By Harvey Amani Whitfield
This historical document about Dick Hill highlights the type of troubled freedom that the Black Loyalists encountered in the Maritimes after the American Revolution. Although Hill had obtained his freedom during the war (along with thousands of other Black Loyalists), he was still at risk or re-enslavement. In 1787, he was unlawfully placed onboard a schooner to be sent to the West Indies as a slave. Incredibly, Hill had a General Birch Certificate, which allegedly guaranteed his freedom. Unfortunately, the historical record is full of other examples of black people, who like Dick Hill, were re-enslaved and sold to the West Indies.
This source about Hill is part of the forthcoming book Black Slavery in the Maritimes: A History in Documents (Broadview Press), which will be available May 30, 2018.
Source: Paper Respecting Dick Hill, a Free Negro Man sent to West Indies from Shelburne in Joshua Wises Schooner Commanded by Captain McDonald, 1787, Shelburne, #25.3, RG 60, Nova Scotia Archives, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
There is [a] Negro put on Board your [vessel] by the name of Dick Hill, it appears that this Negro is a Free Man and came to Novascotia by Virtue of a Pass from Genl. Birch, you must therefore not take this Negro away But send him on Shore for examination, as you will be answerable in case the Negro is taken away.-
Gregory Springall, JP
Immediately upon hearing of the Complaint of the Negro being put on Board Capt. McDonald, and the free pass of Genl Birch produced , a letter was wrote to Capt McDonald to send the Negro on Shore, but the Vessell was got underway and almost out of the Harbour.
Harvey Amani Whitfield is professor in the Department of History at the University of Vermont.