Previous Slavery in Canada (1899) Next

 

134   NOVA SCOTIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

known to the general public as the •• underground rail-road". Its leading managers were Quakers, Levi Coffin being " president"; but with them were associated other bold spirits, such as John Brown, of Harper's Fern• fame, who with his six stalwart sons did many a bold stroke of business in its behalf. It had also its various •• lines" leading north and south, with •• stations" and "station masters "; and, to prevent discovery, various technical business terms were used by its unpaid and often heavily taxed officials and employees. The history of the conscientious law-breakers who for a quarter of a century directed this organization is a history of heroes inspired by the noblest motives. Their original purpose was not to entice slaves from their masters, but to aid systematically those who had succeeded in escaping, to prevent their recapture, and to pass them on as speedily as possible to the extreme northern terminus—the Canadian border. Nor in the wide field of lowly romance will aught ever be found more thrilling than the experiences of some of the numerous passengers by the •• underground railway" in their frantic efforts to reach freedom and Canada.

With the aid of this secret organization of heroic men and women, successful attempts at escape into Canada became much more numerous. While many bondmen started bravely on the expedition northward with slight idea of distance and dangers, only to be seized on the way and sold into harsher slavery, a good proportion of the adventurers, after experiences scarcely less perilous than the crossing of •• Eliza" and her boy over the floating ice-bridges of the Ohio. as told by Mrs. Stowe in her marvellous novel, reached the Canaan of their dreams in safety. •• All ,through Ohio to-day", says a narrator of the escape of one of these, •• grey-haired men and women still tell how their mothers warmed, fed, and often clothed


Previous Slavery in Canada (1899) Next