CANADA A REFUGE FOR THE SLAVE. 145
moved with hesitation towards the point of accepting the destruction of slavery as of equal importance with the preservation of the Union ; but at length their government resolved to take upon its broad shoulders the work so bravely begun and long continued by the Abolitionist "fanatics ", and determined, at the risk of tearing their great republic asunder, that every man under their national banner should be free. At immense cost of life and treasure, through " blood and fire and vapour of smoke ", the aimed-for end was attained ; and a few days before the departure of 1863 a proclamation was issued—not by President Lincoln, who was denied a well-earned part in the triumph, but by the Secretary of state—that the amendment to the Constitution destroying slavery " within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction " had been approved by twenty-seven out of thirty-six states and therefore had been adopted.
Then the pathways to the various Southern termini of the " underground railroad" soon became grass-grown ; and the watchers at the Canadian boundary line were at liberty to close their previously wakeful eyes ; the road was no longer needed, its business was spoiled. Canada soon ceased to be in plantation life and song another name for heaven ; the North Star, so long the nightly guide thither, soon came to seem but like a tradition.
But—and let it ever be regarded as a gem in Canada's circlet of renown—previous to that period when a few strokes of the pen struck off the fetters from four millions of bondmen in the South, as the pen in the hand of William IV., King of Great Britain and Ireland, had done in the case of West Indian bondmen more than thirty years before, not fewer than thirty thousand slaves had crossed the Canadian boundary line ;t had, to use the
" It is estimated that more than 30,000 American slaves, after escaping from bondage, found an asylum in Canada ".—Appletoa's American Cyclopedia", article ., Slavery ".