Tag Archives: virginia

MORE PROPERLY CALLED SLAVES, PART 14

Now for the story of Nathaniel Bacon.

It’s about fucking time… I mean, thank you.

He was a paradox. Even today opinions on him are divided. Some reckon he was an opportunist who bolstered his personal power through others’ complaints, some say he was a true revolutionary who sparked American independence. What’s not in dispute is that he was from one of England’s top families, but he almost forced the English presence out of America!

His rebellion in 1676 was reportedly the worst and most hated anti-slavery rebellion yet. During it he had Governor William Berkeley running for safety across the Chesapeake, the Tidewater estates ravaged, Jamestown incinerated and all servants revolting!

Sir-William-Berkeley3
Stop chatting shit! I didn’t run nowhere, it was a tactical retreat!

Bacon was married to Berkeley’s cousin, therefore he was appointed to the Governor’s ruling council and gained 2 plantations.

At the end of the civil war (1651), Cromwell decided to use Virginia as a dumping ground for English and Irish unwanteds. His army swept up literally thousands of vagrants, beggars & prostitutes, and filled the Midlands gaols with them. After the Monarchy Restoration things got much worse; veterans from Cromwell’s New Model Army were also enslaved in the province. It was said that ex-Roundheads were involved in every single insurrection since then. The most serious of these was the Servants’ Plot 1663 – ringleaders’ heads were stacked on chimney pots and planters made slaves continue working even on Sundays!

How Christian of them (and I’m not being sarcastic).

In 1670, the Virginia General Court saw the influx of prisoners as dangerous to the colony. They protested to the king who agreed to suspend convict shipments. But then in 1672 a ‘Negro rebellion’ was brewing, so called because even ‘white’ slaves were too scared to join. Their number one complaint was land (unsurprisingly); either they received none at the end of their indenture, couldn’t afford to have it surveyed, or were going bust from the failing tobacco business. As the grandees’ main man, Berkeley and his poll tax* got the worst of the complaints.

* Ex-servants who owned 50 acres were taxed the same rate as their former slavers with 10,000 acres!

In 1675 the few remaining Americans (native) decided to ramp up their efforts from stealing plantations’ hogs to outright war on Virginia. Hundreds died on both sides. Bacon joined in after one of his slaves was killed, and weeks later became the leader of the most violent planters who wanted all natives slaughtered. Berkeley disagreed and said reconciliation was better, as he believed there were distinctions between tribes – good and bad. Why? He was “helping” native allies in more wars against the French and trading furs with ‘good’ tribes. Bacon didn’t give a monkey’s, and instigated the Battle of Bloody Run (1656, not 1763) in which he was recognised as a hero.

Over the coming months Berkeley & Bacon bickered more, leading to points when Berkeley had Bacon arrested then released, and Bacon had Berkeley captured then released.

Then came June 1676. Their duels came to a stalemate. The governor called the election for the House of Burgesses, with his critics all fucking off home. Reforms were rushed through to reduce the power of patronage. Bacon tried to raise his own army to wage war on the natives again – and was arrested again. Then he published Declaration of the People, a formal list of complaints against Berkeley. Complaints included:

  • unjust taxation,
  • favouritism,
  • not protecting smaller plantations

So Bacon rallied the people, promising freedom to every slave who’d leave their master to join his cause! Except his own and those of his adherents but whatever! People flocked to him, not just the “trash” (Berkeley’s word) but ones from all social strata minus the grandees. Yes, even magistrates, planters & burgesses joined him!

By the August he had enough men to hold Jamestownand the west shore, and he believed he could’ve beaten the army being sent from England. One of his supporters worte up an account featuring two other supporters – Richard Lawrence and William Townsend. Lawrence was allegedly in it for the love of “a blackamoor, his slave, and thought Venus was… to be worshipped with the image of a Negro.”

Interesting the book doesn’t divulge who that woman was. When I find out I’ll add her.

By the October the rebellion suddenly ended and was disbanded after Bacon died from bloody flux. Rebels were still at large however, but the next month naval captain Thomas (really?!?) caught one of the last bands of them, a good 400, and promised them freedom. 80 of them were smart enough not to trust him, so he said he’d take them to a rebel-held fort. In reality he took them within firing range of a MAN-O’-WAR!!!

