During the Revolutionary War, both sides promised freedom to slaves who were willing and able to fight. These offers of freedom varied greatly and were often motivated more by strategic gain than true abolitionist feeling. Once freed, the documentation that proved manumission was often lost or destroyed in the conflict. Even those who could prove their freedom still had to endure prejudice and hatred throughout North America. In this account, slave owner Thomas Walke complained to Congress that the British protection of enslaved Americans in New York was a “glaring piece of injustice and open violation of the . . . [preliminary] treaty.” British commander Sir Guy Carleton would later supervise the evacuation from New York of “Free Black” Loyalists and their families to Nova Scotia.
National Archives, Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention