction could be French or English. The British Empire was at its zenith.”
Imperialism is very much to blame. Cecil Rhodes wanted to paint the world red, the colour of the British Empire. So, I suspect the architects of Confederation also wished to paint Canada red. Besides, they feared Manifest Destiny, an American form of imperialism. Manifest Destiny alone invited the federation of Canadian provinces and the purchase of Rupert’s Land. Unfortunately, unity dictated uniformity. To this end, Amerindians were to be stripped of their identity. The events that followed Confederation were brutal and genocidal. The French could not leave Quebec. Why?
I suspect more bodies will be found. However, the comforting thought is that other Canadians will help pull Amerindians out of this nightmare. They are in schock, but so are other Canadians. As you know, I have Amerindian ancestry. In the early years of New France’s history, its motherland was slow in sending women across the Atlantic. “Survival” is the keyword in Canadian literature, in both French and English. Margaret Atwood‘s book, entitled Survival (1972), is insightful and it has remained popular and informative reading.
We are returning to Les Anciens Canadiens where the myth of the Noble savage is well and alive. We will read The Good Gentleman, Chapter IX, Le Bon Gentilhomme, Chapitre X. In Les Anciens Canadiens, monsieur d’Egmont depicts Amerindians as more civilized than the white.
Canadians have honoured Sir John A MacDonald for a very long time. However, statues of John A. MacDonald are being put in storage and one, perhaps more, has been vandalized. He was a father of Confederation, if not the Father of Confederation. So, what happened?
First, as we have seen in earlier posts, when Canada grew westward, the White population settled on land they had appropriated from Amerindians on the basis of “conquest,” a disgraceful leftover from the “age of discovery.” Moreover, as we have also seen in earlier posts, Rupert’s Land, which Canada bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company, did not include settled land, such as the Red River Settlement, bought by the Earl of Selkirk, and lands inhabited by Amerindians.
As for Quebec, it seems it was drawn into a Confederation that also excluded it. John A. Macdonald was an Orangeman, a fraternity that was inimical to Catholics and the French. The people of Quebec could not be educated in French outside Quebec. Waves of immigrants arrived who would live in provinces other than Quebec and be educated in English. We have already discussed the school question.
However, recognition occurred 102 years after Confederation (1867) when English had become the language spoken outside Quebec. The French had been in North America since 1534.
In short, what of such concepts as nationhood and the rights afforded conquerors and, first and foremost, what of Canada’s Confederation? If Confederation demanded that the children of Francophones be educated in English, outside Quebec, their children were likely to be Anglophones. So, what of Quebec nationalism. Separatism is usually associated with Quebecers, but it isn’t altogether québécois. Not if the children of French Canadians had to be educated in English outside Quebec and not if immigrants to Canada were sent to English-speaking communities.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier was pleased that Quebec would remain Quebec. The population of Quebec would retain its “code civil,” its language, its religion, and its culture while belonging to a strong partnership. He may have been afraid.
The Underground Railroad, painting by Charles T. Weber, c. 1893, depicting escaped slaves taking refuge at one of the stations on the Underground Railroad.
From enslavement to an elusive freedom
After posting my article on Harriet Tubman, something was gnawing at me. Once freed, slaves were not free. Those who could make it to Canada had a chance, but the others would live under the yoke of racism, genuinely systemic racism: the Ku Klux Klan lynched the Blacks. They were segregated: apartheid. They could not find employment. They were extremely poor. Those who were captured after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed were tried without the benefit of a jury. Finally, there was growing resentment in the Northern states. Southerners had the money to pursue the Blacks. In free-slave Northern states, there were no large plantations operated by an army of slaves, and, therefore, no wealthy plantation owners. Was this a conspiracy? The inhabitants of Southern states were richer than Americans who lived in Northern States. Therefore, slaves had to journey all the way to Canada:
The upshot was that distant Canada became the only truly safe destination for fugitive slaves. 
Just imagine the flight. Slaves traveled by night, all the way to Canada. It was a long and perilous journey. John Graves Simcoe did not have as brilliant a career as he wished, but he secured a very fine place for himself in the annals of history. He and his legislative assembly passed the Act Against Slavery on 9th July 1793.
