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Settlements that were founded with great hopes sank into poverty. Those who had always been poor endured even more suffering. Most white Loyalists left Nova Scotia, either traveling to Ontario or returning to the United States. Blacks had no such option; if they returned to the States they would be seized as slaves. As harsh winters and famine swept the region, and their employers fled for warmer and more prosperous lands, the Black Loyalists suffered.

Famine in Nova Scarcity

In 1789, poor harvests and a harsh winter combined to create terrible suffering all through the season. Ships that came from Quebec, pleading for supplies, were turned away. The blacks, of course, suffered most of all, given their poverty and the reluctance of others to lend a helping hand.

'A Wretched Place'

Around this time, the economy of the area was collapsing. Regulations choked trade, the whaling industry failed, and the long awaited farms proved to be unproductive. The people of Birchtown who were dependent on wage labour were plunged into oppressive poverty and starvation.

Farming Stones

Blacks and whites who hoped to become farmers in Nova Scotia were sadly disappointed; the soil was poor, the rocks numerous, and the growing season short. Blacks usually received the rockiest, most acidic land of all and were totally unprepared to grow appropriate crops.


A form of mediaeval peasantry became popular around this time. Since the blacks had not yet received farmland, and the land was too rough for most whites to consider cultivating, they hired poor blacks to work as sharecroppers. Sharecroppers had to give away half of their produce rent and usually borrowed their seed to get started. Sharecropping was usually a state of near slavery, with no hope of ever working themselves out of debt.

Returned to Bondage

Many desperate blacks resorted to selling themselves into indenture, a form of temporary slavery - temporary for some. Many illiterate blacks were tricked into signing indenture contracts which were much longer than they had agreed to. Some were sold into permanent slavery in the West Indies, while others never received their promised wages.

Still Landless

Six years after their landing, most of the blacks had never received more than a couple of acres of land, even when all the whites had been served in three years or less. What farmland was granted was generally on the area's worst soil.

African Religion go backgo upgo to next Nova Scarcity
Image Credit: Adapted from Illustrated London News 1848 - The Ejectment
Black Loyalists faced poverty and official discrimination.

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