Hang on viewers! We’re almost at the end of the series, the 19th and final chapter of White Cargo!
So it seems the real reason for the American War of Independence had nothing to do with freeing anyone from slavery, or even freeing themselves from English rule. It was all because ‘white’ Americans were pissed at England forcing its criminal population on them.
The colonial era ended (arguably) with England’s surrender at Yorktown in 1781. Two years later envoys from Britain and the newly-formed UNITED STATES OF AMERICA met in Versailles to finalise their treaty. During this negotiation, London plotted to sneak in a few convicts disguised as normal migrants. The plot was headed by the leader of the British Coalition Lord Frederick North
who was 100% backed by George III.
They convinced themselves it couldn’t fail even if they got caught, because it would prompt USA to restart the felon trade!
England feared a massive crime wave after demobilisation of the troops. This fear was well-founded; ex-soldiers often increase crime rates when returning to their home nations. This time the crime happened before the war finished. Penal reformer John Howard made a thorough inspection of the prisons and judged they wouldn’t cope with a new influx.
(Interestingly, he also discovered that gaol fever existed in English prisons and nowhere else, not even in other European prisons!!!)
Not those hulks. Prison ships, usually unseaworthy ones!
It wouldn’t have been the first time. Back at the start of the war England used hulks to house prisoners of war from America, Spain & France. Now they were being repurposed for exportation. Laid out along the Thames, they were meant to be a very short-term solution, evinced by being loaded only with enough supplies to last 2 years. They fully expected the USA to take them again, but the hulks sailed for a good 80 years! Laypeople found them fascinating, terrifying & repulsive simultaneously because the prisoners were so different to them; they were nearly mute and worked without complaint all day long.
Note: the hulks’ visibility also called bullshit on the national anthem’s line “Britons never never never shall be slaves”. Londoners were seeing British slaves right in front of them – live and dead, even more than had died in all the years of the war combined!
Duncan Campbell, the first Brit to use hulks, erected a wall to block the public’s view. Even then, prison reformer John Howard embarrassed him with a report: the felons were underfed, cold, chained up and their hammocks were too light to hold their weight. And they reeked! Their godawful stench could be smelt 100 yards away!
Lord North unleashed his plans a few months later, coinciding with the Versailles treaty’s last stages. He secured the services of merchant George Moore to send convicts off for a government payout of £500. Moore got in contact with George Salmon, who was used to importing Irish convicts to Maryland. Technically he could still do it legally as Maryland hadn’t yet banned convict imports. He was also certain he could get other influential guys on side. Of course George III approved everything. He was mad on revenge against the Americans. No pun intended – tee hee!
Moore renamed his ship from George to Swift, and its captain was Thomas Pamp. Yes, yet another Thomas. The plot would’ve gone smoothly, except for one little thing. Pamp let it slip to the prisoners that if he couldn’t dump them in USA he’d sell them to Africa. Guess what happened next.
The mutiny worked, the prisoners locked the crew below deck and had control of the ship. But then they found the ship’s booze stashes, got drunk, released the crew (because they were the only ones who knew how to steer the ship) and got locked back up!
Apart from a few who escaped, the plot was back on track. Upon landing 24 escapees were found and tried for mutiny, and 6 were hanged.
Maryland at the time was blissfully ignorant of the convicts about to be dumped on them again. They only found out because Arctic weather froze the Swift in place. When the Marylanders found out, they were ENRAGED!!! Buyers left the slaves to freeze to death, and blockaded the ship to stop anyone getting in or out! In March Salmon warned Moore not to send any more convicts. But too late, his other ship Mercury had already set sail! This didn’t go down well. Despite the blockade mutiny broke out again and raged for 6 days until the convicts were recaptured. When Mercury arrived in USA not a single soul allowed it to dock, so the convicts were dumped in Belize.
5 years and 7 more smuggling attempts later (2 successful!), the USA officially banned importation of convicts. England grudgingly accepted that north America would no longer be its human dustbin. Even free-willers weren’t accepted anymore.
BUT! There’s always a but. ‘White’ enslavement was still not over yet! Boston & New York started accepting free-willers again, before the treaty’s ink had even dried! Pamp & Salmon, meanwhile, tried to pass off a few more convicts as free-willers.
Despite the Independent Gazette’s claim that New York was against indentured bondage, the USA was controlled by the winners of the war. Like the very first president George Washington, and he & his planter posse were pissed at losing slaves!
Indentured slavery fizzled out 30 years later, not because of any revolutions, wars or abolition campaigns but simply because slavery was rapidly losing its profitability. Better ship designs made travel faster and more affordable for poor people, and ethnic self-help groups were set up to offer loans to aspiring travellers so they wouldn’t need to sell themselves off anymore.
‘White’ slavery was all finished by 1820. It’s unknown if any more sheep’s dentures were removed for human use.
Back to Part 17
On to Bonus Part