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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. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Not the original slaves born free in Africa. Of course they were long dead by the time of the Civil War.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  3. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Maybe in New York otherwise my definition fits over 90% of what an indentured servant is. It also fits the Irish in America which is what the OP is all about.
    Leftyhunter
     
  4. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Again, you can't use slavery on the eve of the Civil War as the only standard by which to define the term "slavery."
     
  5. Youngblood

    Youngblood Sergeant

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    The story is the irish were slaves in the 1600's but died off at high rates so the switch to the hardier africans.
     
  6. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    But, when you were a Black slave - no matter your location New York or Georgia - whether granted or emancipated free or not - it did not guarantee freedom. Nor did it stop them from being thrown (kidnapped) into slavery. Indentured Servitude didn't have that key factor.

    As the story of 12 Years a Slave:

    12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release.

    Indentured Servants - were paying off debts, etc - / Black slaves were not - they were placed in the system strictly for chattel work/property. Also, Indentured Servants weren't purchased as property -- their CONTRACT was - but not them personally. They worked to pay off debts, crimes, etc. Children of Indentured servants did not become Indentured. Black slaves and their offspring belonged to their owner.

    For some Indentured Servants their labor was involuntary - but it was still a valid reason for that servitude.Their labor, servitude was due to working off a debt, crime, etc. It was a contract attached to something. Not just because. So they were using their labor (service) to pay off something.

    I think this is a great response below.

    From Reddit:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistori...laim_that_there_were_white/cpth8cw/?context=3

    As such, there has been some debate in the past as to whether or not indentured servitude could be considered a kind of white slavery. The general consensus is that it is not.

    I think it's important to distinguish this type of slavery with the chattel slavery that became the backbone of the Southern economy. But doesn't it have quite a lot of similarities to the rules for slaves set aside in the Bible (i.e. a 7-year term, etc.)?

    I think the fact that service was not always voluntary--debtors and vagrants were scooped up--and the fact that bad behavior/trying to escape could result in additional time served, certainly makes it involuntary labor. Is there a clear difference between involuntary labor and slavery? I tend to view it as a type of slavery, but I don't use the term unless I think people are intellectually capable of holding multiple conceptions of slavery.

    and

    indentured servants were not legally considered property. That is the defining difference between indentured servitude and chattel slavery: Indentured servants were legal persons who had some rights that personhood came with, who were under labor contracts for finite periods of time; chattel slaves were legal property like how a chair or a table is legal property, with no rights that personhood came with. Indentured servants could testify in court; slaves could not. Indentured servants could sue their employers; slaves could not. Indentured servitude wasn't a hereditary status that automatically passed from mother to child; chattel slavery was. Indentured servants weren't auctioned off like cattle; chattel slaves were. Indentured servants' contracts were finite, with set periods of time; chattel slaves were property for life or until their masters freed them. Indentured servants typically received freedom packages with money and land once their contracts ended; chattel slaves who were freed were guaranteed nothing by law for services rendered.

    Now, indentured servitude was admittedly a system subject to abuse, in some places more than others (Barbados, for example). There have been people who were forced into indentured servitude against their will (although historians such as Donald Akenson found the majority of indentured servants voluntarily signed their contracts of service as a means of paying for passage to the New World). At times, employers had treated servants horribly to the point where some servants were worked to death before their contracts were up, contracts were sometimes extended repeatedly, laws against mistreatment of servants weren't always enforced, etc.

    However, no matter how horrid indentured servitude could be, the legal designation of servants as people did come with some basic legal protections. Slaves didn't even have that admittedly minimal level of legal protection, because they were considered property and not people.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
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  7. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Indentured servants were sometimes held past their term (kidnapped).
     
  8. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    Made in error.
     
  9. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    Understood. But, they still were working off a debt, etc. They were not held longer or in servitude for racism or due to the color of their skin.

    Kidnapped and held longer are two different things. Though both are terrible - they are not the same.
     
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  10. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    As I have pointed out already, not all children of slaves were themselves slave. Does this mean that their parents were not slaves?

