Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kentucky Petitioned Canada?...Well, Sorta'

Yes...using the Canadian maple leaf is a tad anachronistic for talking about Canada in the mid-nineteenth century, since they were still under the rule of Great Britain, but that's O.K.

So, what in the world would have Kentucky fired up enough in 1859 to make a request of Canada via the federal government? Yep, you guessed it. It was slavery.

On December 19, 1859, in the wake of John Brown's raid, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a resolution that "strongly" urged "the treaty-making power of the government of the United States the necessity of so amending the tenth section of our treaty with Great Britain in regard to fugitives from justice, which was ratified in London, on the 13th day of October, as to include in its provisions fugitives from service or labor, so held under the constitution and laws of the United States, or of either of the States."

But, why ask for an amendment of the treaty? Well, the resolution clearly explains why in its opening. "Whereas, The citizens of Kentucky have been for a series of years, and are still subjected to an annual loss involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, by the escape from this State of persons held to service or labor in the State...into the British possessions of North America." In other words, Kentucky was losing major money in slave property by their escape to Canada. The petitioners also explained that the treaty was also needed because "no treaty exists between the government of Great Britain and the United States for the reclamation and extradition of persons so escaping from labor or service."

And, to power it home how necessary this measure was, the petitioners suggested "that the Governor [Beriah Magoffin] of this Commonwealth be requested to forward, under his official seal, a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolution to each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress, and a like copy to the President of the United States [James Buchannan]."

If the Kentucky legislature was concerned enough about the loss of slave property, worth "involving hundreds of thousands of dollars" to pass a resolution for their return, then one can safely assume that the number successfully fleeing was significant.

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