How will we be judged?

It is difficult to predict the future. While the USA is restricting immigration, Canada is encouraging it. As a skeptic, allow me to speculate that if there were an influx of attractive young women from eastern Europe and/or Scandinavia seeking our borders, they may become more open. If we look into the past, this is not the first time Canada and the USA have had quite different policies regarding human rights. I am in the process of writing a book for the benefit of my grandchildren and their successors. The most interesting era I have stumbled upon is the 1850s in the USA. While two wings of the family were still in northern Germany and another wing of the family in Quebec, Canada, the Maxson wing were abolitionists in eastern Iowa. Based upon records found in the local Iowa newspapers, The Herbert Hoover Presidential library, The Iowa Historical Society and The Daughters of the American Revolution, I have learned that my Great-Great Grandfather, William Maxson was a conductor with the Underground Railroad. Due to the Fugitive Slave Act, he was a criminal according to federal law. The “Peculiar Institution” of slavery is now, however, thankfully and obviously on the wrong side of history. We as citizens can temper our shame with our capacity to evolve.

William Maxson’s basement at his farm home was known at the time within the Underground Railroad as the “Slave Basement”. Iowa was a free state, but its immediate neighbor to the south, Missouri, was not. His home was part of a network of individuals and families who helped escaped slaves travel under cover to Detroit, Michigan where they could cross the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. In Canada, they could live at last in a truly free country as free men and women. At that time In the USA, state’s rights were used as an excuse to treat fellow human beings as livestock because of the color of their skin. Like horses and cattle, they were treated as farm animals.

William Maxson was a Quaker. Quakers had the strange belief that all human beings were equal in the eyes of God. There were similar words in the Declaration of Independence, but to the Quakers, action spoke louder than words. In the 1850s, my only ancestors who lived in America practiced what they preached. William had the full support of his wife. He practiced a religion which was out of the mainstream. He believed that black lives mattered. America was very good to William Maxson. He was a second-generation American of Scot-Irish descent who had achieved prosperity as the son of an immigrant. His American dream became the Canadian dream for the slaves whom he helped smuggle to our northern neighbor. He risked being shot, jailed and/or sued for his actions. Are our present fears as eminent as his? Will our families be as proud of us as I am of him?

Seven more refugees walked for hours to cross the Canada-U.S. border into Manitoba February 26, 2017. (Jill Coubrough/CBC). Read the story here.

Jim Maxson

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