It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
So what is the reality about the history of Irish unfree colonial labor?
While the majority of Irish people who became indentured servants in the colonies did so willingly (why they felt they had to so is, of course, another question), a not insignificant number were forcibly deported and sold into indentured servitude. This peaked just after the brutal Cromwellian conquest of Ireland when there were orders given in multiple counties to round up and deport those who, it was claimed, could not support themselves.
So there were both voluntary and involuntary servants. What's the difference?
The laws were the same. Both were treated as servants and had a predetermined length of time to serve before they were freed. In Barbados the customary length of time to serve in the 1650s was between five or seven years, but in 1661 a new law was introduced that reduced this to between four to two years. This "custom" was altered by colonial administrators to attract servants to migrate to their colonies and it was also used to single out the Irish when they were not wanted. In 1655 harsh laws were passed in Virginia that targeted Irish servants who arrived in the colony without indentures. These terms for adults were two years longer than those that applied to other "Christian servants," and three years longer for those under 16 years of age. But by 1660 (the Restoration) the law was repealed.
Meanwhile, you're telling me that some Irish people profited directly and indirectly from the Caribbean slave trade?
Yes, absolutely. In Ireland it was mainly indirect via the provisions trade. It primarily benefited the Protestant Ascendancy, the Catholic elites, and the Catholic middle class who dominated trade in the cities. Many of our merchants (whether Catholic, Protestant, Huguenot, or Quaker) made fortunes trading with all of the slavocracies in the Caribbean. Shoes for enslaved people were manufactured in Belfast; and as mainly poor Irish Catholic tenants were forced off the land to make way for livestock, butter, beef, and pork were salted and exported to the colonies in enormous quantities via Cork, Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick.
So Irish peasants lost their land to make way for cattle, which was then exported by Irish landlords to feed enslaved peoples, who didn't grow food of their own because the land was too valuable for making sugar. And then presumably Irish people bought sugar and rum?
Yes, the provisions exported from Ireland fed slaves, servants, overseers, and planters. Herring, pork, beef, and butter and so on. One cut of beef exported out of Cork was known as "Planters Beef." And in the other direction a flood of slave-produced goods were sold in Ireland (sugar, tobacco, etc.). Every newspaper in Ireland in the 18th century carries adverts for sugar from Barbados or Jamaica being sold by a local grocer. By 1770 the Irish market absorbed nearly 90 percent of Antigua's total rum exports and in 1774 Dublin imported 108,821 gallons of rum from Antigua. Many merchants in the colonies paid for their Irish provisions in slave produce.
An excellent OP that hits close to home for me, as I am Cherokee and Irish. My Irish side came to America as "indentured servants" in the early 1700's.