Eat them ther cannonballs biatches!!!

When Oliver Cromwell had died (HOORAY!), Charlie the sequel had his corpse dug up from Westminster Abbey, dragged to Tyburn, hanged, beheaded & quartered. Governor Berkeley wanted to do the same to Bacon’s corpse, but when he got to the coffin he found it was full of stones!

Despite all that fuss, 880 or 890 slaves of all colours managed to flee Virginia to freedom. Most were recaptured but some lived on to become the Cumberland Plateau Maroons. Lee and his fellow grandees were pissing themselves over the rebellion’s aftermath: Berkeley warned that revolts like that would keep on happening until rule came to “agree with the common peoples.” They had nightmares about armed ‘black’ and ‘white’ servants fighting them again, then realised it could actually happen as they had no protection! So guess what they did next.

Get more arms?

NO! The Chesapeake planters hatched a plot to create a yeoman class made up of the children they had with their slaves just like in the Caribbean. In other words, inter-class (and interracial) people bred to divide the servile class.

Tee hee hee.

‘Whites’ were given privileges like being forbidden from being whipped naked without a court order, and actually receiving freedom dues including corn, money, clothes, guns and 50 acres. ‘Blacks’ and natives, on the other hand, were stripped of property, judicial, electoral & family rights. They weren’t allowed to be freed even if the slavers wanted to! On the larger plantations segregation was enforced via separate living quarters and different clothing.

Thus the beginnings of colour-based chattel slavery…

Back to Part 13

On to Part 15

 

MORE PROPERLY CALLED SLAVES, PART 13

Meanwhile, back in Virginia, Americans (native) were being cleared off their own lands to make space for the newly-emerging Grandees!

Not what I meant but I’ll stick with it.

Who the fuck were they? Members of a new aristocracy post-1630, most often younger sons of English gentry with loads of dosh & networks. They came to replace what they called “ancient planters”, to position themselves as the engines of Virginian economy.

These became the roots of a “new aristocracy” of the mid-1600s. Big planters such as Presidents Lee, Maddison & Washington (the first ones) were concentrated along the necks of land between the four rivers of Tidewater. This meant that tens of thousands of acres suddenly became personal fiefdoms. Each was a self-sufficient colony with a wharf, tobacco warehouse, forge and villages of dormitories & dwellings. The centrepieces were planter’s mansions aka. Big House, for example Bacon’s Castle – see the featured image above.  Long-time governor of Virginia William Berkeley (served from 1642-52 & 1660-76) was the archetype of this new breed of planters.

Map of Tidewater region, Virginia and its rivers

Because of these Grandees, tobacco production exploded exponentially. In the 1620s production was about 400lb per slave; by the 1690s this had gone up to 1900lb per slave! Don’t be fooled into thinking this was due to better equipment or anything benign like that, ’cause in the 1660s there were 700 slaves & 150 ploughs between them. So where did this increase in productivity come from?

Could it have been anything else? Image taken from: http://www.inverarayjail.co.uk/the-jails-juvenile-offenders/

The Governor’s Council was the topmost body in Tidewater. Its members had shitloads of privileges, like tax exemption and gold braid on their clothes. General Robert Lee (Confederate leader in American civil war, descendant of grandee Richard Lee) was encouraged to try out his luck in America. He was brought over by the abovementioned Berkeley, who then claimed a 50-acre headright on him. During the English civil war Lee went on a mission to Europe and returned with provisions and 38 men & women he’d managed to indenture himself! On arrival he claimed a 1900-acre headright on himself, and became a magistrate, burgess, Governor’s Council member, colonel of the militia AND Secretary of State!!!

Wait, whut?!?

Read it and weep, negro. Read it and weep.

Many future generations claim he was singularly generous, giving away lots of his land. Check his will (p.196 of the book) to see how true that was.

But ignore him. The most powerful and successful dynasty in Tidewater was run by a Colonel John Carter. He arrived in 1649, took some land on the Potomac & Rappahannock peninsulas, became a colonel of the militia & Governor’s Council member, made a plantation in Corotoman, landed 80 slaves AND claimed headright for an extra 4000 acres!!!

I believe I just cummed in my trousers, I’m so hot. OW!!!

Not to mention he punished slaves harshly. One killed 3 hogs and was made to serve an extra 6 years, another ran away for 22 days and was made to serve an extra 15 months!

Then his son Robert came along and dominated all over again; he got 300,000 acres!!! Cruelty seemed to run in the Carters’ blood, as did retaining slaves past their indenture period. His servant Mary Harrison had to beg him to see her children again. The book (p.197) shows her pretty pathetic sounding letter she wrote to him.

However, slaves didn’t like it. In March 1662 planters’ reputations got so bad* the House of Burgesses actually decided to do something. They ordered masters to give good clothes, housing & food (and ‘reasonable’ corrections when necessary) to slaves, and slaves were allowed to complain!!!

* see pp.198-99 for 2 scandals

Of course abuse continued regardless. And the slaves were getting ready to do something about it…

Back to Part 12

On to Part 14

More Properly called Slaves, part 5

Bridewell Palace has an intriguing history. Originally owned by King Henry VIII, it went from an entertainment parlour and lodge for visiting rulers & ambassadors to a house of correction less than a century later. There, both innocent and guilty people were whipped and imprisoned for 1-2 years to pick oakum or beat hemp!

And it was here the first street urchins bound for Virginia were held.

These children included everything from beggars to orphans, pickpockets, runaways, child prostitutes and ordinary workers (remember child labour hadn’t been abolished). Basically, if they were making London look bad they were targets. Of course other parts of Europe were mired with street children at the same time; Lyons (France), Stockholm (Sweden) and Venice (Italy) were constantly moaning about them!

In 1617, 100 parish councillors convened at St Paul’s Cathedral to discuss how to get rid of street children. They settled on dumping them in Virginia. Under the Poor Law, parishes could normally avoid caring for the poor by sending them to other parishes as apprentices – but now they could chuck ’em out the country altogether!

Edwin Sandys, one of Virginia’s major investors, a leading figure in the House of Commons and a Puritan (uh-oh!!!), along with Thomas Smythe made a deal with the City of London Aldermen & Lord Mayor. London would pay the company £5 per child and have 100 of them shipped to America as “apprentices” in respectable industries like tailoring, smithying & baking. They must be between 8 and 16 (inclusive) and born in London.

I’ll be waiting for ’em in Virginia.

Thus on 8/8/1618 the Lord Mayor gave the green light and the round-ups began. Constables (or spirits, as they were called) weaved through the busy ports, thoroughfares and market places secretly snatching children, 1 to 2 at a time. They knew they couldn’t afford to be brazen because a riot could be ignited at any time by unhappy parents. Those taken were enticed with promises of wealth and land in a faraway place, or else assumed they were just going to be locked up for a few months – business as usual. By February 1619 140 kids had been taken, those to be sent were labelled Duty Boys (despite being a group of 74 boys and 23 girls).

Despite the justification that their young bodies would adapt to the heat better than adults, most died well before adulthood. Between 1619 and 1622 300 kids were sent; by 1624 only TWELVE were still alive! And of course the apprenticeships were bollocks; the only industry those kids mastered was field labour.

As insidious as child labour was, it was only part of Sandys’s plan. At the same time as the kids he’d also sent “bridal boats” – mail-order brides for the colonists, many of whom were prostitutes! The planters were encouraged to stay in America and establish permanent family units, buying a wife for 120lb of tobacco and an “apprentice” for 20lb.

And indenture contracts meant fuck-all. Along with adult slaves they were worked up to 11 years, without pay or even 1mm of land to their name, and most died from the summer heat.

Smythe had always been good at selecting people of exceptional talent, and back in 1609 he’d introduced Sandys through the inner workings of his company. When Smythe had fallen ill Sandys had been his trusted deputy. But during this kidnapping saga Sandys managed to replace Smythe as the Company’s treasurer! How?

That’s what the fuck I’d like to know!!!

Well as a Puritan, Sandys loved to fight people with power. He’d disputed the King’s right to rule and had turned on the city’s merchant fraternity! He wanted an audit of the Virginia company’s finances, which Smythe normally would’ve ignored as he had the court of shareholders on his side. This time, though, the court’s leader fell out with him –

the 1st Earl of Warwick Robert Rich!

Why? Because of how he treated his protégé Samuel Argall.

Argall was the company’s governor in 1617, a privateer so fucking tyrannical he executed a planter for freeing his slaves – even though their indenture period was over! Smythe told him to be lighter-handed but Argall didn’t listen. Complaints piled up like paper mountains so Smythe sacked him and made him come home. The Earl got pissed and teamed up with Sandys, and together they drove Smythe out!

In a last-ditch effort to save face Smythe resigned, claiming the King gave him a special assignment that required more of his energy than the company. Said the man who ignored the King’s command to plunder more of Ireland. He died 6 years later.

With the richest man in England gone, Sandys was free to rule! He established the supposedly progressive House of Burgesses* and 3 months later asked the Lord Mayor to send over more kids.

* A legislative assembly of elected representatives, created for the purpose of encouraging English planters to stay in north America. Modelled on the House of Commons, both in structure and in pompousness

However, it wasn’t so easy this time – the Common Council of London wanted written proof that the apprenticeships were actually happening! Not to mention that the common people had caught on to the kidnappings and were raising hell! Parents took to the streets demanding to know where their children were, and why they’d been taken.

Sandys was forced to admit the kidnappings were ILLEGAL!!!

So what did he do?

The next year (28/1/1620) he wrote to Robert Naunton, the King’s Secretary of State, claiming “apprenticeship” was still good for the little wretches. Three days later the Privy Council replied, giving explicit approval to the venture! AND it also gave them authority to punish the tykes in any way they wanted. In short, Sandys made kidnapping legal!

~~~

For the next 4 centuries historians made out the TAST began in August 1619, through the selling of “20 and odd Negroes” at Point Comfort by the Dutch Captain Jope & his English pilot Mr Marmaduke. This was eye-witnessed by John Rolfe (Pocahontas’s husband-turned-widower). What Rolfe probably didn’t know but later historians did, is that Captain Jope was really John Colwyn Jupe, who was not Dutch but an English Calvinist minister & privateer! As such he believed that screwing the Spanish over was a God-given duty. As Portugal was under Spanish rule at the time he saw them the same way.

Problem was England wasn’t at war with Spain anymore, and King Jamie had promised harsh punishments on anyone with St George’s cross attacking Spaniards! However, Holland was at war with Spain. Jupe and his mate Daniel Elfrith redecorated the English vessels White Lion and Treasurer, disguised themselves in orange, white & blue (colours of the Dutch Republic) and ransacked the Portuguese ship São João Bautista holding 370 Angolan war prisoners. They took 200 of them, and though Elfrith had the majority because his ship was bigger, Jupe reached Virginia first and sold them off earlier. Elfrith for some reason left Virginia as soon as he got there and dumped his Angolans on Bermuda. Those Angolans in Virginia were indentured servants just as the English were – BUT as the free-willers, street kids and convicts all realised on arrival:

Indentured servant = slave

At that time Africans were the minority of slaves; European (especially poor English) slaves were much more in demand. Barely 100 ‘blacks’ compared to 100,000s of ‘whites’. “Race”-based slavery didn’t exist and wouldn’t do til the late 1600s.

In the 1620s-50s, more slaves were brought over, and the House of Burgesses gave the planters new rights over them:

  • If a slave was “seduced” into taking a new master, he would work the full length of BOTH indentures,
  • For desertion, they’d work extra days upon recapture – ten days for every day missing in 1650s,
  • For slander/ disobedience, they could be stuck in a pillory for 4 days, ears nailed to a post, and publicly whipped for each day of the sentence – later changed to ears being cut off,
  • Female slaves (including the bridal maids) banned from marrying without masters’ consent – later changed to ALL servants banned from marrying, with females charged 2 years extra service for falling pregnant even if the planter was the dad,
  • A whipping post in every plantation just in case.

According to his biographer John Ferrar, Sandys couldn’t give a shit who they were or how badly they suffered, even when their relatives & friends heaped complaints on his head. All he cared about was his Christian duty and establishment of a new order. In fact, the bridal boats were so successful he made a full-time job out of it. Ironically, one of the few who had a problem with the colonial system was JOHN SMITH! He wrote that such abuse would eradicate Virginia.

See? I was a good guy after all!

And it almost did…

Back to Part 4

On to Part 6

More properly called slaves, part 3

This post may seem insignificant in the greater picture of the TAST, but I feel it goes a long way to setting the scene of the early slaves in north America. It’s basically the story of Fort St George (the American one, not the Indian one), built in 1607 by some of these enslaved Englishmen.

What’s so important about this fort? It was one of the most hated features of English rule in America, and for good reason as you’ll read below.

Judging from the blueprints left behind it would’ve been a really sturdy powerful edifice – but it was deserted and left to crumble well before completion!

Why?

In the early 1600s England was realising that allowing individual entrepreneurs to try their luck in the ‘New World’ was a mistake. They all got too greedy and ultimately failed. The solution was to use the newly-invented concept of joint stock companies; that way there’d be more benefit for more people and less chance of failure. Thus colonialism was reignited in 1602 by

Bartholomew Gosnold, a good friend of both Richard Hakluyt and Walter Raleigh. At this point England hadn’t yet worked out that they wouldn’t find gold in north America, despite Gosnold’s expeditions not uncovering a scrap of evidence for the existence of a single mine! Somehow his expeditions still sparked in the popular imagination legends of cities made of gold and the Spanish El Dorado (golden man)!

Huh? I thought El Dorado was a place!?!

Then came along Sir John Popham (remember him at the end of the last post?). He was the principal investor in the northern Plymouth division of the Virginia company, while his rival Thomas Smythe was the treasurer of the southern London division. Popham came from money; he was born into an affluent family in Somerset, read law at Balliol College in Oxford and was called to the Bar!

Regardless, in his 20s he was a heavy gambler, alcoholic and HIGHWAYMAN – yes, a common robber! One rumour of the day claimed he was also a garrotter, someone who murders by strangulation/ breaking the neck. And somehow he was NEVER caught! Then in his 30s he decided that he could make just as much money legally and put his law education to use. That’s when he gained the attention of Queen Lizzy; she made him Speaker of the House, then Attorney General, then Lord Chief Justice.

He was just as barbaric as a judge as he’d been as a highwayman. He was the one who sentenced our boy Raleigh to death, was involved in the trial of Mary Queen of Scots AND had Guy Fawkes hanged! In fact he loved hanging people, so much he became known as the hanging judge – except women, they’d be crushed or strangled then burnt at the stake. He hung damn near everybody, including Jesuits, Puritans, Catholic priests and other highwaymen! People feared him, not just for his mercilessness but also for his face – he was a big ugly fucker, with coldness pouring from his bullying eyes.

Just because he’d turned to the side of the law didn’t make him virtuous by any means though. Like all other Elizabethan judges, if the price was right he was willing to let a few minor – and major – crimes slide. Perhaps the best example is one of his cases; a midwife had gone to a client’s house to deliver a baby when a masked man burst into the house, grabbed the newborn baby and threw it into the fireplace! The masked man was caught and identified, but he got away with it scot-free because he gave Popham his mansion – Littlecote House, Wiltshire!

But despite his otherwise ruthless methods of execution and reputation he never managed to eliminate crime, so in his late 50s he focused his attention on colonisation of the Americas. In 1597 he pushed through a new Vagrancy Act (see previous post) to have persistent criminals banished, but it was only in 1602 that he drew up an order stating where to banish them to! They were to be dumped in

“Newfoundland, East and West Indies, France, Germany, Spain and the Low Countries or any of them.”

In short, everywhere away from us.

Some time later he added Virginia to the list. In 1605-06 Popham came up to then Attorney General Sir Edward Coke and proposed using America as a dustbin for England’s unwanted. Coke agreed. However the Spanish Ambassador to London, Don Pedro de Zúñiga, was scared it could threaten Spain’s interests in America.

Stay offa ma property!!!

He was promptly reassured it wouldn’t happen, the order was just to get rid of England’s crooks.

In 1606, Popham and his friend Ferdinando Gorges (who was English, despite his Spanish name) did a trial voyage. They used 29 prisoners and 2 captured native Americans as guides. The voyage flopped, mainly because the captain Henry Challons went the “safe” traditional route – south along the west African coast then veering westward* instead of directly west as Popham ordered. They ran into a Spanish fleet, the ship was captured, and the whole crew were turned into galley slaves. (Un)luckily, Popham & Gorges were never aboard the ship and weren’t affected by the mishap. Of course Popham made no attempt to get them back; like he’d really go out of his way to rescue a bunch of criminals!

* It was pretty common knowledge back then, especially to west Africans, that you could reach America from west Africa – either on purpose or by accident since the westward currents were so strong and predictable. See Ivan Van Sertima’s They came before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America for clarification, ISBN 9780812968170. 

The next year they did a second trial voyage, this time with 120 men and 2 ships. Again Popham and Gorges were absent. Popham had given special instructions to the ships’ captains, only to be revealed upon landing. Once they landed and gave thanks to God, those secret instructions were given –

Find gold or your white asses are banished in Virginia!!! (or something to that effect)

The prisoners were set to work on the fort as well. At this point it makes sense to name the ships’ captains: Humphrey Gilbert’s son Raleigh Gilbert, and John Popham’s nephew George Popham. While nowhere near as deadly as his uncle (some reckoned he was quite timid) no-one dared refuse; just the name Popham was enough to send waves of terror tearing through their bones like earthquakes! Their only alternative was to go back to England to be hanged, or re-imprisoned then hanged. After weeks of failure and setbacks* they finally got a report from Abenake natives claiming there was a huge stretch of water only a week’s walk away.

* Much of which was the colonists’ own fault. After an incident where 4 native men were dragged on board one of the ships by their hair, their compatriots attacked. Unsurprisingly.

This turned out to be bollocks. The natives knew these invaders were so stupid they’d scurry like bloodhounds at the faintest mention of gold.

Just point south, say gold and they run like dogs! LOL

At some point during this scurry George died, fully believing he’d finally secured the English presence in America. Raleigh then took over the project temporarily, but suddenly packed up his stuff and went home! WHY? Because he’d received news that his brother John had died and left him his estate!!! Then news came that John Popham himself had also died, at which point EVERYONE packed up and went home! Whatever of the fort had been built was left to crumble.

And that’s the story of how Fort St George never got completed.

However, that’s not the end of the ‘white’ slavery story. That was just the northern Plymouth division. The southern London division had a different fate…

Back to Part 2

On to Part 4

More properly called slaves, part 1

Inspired by Don Jordan & Michael Walsh’s White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America, ISBN 9781845961930.

This post will focus on the TAST (trans-Atlantic slave trade) but not on the enslaved Africans. Rather, I’ll focus on the enslaved Europeans. It’s not news that ‘whites’ enslaved each other, but rarely is that point dwelt on. I aim to correct that.

I’m going to do separate posts on each chapter, simply because they’re too long and interesting to summarise in one. Conveniently, the book summarises itself in the introduction so I’ll base this first post on that:

It should first be made clear that those ‘whites’ were ENSLAVED. Nowadays there’s an argument that they weren’t slaves as slaves were in lifelong servitude; these were servants contracted (indentured) to serve for a limited time then given freedom & rights. This claim isn’t new; it dates directly from that era and was as justificatory as it is now. But even in theory that argument was bollocks, never mind in practice – especially since the vast majority of them had their servitude periods extended indefinitely at their masters’ whim AND most of them died before the end of their period. Even the tiny minority who outlived their service rarely gained freedom or land rights, living as dirt-poor as they were back in England. While it’s true that from the mid-1700s to 1800s “servant” was understood to mean ‘white’ chattels while “slave”/”Negro” meant ‘black’ ones, masters saw their status as identical, even after lifelong enslavement of Africans was enforced.

Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731) said indentured servants are “more properly called slaves”, hence this post’s title.

And my mind is not changed in the least!

In short, both in theory & in practice indentured servant = servant = serf = chattel = slave.

A bit of historical context also helps make sense of the whole TAST:

  • It was conjured up by England, the basis of which was laid in the 1570s.
  • It was a continuation of the old serfdom system, which had supposedly ended in the European Renaissance.
  • Virginia & Maryland were where the first and most successful colonies were established.
  • Though making money off of other people’s backs was an integral purpose of the colonies, since they expected to find cities of gold* like the Spanish & Portuguese did in south America, the main reason for slave labour was to rid England of its “surplus” people – the “poor & lawless”.

* It never happened. Eventually they wised up and looked to crops to line their pockets.

  • After more colonists came, the north American mainland became the main site for expanding the British Empire in conjunction with personal profiteering. The Caribbean islands, on the other hand, were mainly just for personal profiteering.

Though figures are inexact, it’s known hundreds of thousands of ‘whites’ were transported and enslaved. Many of them went by force, but from 1620-1775 the majority went voluntarily and were called free-willers. They thought they were selling just their labour temporarily, but found they were selling their human rights. They were duped into thinking they’d have land, money & renown at the end, only to find they were as bad off as back home or more so.

IF they survived overwork, infirmity, punishments (one girl reportedly received 500 lashes from the whip and was beaten to death!), diseases (many of which were unique to English slaves), the voyages themselves*, malnutrition, overexposure to sun, and attacks from native Americans fed up of their lands being invaded.

Yes, Brits and other ‘white’ slaves were packed into ships in this exact same manner. Needless to say hygiene was piss-poor, illnesses ran rampant and most didn’t make it to land alive. 

From the 16th to early 17th centuries, ‘white’ people were the main labour force of the new American colonies. Even after Africans became the predominant slaves, Europeans were still used left, right and centre throughout the entire TAST period. They were worked and punished, rebelled, ran away & fought alongside the ‘black’ slaves.

The very first slaves were NOT Irish as you may think, though the English did harbour a special hatred of Irish since Anglo-Norman days. It’s true the English saw them as fundamentally inferior and enslaved many of them. They even committed genocide and tried to totally replace them (thanks in large part to Oliver Cromwell).

But that was much later.

The first TAST slaves were English! AND most of them were kidnapped children!

Just to remind you who did the kidnapping

Kidnapping children for this purpose eventually became so common that kidnappers (known as Spirits, hence the phrase spirited away) made a business out of it. They hung around at nearby ports weaving their way into the crowded streets targeting pretty much any lone child they found.

Those children were often beggars, pickpockets and other kinds of street urchins. Some of them were sent by their parents conned into thinking they’d have a better life. However, most were taken without the parents’ knowledge or consent. The work was so torturous and the climate so intolerable to their city-bred bodies most died in the first year! Some were so young, back in 1661 a man was shipping 4 “Irish boys” and his wife said they were so little he should’ve sent them in cradles! Remember Britain only banned child labour in the late 1800s!

In the late 1700s adults (predominantly convicts and petty criminals) were sent as a way to empty England’s overcrowded gaols (prisons) and get rid of the criminals. At first the law didn’t know or care where to chuck them but soon enough settled on the Americas. In other words, before Australia America used to be a dumping ground for England’s human refuse!

Such refuse weren’t always criminals however. They also included many religious & political dissidents (everyone who wasn’t Protestant or didn’t like the current monarch), prostitutes, beggars, and just the down-on-their-luck.

Then came the Irish, during Oliver Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing policy and for at least a century afterward. They were pretty much all taken against their will.

I did it not for pleasure, for pleasure is a sin. Twas my Christian duty

Throughout the entire era Africans were stolen for the same purpose of course. However, the disgusting abusive treatment inflicted on our ancestors was practised and perfected on the ‘white’ slaves first. The slavers ultimately didn’t give a flying fuck who their chattels were, as long as they didn’t have to do shit for themselves. Contrary to the popular American creation myth, American freedoms were gained only after LONG centuries of wanton punishments & enslavement of the poor majority.

Just like today, there were many who denied or belittled this ‘white’ slave trade. Back in the Renaissance Shakespeare’s favourite historian Raphael Holinshed, for example, claimed England had no slaves anymore and any slave who set foot on English soil became immediately free! Maybe that’s why those marked for servanthood were sent away from England, to keep that myth going?

Tens of millions of Euro-Americans today are descendants of those slaves. How many claim them, the way we’re always expected to? How many go out of their way to acknowledge them?

tumbleweed family
Just in case the tumbleweed got lonely, I brought its whole family!

Now onto the fun! Part 2