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Author Topic: The System and Enslaving the Alien  (Read 11692 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: October 08, 2003, 07:00:07 AM »

The Irish Precedent:

The Perfecting of the System and Enslaving the Alien

by Charshee C. L. McIntyre

Despite the fact that English legislation granted certain rights, privileges, and opportunities to all men and placed some severe restrictions on the institution of slavery and/or aspects of the slave trade, they evolved new legislation and reinterpretation of old laws and practices over the years to perfect subjugation practices on the Irish in Ireland in centuries precedingtheir invasion of America. Later as colonists, the English transplanted those ways and imposed them on the indigenous Americans and imported Africans. And, finally they developed the racial pattern of modern slavery which involved aprocess of African Americans' regression to the singularly enslaved caste.

The early colonists retained parts of English law and revised other parts. They continued many English patterns and adapted them to the new world. They introduced plantation economics. Sugar production proved untenable in the northern climate, so in the earliest years, they chose tobacco, rice, cotton,and corn. When they settled in the 17th century, they began a great shipping industry and rum trade alongside their slave markets. They imported Scottishand Irish prisoners to provide the needed labor (Verlinden 17-25).

The usage of Irish by the English predated the development of these colonies. In fact, the English relied of the experiences of colonizing Ireland and adjusted their Tudor approach to the conditions in America (Liggio 112). Of the Virginia Company at Jamestown, more than forty members had an interest in Irish conquest and the colonization by Englishmen of Ireland. In fact, many of the "incorporators and 'adventurers' of the original Virginia conpany had anactive interest in Irish plantations" such as Lord de la Warr, once a military officer who became Governor of Virginia; or Lord George Carew, first Lord Justice for Ireland, who became a council member of the Virginia Company; or Arthur Chichester, first captain, then Lord Deputy and Earl of Belfast, who became very "active in the Virginia Project" (Jones [1944] 60-61; [1945]548-551).

In conquering the Irish, the English claimed that they brought a slavery that was preferable to the freedom the Irish had previously held under barbarous customs. Later, the English used the same justifications to commit genocide on the Native Americans, to destroy their culture, and to enslave Africans everywhere. As pastoral people, the Irish presented a culture unadaptable to English feudalism. Cattle represented the Irish's principal economic activity. They also fished and raised oats and barley grains for their food and theiranimals' feed and for distilled spirits to produce whiskey. The English had developed their land-use system to wheat and vine growing, to beer and winedrinking.

The English system, "anchored in primogeniture [first son inherits all] "required orderly villages with gentry holding lands. They allowed holdings which yielded rents and imposed crown dues for government expenses. The flexible pastoral society of the Irish upset this English land system. The Irish lived in individual homes and large family farms; others moved seasonally with their herds. Neither pattern supported the town and village pattern ofthe English. Since they could not control the people or impose feudalloadlordism on them, the English considered the Irish to be "primitive and savage."

The diets of the two people also differed significantly and caused friction. The English found the Irish mainstays of dairy products and meat disquieting compared to the British bread-eating fare. The Irish diet permitted mobilityand aided them in resisting domination by the English. Edmund Spenser, the16th century poet and secretary to the Deputy of Ireland, complained that "thiskeeping of cows is of itself a very idle life and fit nursery for a thief." He thought this way because the pastoral Irish would not perform intensive agricultural labor. They considered it totally contrary to their traditions, customs and experiences. The English characterized this refusal as examples oflaziness, criminality and sin. They called the Irish idlers, a people who naturally abhor manual arts and vital trades. When the English seized the cattle for taxes, the Irish would refuse to pay and frequently would liberate the cattle. The Irish considered cattle raiding a kind of sport, and the English viewed it as stealing, a crime fit for capital punishment.

To the English, Irish customs of marriage and mating proved as irksome as the importance of cattle. The Irish practiced several forms of union which either party could dissolve under none too rigid conditions. The English often charged the Irish with incest for marrying along lines prohibited by English tribal law. The English took exception to polygamy, concubinage, and probationary marriage which an Irish man or woman for the price of a few cowsor less could dissolve. This practice under feudal law interfered with legal heirs and totally disrupted primogeniture (Liggio 23-25; Quinn [1966] 8).

