Nova Scotia Archives

African Nova Scotians

in the Age of Slavery and Abolition

Book of Negroes
From Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester: Papers, The National Archives, Kew (PRO 30/55/100) 10427 p. 1

The "Book of Negroes" is the single most important document relating to the immigration of African Americans to Nova Scotia following the War of Independence. It includes the names and descriptions of 3000 black refugees registered on board the vessels in which they sailed from New York to Nova Scotia between 23 April and 30 November 1783.

The book also documents the cases of some fugitive slaves who were returned to their owners before they could escape to Nova Scotia. One of these was the "Negro woman named Betty," who had left her owner, Thomas Smith. Before she could sail to freedom, Smith claimed that he still owned her. Unfortunately, the British authorities agreed with Smith and sent Betty back to Thomas "to be disposed of by him at his pleasure."

The "Book of Negroes" exists in two original versions. These were created separately but at the same time by the British and the Americans as they registered the refugees. The British version, presented here, is in the Sir Guy Carlton papers at the Public Records Office (National Archives of Great Britain.) The American version, which forms the basis of Graham Hodge's Black Loyalist Directory, is at the National Archives at Washington. A microfilm copy of the American version is available at Nova Scotia Archives microfilm 23164 and 23165.

Note on Nova Scotian destinations: St. Johns (sometimes spelled St. John's) is listed among the destinations of the immigrants. This refers to what is now Saint John, New Brunswick. New Brunswick was part of Nova Scotia until it became separate in 1784. Port Roseway refers what is now Shelburne and Fort Cumberland to the vicinity of what is now Amherst.

        Head Quarters New York 15th April 1783

It is the Commander in Chief's Orders that the following
Extract from the Seventh Article of the Provisional Treaty
between Great Britain and the United States of America
be strictly attended to and complied with by all Persons
whatsoever under his Command

   "And his Britannic Majesty shall, with all convenient Speed
   "and without any Destruction or carrying away
   "any Negroes, or other Property of the American Inhabitants,
   "withdraw all his Armies, Garrisons, and Fleets from the said
   "United States, and from every Port, Place, and Harbour, within the
   "same; leaving in all Fortifications the American Artillery that
   "may be therein, and shall also order and cause all the Archives,
   "Records, Deeds and Papers, belonging to any of the said States
   "or their Citizens which in the Course of the War may have fallen
   "into the Hands of his Officers to be forthwith restored and ~
   "delivered to the proper States and Persons to whom they belong"

All Masters of Vessels are particularly cautioned, at their Peril not to
commit any Breach of the above Article

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