The Irish Slave Trade- White Cargo
The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves
The Slaves That Time Forgot
By John Martin
Global Research, January 27, 2013
‘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 I 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 Irish slave 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.
England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they’ve got it completely wrong. Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories. But, where are our public (and PRIVATE) schools???? Where are the history books? Why is it so seldom discussed? Do the memories of hundreds of thousands of Irish victims merit more than a mention from an unknown writer?
Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: To (unlike the African book) have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened. None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.’
A Radharc report from 1976 about the Black Irish (Mulattoes) of Montserrat, Here speaking Gaelic! Irish people exiled by Cromwell and African slaves arrived on Montserrat at about the same time. Montserrat is known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”.
From: Save Your White Heritage Website:
The Irish in Colonial America were considered Nigge*s Turned Inside Out”
“Negro slavery was efficiently established in colonial America because Black slaves were governed, organized and controlled by the structures and organization that were first used to enslave and control Whites. Black slaves were ‘late comers fitted into a system already developed.'”
(Michael Hoffman, They Were White and They Were Slaves and Ulrich B. Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South, pp. 25, 26)
Oscar Handlin says that..
“Through the first three-quarters of the 17th century, the Negroes, even in the South, were not numerous…They came into a society in which a large part of the White population was to some degree unfree…The Negroes lack of freedom was not unusual. These Black newcomers, like so many others, were accepted, bought and held, as kinds of servants.”
White slaves were owned by Negroes and Indians to such an extent in the South that the Virginia Assembly passed a law against the practice! “It is enacted that noe negro or Indian though baptized and enjoyned their owne ffreedome shall be capable of any such purchase of christians…”
Christians meant Irish Whites
Statutes of the Virginia Assembly, Vol. 2, pp. 280-81)
Some say that the Blacks were slaves, the Whites were servants. Historical documents proves this to be false
In the original documents of the White merchants who transported negroes from Africa for the slave markets the Blacks were called servants
“…one notes that the Company of Royal Adventurers referred to their cargo as ‘Negers,’ ‘Negro-servants,’ ‘servants…from Africa…”
(Handlin. p. 205)
Irish Slave Facts:
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 (70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves at this time). From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and over 300,000 were sold as slaves.
Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were forcibly taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. Another 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia while 30,000 Irish men were sold to the highest bidder.
In 1656, Oliver Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers. African slaves were very expensive (50 Sterling), had to be transported long distances and paid for not only in Africa but in the New World. Irish slaves were cheap (no more than 5 Sterling) and most often were either kidnapped from Ireland, prisoners or forcibly removed. They could be worked to death, whipped or branded without it being a crime. Many, many times they were beat to death and while the death of an Irish slave was a monetary setback, it was far cheaper than the death of an expensive African. Therefore, African slaves were treated much better in Colonial America.
The importation of Irish slaves continued well into the eighteenth century, long after the importation of African slaves became the norm. Records state that after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. Irish slavery didn’t end until Britain decided to end slavery in 1839 and stopped transporting slaves.
The enactment of 1652 in the British Isles: “it may be lawful for two or more justices of the peace within any county, citty or towne, corporate belonging to the commonwealth to from tyme to tyme by warrant cause to be apprehended, seized on and detained all and every person or persons that shall be found begging and vagrant.. in any towne, parish or place to be conveyed into the Port of London, or unto any other port from where such person or persons may be shipped into a forraign collonie or plantation.”
The judges of Edinburgh Scotland during the years 1662-1665 ordered the enslavement and shipment to the colonies a large number of rogues and others who made life unpleasant for the British upper class. [B](Register for the Privy Council of Scotland, third series, vol. 1, p 181, vol. 2, p 101).
This ship from London with people to sell will give credit to buy the “servants” from the Virginia Gazette, March 28, 1771
White slaves were owned by Negroes and Indians to such an extent in the South that the Virginia Assembly passed a law against the practice! “It is enacted that noe negro or Indian though baptized and enjoyned their owne ffreedome shall be capable of any such purchase of christians…” Christians meant Whites Statutes of the Virginia Assembly, Vol. 2, pp. 280-81) Oscar Handlin says that “Through the first three-quarters of the 17th century, the Negroes, even in the South, were not numerous…
They came into a society in which a large part of the White population was to some degree unfree… The Negroes lack of freedom was not unusual. These Black newcomers, like so many others, were accepted, bought and held, as kinds of servants.” He goes on to say that the desire for cheap labor caused the elite merchants and land owners to enslave not only the negroes but their own White kindred as well Blacks were much more expensive than Whites, Therefore, Whites were mistreated more often than blacks.