Conditions in Lower Canada eased walking out of slavery:
“A precedent-setting case came before the courts in Lower Canada in February 1798. An enslaved woman named Charlotte was arrested in Montréal after leaving her mistress and refusing to return to her. She was brought before Chief Justice James Monk, who released her based on a technicality. British law stated that enslaved persons could only be detained in houses of correction, not in common jails. Since no houses of correction existed in Montréal, Monk decided that Charlotte could not be detained. The following month, another enslaved woman named Jude was freed by Monk on the same grounds. Monk asserted in his ruling that he would apply that interpretation of the law to all future cases.”
(See Black Enslavement in Canada,The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
The Canadian Encyclopedia also indicates that circumstances were even more favorable in the Maritime Provinces, which cannot translate into an easy life in Canada, but freedom. In short, there were no large plantations in Canada. The economy of Canada did not depend on a huge labour force. The same is true of the economy of Northern states. Economy is a chief factor in slavery. In fact, citizens of the Northern states resented the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Wealth bestowed power on the Southern states. And it was all about sugar. The French chose, reluctantly, to let go of Nouvelle-France because Guadeloupe and Martinique had sugar. I am inserted a video on the history of slavery.
The words above summarize Frederick Douglass’ undertaking once out of bondage. First, it should be noted that Frederick may have been his master’s child. I could be mistaken, but it was not uncommon for slave owners to have sexual relationships with slaves. In fact, female slaves were frequently raped, which was one of the worst plights of enslavement. Yet, there were relationships. Thomas Jefferson, a future president of the United States and the writer of the Declaration of Independence (4th July 1776), had a relationship with Sally Hemings. As for Frederick Douglass, he discovered that his mother, a Black slave, could read and write. How had she become literate? One suspects Frederick Douglass’ mother had a relationship with a white slave-owner. Not only did Frederick have White ancestry, but he also had Indigenous ancestry. Yet, he was born into slavery in Maryland and married a freed slave, which is how he escaped. He took a train wearing a sailor’s uniform, provided by his wife, Anne Murray-Douglass.
Frederick’s story differs from that of other slaves. Not only was he born to a White father, but he was taught how to read by a master’s wife, Lucretia Auld. Lucretia was not his father’s wife and she stopped teaching Frederick how to read when she realized that slavery and literacy were not compatible. Literacy is empowering. Unless a thought is wrapped into words, it cannot be expressed. The Jesuit missionaries to New France had to invent and teach Amerindians words expressing concepts. Lucretia stopped teaching Frederick, but he knew enough to continue on his own, and literacy would earn him notoriety and financial autonomy.
Frederick Douglass was elected into office almost unknowingly and moved his family from New York to Washington. Suffrage was his main cause. As well, he was invited to give speeches. To escape capture, he traveled to Europe where he did not face discrimination.
African Traders of Enslave People (Century Magazine illustration by E.W. Kemble for an article called “The Slave-Trade in the Congo Basin.” (Kean Collection / Getty Images)
Captives being brought on board a slave ship on the West Coast of Africa (Slave Coast), c1880. (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images.)
Diagram of a slave ship, depicting how humans were loaded to cross the Atlantic Ocean. (Getty Images)
The Emancipation Proclamation (22 September 1862; 1st January 1863) was incomplete. It required clarification and further legislation, but it had put an end to slavery in the United States.
Yet, the Gettysburg address is a monument to freedom. It is perfect. Britannica has videos on the Gettysburg address that show profound understanding the aims of the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass regretted that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not include the right to vote. Five former slaves equalled three former slaves, which was less than equal. When the abolition of slavery divides a country, one fears signing so categorical an executive order as the Emancipation Proclamation. The country was at war with itself. Abraham Lincoln did not include the right to vote. It would be for others to do so. Frederick angered his friend William Lloyd Garrison because he agreed with Lysander Spooner’s “The Unconstitutionality of Slavery.” Frederick Douglass believed that the Constitution should be used as an instrument in the fight against slavery. The Constitution was not necessarily a lie. It was a goal, but a difficult goal to attain, as it would impoverished the South.
As a result of the Union victory in the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868) granted African Americans citizenship, and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) guaranteed their right to vote. Yet the Reconstruction period (1865–77) was one of disappointment and frustration for African Americans, for these new provisions of the Constitution were often ignored, particularly in the South.
Frederick Douglass seldom led slaves out of a plantation, but he worked unremittingly at ensuring former Black slaves enjoyed the same rights as the Whites once they had left enslavement. He prefigures the great civil rights activists, those who would lose their life because they had a dream that has yet to come true. It is now for us to make sure that all men are created equal.
