Some called it Colonisation, but we know of it as White Diaspora, a migration of indigenous European people covertly dislodged from their ancestral homelands by a succession of unnatural disasters, enforced by an orchestrated, insidious tyranny of ethnic genocide.
- Proclamation 1625
- Great Famine of Ireland
- Confederation War
- Highland Clearances
When one thinks of slavery in America, the only thought that comes to mind is Africans picking cotton in the fields of America. What many Americans don’t know is that the Irish preceded the Africans as slaves in the early British colonies of America and the West Indies. They toiled in the tobacco fields of Virginia and Maryland and the sugar cane fields of Barbados and Jamaica. King James I’s Proclamation ordering the Irish be placed in bondage opened the door to wholesale slavery of Irish men, women and children. This was not indentured servitude but raw, brutal mistreatment that included being beaten to death.
The Irish were forced from their land, kidnapped, fastened with heavy iron collars around their necks, chained to 50 other people and held in cargo holds aboard ships as they were transported to the American colonies. The Irish and African slaves were housed together and were forced to mate to provide the plantation owners with the additional slaves they needed. The British abolished slavery in 1833. This act emancipated the Irish slaves in the British West Indies. America abolished slavery in 1865. None of this freed the Irish to the degree they wanted because America had classified them as ‘colored’ and treated them accordingly.
Great Famine of Ireland
The Great Famine (Irish: an Gorta Mór), also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine (mostly within Ireland) or the Irish Potato Famine (mostly outside Ireland), was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. With the most severely affected areas in the west and south of Ireland, where the Irish language was dominant.
The worst year of the period was 1847, known as “Black '47". During the Great Hunger, about 1 million people died and more than a million fled the country, causing the country's population to fall by 20%–25%, in some towns falling as much as 67% between 1841 and 1851. Between 1845 and 1855, no less than 2.1 million people left Ireland, primarily on packet ships but also steamboats and barks—one of the greatest mass exoduses from a single island in history.
In the 40 years that followed the Acts of Union, successive British governments grappled with the problems of governing a country which had, as Benjamin Disraeli stated in 1844, “a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, an alien established Protestant church, and in addition, the weakest executive in the world”. One historian calculated that, between 1801 and 1845, there had been 114 commissions and 61 special committees enquiring into the state of Ireland, and that “without exception their findings prophesied disaster; Ireland was on the verge of starvation, her population rapidly increasing, three-quarters of her labourers unemployed, housing conditions appalling and the standard of living unbelievably low”.
Landlords were responsible for paying the rates of every tenant whose yearly rent was £4 or less. Landlords whose land was crowded with poorer tenants were now faced with large bills. Many began clearing the poor tenants from their small plots, and letting the land in larger plots for over £4, which then reduced their debts. In 1846, there had been some clearances, but the great mass of evictions came in 1847. According to James S. Donnelly Jr., it is impossible to be sure how many people were evicted during the years of the famine and its immediate aftermath. It was only in 1849 that the police began to keep a count, and they recorded a total of almost 250,000 persons as officially evicted between 1849 and 1854.
Many Irish people, notably Mitchel, believed that Ireland continued to produce sufficient food to feed its population during the famine, and starvation resulted from exports. According to historian James Donnelly, “the picture of Irish people starving as food was exported was the most powerful image in the nationalist construct of the Famine”. The historian Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote in The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849 that no issue has provoked so much anger and embittered relations between England and Ireland “as the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation”.
In 1641, Ireland’s population was 1,466,000 and in 1652, 616,000. According to Sir William Petty, 850,000 were “wasted by the sword, plague, famine, hardship and banishment during the Confederation War 1641-1652.” At the end of the war, vast numbers of Irish men, women and children were forcibly transported by the English government. In 1655, when England captured Jamaica from Spain, Oliver Cromwell needed to populate their new colony. Some were convicts, many indentured servants and very few of the deportees had committed any great crimes. Deportation “beyond the sea, either within His Majesty’s dominions or elsewhere outside His Majesty’s Dominions” was one of their methods of dealing with the Irish issue and, more importantly, populating England’s new acquisition.