The rigidity of the English outlook perceived any variations of lifestyle as hostile and threatening. The Irish lifestyle offered much pleasanter rewards to the masses than Anglo-Norman feudalism. Consequently, English settlers sentto Ireland often became absorbed in Irish ways; and the English enacted legal restrictions banning Irish dress, language, trade, or marriage with Irish, or keeping Irish lawsayers of poets. The Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 cover all these restrictions and more (Lyden 289).

The English confiscated Irish land, granting it to English gentry who parcel edit out among English colonists as they later did in America and in Africa. The November 6, 1571 letter patent to Sir Thomas Smith, an entrepreneur involved in many commercial ventures in the Virginia Colony, East India Company, Somers Island, and Ireland, included rules denying privileges to Irish similar tolater Slave Codes. It read as follows:

Every Irish man shall be forbidden to wear English apparel or weapon upon pain of death. That no Irishman, born of Irish race and brought up Irish, shall purchase land, bear office, be chosen of any jury, or admitted witness on anyreal or personal action, nor be bound apprentice to any science or art. ... All Irishmen especially native in that country, which commonly be called Churl that will plow the ground and bear no kind of weapon nor armor shall be gently entertained and for their plowing and labor shall be well regarded with great provision (Quinn [1945] 548-551).

These restrictive legislations proved so ineffective against the Irish that English officials repeatedly reenacted them in an attempt to defend the last sectors of English culture. The English attempt to destroy the Irish's cultural life by forcing hard work and English landlords on the "wild" rather carefree Irish patterns failed to make significant inroads. Therefore, the English changed from establishing settlements in key local areas to a massive attack on the entire Irish nation. "At its most extreme, it called for the clearing of the Irish out of Ireland and their replacement by Englishmen"(Quinn [1958] 23-25).

The English considered all Irish who resisted their civilizing efforts as "rude, beastly and ignorant." As early as 1552, Thomas More, the humanist and statesman, had defined the Irish as "wild... beast" who had no knowledge of Godor etiquette. Later, Sir Henry Didney, the English Lord Deputy of Ireland, described the Irish as prone to Criminality. He wrote:

There never was peoples that lived in more misery than they do nor as it should be seen of worse minds, for matrimony among them is no more regarded than conjunction between reasonable beasts. Perjury, jobbery and murder counted allowable. I cannot find that they make any conscience of sin and I doubt whether they christen their children or no; for neither find I places where it should be done, nor any person able to instruct them in the rule of a Christian (Jones 449-452).

Irish who willingly adapted to English ways moved into the dominant pattern, but those who refused to adapt received many types of punishment. The English simply destroyed many. They imprisoned and/or deported others. Forced to live alien existences, those departed to the colonies (if they survived) eventually adapted to the colonial lifestyle. Pitted against the Native American and African, the Irish import became a portion of all the European immigrants; and as the new American culture developed, their assimilation took hold (Liggio28,30).

Transplanting the System from the Irish to the Native American: The English leaned heavily on this Irish experience in their treatment of the Native Americans. Basically, because the English could not accept either peoples' laws, customs, or mores, they labeled both the Irish and the Native Americans savages. Experience led them to approach Virginia and New England with natural presuppositions generated by Tudor conquests in Ireland. Accustomed to their perception of "wildness" in the first instance, the English expected and looked for it in the second. A pattern of perceiving North American indigenous groups' practices as similar to those of the Irish evolved.

Writers described North Carolina Algonkians by saying they killed fish "with poles made sharp at one end, by shooting into the fish after the manner as Irishmen cast darts" (Quinn[1966] 8). The author of Mourt's Relation believed that the leggings of the New England Native Americans resembled Irish trousers; and in New England Canaan, Thomas Merton wrote that the "natives of New England are accustomed to build... houses much like the Wild Irish" (Jones [1945] 453-454).

The Native American coming into contact with the English settlers represents a particularly distressing story beginning with Jamestown, Virginia. This first colony was settled amidst Powhatan's powerful nation. The Algonkians numbered 8,000 to 9,000 strong. In addition, within about 60 miles of the settlement, some 5,000 others resided, including 1,500 warriors. Nine years after settling and two years preceding Powhatan's death, the colony's White population included no more that 350 men, women and children. Unimpressed by the slow rate of growth, the great Algonkian chief, Powhatan, saw the settlement as inconsequential. The English, however, viewed the mighty Powhatan and his people as a formidable challenge, similar to what they had previously met with the Irish.

