This is in response to a piece supplied by James Cavanaugh and examines the question of Irish people being used as Indentured Servants or were they actually slaves? My own question would ask, was there any difference, in practical terms and treatment, etc., between Indentured Servants and Slaves in those times of history?
From Jim Gallagher on the subject of Irish Slavery
I have looked into this problem for a number of years – 1980’s and 1990’s. The question of indentured servants vs. plain slaves was a the heart of my concern. Unfortunately, the American Conference of Irish Studies (ACIS), the organization comprised of academicians in this country, have done very little research on the topic and what little was done resulted in the 2 or 3 Professors claiming that “all” the Irish slaves were indentured servants. Also, a fellow named McGill , based in Virginia, wrote articles claiming that the Irish slaves were indentured servants.
A few others wrote, without the detail of James Cavanaugh, that indeed the Irish Slaves were slaves. In all cases there were little or no references cited. This was a topic of concern for me when I was teaching Irish History and I found it difficult to find reliable sources of information to clarify the problem. In fact, it was difficult to find sources, period. My interest was triggered by reports in several history books about the periods following the “Flight of the Earls” and the “Flight of the Wild Geese” when Irish women and children were being dragged from houses and off the streets and involuntarily shanghaied onto merchant vessels to be sold in the English owned Virginia tobacco plantations and the Caribbean sugar plantations. These women and children were arbitrarily determined to be without visible means of support since their husbands had fled or were deported from Ireland.
During the time of my active search I found reference to an article in a Stamford, CT newspaper that read (not verbatim, as I had not seen the article for some time). “Irish men and women sold cheap. Barque “Darby”, the ship was on its route from Ireland to the Caribbean to sell slaves in the outgoing stage of the voyage and return with molasses and rum on the incoming stage. By the way, reportedly this practice was stopped when the greedy merchants indiscriminately started grabbing English women as well.
John Concannon (RIP) had unearthed some written material for me as well. I’ll have to go back to my file to see what material I have. But, I know that I do not have anything as detailed as Cavanaugh’s article. I do not know the man or where he is located but I plan to e-mail him to ask about reference material to substantiate his conclusions. I really need that kind of information.