The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves

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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.

http://afgen.com/forgotten_slaves.html


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

  1. this is bull if 70% of 1 island was white people from ireland then how did the island turn black the answer is them irish slaves were black the original irish are black what u on about

    1. Ugh, just accept it. Not all slaves were black. Accept it and move on. If the original Irish were black then how would I, whose family has lived in Ireland for hundreds of years, be white. How would all the native Irish people here be white? Idiot.

    2. 400 years is a lot of time for things to change he said 70 percent of montserrats population was irish however he did not say what that population was , today montserrats population is around 6000 , however before the volcanic eruption in 1995 it was 13000.

      To further illustrate how things can change fast , did you know up until 1810 when slavery was abolished in mexico blacks outnumbered spaniards? Within 68 years that number had fallen to around 10 percent.

      http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1167-did-you-know-blacks-outnumbered-spaniards-until-after-1810

    3. The reason why a lot of people don’t’ know about this is that most of the Irish slaves were killed off. Besides, if you truly look at history, many ethnicities were slaves at one time or another, such as the Jews were slaves in Egypt. There were slaves in Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

    4. Irish aren’t black. Could you even point out Ireland on a map? Or do you just not want to admit that there were white slaves? Which would make it harder for you to continue ripping off whites with the “Poor me, poor black man” routine.

  2. Well I have seen alot of cover ups by white people in the past and present. The tampering of history by false potriats of kings. Not only were Israelites enslaved….the names were changed. Therefore the evidence you are asking for, the proof and documents may very well be destroyed as criminals tend to do. What do we know about there Irish slaves exactly? I find it troubling that people are attacking the so called blacks on levels of proof when that has clearly been erased purposely over time for confusion and argument sake. I personally am a descendant of the enslaved people and trust me we don’t need apologies or any kind of sympathy because our forefather brought this evil upon us. Would God do this to his people? Yes! Wouldn’t you discipline your children? His is perfect in his ways. Learn about him and his word….it never returns to him void. Peace be unto you.

  3. I don’t know who the daft person is who thought God put people in slavery. I know there were many races abused, but that should not negate the fact that the Africans were slaves. We should not be comparing who had it worse. Slaves are slaves. Buying and selling human flesh is buying and selling human flesh. The Irish were brutalized. So were the Scots. So were the Africans. So were other races as well. The Italians were treated terribly, murdered, framed for crimes they didn’t commit… all because they wanted a fair wage for their work. The Native people were slaughtered and herded like cattle. So… let’s face it. There are a lot of evil people in the world.

    1. Mayzee, I don’t think the author was trying to diminish the Afrrican slave trade, rather to point out that history and also political correctness HAVE diminished the de-humanization of peoples in addition to the Africans. It also helps folks understand why many of the islands have such a strong Celtic identity and tradition.

      To the person who asked where the documentation exists for the Irish slave trade, it’s plentiful in English court (as in the King’s court) records, they were meticulous. It also exists in the early American colony records, including those of my family. Google “Caron Brannon” and you’ ll find the record of where Caron’s bond was transferred to another owner in 1703, I think. The magistrate judged Caron to be about twelve years old.

      1. i think the author is trying to diminish African slave trade, but also point out how nasty the british are to everyone they come in contact with. they are like a cancer. thats the moral of the story.

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