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Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Revmitchell, Mar 20, 2016.
Do you ever check your sources? The woodcut is of Elizabeth Brownrigg flogging an apprentice (not a slave) in the cellar. The apprentice (I can't find any evidence that she was Irish, and the fact that she, like the other poor girls victimized by the Brownriggs came from the London Foundling Hospital, it appears unlikely) died and Brownrigg was convicted of murder and hanged.
Now, as to Irish slavery: No doubt the Irish were victimized beyond belief and oppressed beyond measure, even to the point of genocide. But to equate Irish indenture servitude with African chattel slavery is mistaken and, IMO, is simply another avenue of pursuit for the "The African slaves didn't really have it so bad" meme.
I will pass along information from librarian and historian Liam Hogan in "The Myth of 'Irish Slaves' in the Colonies."
"The majority of the indentured labourers from Ireland who emigrated to the West Indies in the 17th and 18th century, did so voluntarily ..."
"Agreeing to an indenture meant that the cost of the migrants’ voyage to the colony was paid for, and the “recruits in turn promised to work for stated periods..”9 Once an indenture’s term of service was complete (usually between two to seven years) they were automatically emancipated. ... "
"Once an indentured servant’s term of service was over they received their “freedom dues” which was around £10 sterling, or its equivalent in tobacco or sugar. They were now free, with cash in hand. If they wished they could lease or buy land, buy or trade in slaves or hire them out to others. Alternatively they could migrate to another colony where there were better opportunities. This was all in accordance with the various colonial laws which treated indentures as bonded labour under strict contract and control, and which treated chattel slaves as non-human objects of property, i.e. livestock."
"The word ‘Slavery’ was often used in 19th century Ireland to describe any form of injustice. The addition of the word ‘white’ was intended as a criticism of a person condemning chattel slavery in the United States, but ignoring domestic strife. We see this in the case of Charles Lenox Remond, the famous black abolitionist, who toured in Ireland in 1841. During one of his lectures in Dublin he was asked “what are you going to do for the white slaves [in Ireland]?” This person was likely referring to the desperate situation of the poor tenantry, and while they also deserved advocacy on their behalf, this interjection illustrates the blinkered view that some had towards chattel slavery. Remond was accompanied on this tour by Richard Davis Webb, a founding member of the Hibernian Anti-Slavery Society. Webb believed that many in Ireland struggled to understand the full meaning of chattel slavery. He explains that his fellow citizens were so used to abject want and enormous luxury, that slavery is not readily looked on so much in the robbery of rights, as a privation of advantages [thus] the wickedness of man’s holding property in man is forgotten in the description of the supply of food, the imposition of labour, the quantity of clothing, and the animal wants of the man [...] Slavery being unknown amongst us, we are tempted to confound it in our minds with the lowest position of humanity with which we are familiar. This is perfectly natural, but extremely fallacious."
"Persons from Ireland have been held in various forms of human bondage throughout history, but they have never been chattel slaves in the West Indies.36 A chattel slave was a slave forever. Children born to slaves were inherited by their owner. Chattel slaves were seen as livestock, not human beings. The last time a person from Ireland was reduced to chattel slavery was when it was a domestic institution, which was circa a millennium ago."
"The thesis of this paper is that confusion over the servile status of some of the Irish in the colonies has led, disturbingly, to their condition being conflated with that of the chattel slave. This use of the phrase “white slavery” or “irish slave trade” in the same context as actual chattel slavery or the actual slave trade, is a political act, for it has no historical justification. This sophism makes the co-option of the legacy and truth of the Atlantic slave trade a logical next step. At its best this conflation is ignorance. At its worst it is an attempt to diminish responsibility for one of the greatest crimes committed in human history."
For anyone with a real interest in supposed "Irish slavery," the paper is at:
hey 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.
I think it needs to be mentioned that James II reigned from 1685-1688, so he is unlikely to have made any proclamations in 1625.
That the Irish were treated very badly by the English at various points in their history is not to be denied, but a book that cannot get the most simple facts correct does not inspire confidence.
The OP is simply a continuation of a White Supremacists Myth.
The fact is that the Irish were indentured servants, and indentured servitude was nothing compared to the harshness and brutality of Black slavery. Indentured servitude was no picnic, but it was a form of debt reimbursement with a set time and a contract agreed on by both parties. Many people agreed to these terms in order to travel to the new world and start over. In the 17th century, the East India Company was notorious for providing contracts to the desperate to get cheap labor for the burgeoning colonies.
According to PBS, “Servants typically worked four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues. While the life of an indentured servant was harsh and restrictive, it wasn’t slavery.”
There were laws in place to protect the rights of the indentured. And at the end of their contract, the newly freed servants may have gained at least 25 acres of land, a year’s worth of corn, arms, a cow and new clothes. In many cases, the former Irish indentured servants would buy enslaved Africans to work their land. That was the case in Louisiana.
The unfree Irish in the Caribbean were indentured servants, not slaves
One of my ancestors was most likely an indentured servant in Virginia having come from England in the 1600's. Genealogical research indicates, but does not prove conclusively, that he came via the Caribbean.
Yes, I read the article you referenced. I posted the wrong link to Hogan's work, which contains an analysis of Martin's assertions.
"The disquieting aspect of this is that every single line of John Martin’s article are either untrue, misleading or objectionable."