During the Colonial period, Whites did the harder work, such as digging ditches, clearing land, and felling trees. The frontier demands for this kind of heavy manual labor was satisfied primarily by White slaves As late as 1669 those who had large scale plantations were manning them with White slaves, not negroes. That’s the way it was done in the mother country, Great Britain!
In 1670 the Governor of Virginia said that he had 2000 Negro and 6000 White slaves. Hundreds of thousands of Whites in colonial America were owned outright by their masters and died in slavery. Even the blacks knew this. If they were made to work too hard they accused their masters of “treating them like the Irish”
White children enslaved in a mine in 19th century England.
The two on the left are virtually naked. Children of both sexes worked in this manner. by Michael A. Hoffman II ©Copyright 1999. All Rights Reserved
Two years ago, Prime Minister Paul Keating of Australia refused to show “proper respect” to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit. In response, Terry Dicks, a Conservative member of the British Parliament said, “It’s a country of ex-convicts, so we should not be surprised by the rudeness of their prime minister.”
A slur such as this would be considered unthinkable if it were uttered against any other class or race of people except the descendants of White slavery. Dicks’ remark is not only offensive, it is ignorant and false. Most of Australia’s “convicts” were shipped into servitude for such “crimes” as stealing seven yards of lace, cutting trees on an aristocrat’s estate or poaching sheep to feed a starving family.
The arrogant disregard for the holocaust visited upon the poor and working class Whites of Britain by the aristocracy continues in our time because the history of that epoch has been almost completely extirpated from our collective memory. When White servitude is acknowledged as having existed in America, it is almost always termed as temporary “indentured servitude” or part of the convict trade, which, after the Revolution of 1776, centered on Australia instead of America.
The “convicts” transported to America under the 1723 Waltham Act, perhaps numbered 100,000. The indentured servants who served a tidy little period of 4 to 7 years polishing the master’s silver and china and then taking their place in colonial high society, were a minuscule fraction of the great unsung hundreds of thousands of White slaves who were worked to death in this country from the early l7th century onward. Up to one-half of all the arrivals in the American colonies were Whites slaves and they were America’s first slaves.
These Whites were slaves for life, long before Blacks ever were. This slavery was even hereditary. White children born to White slaves were enslaved too. Whites were auctioned on the block with children sold and separated from their parents and wives sold and separated from their husbands. Free Black property owners strutted the streets of northern and southern American cities while White slaves were worked to death in the sugar mills of Barbados and Jamaica and the plantations of Virginia.
The Establishment has created the misnomer of “indentured servitude” to explain away and minimize the fact of White slavery. But bound Whites in early America called themselves slaves. Nine-tenths of the White slavery in America was conducted without indentures of any kind but according to the so-called “custom of the country,” as it was known, which was lifetime slavery administered by the White slave merchants themselves. In George Sandys laws for Virginia, Whites were enslaved “forever.”
The service of Whites bound to Berkeley’s Hundred was deemed “perpetual.” These accounts have been policed out of the much touted “standard reference works” such as Abbott Emerson Smith’s laughable whitewash, Colonists in Bondage. I challenge any researcher to study 17th century colonial America, sifting the documents, the jargon and the statutes on both sides of the Atlantic and one will discover that White slavery was a far more extensive operation than Black enslavement.
It is when we come to the 18th century that one begins to encounter more “servitude” on the basis of a contract of indenture. But even in that period there was kidnapping of Anglo-Saxons into slavery as well as convict slavery. In 1855, Frederic Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, was in Alabama on a pleasure trip and saw bales of cotton being thrown from a considerable height into a cargo ship’s hold. The men tossing the bales somewhat recklessly into the hold were Negroes, the men in the hold were Irish. Olmsted inquired about this to a shipworker.
“Oh,” said the worker, “the niggers are worth too much to be risked here; if the Paddies are knocked overboard or get their backs broke, nobody loses anything.” Before British slavers traveled to Africa’s western coast to buy Black slaves from African chieftains, they sold their own White working class kindred (“the surplus poor” as they were known) from the streets and towns of England, into slavery. Tens of thousands of these White slaves were kidnapped children. In fact the very origin of the word kidnapped is kid-nabbed, the stealing of White children for enslavement.