One man whose crime was to harbour a priest was imprisoned, while his three daughters were sent to Jamaica. In order to prevent the new arrivals forming communities the three girls were sent to different corners of Jamaica. Large numbers of the Irish exiles died from heat and diseases. It was thought that the Irish would have a better chance of survival if they were introduced to the climate at a young age. Cromwell then sent 2,000 children between the age of 10 and 14 years. Migration to Jamaica continued through the 17th century. The term Redleg was coined. The fair skin of the Irish frazzled beneath the Caribbean sun.
Some Irish emigrated "willingly", especially during the sugar boom, but few had any of idea of what to expect. In 1841 a Jesuit priest recorded the arrival of a ship from Limerick, “They landed in Kingston wearing their best clothes and temperance medals.” They laid their roots and contributed to Jamaica’s changing island and motto, “Out of many, one people.” Some Irish acquired land and slaves. Names like O’Hara and O’Connor were recorded in 1837 during the compensation hearings when slaves were freed and their owners remunerated. The strong Irish influence is seen in place names, Irish Town, Clonmel, Dublin Castle, Sligoville, Belfast, Athenry and Kildare.
Highland Clearances, (dubbed as Scottish Agricultural Revolution) was the forced eviction of inhabitants of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland, beginning in the mid-to-late 18th century and continuing intermittently into the mid-19th century. The removals cleared the land of people under the guise of allowing the introduction of sheep pastoralism. In the first phase, clearance resulted from “agricultural improvement”, driven by the need for landlords to increase their income (many landlords had crippling debts, with bankruptcy playing a large part in the history).
The second phase (c.1815–20 to 1850s) involved overcrowded crofting communities from the first phase that had lost the means to support themselves, through famine and/or collapse of industries that they had relied on (such as the kelp trade), as well as continuing population growth. This is when “assisted passages” were common, when landowners paid the fares for their tenants to emigrate.
Tenants who were selected for this had, in practical terms, little choice but to emigrate. The Highland Potato Famine struck towards the end of this period, giving greater urgency to the process. Emigration was part of Highland history before and during the clearances, but reached its highest level after them. During the first phase of the clearances, emigration could be considered a form of resistance to the loss of status being imposed by a landlord's social engineering.
The subject matter of these clearances was largely ignored by academic historians until the publication of a best-selling history book by John Prebble in 1963 attracted worldwide attention to his view that Highlanders had been forced into tragic exile by their former chieftains turned brutal landlords.
Historians generally disputed this work as over-simplification, but other authors went further and elaborated that the clearances were an equivalent to genocide or ethnic cleansing and/or that British authorities in London played a major, persistent role in carrying them out. In particular, popular remembrance of the Highland clearances is sometimes intertwined with the comparatively short-lived but significant reprisals that followed the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745.
First phase clearances involved break up of the traditional townships (bailtean), the essential element of land management in Scottish Gaeldom. These multiple tenant farms were most often managed by tacksmen. To replace this system, individual arable smallholdings or crofts (marginalisations) were created, with shared access (socialism) to common grazing.
This process was often accompanied by moving the people from the interior straths and glens to the coast, where they were expected to find employment in, for example, the kelp or fishing industries. The properties they had formerly occupied were then converted into large sheep holdings. Essentially, therefore, this phase was characterized by relocation rather than outright expulsion.
The second phase of clearance started in 1815–20, continuing to the 1850s. It followed the collapse or stagnation of the wartime industries and the continuing rise in population. In the second phase, landlords moved to the more Draconian policy of expelling people from their estates. This was increasingly associated with 'assisted emigration', in which landlords cancelled rent arrears and paid the passage of the 'redundant families' in their estates to North America and, in later years, also to Australia. The process reached a climax during the Highland Potato Famine of 1846–55.
A wave of mass emigration came in 1792, known to Gaelic-speaking Highlanders as Bliadhna nan Caorach (“Year of the Sheep”). Landlords had been clearing land to establish sheep farming. In 1792 tenant farmers from Strathrusdale led a protest by driving more than 6,000 sheep off the land surrounding Ardross. This action, commonly referred to as the “Ross-shire Sheep Riot”, was dealt with at the highest levels in the government; the Home Secretary Henry Dundas became involved. He had the Black Watch mobilised; it halted the drive and brought the ringleaders to trial.
Inverness County Sheriff Court Records reveal the punishments ordered for six men accused of driving sheep away:
Dissidents were relocated to poor crofts. Others were sent to small farms in coastal areas, where farming could not sustain the population, and they were expected to take up fishing as a new trade. In the village of Badbea in Caithness, the weather conditions were so harsh that, while the women worked, they had to tether their livestock and their children to rocks or posts to prevent them from being blown over the cliffs. Other crofters were transported directly to emigration ships, bound for North America or Australia.
As in Ireland, the potato crop failed in Scotland during the mid-19th century. The ongoing clearance policy resulted in starvation, deaths, and a secondary clearance, when families either migrated voluntarily or were forcibly evicted. There were many deaths of children and the aged. As there were few alternatives, people emigrated, joined the army, or moved to growing urban centres such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee in Lowland Scotland and Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool in the north of England.
Others squatted in Highland towns such as Tobermory, Lochcarron, or Lochaline. In places, some people were given economic incentives to move, but in many instances landlords used violent methods:
After the potato “blight”, it was claimed there were more people than the land could support. The potato famine gave rise to the Highland and Island Emigration Society, which sponsored around 5,000 emigrants to Australia from the affected areas of Scotland It has frequently been asserted that Gaels reacted to the Clearances with apathy and a near-total absence of active resistance from the crofting population.
However, upon closer examination this view is at best an oversimplification, one historian points to more than 50 major acts of resistance to clearances, such as Gaelic communities staving off or even averted removals by accosting law enforcement officials and destroying eviction notices.
Populations of cities began to condense as people arrived from being driven out from rural areas of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. Scotland was written as the worst, although Ireland was clearly suffering greatly.
In the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, Dr. Hennen reports a similar state of things. From a Parliamentary Report:
Glasgow is in many respects similar to Edinburgh, possessing the same wynds, the same tall houses. Of this city, the Artisan observes:
In Leicester, Derby, and Sheffield, it is no better. Of Birmingham, the article above cited from the Artisan states:
J. C. Symons, Government Commissioner for the investigation of the condition of the hand-weavers, describes these portions of the city:
And in another place
Life was made so miserable and diabolical for our ancestors trapped inside these urban hells, they suffered so greatly, so we could enjoy our the benefits of our world today; that is denounced as white privilege by a socialist gospel of immigrant envy. They pit indifferences between those who have gone through collectivisation against those who have not collectivised then push miscegenation as the answer, There was no way out for our ancestors, no other option than to board a colonial boat as an indentured servant, face machination inside a workhouse; often begging borrowing and stealing until brandished from their diminished homelands, transported far way to a penal colony; for most never to return.
Penal colony, distant or overseas settlement established for punishing criminals by forced labour and isolation from society. Although a score of nations in Europe and Latin America transported their criminals to widely scattered penal colonies, such colonies were developed mostly by the English, French, and Russians. England shipped criminals to America until the American Revolution and to Australia into the middle of the 19th century.
The initial idea of transporting criminals lay in a law of 1597, entitled:
This law stated that:
The first fleet of 11 ships, filled with 736 convicts, set sail from England in 1787. They sailed for 8 long months, around Africa’s Cape Hope of Good Hope, into the Indian Ocean. Captain Arthur Phillip, a “tough but fair” naval officer, was in charge of the fleet and with setting up the first penal colony in Australia. The 736 convicts were chained beneath the decks for the entire hellish voyage. While the journey claimed the lives of just 39 prisoners, later trips would see up to a third die along the way.
The following table is an incomplete list is names of transported convicts, many details are missing, including details of convictions:
|Name||Date of Birth||Place of Conviction||Date of Conviction||Sentence||Other Information||Transport Ship|
|Thomas Baker||c. 1764||Exeter||10 January 1786||7 Years||Baker was convicted at Exeter for an unrecorded crime, which resulted in him receiving 7 years transportation. A report from the Dunkirk Hulk described Thomas as “troublesome at times.” Baker died between 1788 and September 1792.||Charlotte|
|Mary Cooper||Worcester||7 Years|
|Elizabeth Bruce||London||10 January 1787||7 Years||Convicted at the Old Bailey (with Elizabeth Anderson) of stealing three linen table-cloths (15s) and two aprons (5s).|
|Rebecca Boulton||Lincoln||aka Bolton. Had been in prison for 4 years before the fleet sailed. Considered both mentally ill and in poor physical condition.||Prince of Wales|
|Ann Forbes||Kingston||29 April 1787||7 Years||Tried on the 29th day of April 1787. — Ten yards of printed cotton of the value of 20 shillings, of the goods and chattles of James Rollinson in the shop of said James Rollinson, feloniously did steal take and carry away. Guilty, no chattels to be hanged — Reprieved, Transported 7 years. Sent 30 April 1787.||Prince of Wales|
|Susannah Garth||London||10 September 1783||7 Years||aka Grath. Convicted at the Old Bailey (with Elizabeth Dudgens) for stealing by pickpocketing nine guineas (£9 9s) and one half-guinea (10s 6d).||Friendship and Charlotte|
|Mary Harrison||London||19 October 1785||7 Years||Convicted at the Old Bailey (with Charlotte Springmore) for wilfully destroying and defacing one cloth cotton gown (10s) of Susannah Edhouse, and for “making an assault on her”. Harrison was said to be a prostitute during the trial.|
|John Hill||London||26 May 1784||7 Years||Convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing one linen handkerchief (6s).|
|John Hudson||1775||London||Dec 1783||7 Years||Hudson was 8 years old when convicted in Dec 1783. He was 12 years old when he arrived in Jan 1788.||Friendship|
Only a small minority of prisoners were hardened criminals convicted of violent crimes. Women made up 15% of the convict population, ships carrying females inevitably became floating brothels. Women were exposed to varying degrees of degradation, with younger women lined up for inspection. The prettiest were taken to the officers’ cabins, while the others were thrown in with the crew.
For the convicts who disembarked in Sydney Cove, that 1st Australia Day were unused to land after 8 months below deck before they stumbled through the cove’s wild alien forest. It was 2 weeks before enough huts could be built for the female convicts to leave the ships.
Between 1790 and 1791 two more fleets arrived in what was now called New South Wales. Convicts were called “transportees”, the average age was 26, and also included children. Over the next 80 years, from that first fleet, more than 160,000 convicts were transported to Australia from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
After 1868, when convict transfers ended, Australians tried to hide their founder’s legacy, considering it a disgrace and embarrassment. Today, about 20% of Australians are descended from those founding convicts, including many of its most prominent citizens.
In his 2003 book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500–1800, Ohio State University history professor Robert Davis states that most modern historians minimize the white slave trade. Davis estimates that slave traders from Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli alone enslaved 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans in North Africa, from the beginning of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th (these numbers do not include the European people who were enslaved by Morocco and by other raiders and traders of the Mediterranean Sea coast).
Davis assumes the number of European slaves captured by Barbary pirates remained roughly constant for a 250-year period, stating:
From bases on the Barbary coast, North Africa, the Barbary pirates raided ships travelling through the Mediterranean and along the northern and western coasts of Africa, plundering their cargo and enslaving the people they captured. From at least 1500, the pirates also conducted raids on seaside towns of Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland, capturing men, women and children. On some occasions, settlements such as Baltimore in Ireland were abandoned following a raid, only being resettled many years later. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone lost 466 merchant ships to Barbary pirates.