There were abolitionists, Black and White, long before the Act Against Slavery. They could help fugitive slaves by offering “stations,” (safe houses), but fleeing to one of the fourteen free states to the North was dangerous. Slave-hunters could catch escapees and were encouraged to do so. Bounties were very attractive. Moreover, the Anti-Fugitive Act of 1850 directed everyone to participate in preventing Black slaves from leaving plantations where they grew rice, tobacco, cotton and indigo to the point of exhaustion. In the eyes of slave-hunters, Black slaves were flesh, mere chattel, and returning them to their plantation was lucrative.
Harriet Tubman (née Ross), 1820 -10 March 1913, was born and raised in Maryland, a slave state. In about 1844, she married a free slave. She was motivated to flee in 1849, when she heard that she could be sold. She and two of her brothers fled the plantation. She may have stopped at Preston, a community where Quakers were abolitionists. She met people. She traveled from Preston to Philadelphia on foot during the night. She was guided by the North star.
In 1850, she returned to Maryland to help free her familyand made 19 trips rescuing 70 slaves. She followed the North star and “never lost a passenger.” She went back to Maryland to free her family. In 1859, she bought a house at Auburn, New York, where her parents lived.
During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was an armed scout and spy and the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war. She guided “the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people.” (See Harriet Tubman, wiki2.org.)
She divorced Mr Tubman in 1850 and married a man whose name I can no longer locate. He was the love of her life, but he died years before she passed away.
At the age of 15, she suffered a head injury. It was a heavy blow to the head. She never recovered:
Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when an irate overseer threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another enslaved person, but hit her instead. The injury caused dizziness, pain, and spells of hypersomnia, which occurred throughout her life.
over the next decade, she conducted upward of 300 fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad to Canada. By her extraordinary courage, ingenuity, persistence, and iron discipline, which she enforced upon her charges, Tubman became the railroad’s most famous conductor and was known as the “Moses of her people.”
Harriet Tubman was a Methodist and “deeply” religious. “Rewards offered by slaveholders for Tubman’s capture eventually totaled $40,000.”
Both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Joel Chandler Harris were criticized for creating or perpetuating stereotypes concerning the Black in America. Yet, Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made the evils of slavery known to millions of readers. As for Joel Chandler Harris‘ Uncle Remus stories, they were trickster stories that fascinate folklorists in that they were told by Uncle Remus but do not originate in African tales. Africans brought Anansi to the United States. These stories are spider tales and may be ancestors to Spider-man.
Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s (14 June 1811 – 1 July 1896) is the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. When President Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 – 15 April 1865) met Mrs Stowe, he exclaimed: “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” (See Harriet Beecher Stowe, Wikipedia.) This was an exaggeration, but not by much.[i]According to the Oxford Companion to American Literature (sixth edition, 1995), Harriet Beecher Stowe was not an abolitionist, but it would be my opinion that Mrs Stowe played too significant a role in the abolition of slavery not to have been or become an abolitionist at heart.
In 1832, Harriet Beecher, Lyman Beecher‘s daughter, left Litchfield, Connecticut, where she was born and raised. She followed her family to CincinnatiOhio and started to work as a teacher. While living in Cincinnati, Harriet Beecher took refuge in Washington, Kentucky because Cincinnati was afflicted with a serious choleraepidemic. There were slaves in Kentucky, chattel slaves mainly. During that visit to Kentucky, Harriet Beecher was taken to see a slave auction. This was her first exposure to slavery. However, in 1836, she married Calvin Eliss Stowe (6 April 1802 – 22 August 1886), an American Biblical scholar who taught at Harriet’s father’s theological seminary, Lane, and was an ardent and active opponent of slavery. Mrs Stowe died in Hartford, Connecticut, her home for 23 years.
The Treatment of Slaves: the facts
“The treatment of slaves in the United States varied widely depending on conditions, times and places. Treatment was generally characterized by brutality, degradation, and inhumanity. Whippings, executions, and rapes were commonplace. According to Adalberto Aguirre,[ii] there were 1,161 slaves executed in the U.S. between the 1790s and 1850s. Exceptions existed to virtually every generalization; for instance, there were slaves who employed white workers, slave doctors who treated upper-class white patients, and slaves who rented out their labor. After 1820 [in the US, the slave trade was abolished in 1807], in response to the inability to import new slaves from Africa, some slaveholders improved the living conditions of their slaves, to influence them not to attempt escape.” (See Slavery, Wikipedia.)
