Thursday, May 31, 2012

Irish Slaves?

If you have Irish ancestry, I do, your folks may have been sold into slavery. Sound strange? Not as strange as it may seem if you know the history of the British Isles. The British and the Irish had no love for each other. Indeed, Oliver Cromwell advocated the complete extermination of the Irish. Many Irish slaves were supposedly sold in Jamaica and other British colonies. I say supposedly, because, as you know history is written by the survivors, so room for actual facts are much debated. Some people even doubt the Holocaust.  Slavery was common in the world up until about the 1700s. Depending on what you term as "slavery", the Nazis had up to ten-million captives that were used as human medical experiments, used as labor in the Nazi factories and in the agriculture fields, most would call them slaves.

All of this is not to diminish the fact that America held blacks in slavery, and that fact is was very well documented, and seldom glossed over. Laws against slavery were passed in the British Isles in 1839 forbidding the selling of slaves, but there was still a good market for slaves in Jamaica long after those laws were passed. Just as many people today will do anything to make a buck, legal or not, I'm sure that the slave trade persisted long after laws were passed against it.

African Slaves were bought from African leaders that rounded up their own people to sell into the slave trade. The Irish were also famous as Slavers, as were the Dutch. It was much easier to get Irish slaves because most of them were criminals that the British rulers were glad to get rid of. The slave trade in Jamaica and Australia was mostly furnished from the British prisons. An Irish slave was only worth about one-tenth of what a black slave was worth. The Irish slaves were bred to the blacks to get a much higher quality slave.  They felt that the blacks could work harder in the heat, and the Irish were used as cheap breeding stock.  I'm not sure how I feel about that. It must have been horrible for everybody involved. The children automatically became slaves.

As I have said many times, we can't judge what happened in history by who we are today. We are all genetically the same people that lived two hundred years ago, but we are much better educated and we see the benefit of getting along with one another. Also, our laws are much more likely to be enforced. I often wonder what would happen to our nice cozy society if the law should happen to go away. Would that monster that lives inside us revert and make us the brutes we once were?

Please find the article below about the Irish slaves

The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves

The Slaves That Time Forgot
By John Martin
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? After all, 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 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 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.

Some More Reading:


skippy said...

This was very interesting. I had no idea. Thank you, Ernie.

My family weren't sold as slaves, but they suffered a slightly different and brutal history under Cromwell.

Irish, they fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1086-- and being on the winning side of things were rewarded with a patch of English ground in Cheshire, constructing Massey Hall named after the family. Things were good for a long while. They remained pro-King and pro-Catholic throughout.

Noble, but a bad move. During Cromwell's reign, things changed for the worse. They endured brutal fines, taxes, and persecution, losing chunks of the property and falling into debt due to their beliefs and ancestry.

They hid a priest inside the home who tutored the family children. One day in 1679, Cromwell's dragoons arrived demanding the priest; Catholicism had already been outlawed under the Protestant reforms. The family refused. The dragoons found and grabbed the priest, lashed him onto a sled, and dragged him behind their horses. They returned with him, drawn and quartered into bloody pieces, ordering the family hang the parts at the four corners of the estate. They refused again-- and gave him a proper burial, instead. The priest, John Plessington, was later made a Saint.

My earliest American ancestor, Richard Massey, saw the writing on the wall after witnessing his friend and tutor brutally murdered and the family's mounting losses.

At the age of majority, Richard asked his father for his inheritance and split to America in a heartbeat, landing in North Carolina in the 1690s. The family he left behind dwindled and died out afterwards, penniless and broke, their land lost to others. Some crumbled ruins of the walls remain today.

Richard fared much better in the new Americas.

No, we weren't slaves, but being Irish and Catholic in England was a losing propostion nonetheless.

Ernie Branscomb said...

You are one of the more diligent people that comments here. Family history is a real eye opener. My ancestors came from both England and Ireland. Imagine the family conflict there.

I pity the people that comment about how evil people are that know nothing about their own family history. You don't have to go back too far to find a real monster.

Ernie Branscomb said...

More on Slavery

Jon said...

The "Wild Geese" of Ireland after the Battle of Kinsale did not solve the English problem of the conquest of Ireland. Crafty James the First in need of treasure authorized the sale of Irish persons to Brazil in the New World in 1612. Even the Lord Protector of England used this selling of persons to increase the Treasure of England, most went to the West Indies.

Glad to see "off the Wall" Yabut is back.....Jon H.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I have a couple of posts "in the wings" yet, but time is precious. I just got caugt up in the slavery issue.

Johnathan Wilson said...

Great informative post Ernie!

My family has Irish in its blood, but we cant trace the Irish side past Jonathan Wilson's father, who was named the same, who was part of the first settlers in Kentucky.

It sure would be nice to figure out when the Wilsons showed up in America.