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In order to survive, many landless blacks were forced into a form of mediaeval peasantry. As sharecroppers, they laboured on white men's land and gave them half their crop in return. The sharecropper had to save seed from his half of the produce for the next year. This made it nearly impossible to accumulate any savings, and indeed, most sank deep into debt. With Nova Scotia's rocky, acidic, soil, it was practically impossible to do anything more than survive.

Sharecropping had another virtue for white landowners. Many had been granted large amounts of land, hundreds of acres in size. However, if the land had not been cleared, they risked having it confiscated under the terms of the land grants. To protect their investment they needed to do whatever they could to improve the land. The obvious solution was to have poor blacks work the land for them, and then farm it themselves once the land was cleared and their title was established.

John Clarkson wrote in his journals about men who had suffered so greatly that they were forced to sell their clothing and most basic possessions. Others routinely had to eat their seed for the next year and were thus forced to borrow from their masters. An accumulated debt could quickly place a man in a state of dependence not much different from slavery.

Imagine the fate of John Brown, who worked on the farms of Anglican Bishop Inglis. Inglis had large estates and a number of sharecroppers. When they first arrived on the land it was unsettled, maybe cleared by logging but certainly never plowed. Over three years Brown and his wife managed to pull away the rocks and stumps that littered the soil and plant a thriving crop, to Inglis's approval. Inglis's reaction? He moved Brown and his family to new, uncleared land, so that he could expand his harvests.

Inglis was hardly alone. Another white landowner, Gideon White, bemoaned the departure of his eight tenant families for Sierra Leone. White was also a slave owner who had his servant girl whipped with 60 lashes for stealing a dress. White felt that the loss of the sharecroppers had destroyed Shelburne's chance of success.

Sharecropping was especially prevalent in the Preston and Annapolis regions.

Like indentured servants, many of the sharecroppers had sunk into debt and were prevented from leaving for Sierra Leone.

Farming Stones go backgo upgo to next Back to Bondage
Image of rough land being cleared
Many Blacks were forced to work on the land of white landowners in order to support themselves.

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