According to the English Dictionary of the Underworld, under the heading kidnapper is the following definition: “A stealer of human beings, esp. of children; originally for exportation to the plantations of North America.” The center of the trade in child-slaves was in the port cities of Britain and Scotland: “Press gangs in the hire of local merchants roamed the streets, seizing ‘by force such boys as seemed proper subjects for the slave trade.’ Children were driven in flocks through the town and confined for shipment in barns…
So flagrant was the practice that people in the countryside about Aberdeen avoided bringing children into the city for fear they might be stolen; and so widespread was the collusion of merchants, shippers, suppliers and even magistrates that the man who exposed it was forced to recant and run out of town.” (Van der Zee, Bound Over, p. 210). White slaves transported to the colonies suffered a staggering loss of life in the 17th and 18th century.
During the voyage to America it was customary to keep the White slaves below deck for the entire nine to twelve week journey. A White slave would be confined to a hole not more than sixteen feet long, chained with 50 other men to a board, with padlocked collars around their necks. The weeks of confinement below deck in the ship’s stifling hold often resulted in outbreaks of contagious disease which would sweep through the “cargo” of White “freight” chained in the bowels of the ship.
Ships carrying White slaves to America often lost half their slaves to death. According to historian Sharon V. Salinger, “Scattered data reveal that the mortality for [White] servants at certain times equaled that for [Black] slaves in the ‘middle passage,’ and during other periods actually exceeded the death rate for [Black] slaves.” Salinger reports a death rate of ten to twenty percent over the entire 18th century for Black slaves on board ships enroute to America compared with a death rate of 25% for White slaves enroute to America. Foster R. Dulles writing in Labor in America: A History, states that whether convicts, children ‘spirited’ from the countryside or political prisoners, White slaves “experienced discomforts and sufferings on their voyage across the Atlantic that paralleled the cruel hardships.
“To Hell or Barbados” by Sean O’Callaghan.
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 cargo.
The first slaves imported into the American colonies were 100 White children. They arrived during Easter, 1619
The slave ship HMS Glendower brought human cargo to South American and
Part 2 The Irish Slaves Irish Slavery by James F. Cavanaugh
There are a great many K/Cavanaughs in North America who trace their ancestry back to a Charles Cavanaugh, who arrived in Barbados in the first place.
The answer takes us down a revolting path wandering through one of the most insensitive and savage episodes in history, where the greed and avarice of the English monarchy systematically planned the genocide of the Irish, for commercial profit, and executed a continuing campaign to destroy all traces of Irish social, cultural and religious being. As the topic was politically sensitive, little has been written about this attempted genocide of the Irish, and what has been written has been camouflaged because it is an ugly and painfully brutal story. But the story should be told.
Transportation and Banishment
If Queen Elizabeth I had lived in the 20th Century. she would have been viewed with the same horror as Hitler and Stalin.
Her policy of Irish genocide was pursued with such evil zest it boggles the mind of modern men. But Elizabeth was only setting the stage for the even more savage program that was to follow her, directed specifically to exterminate the Irish. James II and Charles I continued Elizabeth’s campaign, but Cromwell almost perfected it. Few people in modern so-called “civilized history” can match the horrors of Cromwell in Ireland.
It is amazing what one man can do to his fellow man under the banner that God sanctions his actions! During the reign of Elizabeth I, English privateers captured 300 African Negroes, sold them as slaves, and initiated the English slave trade. Slavery was, of course, an old established commerce dating back into earliest history.
Julius Caesar brought over a million slaves from defeated armies back to Rome. By the 16th century, the Arabs were the most active, generally capturing native peoples, not just Africans, marching them to a seaport and selling them to ship owners. Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish ships were originally the most active, supplying slaves to the Spanish colonies in America. It was not a big business in the beginning, but a very profitable one, and ship owners were primarily interested only in profits.
The morality of selling human beings was never a factor to them. After the Battle of Kinsale at the beginning of the 17th century, the English were faced with a problem of some 30,000 military prisoners (Irish freedom fighters), which they solved by creating an official policy of banishment.
