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Debunking a Myth: The Irish Were Not Slaves, Too

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by kepi, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. kepi

    kepi First Sergeant

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  3. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    "Slave" is a term that is used much too loosely. For that reason, I often use some version of "chattel" when writing about slaveholding in the antebellum period, because it reflects legal ownership of property, rather than a contractual arrangement between individuals, no matter how exploitive that might be. It's fundamentally different than things like indentured servitude.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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  4. civilken

    civilken Sergeant Major

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    I don't know about the United States but there certainly was Irish servitude slavery for a better word used by the English government to oppress the Irish people just look at Australia or other colonies Jamaica Trinidad Haiti.
     
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  5. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Spot on 100% correct. If you want to include oppressed then you can include the USA
     
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  6. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    There was a Racial element to Slavery.
     
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  7. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    While I like Liam Hogan's work and can't stand the white nationalist memes that have arisen from the "Irish Slave" theme, I note that there are some problems with his argument.
     
  8. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    My problem is not with whether Irish were held as slaves or not, I have never researched that question and have not seen convincing evidence that they were slaves. It is with the definitions of slavery that is often used by Hogan. His definitions are perfect for characterizing slavery in the mid-19th Century United States, but the use of that defintion might not fit all eras. However, look at this review of the Netflix film 13th in the New York Times:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/movies/13th-review-ava-duvernay.html?referrer=google_kp

    The movie hinges on the 13th Amendment, as the title indicates, in ways that may be surprising, though less so for those familiar with Michelle Alexander’s 2010 best seller, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” Ratified in 1865, the amendment states in full: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” As Ms. Alexander underscores, slavery was abolished for everyone except criminals.

    Here is the Times saying that slavery need not have the characteristics of 1860 slavery to be called slavery. For example it need not be passed on to the child of the slave in order to be slavery.

    There are a lot of problems with assuming that the 1860s American definition is the only one that can properly be applied.

    Also, not everyone who raises the issue of Irish slavery is a white nationalist. The Pultizer Prize winning author Tim Egan, who is a columnist for the New York Times spends two pages describing "Irish slaves" in his bio of Thomas Meagher. I note that he offers no real evidence that there were Irish slaves, but he is hardly a white nationalist.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  9. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    Hi civilken, I've always thought that the English gave the Irish a hard time but I wouldn't say that they ever enslaved the Irish, it was really more about indentured servitude. I'm pretty sure that this probably came about due to the British class system and in particular the poverty experienced by the Irish. Since Ireland was, on the whole, poorer than England during the 1700/1800s, proportionately more of the indentured servants from the British Isles came from Ireland. Obviously being an indentured servant was not easy but unlike slaves they had some limited rights. The other point worth considering is that the British courts would often use indentured servitude as a form of punishment and in those situations those people were basically being sent to the private sector. A sentence of compulsory indentured servitude could also be for a fixed period of time, but this could be longer than a normal voluntary contract; and in a few limited cases it might even be for life. Having said all that, I think that its fair to say that a life of indentured servitude was comparable to slavery.
     
  10. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    Their is a big difference between being an indentured servant vs being a slave.
    1. An Indentured servant only serves for a fixed amount of time.
    2. The Indentured servant's master can't sell their children or spouses.
    3. Child workers were just that child workers. Yes it was cruel bu as adults they could quit and do something else with their lives.
    Far right groups are just using the"Irish were slaves" myth because they hate black people.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  11. SquirrelHudson

    SquirrelHudson Corporal

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    I get the "Irish were slaves too" thing is blown entirely out of proportion by the far-right groups to derail African-American antebellum slavery, but weren't a lot (not as many as Africans though) actually enslaved against their will after the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland in the 1600's?
     
  12. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    Why don't someone ask the Irish? It gets pretty murky what term you use to describe some
    Of these situations. At the end of the Norths Gradual Emancipation, mothers were declared Free and the Child was Indentured. Some Free Blacks in the South returned to Slavery because they couldn't find work so as to feed themselves.

    No good in any of it. All of it is exploitation. Negros were Black so it put them in a seperate category.
     
  13. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Your first point is less definitive than you think. There were black slaves who were to be held for a fixed time who were still considered slaves.
     
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  14. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    My understanding is an indentured servant serves for seven years and then is free. The servants children cannot be sold.
    Do you have examples of American black slaves who met the above definition. If so what percentage were they of the overall slave population.
    To clarify an indentured servent meets the above definition.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  15. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    I was not responding to this definition of indentured servants. I was responding to your contention that unlike a slave, an indentured servant only served for a fixed amount of time. There were Northern states that adopted gradual emancipation programs in which slaves were to be freed at a fixed future date. Even though the date of freedom was predetermined, they were still considered slaves until that date.
     
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  16. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    Its like I commented earlier, some indentured servants were placed into the custody of their masters, it was a lifetime of servitude. Also the master could sell part or whole of the contract which in turn could separate families.
    Absolutely agree that far right movements use the 'whites were slaves to' argument but it doesn't take a lot to see through that.
     
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  17. Dedej

    Dedej Private

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    For me the issue is not if a portion of the Irish were Indentured Slaves or even if they want to call their ancestors "slaves" - it was not Chattel slavery. But, many take stories that have happen to those Blacks/Africans who were enslaved in the south - and attach them to the Irish Indentured Slaves. It's also about treatment and the most important -- being able to "enter" into a contract by option.

    Since this story has been on the Internet and the release of "White Cargo" -- anywhere where the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, Black history, reparations, etc is discussed online, social media/reddit included -- people -- many of Irish descent make comments like "get over it, my ancestors were slaves too - you don't see us complaining," or even asking for their reparations" etc - basically the racist spill.

    If this was done out of really honoring their Irish ancestors and not to be hateful or rude to Black Americans - I would support it and want to learn more. But, the number of comments and propaganda being spread online just to be hateful to lessen the topics/issues of Black Americans who are descendants of slaves -- is really off-putting.

    As Pat mentioned, the series on Medium debunking many of the memes and many of the claims was very well done. But, it's something about the idea of America giving anything to Black Americans really makes people's blood boil and hateful opinions start to show.

    I have also noticed lots of Irish say their ancestors didn't enslave anyone. You often see this in comments and forums. Well, that's not true - as I have Irish DNA and I have a Irish last name. And have more than two Irish surnames in my family tree. Here's a great article from Medium: https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/kiss-me-my-slave-owners-were-irish-86316555796c

    It's very telling how people feel about themselves and their spirits to go troll videos, articles, etc to make comments like that. Just to be mean.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  18. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I think the numbers quoted for Irish enslavement has been exaggerated, King James issued a proclamation for the deportation of 30,000 Irish political figures and I think the vast majority were sold into slavery, there's no denying that a large number were purchased by English sugar plantation owners. I'm not sure if the English had a deliberate policy for enslaving the Irish but if they did it was pretty well disguised, the practice of degrading the Irish was a speciality of Cromwell, the numbers in the Irish population had almost halved under his rule.
     
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  19. Dedej

    Dedej Private

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    A lot of the misinformation was started due to the release of "White Cargo."

    Liam discusses that in one of the articles in his series. Find a snippet below.

    Via Liam Hogan from Medium:

    Cromwellian era forced deportations from Ireland to the British West Indies did not begin in earnest until May 1653 and the total number forcibly deported during the Cromwellian era is roughly estimated by scholars (Corish, Watson, Akenson, et al) to have been around 10-12,000 people. The paucity of records ensures that we will never know the exact number. Kerby Miller (Emigrants and Exiles, 143), Robin Blackburn (The Making of New World Slavery, 247) and Matthew C. Reilly (“Poor Whites” of Barbados, 6) estimate that “several thousand” were banished. These estimates are educated guesses based on contemporary population figures for the islands, allowing for a high mortality rate, pre-existing Irish populations and concurrent voluntary emigration.

    The “300,000 Irish slaves” claim is a spectacular exaggeration. There is no scholarship or even logic behind this number. It appears that the meme has taken the guesstimate on the blurb on the back cover of White Cargo (by Jordan and Walsh) and applied it to the Cromwellian era forced transportations from Ireland. Keep in mind that this appropriated guesstimate refers to all the indentured servants and convicts who were transplanted to the British American colonies from Britain and Ireland over a 200 year period.


    Irish Slavery is also a FAQ on Reddit's Ask an Historian.

    Here is the link for the FAQ's below: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistori..._slavery_vs_indenture_and_.22irish_slavery.22

    Slavery vs Indenture and "Irish Slavery"
     
  20. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Thanks for the links.
     
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  21. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Yep. It's a convenient deflection.


    [​IMG]

    I doubt, frankly, that most of the folks who claim Irish ancestry today in the United States had (or can document) ancestors who actually were indentured servants; that practice peaked in the first half of the 18th century, while the largest wave of Irish immigration didn't come for another hundred years, in the two decades just prior to the Civil War. The 10,000 to 12,000 estimate of forced deportations from Ireland in the Commonwealth period is less than 1% of the the roughly two million Irish who came to the United States just in the decade of the 1850s.

    ETA: I also suspect that a lot of the folks who are claiming Irish immigrant ancestry earlier than the 19th century are also conflating the Irish and Scots-Irish which, as either group will firmly correct you, are not the same thing, at all.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017

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