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. Endemic within Americas history relating to facts concerning Oliver Cromwell’s Genocide against the Irish people living and dying in Ireland under the principle of extermination at all costs is historical factual evidence supported across the mediums of historically claimed events and times linking to the transportation of people with a different belief system claimed as protestants, which was not what the establishment of the clergy wanted . Hence the enslavement of a species known as protestants of white Irish ,ist remnants of slavery into the American colonies of death and disease in the 1600s

  2. They don’t put it in the history books because if they did it would take away the “difference”. they cant have us fighting together for the same cause; that ruins their game (3 richest families in the world) everyone was and still is cattle to them except their little clubby members (believe me we’re not invited). Why do you think racism is being pushed so hard. Accommodations have changed but the game hasn’t . Keep us busy fighting (and fearing) each other and we’ll never know we’re being lead to the slaughter. They know what they”re doing .

    1. They make much more money from us in taxes and interest than they ever did from selling us outright. This whole cycle of liberals running up the national debt and conservatives paying it down is quite a scam. The only way out of it is to keep voting conservative.

      1. Except now, under President DJT, the Conservatives seem to have forgotten about controlling the deficit, and are spending money like drunken sailors. Using money borrowed from China, of course.

  3. “There’s little question the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much as the Africans”. With that statement you blew it and expose this as a B.S propaganda piece.. I question any amount of scholarship in it. This nonsense has been coming out a lot lately by the American bigot movement and is being systematically debunked. Few Irish were slaves and only few indentured servants. The history of the poor Irish in early America I don’t see here is how they became the most brutal and wicked of the overseers in the plantation system and some of the most vile racists against African freedom and equality in the US over the centuries. Now that’s well documented American history.

  4. I am appalled that this history has not been taught put in the mainstream it has been clearly and systematically wiped out of mainstream disgrace ! Can someone make a oscar winning movie please !! This Irish -Scottish history. Needs to be OUT THERE !!’

  5. So weird that no one survived to described to describe the ordeal to anyone else, yet they have so much proof it happened….. Sure.

  6. THANK YOU! Being Irish and Scots-Irish, I am almost 100 percent sure at least one or two of my ancestors were either indentured servants or outright white slaves. If ANY Afro-American EVER asks me for “reparations” when NO ONE in my ancestry ever owned black slaves and I certainly didn’t, I will tell them to shove it up their butts! With today’s SJWs and the promotion of so-called white guilt, it is about time someone besides Michael Hoffman (author of “They Were White and They Were Slaves”) brought this issue up. I learned about indentured servitude in grade school, but I doubt if they mention it any more. The truth of this is too politically incorrect, isn’t it. And thrilled a Rastafarian posted this…long live Bob Marley!

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