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.

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

  1. It is truly scary to read the comments and reasoning for those comments. My grandparents use to tell us stories about our heritage, you see I am Irish and for those of you who believe the Irish were not slaves are very misinformed, or they are racist and are playing the sympathy card wanting to put the blame on the big bad white’s who enslaved the Africans which is a true statement, they did. However whites enslaved whites first, now some of you keep saying Irish were not slaves but that they were indentured servants, servant? My grandparents would tell stories of torture being hung over a fire and burned, decapitation, beatings, thrown overboard to drown while in transit on slave ships from England to the new world, raped, starved and the list goes on and on does that sound like a servant to you? Now some of you say that they weren’t slaves they were criminals being punished or paying off a debt….. not true! these men and they were mostly men were taken from there families by the English King’s for standing up for there right to freedom, not for being criminals. And another fact Irish slaves cost about a tenth of what an African slave did, so it was cheaper to make an example out of an Irish slave so they were tortured more often. Now I do not need retribution for my ancestors being slaves and I am not saying that Irish were enslaved worse than the Africans were, slavery is wrong, it was wrong then and its wrong now and the fact that its still going on and all anyone is concerned with is who was enslaved worse, whites or blacks???? All that matters is that we learn from our mistakes and that we never let it happen , I had nothing to do with slavery and nobody alive today did either, but instead of worrying about who did what to your ancestors because it wasn’t you who was mistreated or enslaved think about changing something for the better, fight against modern slavery, sex slavery etc. And stop with all the pity party and who did this and who did that, you can achieve anything you set your mind to do regardless of skin color and if your black, Obama proved that. Racism will always exist, but they are the few and we are the many and we should be bigger and better people than them. This country has way bigger problems than us as a people fighting against one another over something none of us had anything to do with, and if your ancestors were brought here as slaves like mine, then you should be thankful and proud, because you live in the greatest country on earth…

  2. I never heard about Irish slaves until a few days ago. I am of some irish descent . on my grandmothers side. I am 66 years old and reading about the irish slaves I am truly amazed at them being slaves. I was taught that it was only the negroes were slaves. I truly would like to see this made public or be able to put this on face book or any other site that people can read about and learn. You are right it is not taught in our schools and it very much needs to be taught to our children and their children as well.

  3. I am of Native American, Irish, Jewish, and African descent. The main problem here is that no one seems to be taking in to account history as a whole. You can’t keep taking little slices of it, and making arbitrary judgments. You cannot pick and choose what you like, and then toss what you don’t. The reason that we are taught history is so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s the same when we tell our children of our experiences in life, so that they to can avoid the pain that we have endured. So please, I implore you to stop passing on biased and hate filled views, your little pieces of knowledge that you have chosen to believe, instead only pass on the lessons that all of history should have been able to teach all of us. To not discriminate against anyone for there heritage or there faith, and to never let fear and ignorance to be your guiding light. As you can see I come from a long line that has endured, and my only wish is that my children can live in a world that is not filled with as much hate in the future as it has been in the past.

  4. I dont think anyone inteligent is disputing that all cultures and or nationalities.. in our time.. were whitewashed.. that is.. subjugated by the whites.. my irish ansecters were one such people who were subjugated by the whites.. if someone disputes this fact.. somethings wrong with them.. .. .. .. .. .. at the same time you call irish people white.. why would you desecrate there memory in such way.. at the time my irish brothers were taken by the terorists as slaves.. they did not reffer to themselves as white.. it wasnt until institutionalized slavery in america that the word white was used.. one porpose was to mean slave master.. the other was to allow the british/english slave masters to operate covertley amoungst the caucasians again.. to carry out there agenda and co-opt as much unwitting as posible.. .. because you must remember.. the caucasians ESCAPED so to speak.. to the americas.. from “the slave master king” .. this is the english the british.. the pre whites.. .. .. wake up .. do you know who you are.. or at least who your not.. .. .. .. .. when paul revere rode thru the streets saying.. the british were coming the british were coming.. we might as well said.. the whites were coming.. .. .. this problem is so simple.. its stupid.. all one has to do is ask yourself.. what is white.. and am i white.. but first you would have to.. one.. care enough to ask.. two.. be neutral and not race based, to get the answer.. .. .. .. please stop calling human beings that sufered under whiteness, whites.. this is perversion.. .. white love to pervert caucasians into droping there culture and adopting race.. .. droping there culturalism and adoptimg racism.. my caucasian ancestors called them vampires back then.. saying they suck you dry and kill you and or covert you into one of them.. if you know your history.. you would not be doomed to repeat it.. today the vampire calls himself white or terorist or kkk.. yesteday they were called.. nazi.. british.. devil or diablo.. before this.. satan.. nebucaneser.. (dont know how to spell that last one but you get the piont).. one name we called then transended allthese eras.. and that was.. shape shifter.. and dont that say it all.. .. so be yourself.. stop trying to be them.. at least be something you know the meaning of.. .. and for god sake please stop with the whole mypeople been through the same thing as if to say, so what, if your people has truly been thru the same, then you should have compasion.. saying something like.. yea i suffered under those tyranical racist terrotist too.. and together we’ll make it better and screw THEM.. but you cant say that can you.. why, is it because your lying or is it because you accidently, after suffering under THEM, now identify as THEM.. when your clearly not.. but somehow insist that you are a nazi terrorist genocidal slave master.. .. and then as afinal show of how incredably elusive inteligence is for you.. you call the slaves.. slave masters.. you call the irish.. whites.. how untolorably ignorant.. its just plain ignoring.. ignoring who you realy are.. for the sake of a man made principality.. an ideology.. a race, witch incidently is short for racism.. race is a game and your being played.. call yourself something other than a race, and maybe then you can be taken seriously.. theres only one race.. the whites.. irish is not a race.. how dare you impose your racism on then.. especialy concidering all that they suffered at the hand of the one and only race, the whites.. “if the truth is told, the youths can grow” (Nas).. heres some trickology.. some propaganda.. ever herd this.. she was treated bad cause she was black.. this is a farse.. a half truth dispenced to serve race based propaganda.. she was not treated bad cause she was black.. she was treated bad cause HE was white.. this statement is the whole truth.. and nothing but the truth.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. wake up.. .. .. .. .. or we can all go to hell.. it seems like this is an easier eventuation to some, rather than facing the truth.. .. .. .. .. .. .. only the truth will set you free.. confession, it is said, is the only way to heaven.. know thy self.. .. give thanks for the truth.. .. .. .. .. .. give thanks for the corections.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. and.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. see ourselves precious once more .. .. .. .. i have faith in you.. .. .. .. .. .. do good and good will follow you.

    1. The Irish were treated badly by the Americans, that’s true. But they do fall under Caucasian/white when we talk about race. White Americans viewed them as lower class of people for superficial reasons. But they share the same gene pool.

  5. I like this page already some truths up in here! Thank you sense in a senseless world

  6. It would a lot easier if you just said that the difference between Islam and Muslim is the same as the difference between Christianity and Christian, Buddhism and Buddhist, Hinduism and Hindu, Atheism and Atheist etc.

  7. Alright.. You did reason with Sellassie I son.. (avatar) now reason with the King of Kings himself.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Jah Ras Tafari .. .. .. .. .. .. known to the bableonians as.. .. .. .. .. “His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Sellassie, the First” .. .. .. .. .. . blessed is he, who takes council with the most high.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. i believe it was H.I.M. who was the FIRST to FOCUS on RACE.. the CAUSE of the problem.. instead of RACISM.. the SYMPTOM of the problem.. as he was tasked with being and dealing from the higher self.. this contiousness for example is what sets him apart from millions of people, that are experiencing life from a lower self.. a lower contiousness .. a lower preception .. he is truly a one in a billion soul .. .. .. .. hail to the King, Ras Tafari .. may he forever Rule and Rein.. .. .. .. .. to guide I an I away from sin and make clear the coruption and deceitful ways of man .. you think sharpton gonna tell u this.. or farakahn.. how bout mother terrisa .. no disrespect to there works.. i love them all, even have love to forgive satan.. but theres certain limits to what people can do and know.. but when i say one in a billion.. it is truly such.. that he should love you so much as to say and do things, precevably only for your benefit.. you.. a person he has never met before .. .. .. .. wow.. .. amazing.. .. .. this is the cloth that all leaders should be made of .. and dare i say it.. .. i see no flaw in this man .. comparitively.. .. .. .. .. i remember a story about a man that was pure of heart, free from sin, without flaw and selfless in action, that came to us as a lamb, and loved us like no other love weve ever know.. (and to thank him we sat there and watched as our leaders murderd him, for love came at a price and should not be free, was the order of the day, although not an excuse for inaction).. as the story goes it is told that this man himself said, that when he returns, “i will not come back as a lamb to be slaughtered, but as a king, to be praised” .. obviously, you will know him, by his God selfs character traits.. Christ in his Kingly character.. (because no normal, average everyday man is that selfless, especialy if they have the riches to endulge, as a king) .. my question.. why should a king, with all that he has.. risk loosing everything even his life to try to awaken and liberate people from talking wrong, and the dangers of that leading you astray.. .. into political rule, political structuring, stratafication.. .. was he not from that same political rule .. .. shouldent he be endulging and getting fat off of the backs of the peoples mis conceptions .. instead of trying to help awaken people from the mis conception .. .. why such selfless act.. why care.. why not just get fat.. .. this is profound .. .. why should a king threaten his own standing by freeing the minds of strangers.. .. i guess good is what good does .. no matter what .. something is what something does .. .. “send them Sellassie I, enlighten them lord” .. .. .. examine this speach carefuly.. notice how the establishments interviewer uses the terms black and white.. trying to get H.I.M. to use her terms thereby submiting to her authority, as she offered the terms and he accepted.. this would also mean he not only condones her terminology but endoses it.. it would also mean something more sinister.. you see they were known as colonial masters or slave masters.. this terminology is very clear, truthful and does not decieve or concele the truth.. the establishment, who was looking to get away with there crimes.. had to do one important thing.. get rid of all the evidence.. this is also why THEY want us to stop using the n word.. its key evidence to one of the worst crimes ever.. theres only one way to get away with a crime .. get rid of the evidence.. (UNTIL a trial for slavery and reperations is had, that word is going nowhere, u wanna get rid of the evidence to get away with your crime, also, u dont wanna tell people the truth about who invented that word and for what purpose, u dont wana tell them where terrorism comes from, all cause u think of your self as white, and so, act criminaly to concele the crimes of the whites.. act sinfuly to concele sin), but his Majesty knows better than to buy into there redirect, and ops out and uses more concise terms, proper terms, more relative to the situation, pretty much the original terms weve always been using, as they hold with them, truth .. he uses the term “those who suffered under colonialism for non whites and the term “colonial masters” for whites.. then went on to say we should not use such terms as black or white for human speech.. he also sujested to forgive the colonial slave masters, lest you become like them.. in termonology and actions.. .. .. .. .. .. .. who is this man .. .. .. .. .. .. with such conviction and a seemingly endless supply of love for his fellow man, even the agressors.. .. .. .. why .. .. .. .. when he didnt have to .. .. .. .. .. .. .. or did he .. .. was there a greater force working inside him, that this NEW world has realy yet to know or recognize .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. with the greatest respect .. .. .. .. .. here is a clip from one of my fathers .. .. the King of Ethiopia .. .. .. .. .. .. .. the King, of RasTafari .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. the King of Kings, himself .. Emperor Qedamawi Haile Sellassie the First .. ..

    Cant take your slogons no more
    “Emancipate your self from mental slavery.. non but our selves can free our minds” .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Bob Tuff Gong Marley .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. way up de .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Sellassie I, Jah, RasTafari .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. stay up de .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

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