Calvin Eliss Stowe, Harriet’s husband, was associated with The Underground Railroad, a movement founded by William Still (7 October 1821 – 14 July 1902), “The Father of the Underground Railroad” and a writer. Still’s Underground Railroad is a Project Gutenberg publication [EBook #15263].[iii] Members of this movement provided safe houses and protected slaves fleeing north from slave-hunters, a form of witch-hunting.[iv] For instance, individuals dressed as policemen, were catching slaves travelling to Canada. Members of the Underground Railroad asked Bostonians to protect the beleaguered Black population. (See the image at the foot of this post, c 1851.)
As for Stowe, the novelist, after reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, many among her world-wide “audience,” became abolitionists or were endeared to the cause of abolition. Literature and the arts in general, not to mention a good education, are powerful instruments of change. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was an instrument of abolition. It was a “story” with characters one could relate to and start loving. It spoke to the heart and was both a moment of grace and an instance of defiance.
It’s a simple story. Uncle Tom is a slave who “belongs” to the Shelby family, who are ‘good’ slave owners. Due to financial difficulties, the Shelbys are about to sell their slaves. Uncle Tom helps the mulatto girl Eliza and her child cross the frozen Ohio River. But he stays behind out of loyalty to his owners. He is sold to a slave trader and separated from his family. But young George Shelby vows to redeem him.
Going down the Mississippi, Tom saves young Eva’s life and her family, the St Clares, are most grateful to Tom. They buy him and he becomes their servant in New Orleans. For two years, Tom is happy with Eva and her rather naughty Black friend Topsy.
However, happiness is short-lived. Eva is frail and dies. Then her father is killed accidentally. So Uncle Tom is auctioned off to the Legree family, ‘bad’ slave owners. Simon Legree is a brutal man who drinks to excess. However, he has found in Uncle Tom a forgiving slave and becomes more lenient, which makes him fear his slaves. Two of them make believe they have run away. Uncle Tom will not reveal Cassie’s and Emmaline’s whereabouts. In a fit of rage, Simon Legree has Uncle Tom flogged to death.
Uncle Tom still has a friend in George Shelby, but George arrives as Tom is dying. Unable to save Uncle Tom, George swears to devote his life to the abolition of slavery. He is true to the promise he made to redeem Uncle Tom.
Eva and Topsy[v]
Topsy (left) and Little Eva, characters from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851–52); lithograph by Louisa Corbaux, 1852. Louisa Corbaux/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZC4-2974)
(Photo credit: The Encyclopædia Britannica)
This picture is available on the internet. Please refrain from associating it to my blog.
A Successful Plot
There may be ‘bad’ slave owners, but there are ‘good’ ones. The readers need only identify with the Shelbys and, particularly, with George who keeps his promise to redeem Uncle Tom. The readers may also identify with little Eva whose friend Topsy is a Black child. Although Eva is the daughter of a slave trader, she loves uncle Tom and plays with Topsy. There is, therefore, inherent goodness in Uncle Tom. He is a human being, endowed with moral superiority. He is loyal to the Shelbys and he tries to help Simon Legree. Moreover, although George Shelby arrives too late, George Shelby, who is good, knows that Tom is a fine man. Had Uncle Tom not been dying, he would have been redeemed by his former owners. But the timing is wrong and one cannot fault timing. Bad timing is an accident and creates suspense, a favourite device in fiction. Uncle Tom dies, but it is one person’s fault, Legree, not a community nor the readers, except that slavery has made this horrifying death possible.
So there is an indictment of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin; an unambiguous indictment. In this respect, Mrs Stowe does not waver. Uncle Tom is consistently at the mercy of “owners.” If a slave is purchased by a ‘bad’ slave owner, his or her fate can be an unjust and painful death. However, we can count on George to be victorious. He is a saviour figure. Mrs Stowe’s account of the plight of slaves is therefore nuancé. In fact, fateis portrayed as unkind, whatever the colour of one’s skin. The Shelbys are impoverished and little Eva’s health is so fragile that she dies.
In other words, Uncle Tom’s story is very sad and there is one very ‘bad’ man whose skin is white.[vi] So, despite gradations and many happy moments, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is about the wrongs of slavery. Uncle Tom is sold and he is killed as though his life meant nothing, which was precisely the case. In the days of slavery, the life of a slave meant nothing, which was and remains an infamy.
I will therefore close by repeating Abraham Lincoln’s words: “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” (See Harriet Beecher Stowe, Wikipedia.)