Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish.
However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
- Irish slaves were marked off from their free White kinsmen through a branding of the owner’s initials applied to the forearm for women and on the buttocks for men by a red-hot iron.
- It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.
- White female slaves, often as young as 12, were used as “breeders” to be forcibly mated with Black men.
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white. From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves.
Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade.