Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Blog
Real White Trash
Notes on the White Slave Trade in 17th and 18th Century Britain and Her Colonies
Since the fiction of Robert E. Howard is virtually obsessed with slavery, possibly extending from the fact that his family had been slaveholders in his grandparent’s day, that his Aunt Mary was a Quadroon of exceedingly light complexion, and that the origins of the many Scotch-Irish families, such as Howard’s, could be traced back to the English white child slave trade and the sale of political prisoners into colonial slavery, it seemed prudent to provide some notes on this third, little-understood, aspect of the early American experience.
A gang of 13 men and 9 women, chained together by the necks, are shown in an early 17th century illustration, being marched to a barge before the Blackfriars Stairs, being transported from Newgate to a waiting barge that would take them to the slave ship destined for the Americas.
The term kidnapping came into use to describe the hunting, capture and sale of poor Scottish children and represented the will of the British Monarchs and Parliament who signed decrees and enacted legislation to sanction and encourage child trafficking and the enslavement of political prisoners.
Political prisoners in England, Scotland and Ireland, were sold into slavery by the thousands in 1651, 1652, 1655, 1666, 1685 and 1715.
In 1656, Cromwell went beyond enslaving the Catholics [that were this reader’s Maryland ancestors], but also issued orders to find and enslave 1,200 poor English protestant women to be sold to colonists. He later increased the quota to 2,000.
In 1655 four teenagers were whipped, burned and sold to Barbados sugar planters for the crime of interrupting a Minister, James Scott.
In 1664 Parliament declared that judges who sentenced children to be rounded up, shackled and sold to colonists, would receive 50% of the head price.
All over Great Britain, but mostly in Scotland and London, poor people were targeted for enslavement. If a person was, orphaned, unemployed, was the child of an unemployed adult, or did not have proof of a fixed residence, he was liable for capture and sale.
The practice saw its heyday from 1618, when a bill was passed by Parliament in September of that year stipulating that boys 8 years and older might be hunted, captured and sold, with indentures to be for 16 years for boys and 14 years for the girls [reflecting the higher mortality among girls]. These children were supposed to be released and given land after their indenture. However, most were worked or beaten to death before reaching adulthood. This writer has found no records of lands granted to released white slaves from this period in Maryland. However, in 1690, a Maryland court ruled that kidnapped children sold into slavery were not being held under valid indentures, though their masters were permitted to keep them for no other reason than it was considered “the custom of the country,” a tacit admission that slavery was the basis for the foundation of the Maryland colony by Lord Baltimore.
Of the hundreds of children sold to Virginia colonists in 1619, only 7 were still alive in a census of 1625.
Of the hundreds of children shipped over to Virginia planters in 1620, only 5 were alive by 1625.
Boys were primarily used for land clearance, the dangerous process of felling old growth forests, with so e trees, such as the polar, growing so large that the native traditionally hollowed them out to make canoes that could sit two abreast.
In January 1620, a group of orphaned and poor children awaiting sale and shipment at Bridewell, resisted, successfully. The King’s secretary, Sir, Robert Naunton and the Privy Council, upheld the validity of their enslavement, and had them shipped out aboard the ship Duty, to Virginia. Henceforth boy slaves were referred to as Duty Boys.
In 1621, Sir Edwin Sandys proposed another slavery initiative to rid England of poor.
In 1638, of 350 kidnapped children on one ship, only 80 survived.
In 1685, of the 100 slaves on board the Betty of London only 49 arrived in the colonies.
As late as 1743, the ship Planter hauled 70 boys to the colonies and, running aground, left them to drown on a sandbar off of Cape May. One of the boys that survived, was a certain Peter Williamson who had been captured in Aberdeen, Scotland.
One Scottish man by the name of John Stewart was selling 500 children per year into slavery in the 1740s.
According to a pamphlet from 1680, 10,000 children were sold out of England every year.
The conditions on the ships were terrible, as these were not generally designed for the African slave trade, but dual use merchant craft that would hall food and raw goods from the colonies and less valuable brats in the other direction. 50 men, women, boys and girls would be chained together in a 16 foot long hold, which is the leaky bottom of the boat only about five to ten feet wide. The pilgrims that founded the Plymouth Bay Colony hauled a dozen slave boys in this manner who they worked to death over the first winter.
In the 1600s the mortality of British child slaves was about 50%.
British slaves shipped in the 1700s died at a rate of 10-20% during the passage.
African slave mortality was 25%, indicating, that the sailing distance had a great bearing on mortality. For, although African slaves were more valuable, were treated better, and were chained next to each other instead of on top of each other, and were more likely to be adults rather than children, they still died at a slightly greater rate than the white child slaves who endured the shorter North Atlantic passage during the same period.
A.B. Ellis, investigating conditions aboard the slave ship Argosy, stated that most of the captives had wounds resulting from the capture, were so crowded they had to lie on top of one another, and were considered so dangerous that they were never let on deck during the voyage.
The servants being shipped to the colonies were chained together by neck and leg the entire voyage and were sometimes crowded as many as 600 to a hold.
During one voyage, a passenger named Mittleberger saw 32 children tossed into the sea.
As late as July 3, 1787 a white female slave named Elizabeth Dudgeon, was strapped to the ship’s deck and was whipped savagely, to the great pleasure of Ralph Clark, who entered the account in his journal.
White British citizens were still being sold in the Americas after the American colonies won their independence. Since the terms of sale stipulated fixed terms of slavery ranging from 3-30 years, it was not considered equal to the African slave trade, in which there was no length of ownership stipulated. By this point white slaves were mostly being called servants or bound, with the understanding that they had a prospect for freedom once they worked out their sentence, while blacks where more often being referred to as slaves than servants, though the terms remained interchangeable to some degree.
The subject of the shift from white to black slavery will be covered after the presentation of Howard story that is peculiarly concerned with that dynamic in the life of waxing and waning societies.
prev:  ‘My Melancholy Murderer’     ‹  blog  ›     next:  My Little Phony
eBook
pillagers of time
eBook
behind the sunset veil
eBook
den of the ender
eBook
the fighting edge
eBook
the world is our widow
eBook
god of war
Add Comment
Bernie HackettSeptember 23, 2015 9:14 PM UTC

