Right. As if slavery was ever abolished anywhere. Varying forms of it were ceremoniously muted, only to be replaced by others. Besides the millions of all races still being sold around the world today for sex, labor and body parts, including the highly lucrative child trafficking industry, institutionalized slavery exists worldwide – it’s just been dressed up in “democracy”, volunteer slavery with an illusion of freedom, much easier to execute and maintain. Something to think about. – Zen]
The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves
The Slaves That Time Forgot
They came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.
We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.
But, are we talking about African slavery? King James II and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.
African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.
In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irishslave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
Here’s Another Reference…
Slave tale hits close to home
I was reading The Sunday Times yesterday when a story by Gabrielle Monaghan caught my eye.
She was writing about the Icara project which is to test the DNA of the descendants of Irish slaves living on the Caribbean islands.
The DNA of what now? Exactly.
I had that same reaction a few years ago when I was scanning the history section in the local bookshop and came across “To Hell or Barbados” by Sean O’Callaghan.
It turns out, over 50,000 men, women and children (including the elderly and priests) were shipped from Ireland to Barbados and Virginia between 1652 and 1659.
In the early days, some signed what were called ‘indentures’, agreeing to work on plantations in the belief that they would be given their own plot of land once their term of employment was over.
However, in 1652, an order was granted allowing the Commissioner of Ireland to round up anyone who was seen as a ‘danger’ to the Commonwealth, leading to men of all ranks – from landowner to soldier to farmer – being captured and shipped abroad.
With such a large number of men now gone, there were too many women left behind and so a further order was made allowing for them to be sent to Virginia or New England to work. Some plantation owners were also very keen to have Irish women shipped over to them on the islands.
It could take up to ten weeks to cross the Atlantic in the slave ships, with many of those on board (up to one in five according to Monaghan) dying en route. Those that survived were sold on arrival to plantation owners; the merchants earning cash, tobacco, cotton or some other colonial product for their human cargo.
While the treatment of these slaves varied depending on the plantation owner, by and large that treatment was appalling with lashings and beatings an everyday occurrence.