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Not everybody thought the Sierra Leone adventure was a good idea. Many, including some blacks, thought it was an unjustifiable waste of money, likely to add to the poverty of Nova Scotia. It was expected that the Sierra Leone adventure would cause a rise in the price of labour, the downfall of the farms that existed, and the ruin of the market for staple food and rough clothing.

Governor Parr in particular was concerned about how the project would reflect on him if it was successful. If the blacks had been so mistreated, then as governor he assumed some of the responsibility. If the plan failed, then obviously the complaints were unfounded and Parr would be vindicated.

Parr's opposition took many forms, including a refusal to aid Peters or receive him in any form. He also hired official agents who had good reasons to be opposed to the plan. The New Brunswick agents often refused applications on the flimsiest grounds, including invented debts and indentures, and illegible certificates of freedom. Other locals spread rumors about the failure of the previous settlement (true enough, it must be admitted) and said that the agents of the company sought to kidnap them and sell them into slavery.

Stephen Skinner, the agent for the exodus in Shelburne, was also less than enthusiastic about the undertaking. Skinner had employed many blacks and drew influence from them and from his connection with Stephen Blucke. With the blacks gone, both of them would have much less weight locally. Blucke faced the prospect of becoming a schoolteacher without pupils and a Magistrate without criminals to judge. With Skinner's support, Blucke wrote up a petition calling on Blacks to remain in the province. Skinner even went so far as to try and bribe prospective emigrants to stay there.

Parr also started a rigged investigation of Peters' complaints designed to discredit him. For example, it concluded that he received no land because he moved to New Brunswick, neglecting to mention that none of the land in that survey was ever granted. In fact, none of the Brindley Town blacks were ever granted more than two acres for town lots. Certainly, the investigation ended any hopes that British pressure would lead to fairer treatment for them.

According to Clarkson, Parr later had a change of heart. He confessed that he had received letters from British officials encouraging him to do what he could to discourage the emigration. Perhaps Parr felt some guilt in his old age for the poor fortunes of the blacks who had been so dependent on his government. Parr was ill and died while the recruitment was underway, and perhaps his confession to Clarkson represented a desire for penance.

Landowners with sharecroppers were especially dismayed. How could they ever cultivate such unpromising land without free labour? Gideon White wrote at the time that the exodus had not only ruined him, but also any chance of success that Shelburne had left. Those who exploited the blacks had grown dependent on them - with their departure they had to face bankruptcy and worse. Peters was even assaulted by one white landowner, and Clarkson declined to travel the Annapolis Road for fear that the scheme's opponents might murder him.

There were immediate economic effects. Staple crops like potatoes plunged in price as soon as the scheme was suggested. The captive market showed signs of escaping. Land prices that were already low due to the departure of white loyalists, sank further as blacks sold all of their property at fire sale prices. Some whites encouraged the exodus for just this reason. Even as they sought freedom, the blacks could not escape exploitation.

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Image by Jason Buchanan and Tina Elliot
Not all Black Loyalists had the option of going to Sierra Leone.

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Thomas Peters

Stephen Blucke

Stephen Skinner

John Parr


Mission to America

Skinner's Letter to Dundas