Ah, sure and me relatives the shanty Irish would have been seen as such. I was told one of my forebears used to be borne home on a shutter, of a Friday evening. My thought was, like the fallen on his shield, but only somwhat similar.

Cartoons of the time depict the Irish as subhuman apelike creatures, clutching a shilleigh (I've got one, by the way, though I can't spel gude) and looking belligerant. Must have seen them in the saloon, after a couple.

All conveniently forgotten by todays grievance mongers and recipients of the gummints "generosity".

Like you, I wonder what will happen when there is a glitch in the EBT system. Whatever the gummint touches, turns to excrement.
Bernie HackettSeptember 19, 2015 8:42 PM UTC

Ah, the good old days!

If certain folks were ever taught history properly, they'd realize how well off they are. Well, some of them, anyhow. Gosh, that EBT card and the various other entitlements are a far cry from the workhouse and being transported to Australia or Georgia for stealing a loaf of bread.

Than, there were the bond servants, who contracted to be brought here, and in return, worked for the owner for years before being released. I'm guessing the owners got their moneys worth, too.
responds:September 23, 2015 7:37 PM UTC

A common ruse of the owner of an indenture bond was to accuse the servant of stealing—let's say an apple from the barrel—and then have their indenture extended, which was usually a simple doubling of the original term of from 3-30 years!

Most indentured servants got done like this.

However, there were far more sold white slaves than indentures. Still, though, they had it better than blacks, in that their children could not be held as slaves, and if they escaped, they, well, looked like the rest of the white trash!