VF 03 Parliament Oak School and the 1793 Act Against Slavery





Top: Main entrance of Parliament Oak School. Lower left: The inscribed stone tablet inset into the north wing of the King Street facade of Parliament Oak School. Bottom Centre: Hand-hewn stone marker commemorating the location where the celebrated Parliament Oak tree once stood. Bottom right: Bas-relief mural on front of school showing Governor Simcoe and early legislators under the spreading oak trees.

Historical Background

On the front of the main block of Parliament Oak School are two stone plaques inset into the front of the building which tell the story of this historic location.


On the left (south) wing of the school is an inscribed stone plaque inscribed with the following legend:


The 1793 Act Against Slavery

With the Constitution Act that founded Upper Canada, the British Crown established a government of chosen and elected officials. John Graves Simcoe was appointed Upper Canada's first Lieutenant Governor to oversee the process. Simcoe is responsible for creating the first government structures and institutions of Upper Canada, and was instrumental in landmark legislation that eventually ended the appalling institution of slavery in the British Commonwealth.

Simcoe learned of the plight of an enslaved African woman named Chloe Cooley as reported to him by Peter Martin, a Black Loyalist, and William Grisely. Chloe, forcibly bound and conveyed across the Niagara River by her owner, was sold to American slave agents. Fearing the beginning of a trend, this event raised community concern and elicited moral outrage in Simcoe and others, leading him to attempt to eradicate slavery so that this could not occur again.

Simcoe stated,

"The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe."

However, because many members of his first Parliament were indeed slave owners who were unwilling to divest themselves of their property, his effort resulted in compromise legislation.The slave-owning members were able to keep their slaves. The 1793 Act Against Slavery provided freedom to indentured servants of European origin, but provided for the gradual freedom of African Canadians after they reached the aged of 25. This compromise legislation led the way for the end of enslavement in Canada, and was the first such law of its kind - Upper Canada was the first British colony to do so. It also made it illegal to bring enslaved Africans into Upper Canada.



325 King St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

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