Other Irish leaders had voluntarily exiled to the continent, in fact, the Battle of Kinsale marked the beginning of the so-called “Wild Geese”, those Irish banished from their homeland. Banishment, however, did not solve the problem entirely, so James II encouraged selling the Irish as slaves to planters and settlers in the New World colonies. The first Irish slaves were sold to a settlement on the Amazon River In South America in 1612.
It would probably be more accurate to say that the first “recorded” sale of Irish slaves was in 1612, because the English, who were noted for their meticulous record keeping, simply did not keep track of things Irish, whether it be goods or people, unless such was being shipped to England. The disappearance of a few hundred or a few thousand Irish was not a cause for alarm, but rather for rejoicing. Who cared what their names were anyway, they were gone. Almost as soon as settlers landed in America, English privateers showed up with a good load of slaves to sell.
The first load of African slaves brought to Virginia arrived at Jamestown in 1619. English shippers, with royal encouragement, partnered with the Dutch to try and corner the slave market to the exclusion of the Spanish and Portuguese. The demand was greatest in the Spanish occupied areas of Central and South America, but the settlement of North America moved steadily ahead, and the demand for slave labor grew.
The Proclamation of 1625 ordered that Irish political prisoners be transported overseas and sold as laborers to English planters, who were settling the islands of the West Indies, officially establishing a policy that was to continue for two centuries. In 1629 a large group of Irish men and women were sent to Guiana, and by 1632, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat in the West Indies.
By 1637 a census showed that 69% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves, which records show was a cause of concern to the English planters. But there were not enough political prisoners to supply the demand, so every petty infraction carried a sentence of transporting, and slaver gangs combed the country sides to kidnap enough people to fill out their quotas. Although African Negroes were better suited to work in the semi-tropical climates of the Caribbean, they had to be purchased, while the Irish were free for the catching, so to speak. It is not surprising that Ireland became the biggest source of livestock for the English slave trade.
The Confederation War broke out in Kilkenny in 1641, as the Irish attempted to throw out the English yet again, something that seem to happen at least once every generation. Sir Morgan Cavanaugh of Clonmullen, one of the leaders, was killed during a battle in 1646, and his two sons, Daniel and Charles (later Colonel Charles) continued with the struggle until the uprising was crushed by Cromwell in 1649.
In the 12 year period during and following the Confederation revolt, from 1641 to 1652, over 550,000 Irish were killed by the English and 300,000 were sold as slaves, as the Irish population of Ireland fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000. Banished soldiers were not allowed to take their wives and children with them, and naturally, the same for those sold as slaves. The result was a growing population of homeless women and children, who being a public nuisance, were likewise rounded up and sold. But the worse was yet to come.
In 1649, (J E W Lackey) Cromwell landed in Ireland and attacked Drogheda, slaughtering some 30,000 Irish living in the city. Cromwell reported: “I do not think 30 of their whole number escaped with their lives. Those that did are in safe custody in the Barbados.” A few months later, in 1650, 25,000 Irish were sold to planters in St. Kitt. During the 1650s decade of Cromwell’s Reign of Terror, over 100,000 Irish children, generally from 10 to 14 years old, were taken from Catholic parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In fact, more Irish were sold as slaves to the American colonies and plantations from 1651 to 1660 than the total existing “free” population of the Americas!
But all did not go smoothly with Cromwell’s extermination plan, as Irish slaves revolted in Barbados in 1649. They were hanged, drawn and quartered and their heads were put on pikes, prominently displayed around Bridgetown as a warning to others. Cromwell then fought two quick wars against the Dutch in 1651, and thereafter monopolized the slave trade. Four years later he seized Jamaica from Spain, which then became the center of the English slave trade in the Caribbean.
Irish Slaves on Barbados Sugar Plantation On 14 August 1652, Cromwell began his Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland, ordering that the Irish were to be transported overseas, starting with 12,000 Irish prisoners sold to Barbados. The infamous “Connaught or Hell” proclamation was issued on 1 May 1654, where all Irish were ordered to be removed from their lands and relocated west of the Shannon or be transported to the West Indies.
Those who have been to County Clare, a land of barren rock will understand what an impossible position such an order placed the Irish. A local sheep owner claimed that Clare had the tallest sheep in the world, standing some 7 feet at the withers, because in order to live, there was so little food, they had to graze at 40 miles per hour. With no place to go and stay alive, the Irish were slow to respond. This was an embarrassing problem as Cromwell had financed his Irish expeditions through business investors, who were promised Irish estates as dividends, and his soldiers were promised freehold land in exchange for their services.
