Thursday, January 07, 2010 1/7/10 - white slaves in early america

In today's encore excerpt - early
British colonizers of America in the 1600s
and 1700s needed laborers for their new

"They needed a compliant, subservient,
preferably free labour force and since the
indigenous peoples of America were difficult
to enslave they turned to their own homeland
to provide. They imported Britons deemed to
be 'surplus' people - the rootless, the
unemployed, the criminal and the dissident -
and held them in the Americas in various
forms of bondage for anything from three
years to life. ... In the early decades, half
of them died in bondage.

"Among the first to be sent were children.
Some were dispatched by impoverished parents
seeking a better life for them. But others
were forcibly deported. In 1618, the
authorities in London began to sweep up
hundreds of troublesome urchins from the
slums and, ignoring protests from the
children and their families, shipped them to
Virginia. ... It was presented as an act of
charity: the 'starving children' were to be
given a new start as apprentices in America.
In fact, they were sold to planters to work
in the fields and half of them were dead
within a year. Shipments of children
continued from England and then from Ireland
for decades. Many of these migrants were
little more than toddlers. In 1661, the wife
of a man who imported four 'Irish boys' into
Maryland as servants wondered why her husband
had not brought 'some cradles to have rocked
them in' as they were 'so little.'

"A second group of forced migrants from the
mother country were those, such as vagrants
and petty criminals, whom England's rulers
wished to be rid of. The legal ground was
prepared for their relocation by a highwayman
turned Lord Chief Justice ,who argued for
England's jails to be emptied in America.
Thanks to men like him, 50,000 to 70,000
convicts (or maybe more) were transported to
Virginia, Maryland, Barbados and England's
other American possessions before 1776.

"A third group were the Irish. ... Under
Oliver Cromwell's ethnic-cleansing policy in
Ireland, unknown numbers of Catholic men,
women and children were forcibly transported
to the colonies. And it did not end with
Cromwell; for at least another hundred years,
forced transportation continued as a fact of
life in Ireland. ...

"The other unwilling participants in the
colonial labour force were the kidnapped.
Astounding numbers are reported to have been
snatched from the streets and countryside by
gangs of kidnappers or 'spirits' working to
satisfy the colonial hunger for labour. Based
at every sizeable port in the British Isles,
spirits conned or coerced the unwary onto
ships bound for America. ... According to a
contemporary who campaigned against the black
slave trade, kidnappers were snatching an
average of around 10,000 whites a
year - doubtless an exaggeration but one that
indicates a problem serious enough to create
its own grip on the popular mind.' "

Don Jordan and Michael Walsh, White
Cargo, New York University Press,
Copyright 2007 by Don Jordan and Michael
Walsh, pp. 12-14.


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