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The Odyssey of John Anderson

The Odyssey of John Anderson

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 150
  • Book Info
    The Odyssey of John Anderson
    Book Description:

    In 1860 the American government made a formal request for the extradition of a fugitive slave, John Anderson of Brantford, Canada West. At first glance the request was routine. But the legal, political, and diplomatic controversy that arose from this hearing threatened to topple a Canadian government, and aroused animostities between Britons and Americans.

    Patrick Brode explores the legal and political implications of the Anderson case and reveals something of the man at the centre of it all. John Anderson was an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances. For a few moths he was a public figure, a personification of the struggle against slavery. Not long after the hearing he dropped from public view, adding a final, unsolved mystery to this intriguing case.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8192-7
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Brendan O’Brien

    The purpose of The Osgoode Society is to encourage research and writing in the history of Canadian law. The Society, which was incorporated in 1979 and is registered as a charity, was founded at the initiative of the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, at that time attorney general of Ontario, and officials of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Its efforts to stimulate legal history in Canada include the sponsorship of a fellowship, research support programs, and work in the field of oral history and legal archives. The Society publishes volumes that contribute to legal-historical scholarship in Canada and that are...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 In Little Dixie
    (pp. 3-7)

    The odyssey began in Africa. John Anderson’s forefathers were brought to America in bondage to work the plantations of the southern states. As ambitious settlers moved west, their slaves travelled with them. John Anderson’s mother was owned by Moses Burton, a tobacco farmer and tradesman in Howard County, Missouri. At the time of John’s birth, around 1831, Burton had achieved prosperity and was the owner of several slaves.

    A fierce rebellious streak characterized John’s parents. His father, described as ‘almost white,’ was a steward on a Missouri River steamer. Shortly after John’s birth he escaped from slavery, and it was...

  7. 2 A Sudden Impulse
    (pp. 8-14)

    The summer of 1853 had been a hot, anxious time in Little Dixie. Newspapers warned their readers of ‘Negro outrages,’ of ‘stampedes’ of Negroes heading for the free states. Missouri was an embattled bastion of slavery trying to maintain an imperilled institution. Under the headline ‘Abolition Rascality’ theBoonville Observerreported the machinations of a daring Canadian abolitionist, F.H. Moss. Working with a freed slave, Moss had infiltrated slave quarters around Boonville and persuaded a number of bondsmen to run off to Canada. The newspaper hoped that the revelation of this plot would ‘place the public on their guard as...

  8. 3 Magistrate Mathews’s Prisoner
    (pp. 15-26)

    Canada West, John Anderson’s haven from slavery and lynching, fell well short of being an egalitarian society. As Henry Bibb editorialized, ‘wicked and cruel prejudice’ existed, ‘even in Canada.’¹ Slavery had existed in Canada West from the first days of the province until the 1790s, when laws were passed that restricted the institution. By the 1820s slavery had all but died out. The Imperial Act of 1833 finally abolished slavery throughout the British empire.

    Small numbers of blacks had inhabited the province since its founding by loyalists at the close of the American Revolution. One black loyalist, Richard Pierpoint, served...

  9. 4 A Cause Célèbre
    (pp. 27-39)

    The Anderson case was about to be heard in a town in which the races – white, native, and black – lived in uneasy coexistence. The blacks who surrounded the Brantford jail symbolized hostilities that occasionally flared up in the community. Mostly white, mostly Protestant, the mechanics and tradesmen of Brantford were building themselves a prosperous little town. Where a generation before there had been wilderness, Messrs Ganson and Waterous were now producing the latest style of steam-engines. The growing town also attracted new workers to its mills and factories, and this did not make for a genteel society: The timid seldom...

  10. 5 Argument and Pleading
    (pp. 40-53)

    In Toronto’s venerable Osgoode Hall, three of Canada’s finest lawyers were arrayed to argue the Anderson case. At age forty-six Samuel Black Freeman, Anderson’s defender, was an established practitioner in Hamilton. A devout Reformer, Freeman had been a follower of the party’s former leader, Robert Baldwin. Freeman had already served in the legislature, but he would leave his mark in the courts: ‘in the art of examining and cross-examining witnesses, and of pleading causes before a jury, he had few equals.’¹ At the Oxford assizes of 1860 Freeman defended a farmer accused of forging a note; a conviction would have...

  11. 6 ‘The Wrangling Courts and Stubborn Law’
    (pp. 54-66)

    The judges who presided over the Anderson case – Sir John Beverley Robinson, Archibald McLean, and Robert Easton Burns – were remembered by one lawyer as ‘great jurists in whose honour and learning any litigant might well have the fullest confidence,’¹ This confidence was by no means universally accepted, and was about to be sternly tested.

    There was a remarkable similarity in the origins and attitudes of the members of the province’s judiciary. In the colony’s earliest years the judges were often English appointees who sojourned only long enough to secure a more prestigious position elsewhere. After 1830 Canadian judges tended to...

  12. 7 England Intervenes
    (pp. 67-82)

    On the Monday following the decision of Queen’s Bench, Thomas Henning, the secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada, wrote to Louis Alexis Chamerovzow, his counterpart in the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, begging for British help, ‘for if Anderson be returned as it is feared he may be, no fugitive will be safe in Canada.’¹ John Scoble had also written to the British society about the court decision. The baton was about to be passed from Canadian to British abolitionists.

    The British abolitionists needed Anderson almost as badly as he needed them. Since the imperial emancipation in 1833, the...

  13. 8 A Case of Quibbles
    (pp. 83-100)

    The American ambassador in London, George M. Dallas, was fully aware of the importance the administration attached to the Anderson case. He saw that court reporters were hired to take a record of the proceedings, and that a copy, still in shorthand form, was forwarded to Washington. Dallas reported that English sympathies had been aroused by the case and that all legal means would be exerted on the fugitive’s behalf: ‘It is scarcely necessary for me to remark on the pungent and uncompromising hostility to social bondage which prevails throughout this country.’¹ The report was directed to an administration that...

  14. 9 ‘To Make a Demigod of Him’
    (pp. 101-118)

    The pro-government newspapers fervently hoped that Anderson’s case would fade away. TheHamilton Spectatorexpected the fugitive to be ‘transmogrified into a plain, common negro again,’ and thought that he would become as insignificant ‘as when he disturbed the hen-roosts up at Caledonia.’ All things must come to an end, wrote theSpectator, ‘and so has the world-wide Extradition case.’¹ But instead of fading away, John Anderson was just beginning to emerge as a living symbol of the struggle against slavery.

    A few days later after his release he gave his first public speech at the Queen Street Baptist Church...

  15. 10 Back to Africa
    (pp. 119-124)

    John Anderson’s odyssey ended in Africa. After a year at the British Training Institute at Corby, Anderson had learned how to read, write, and do simple mathematics. He had testimonials from the local clergy on his piety and sobriety. Now that they had succeeded in turning him into a proper Englishman, the members of the Committee for John Anderson wondered what they should do with their charge. None of these gentlemen, apparently, ever contemplated that he might want to make his own way in the world. F.W. Chesson of the London Emancipation Society suggested that he be sent to the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 125-144)
  17. Index
    (pp. 145-151)