To speed up the relocation process, a reinforcing law was passed on 26 June 1657 stating: “Those who fail to transplant themselves into Connaught or Co Clare within six months… Shall be attained of high treason… are to be sent into America or some other parts beyond the seas… those banished who return are to suffer the pains of death as felons by virtue of this act, without benefit of Clergy.” Although it was not a crime to kill any Irish, and soldiers were encouraged to do so, the slave trade proved too profitable to kill off the source of the product.
Privateers and chartered shippers sent gangs out with quotas to fill, and in their zest as they scoured the countryside, they inadvertently kidnapped a number of English too. On March 25, 1659, a petition of 72 Englishmen was received in London, claiming they were illegally “now in slavery in the Barbados”’ . The petition also claimed that “7,000-8,000 Scots taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester in 1651 were sold to the British plantations in the New World,” and that “200 Frenchmen had been kidnapped, concealed and sold in Barbados for 900 pounds of cotton each.” Subsequently some 52,000 Irish, mostly women and sturdy boys and girls, were sold to Barbados and Virginia alone.
Another 30,000 Irish men and women were taken prisoners and ordered transported and sold as slaves. In 1656, Cromwell’s Council of State ordered that 1000 Irish girls and 1000 Irish boys be rounded up and taken to Jamaica to be sold as slaves to English planters. As horrendous as these numbers sound, it only reflects a small part of the evil program, as most of the slaving activity was not recorded. There were no tears shed amongst the Irish when Cromwell died in 1660. The Irish welcomed the restoration of the monarchy, with Charles II duly crowned, but it was a hollow expectation.
After reviewing the profitability of the slave trade, Charles II chartered the Company of Royal Adventurers in 1662, which later became the Royal African Company. The Royal Family, including Charles II, the Queen Dowager and the Duke of York, then contracted to supply at least 3000 slaves annually to their chartered company. They far exceeded their quotas. There are records of Irish sold as slaves in 1664 to the French on St. Bartholomew, and English ships which made a stop in Ireland enroute to the Americas, typically had a cargo of Irish to sell on into the 18th century. Few people today realize that from 1600 to 1699, far more Irish were sold as slaves than Africans.
Slaves or Indentured Servants
There has been a lot of whitewashing of the Irish slave trade, partly by not mentioning it, and partly by labeling slaves as indentured servants. There were indeed indentureds, including English, French, Spanish and even a few Irish. But there is a great difference between the two. Indentures bind two or more parties in mutual obligations. Servant indentures were agreements between an individual and a shipper in which the individual agreed to sell his services for a period of time in exchange for passage, and during his service, he would receive proper housing, food, clothing, and usually a piece of land at the end of the term of service.
It is believed that some of the Irish that went to the Amazon settlement after the Battle of Kinsale and up to 1612 were exiled military who went voluntarily, probably as indentureds to Spanish or Portuguese shippers. However, from 1625 onward the Irish were sold, pure and simple as slaves.
There were no indenture agreements, no protection, no choice. They were captured and originally turned over to shippers to be sold for their profit. Because the profits were so great, generally 900 pounds of cotton for a slave, the Irish slave trade became an industry in which everyone involved (except the Irish) had a share of the profits.
Although the Africans and Irish were housed together and were the property of the planter owners, the Africans received much better treatment, food and housing. In the British West Indies the planters routinely tortured white slaves for any infraction. Owners would hang Irish slaves by their hands and set their hands or feet afire as a means of punishment. To end this barbarity, Colonel William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of Negro slaves on the grounds that, “as the planters would have to pay much more for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of (Irish)….” many of whom, he charged, were killed by overwork and cruel treatment. African Negroes cost generally about 20 to 50 pounds Sterling, compared to 900 pounds of cotton (about 5 pounds Sterling) for an Irish.
They were also more durable in the hot climate, and caused fewer problems. The biggest bonus with the Africans though, was they were NOT Catholic, and any heathen pagan was better than an Irish Papist. Irish prisoners were commonly sentenced to a term of service, so theoretically they would eventually be free. In practice, many of the slavers sold the Irish on the same terms as prisoners for servitude of 7 to 10 years.
