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.

325 thoughts on “The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves”

  1. Why do whites always think they know a black person’s struggle? Nobody tells the Jews how to hurt, Nobody tells the Indians to get over it, why is it We blacks who have suffered most have to get over something that is STILL happening? Tell me how many unarmed Irish, Jewish, Indian kids got slaughtered this year and their killer walk away scot free? Btw the way ALL 3 of these groups got tremendous help, they didn’t “GET OVER IT AND PULL THEMSELVES UP BY THE BOOTSTRAP”, like you arrogant europeans like to believe. The Irish slaves actually formed an alliance with the blacks and begin leading revolts. The movie “Gangs of New York” is a mild version of it. The British, GAVE irish White PRIVILEGE, and control of the police department, and you have been WHITE (not irish) ever since. The Jews received the State of Israel, land worth of 1.5 Billion Dollars from West Germany, and receives $20 million annually from US. The Indians received reservations and they got rich from the resources in the land, made them in casinos and get 100s of millions annually, along with some tribes being tax exempt. The Japanese Americans received $20,000 each after World War 2. Black people have never told these groups of people to get over it, why does everybody tell us to “STOP COMPLAINING”? Did we received reparations after even though we have suffered longer than all the groups i mentioned before COMBINED (400+ years)? No. Reparations was given to White Women.

    1. Irish and Scottish were enslaved for thousands of years! You guys get 400 years witch I would consider a taste of slavery and you milk it everyday. Black people are repaid with there welfare and your race card you get to pull not to mention the countless negro charities that usually will pay for anyones scholarship As long as your a shade darker than burnt. The white man only needs to sit back and watch you destroy yourself. Why are you crying you guys get your own month and a horrible president who disregards the law just as much as the commen folk. Fucken cry baby’s

      1. The Irish/Scottish people were not enslaved for thousands of years. LOL. White people haven’t even been on the planet for that long, a mere 6,000 years.

        1. Caucasians have been around for at least 50,000 years. Cro-Magnons were proto caucasoids, and their history reaches back to the upper paleolithic era. If you are jest and referring to the nonsensical idea that the earth is only 6000 years old, you should know that specious drivel was invented by a 16th century Irishman named Bishop James Ussher. Using the buybull as “evidence”, Ussher invented his false chronology. Modern Humans, Homo Sapiens are believed to have emerged about 195,000 years ago in Africa.

      2. The Irish & Scottish were enslaved for thousands of years? That is a GOTdamn lie. Really, you think we’ve only experienced a pinch of slavery? We still have people suffering from Stockholm syndrome to this very day. Not to mention the Emmet Till’s(Trayvon, Michael, Eric, etc…) of the month. Every group benefits from welfare(especially white females) so take your petty insults and stereotypes elsewhere. You had the nerve to name yourself tired Irish/Scottish American. What the hell are you tired of exactly? Spewing your racist drivel. Because I sure am tired of it. The white man needs to sit back and keep his dirty albino hands out of non-White business. Ye have yet to do that.

      3. You are tired, being enslaved for thousands of years will do that to you.
        Their ( African/Americans) pain is still ongoing for a large percentage of them due to the type of thinking passed on through the ages, it’s called racism!
        History will be much kinder to President Obama than you were.

    2. A Chara, (friend),
      I completely agree with you, it makes perfect sense, Americans who were ripped from their families and their homelands on behalf of the American ruling class, clearly have entitlement to sufficient compensation to level the playing field for them.
      In addition, the unpaid work of their ancestors has built up America and its economy, and that debt is still due to those whose families were enslaved.

    3. A Tired Black man, I agree with you, of course the government should pay, they owe you for two centuries of unpaid work, and for the harm their slave trade has caused you.

      1. How should the government pay? With money? How about a good “black” education, one that “teaches” about real black history, about the creators of algebra, calculus, physics, geometry, geology, philosophy, real history (including all vantage points), political science, real european history first black, to mixed, and inclusive of white histories and the true denizens, mixed as they are, starting from over forty thousand years ago to the first time that gene, SLC24A5 or pink skin gene appeared about 12,000 years ago congruent with the Ice Age. By the way “race” only refers to all of humanity, there is no such thing as a black, white, yellow, or brown race. By definition, different “races” such as sheep, dogs, cats cannot produce offspring from the other animal races mentioned.

    4. Irish people suffered as much as black slaves did it horrible what we were put through back then by the British and no one really knows about it its mot in the history books there no books or films about it everyone is educated on black slavery there are books films everything but not one mention of all those Irish people that were used as slaves everyone just forgot about all them people black slavery was very sad and horrific but Irish slavery was just as bad

    5. That’s because Edomites/white men are the devil. They have no passion,regret, nor respect for nobody but themselves! For someone to say forget your history and get over it while their ppl benefit from slavery of the blacks slaves to this day, it just inhumane and evil! I can’t wait until god out these devils to death and make then my slave. God said, Whoever leads into captivity becomes captive.

    6. The Japanese received $20,000 each because there were still victims that were still alive (mostly Japanese children and infants.)

      “The House, with Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose) emotionally recalling his own experiences in a camp for Japanese-American internees during World War II, today gave final congressional approval to a bill expressing a national apology and providing a $20,000 tax-free payment to every surviving internee.”

      You were never a slave. Nor do you know anybody that was a slave. And 80% of Black Americans came to this country AFTER slavery. Stop whining.

      1. Your stats is completely wrong and reflective of either an ignorant person or a mischievous liar.

        Virtually all African Americans are descended from slaves, either enslaved natives or were brought in from all over the world. The name African-American is a convenient shorthand often times incorrect.

  2. Hmm. I have to say , that I was shocked to hear of the Irish being enslaved. I found this article after reading another artixle on the subject. What’s killing me about everyone’s comments here, is the fact that any of you would dare to compare history. It was all horrendous. It was all, unjust, and it was all very wrong. Unfortunately, slavery has been ariund for a lomg time. Not just whites enslaving blacks, but tbere was slavery witbin Agrican tribes as well as w

  3. This article was about Irish slavery…how did it become about Welfare and Black people (yes…I figured if you can call me White, I can call you Black). I personally think that everyone forgot what the point of this article (He who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it) and made it about personal grievances. Slavery…no mater what your color, is wrong and demoralizes the whole population and not just one group. Those being enslaved as well as those perpetrating the slavery lose their humanity in such demoralizing circumstances. Can we all just agree that it’s a well written article about something none of us know all the details about? I for one learned something from the article. However, I didn’t learn anything from the bickering that followed.

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