In November of 1776, Thomas Peters joined an all black regiment called the Black Pioneers. Prior to joining the regiment, he was a fugitive slave who left Wilmington, North Carolina. While serving with the Black Pioneers, Peters became well known and progressed to the rank of sergeant. The Black Pioneers were then transported from New York to Nova Scotia.
When Peters arrived in Nova Scotia, he became a resident of Brindley Town near Digby. He received rations from the government for a time, but decided to leave Annapolis County for Saint John because he could not secure farmland near his town lot. He relocated to Saint John; unfortunately, the settlement situation was much the same there. Blacks had received only one acre each.
In 1791, many blacks in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had a lot of trouble being granted farms. Thomas Peters became their representative and drafted many petitions for them. When they were rejected he decided to travel to England to represent them to the Crown.
Thomas Peters went to England in 1791, where he came into contact with Granville Sharp, a famed abolitionist and philanthropist. While in England Peters was presented his petition to the Secretary of State.
Peters' story attracted the attention of the Sierra Leone Company through Granville Sharp. The company was working to establish a settlement for blacks in Sierra Leone, but badly needed new settlers to rebuild the destroyed settlement. The company offered Peters and his followers a new promised land in the 'Province of Freedom'.
Peters was excited to have a new, more promising settlement opportunity. He reported the news to the blacks he represented and was appointed as an intermediary between the Sierra Leone Company and his people. Peters was influential in many people's decision to go to Sierra Leone and worked closely with John Clarkson to prepare for the voyage.
After Peters arrived in Sierra Leone he found that there were still many problems. The blacks had not received their land grants as soon as expected. In addition, Clarkson was not well and could not hear all of the people's complaints. Peters protested the lies and exaggerations made to his people such as the promises of no land taxes, land grants withing weeks and a democratic government. Some of his group of Methodists not only agreed with him, but also wanted him to be the governor of the colony. They decided to have him represent their cause to Superintendent Clarkson.
Clarkson did not look upon Peters petition favorably and felt it was an attack on his authority. He confronted Peters publicly and most of the colony sided with Clarkson. Peters lost much of his influence with the blacks of Sierra Leone.
Shortly afterwards, Peters was accused of theft from a dead man. When brought before the courts, Peters explained that he simply collecting a debt for having helped the man escape from slavery. A jury of his fellow blacks didn't think much of this explanation, and convicted him. Soon after Peters grew sick and died; a humbling end to a glorious life.