    Anyway, I think that I have taken this a little far from the OP.

    I would just say, before signing off, that slavery existed long before Columbus set sail for the U.S. and for many years after the Civil War. Slavery's definition cannot be limited to the circumstances of black slaves in America in 1860.

    Indentured servitude should not be glossed over. It is a system of compelled labor. Not all people lost their freedom and became indentured servants through choice.

    With that said, I don't see evidence that there were Irish slaves legally held in the United States at any time for being Irish. There were obviously men and women of Irish descent who were slaves in the U.S. right up until the Civil War. But they were not held as Irish.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
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  11. Copperhead-mi

    Copperhead-mi 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Solomon Northrup and others like him, come to mind
     
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  12. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    There have been many people held as slaves for reasons other than the color of their skin.
     
  13. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    I totally agree. It's an institution that has been going on for years in many places. And Indentured Servitude definitely should not be glossed over - as many suffered as well - and their stories deserves to be heard.

    Night :smile:
     
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  14. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    Correct. But, if we are talking about Antebellum South - that is the main reason. At least, the reason for the 99% of those who were.

    In other countries and cultures -- other factors were at play.
     
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  15. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    "If this does not seem obvious to us, it may be because it is no longer obvious to us what slavery was and, therefore, what a dispute over slavery would look like. This is not because slavery means so little to Americans, but because it has come to mean too much. Slavery has long served as the rhetorical standard against which all forms of oppression are measured. Among men and women who struggle against various forms of their own oppression, there seems to be a nearly irresistible temptation to liken themselves to slaves. In the United States this urge was validated in the very Revolution that brought the nation into being."

    - James Oakes, The Scorpion's Sting; Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War, pp. 52-53

    Just sayin'.
     
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  16. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    No reason not to talk about the South, but let's keep in mind, African slavery was also practiced in the North, until it wasn't. The African slave trade was dominated by New Englanders before it was outlawed and surreptitiously continued by the same people afterwards.

    Again, just sayin'.
     
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  17. Dedej

    Dedej Corporal

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    You're right. My mind always goes to the South - I am sure it's because that is where it was concentrated. Plus, where my personal ancestry lives.

    But, I know it was the North and Midwest (I know of Illinois...for sure.) I will definitely make sure to remember (at least try too..) include all locations - not just the south. Thanks.
     
  18. civilken

    civilken 2nd Lieutenant

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    I am not trying to prove a point or make light of the African American experience as slavery is concerned but when we are talking indentured servitude it can be and was as bad as slavery at times there are pictures of young Irish children change to weaving machines to do their job some for as many as seven years to pay for their trip here. Of course I understand this is nothing compared with slavery but if I was one of those children I might believe I received the short stick in life. Slavery or servitude were both horrible ways for people to be treated..
     
  19. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    What year were said pictures of Irish children working on machines taken? Indentured servitude was outlawed not to much beyond the Revolution if memory serves. The Irish children may of been chil labourers. Not that child labor didn't have it's own issues but it wasn't the same as indentured servitude.
    Leftyhunter
     
  20. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    I will type the URL when I get home but it strongly appears that indentured servitude in North America ended by 1840 with the partial exception of California.
    Leftyhunter
     
  21. damYankee

    damYankee 2nd Lieutenant

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    if anyone can provide proof that anyone with cash could go to a slave auction and bid on either African or Irish slaves we could easily settle this debate.
    A few points that have long been irritating to me, the Americans did not start the slave trade, the largest slave markets were in Spanish held South America. The Portuguese were the first to start the African trade, although slavery had been practiced in every society, even in Africa by African who enslaved other Africans. Not to mention the slave markets that were operated through out the Ottoman Empire and in many Arab nations and by pirates.
    As for indentured servitude, don't get me started, the root of the anti slavery movement may be traced to the reaction of the refined members of English society when a certain scandal was exposed involving the Sheriff and a few judges in England who were running a human trafficking industry taking orphans off the streets and selling them into servitude.
    I have posted on this topic before, but those post never received much attention.
     
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