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.
Was this the tragic plight of African slaves? One might think so and one would be wrong.
In 1625 King James II issued a proclamation that all Irish political prisoners be shipped to the Americas and sold into slavery to the English colonist. Charles I followed James’ lead as did Britain’s famed, pious servant of Jeebus - the usurper Oliver Cromwell. 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 fathers to take their wives and children with them. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. But Britain had a compassionate solution to this human tragedy - 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 and the god fearing colonist used them for pleasure and profit because even if the mother gained her freedom (a rare event) the children remained as slaves – a readily saleable commodity.
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.” It was stopped not for some feelings of humanity on the part of the English government; it was stopped 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.
Where are the history books? Why is it so seldom discussed?
There are a number of books on the subject of Irish slavery available on Amazon.
Is it any mystery why the Irish have a deep seated hatred for their English cousins?