94 NOVA SCOTIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
The uncertain character of slave property, especially in the neighborhood of the sea, had also its effect in hastening the decline of the traffic. In ports like Quebec and, in particular. Halifax, where at any moment the press-gang might patrol the streets to hurry on board the king's ships any stragglers unable to escape their clutches ; and where, through departures of vessels for more or less distant ports. were frequent opportunities for the escape or stealing of slaves, the owners of Negroes were never secure. A striking illustration of the uncertain tenure of this species of property is furnished in the records of the probate court, . Halifax. In the inventory of the estate of Balthazar Creamer, Halifax. recorded April t, 1796, the item of a "tract of land at Preston" is followed by " one black man by the name of Benjamin", estimated by the appraisers at sixty pounds ; " one black woman by the name of Mary", sixty pounds ; " one black girl by the name of San-", thirty pounds. In a second inventory, rendered necessary by the death during the following year of Catharine, widow of the said Balthazar. these items are repeated, with some explanatory notes of a brief but significant character : " One black man, forty pounds, carried off in the Raison frigate ; one black woman, ran away at Chester, thirty pounds ; one black girl, died".'
But most powerful of all the causes of the final extinction of slavery in the several British American provinces was the action of the courts of law. The decision in 1772 of Lord Mansfield, elicited by the harsh treatment of James Somerset, a slave carried from Virginia to England and
granted him three thousand acres at twat Hill, Hants county, where he died in 1792- Several of the solid business men of Hants county and of the city of Halifax are descendants of this Scotch soldier.
t The Raison was one of two French war vessels captured by his Majesty's ships Thetis and Hussar in the West Indies. Not less than three warrants of impress had been granted ships of war at Halifax between November t, 1796 and January 31, 1797.