Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slave Fugitive: John Anderson: Murderer?

John Anderson, The case of John Anderson almost lead to war between Canada and the United States; and also caused poor feelings between Canada and its protectorate Great Britain. 
When Anderson escaped in 1853, he kissed his wife and children goodbye with the intent of returning for them.  He left with the attitude, nobody would take him alive.  Seneca DIgges discovered Anderson, and was intent on holding him for authorities to receive award.  Digges ordered his slaves to help capture Anderson.  John warned, “If you come near me I will kill you.”  In the struggle, Anderson stabbed Digges and took off.  Digges died a couple weeks later.
Anderson made good his escape.  He also followed through with his plans to free his wife.  However, his wife and children had been sent farther south, whereabouts unknown.  He was almost tricked into returning for her when the plan to capture him was found out.  He fled to Canada. 
However even in Canada, the long arms of the law finally caught up with him.  The United States insisted on his extradition to stand trial for murder.  At the same time, Canada did not have slavery at the time, and would not have returned him to slave hunters.  In fact a slave hunter who had come to Canada was threatened and chased off.  But this case was a conundrum because of agreements between the United States and Canada.  The lower court ruled that he must be returned to Canada.  The English government was appalled, and insisting on the case going to England.  However a higher court in Canada overturned the decision, as the request for extradition asked that he be returned for killing someone, and did not mention an actual crime such as murder. 
In the meantime this was 1860.  The administration changed from that of President Buchanan to President Lincoln.  Many of the states had already seceded.  Lincoln was not so much interest in appeasing the South, and the case was never pursued.
There is no evidence Anderson was ever reunited with his family.  He boarded a ship in 1862 bound for Liberia.  However whether he arrived in Liberia or went elsewhere is not known.

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