There was no racial consideration or discrimination, you were either a freeman or a slave, but there was aggressive religious discrimination, with the Pope considered by all English Protestants to be the enemy of God and civilization, and all Catholics heathens and hated.
Irish Catholics were not considered to be Christians. On the other hand, the Irish were literate, usually more so than the plantation owners, and thus were used as house servants, account keepers, scribes and teachers. But any infraction was dealt with the same severity, whether African or Irish, field worker or domestic servant. Floggings were common, and if a planter beat an Irish slave to death, it was not a crime, only a financial loss, and a lesser loss than killing a more expensive African. Parliament passed the Act to Regulate Slaves on British Plantations in 1667, designating authorized punishments to include whippings and brandings for slave offenses against a Christian.
Irish Catholics were not considered Christians, even if they were freemen. The planters quickly began breeding the comely Irish women, not just because they were attractive, but because it was profitable,,, as well as pleasurable. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, and although an Irish woman may become free, her children were not. Naturally, most Irish mothers remained with their children after earning their freedom.
Planters then began to breed Irish women with African men to produce more slaves who had lighter skin and brought a higher price. The practice became so widespread that in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” This legislation was not the result of any moral or racial consideration, but rather because the practice was interfering with the profits of the Royal African Company! It is interesting to note that from 1680 to 1688, the Royal African Company sent 249 shiploads of slaves to the Indies and American Colonies, with a cargo of 60,000 Irish and Africans.
More than 14,000 died during passage. Following the Battle of the Boyne and the defeat of King James in 1691, the Irish slave trade had an overloaded inventory, and the slavers were making great profits. The Spanish slavers were a competition nuisance, so in 1713, the Treaty of Assiento was signed in which Spain granted England exclusive rights to the slave trade, and England agreed to supply Spanish colonies 4800 slaves a year for 30 years. England shipped tens of thousands of Irish prisoners after the 1798 Irish Rebellion to be sold as slaves in the Colonies and Australia. Curiously, of all the Irish shipped out as slaves, not one is known to have returned to Ireland to tell their tales.
Many, if not most, died on the ships transporting them or from overwork and abusive treatment on the plantations. The Irish that did obtain their freedom, frequently emigrated on to the American mainland, while others moved to adjoining islands. On Montserrat, seven of every 10 whites were Irish. Comparable 1678 census figures for the other Leeward Islands were: 26 per cent Irish on Antigua; 22 per cent on Nevis; and 10 per cent on St Christopher. Although 21,700 Irish slaves were purchased by Barbados planters from 1641 to 1649, there never seemed to have been more than about 8 to 10 thousand surviving at any one time. What happened to them? Well, the pages of the telephone directories on the West Indies islands are filled with Irish names, but virtually none of these “black Irish” know anything about their ancestors or their history. On the other hand, many West Indies natives spoke Gaelic right up until recent years.
They know they are strong survivors who descended from black white slaves, but only in the last few years have any of them taken an interest in their heritage +++++ There were horrendous abuses by the slavers, both to Africans and Irish. The records show that the British ship Zong was delayed by storms, and as their food was running low, they decided to dump 132 slaves overboard to drownso the crew would have plenty to eat.
If the slaves died due to “accident”, the loss was covered by insurance, but not if they starved to death. Another British ship, the Hercules averaged a 37% death rate on passages. The Atlas II landed with 65 of the 181 slaves found dead in their chains. But that is another story. The economics of slavery permeated all levels of English life. When the Bishop of Exeter learned that there was a movement afoot to ban the slave trade, he reluctantly agreed to sell his 655 slaves, provided he was properly compensated for the loss. Finally, in 1839, a bill was passed in England forbidding the slave trade, bringing an end to Irish misery. British commerce shifted to opium in China. An end to Irish misery? Well, perhaps just a pause.
During the following decade thousands of tons of butter, grain and beef were shipped from Ireland as over 2 million Irish starved to death in the great famine, and a great many others went to America and Australia. The population of Ireland fell from over 9 million to bottom out at less than 3 million. No movie blockbusters, book signing bonuses for authors writing of these horrors or collective guilt instilled in the masses for these abomitable crimes.
Another Chapter, another method. Same people, same results.
Other White Europeans sold as slaves…
Who financed military excursions and the slave trade itself?