[Blackstudies-l] The Irish slave trade – the slaves that time forgot

Justin Behrend behrend at geneseo.edu
Tue Apr 3 07:50:06 EDT 2018

There are a lot of myths in these stories.


On Mon, Apr 2, 2018 at 11:54 PM, Maria Lima <lima at geneseo.edu> wrote:

> lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Christian Winthrop for the Newport
> Buzz. We’ve all been taught the horror’s of the African slave trade. It’s
> in all the school books and in plenty of Hollywood movies. But for some
> reason the largest group of slaves in the British Colonies "
> Respond to this post by replying above this line
> New post on *Repeating Islands*
> <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> The Irish slave
> trade – the slaves that time forgot
> <http://repeatingislands.com/2018/04/02/the-irish-slave-trade-the-slaves-that-time-forgot/> by
> lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>
> [image: Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 10.56.28 PM.png]
> A report by Christian Winthrop for the *Newport Buzz*.
> <http://www.thenewportbuzz.com/the-irish-slave-trade-the-slaves-that-time-forgot/7191>
> We’ve all been taught the horror’s of the African slave trade. It’s in all
> the school books and in plenty of Hollywood movies. But for some reason the
> largest group of slaves in the British Colonies in the 17th Century doesn’t
> get mentioned at all:
> *The Irish*
> Most people have heard of the Great Famine, which reduced the population
> of Ireland by around 25%. That pales in comparison to the disaster that
> England inflicted upon Ireland between1641 and 1652, when the population of
> Ireland fell from 1,466,000 to 616,000.
> Then things got worse.
> *What to do with the Irish?*
> From the Tudor reconquest of Ireland until Irish Independence in 1921, the
> English puzzled over the problem of what to do with all those Irish
> people. They were the wrong religion. They spoke the wrong language. But
> the big problem was that there were just too many of them.
> The English had been practicing a slow genocide against the Irish since
> Queen Elizabeth, but the Irish bred too fast and were tough to kill. On the
> other side of the Atlantic, there was a chronic labor shortage (because the
> local natives tended to die out too quickly in slavery conditions).
> Putting two and two together, King James I started sending Irish slaves to
> the new world. The first recorded sale of Irish slaves was to a settlement
> in the Amazon in 1612, seven years before the first African slaves arrived
> in Jamestown.
> The Proclamation of 1625 by James II made it official policy that all
> Irish political prisoners be transported to the West Indies and sold to
> English planters. Soon Irish slaves were the majority of slaves in the
> English colonies.
> 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.
> The slavers were so full of zest that they sometimes grabbed non-Irishmen.
> On March 25, 1659, a petition was received in London claiming that 72
> Englishmen were wrongly sold as slaves in Barbados, along with 200
> Frenchmen and 7-8,000 Scots.
> [image: Irish Slaves Barbados]
> So many Irish slaves were sent to Barbados, between 12,000 and 60,000,
> that the term “barbadosed” began to be used. By the 1630’s, Ireland was the
> primary source of the English slave trade.   And then disaster struck.
> *Cromwell*
> After Oliver Cromwell defeated the royalists in the English Civil War, he
> turned to Ireland, who had allied themselves with the defeated royalists.
> What happened next could be considered genocide.
> The famine (caused by the English intentionally destroying foodstocks) and
> plague that followed Cromwell’s massacres reduced the population of Ireland
> to around 40%.
> And then Cromwell got really nasty.
> Anyone implicated in the rebellion had their land confiscated and was sold
> into slavery in the West Indies. Even catholic landowners who hadn’t taken
> part of the rebellion had their land confiscated. Catholicism was outlawed
> and catholic priests were executed when found. To top it off, he ordered
> the ethnic cleansing of Ireland east of Shannon in 1652. Soldiers were
> encouraged to kill any Irish who refused to relocate.
> Instead of trying to describe the horror, consider the words from the
> English State Papers in 1742.
> “In clearing the ground for the adventurers and soldiers (the English
> capitalists of that day)… To be transported to Barbados and the English
> plantations in America. It was a measure beneficial to Ireland, which
> was thus relieved of a population that might trouble the planters; it was a
> benefit to the people removed, which might thus be made English and
> Christians … a great benefit to the West India sugar planters, who desired
> men and boys for their bondsmen, and the women and Irish girls… To solace
> them.”
> I can’t help but notice that the exact same language and logic used to
> justify enslavement of the blacks was used to justify enslavement of the
> Irish. It is something for those who think slavery was simply a matter of
> skin color to consider.  As for the Irish slaves, Cromwell specifically
> targeted Irish children.
> “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,
> [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and
> sold as slaves to English settlers.”
> For some reason, history likes to call these Irish slaves as ‘indentured
> servants’. As if they were somehow considered better than African slaves.
> This can be considered an attempt at whitewashing the history of the Irish
> slave trade.
> There does exist indentured servitude where two parties sign a contract
> for a limited amount of time. This is not what happened to the Irish from
> 1625 onward. They were sold as slaves, pure and simple. In reality, they
> were considered by some to be even lower than the blacks.
> “…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,”
> writes Martin. “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 still relatively new, and were expensive to transport
> such a long distance (50 sterling in the late 1600’s). Irish slaves on the
> other hand, were relatively cheap in comparison (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.
> Because Irish slaves were so much cheaper, the loss of investment from
> torturing and killing them was not considered an effective deterrent. In an
> ironic twist, this caused some to recommend importing African slaves
> instead for *humanitarian reasons*.
> 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.
> It’s impossible to estimate the exact number of Irish sold into slavery
> during this period. More Irish slaves were sold in the American colonies
> between 1651 and 1660 than the entire free population of those colonies. In
> fact, more Irish were sold as slaves in the America’s during the 17th
> Century than Africans.
> [image: White and black slaves]
> The typical death rate on the slave ships was around 37%.  The Irish did
> often have one advantage over African slaves – most of the time their time
> in slavery was limited. They were often sold into slavery from 7 to 20
> years, while the only way Africans could get out of slavery was to buy
> their freedom.
> Interesting historical note: the last person killed at the Salem Witch
> Trials was Ann Glover. She and her husband had been shipped to Barbados as
> a slave in the 1650’s. Her husband was killed there for refusing to
> renounce catholicism.
> In the 1680’s she was working as a housekeeper in Salem. After some of the
> children she was caring for got sick she was accused of being a witch. At
> the trial they demanded she say the Lord’s Prayer. She did so, but in
> Gaelic, because she didn’t know English. She was then hung.
> *lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
> April 2, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Categories: News
> <http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL:
> https://wp.me/psnTa-zKB
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Justin Behrend, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Department Chair, History
SUNY Geneseo

Author, *Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep
South after the Civil War*
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