The Irish Slave Trade: The Forgotten White Slaves – The Slaves That Time Forgot

Published on Global Research.ca (first on OpEdNews), by John Martin, May 28, 2012.

… 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 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 … (full text).

(Articles by John Martin).

Links:

Pay-to-play economists, on RWER Blog, by David Ruccio, May 30, 2012: In an excerpt from his new book, Predator Nation, Charles H. Ferguson, the director of Inside Job, describes how “significant portions of American academia have deteriorated into ‘pay to play’ activities” …

Graph of the day: How to spell austeridad? on RWER Blog, by Merijn Knibbe, May 29, 2012;

Employment law essential to the welfare of the humble employee, on Financial Times/Letters, by Mr Donald R. MacLeod QC, May 30, 2012;

Where the jobs are: Despite high unemployment companies say they find it hard to hire people, – on The Economist, May 29, 2012: UNEMPLOYMENT has reached record levels in many countries. Yet more than a third of employers around the world are still having trouble filling vacancies, according to a ManpowerGroup survey of nearly 40,000 employers in 41 countries. Workers in skilled trades (electricians, plumbers, bricklayers and so on) are in shortest supply, followed by engineers and sales people. Talent shortages are most acute in Asia, particularly in Japan where an ageing population is exacerbating the problem. Only in France has the proportion of employers struggling to find appropriate talent increased significantly since last year (from 20% to 29%). In Italy, by contrast, it has halved from 29% to 14% … (see the chart);

Focus: Women in parliament, 1.48 min, May 9, 2012: ALMOST 20% of the world’s parliamentary seats are now occupied by women, up from 17.2% five years ago, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union IPU. Nordic countries have the highest share of women in single or lower houses of parliament, averaging 42%. Europe, Africa and Asia follow with around 19-20% of total seats. Arab states still trail behind, with less than 12% women parliamentarians, though quotas have helped increase representation, up from 9.5% five years ago …

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