From its beginnings in the early nineteenth century, the Canadian anti-slavery movement was centred in Ontario. The campaign against slavery in America was two-pronged. Ontario abolitionists sought to enlist public support in the growing international crusade against slavery by organizing antislavery societies, and, through other institutions such as the Elgin Association, Canadian abolitionists responded to the immediate needs of the often destitute fugitive slaves who crossed the border. Individuals too - notably Peter Brown, Thomas Rolph, John Roaf, and Hiram Wilson - played crucial roles in the antislavery movement, particularly during the hiatus between the premature collapse of the Upper Canada Anti-Slavery Society in the late 1830s and the formation of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada at mid-century.
Allen Stouffer's analysis of Ontario's response to the freedmen reveals a virulent strain of racism that helps to explain why British North Americans were slow to join their British and American counterparts in the North Atlantic antislavery triangle. After exploring the Canadian churches' mixed reaction to antislavery, he applies cliometrics to draw a socio-economic profile of Canadian antislavery's leaders and followers.
Employing British, American, and Canadian primary sources, Stouffer has written this study the first book-length examination of Canadian antislavery from a British North American perspective. Earlier studies concluded that Canadian anti-slavery was largely the result of Canada's proximity to the United States, a proximity which precluded Canada's ignoring the situation. While Stouffer recognizes the importance of the American influence, he shows that the leaders of Canadian anti-slavery were immigrants from Britain who had been deeply involved in antislavery in their homeland.