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The officials responsible for the settlement of new communities in Nova Scotia received many more settlers than they expected. They were unprepared to feed and house such a large number of people. And there simply weren't enough qualified people to run the affairs of the settlement effectively and efficiently.

The main surveyor, Benjamin Marston, was extremely busy when Shelburne was first being settled. He wrote in his diary that some people who were eligible to draw for land were left out because officials did not consider them to be acceptable. Blacks were of course ineligible to draw for lots in Shelburne. Marston made comments in his diary regarding blacks and children that had tried to cheat their way into the draw. He also unsparingly criticized what he saw as the incompetence of the captains who ran most of the affairs of Port Roseway at the time.

Free blacks often had trouble getting their fair share of provisions. Many had to indenture themselves to white people and so their provisions were drawn by the person to which they were indentured. This led to abuse, as many of the whites would give the servant only a small portion of the provisions and keep the rest for themselves.

In addition, many blacks had their provisions drawn for them by the head of the company that they came with, experiencing similar results. Even blacks who were not indentured had to work three days a week on the roads to receive their fair share of supplies. It seems clear that the tools and lumber that were brought for the Loyalists almost never came into the hands of blacks.

The Black Loyalists had been promised good farmland upon their arrival in Shelburne and other parts of Nova Scotia. Not only did most never receive farmlands, but most black settlements were erected on poor, rocky land. While all the whites of Shelburne had received their farm lots by the summer of 1786, only one black, Stephen Blucke, had received his. It was two more years until the rocky lands at Beaverdam were surveyed for them. Of course, the fact that it was the last to be surveyed meant that their land was remote and infertile.

Many blacks were displaced from what they thought was to become their land. This occurred in Brindley Town, where blacks who were just about to receive their land had to be removed because the land had been set aside for church and school land. Similar examples happened near Birchtown and Preston.

Poor relief was another form of assistance offered by the government as the King's Rations were ended. The money for poor relief was in control of the white overseers of the poor. They felt no direct responsibility for the blacks, and felt that the blacks ought to be taxed seperately so they could take care of their own. Of course the poverty of the black communities would have ensured either high taxes or non-existent relief.

At one point two blacks named James Young and Tobias Johnson were appointed as overseers of the poor at Birchtown. They made a petition to the magistrates asking for help for the blacks living in Shelburne and Birchtown. They commented that blacks in these areas were in a terrible condition and that some would die if they did not receive relief.

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Image: Black Porters 1864
Blacks usually had to do civic labour in order to draw the provisions promised equally to all.

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Benjamin Marston