With Native American accommodation uppermost in their minds, the English concerned themselves with plans for the conversion of these indigenous people to English way. Quite naturally, Powhatan and his group's belief in Algonkian values and lifestyles conflicted with the settlers' acculturation program. Warensued. Ralph Lane, a colonist in Raleigh's first settlement, recorded the open contempt the local "indians" had for Christianity. "The Indians began... flatly to say, that our Lord God was not God, since he suffered vs (us) to sustain much hunger and also to be killed of the Repanoaks." A genericterm, "Repanoaks," was what the Native Americans called all of the different indigenous people's nations in that area.

Some of the colonists' action clearly demonstrated the English attitude toward Native American culture, especially the widespread practice of imprisoning the "Indian priest." The missionaries converted very small numbers to Christianity despite the strenuous efforts toward that end. One conversion practice involved putting the children up in English homes and forcing Christian instruction upon them. Powhatan and his people recognized this indoctrination of the children as cultural genocide for coming generations of their nation.

After Powhatan's death, the English attempted the creation of an integrated community. The cultures clashed. To Europeans, Native Americans wore skins for clothing, lived in strange looking houses, lacked ships or guns, armed themselves with hatchets, and prepared themselves for war by painting their bodies (Claven 41-54). Native Americans "Had nothing which reckoned fiches, before the English went among them, except Peak, Roenoke, and such like trifles made out of Cunk Shells..." (Morgan 51).

Colonial writers depicted Native Americans as people who tended to escape, resist work discipline, display evidence of extreme "idleness, rebelliousness or simply die." These writers' conjured this perception because what the Western world deemed work--crop tending, child-rearing, house building, and so forth--native American women did. The men hunted, fished, and made war or satin councils making decisions. Houses represented shelter not status; the chief's being just like the others. Native American culture rejected conspicuous consumption or storing treasures. They valued leisure time and aminimum of worldly goods (Jennings 63).

European couldn't understand the gynocratic nature of the Native American cultures which revered and respected women. Yes, the women did much more than their European counterparts because unlike the latter, Native American women owned the crops, the houses, and controlled the children. Instead of imprisoning, caning, strapping, starving or verbally abusing children, Native Americans didn't practice parental brutality.

[Native Americans] refrained from physical of psychological abuse of children. They did not believe that children are born in sin, are congenitally predisposed to evil or that a good parent who wished the child to gainsalvation, achieve success, or earn the respect of her or his fellows can be helped to those ends by physical or emotional torture (Allen 15).

The men inherited whatever power they could from their mothers' lineage. The councils' decisions might be made by the men but had to be brought to the matrons to be approved. If not approved, the men had to go back and return with better decisions.

Native Americans bathed frequently and couldn't understand the Europeans'repulsion to washing, nor the sexual rigidity, the repressed humor, the overabundance of clothing, the denigration of self in front of authority figures, the greediness, stinginess and unwillingness to share, and the lack of respect for women as equals and in some instances of greater value than men. Above all, the colonists' inability to understand that different people practiced various lifestyles befuddled the Native Americans who accepted cultural diversity as a reality of life )Allen 13-26).

Notoriously proud, the Native Americans rejected the integrated community ideas; and being better woodsmen than the English, the Native Americans simply ran away and were nearly impossible to track down. The English, therefore, pretended to be seeking peaceful relations and convinced the Native Americans to settle and plant their corn wherever they chose. Just before harvest time, the English would attack, kill as many as possible, and burn the corn. When Native Americans retaliated, the colonists called the actions massacres (Craven73, Jennings 164). Some 4,270 settlers from England came to the Virginia colony. About 2,000 died in three years. Reports blamed the "massacres" for the deaths (Morgan 99-101).

Eventually, the 17th century laws of most colonies doomed most Native Americans to perpetual slavery of lengthy indentured servitude. The General Court of Hartford, Connecticut in 1650, recognized the lawfulness of "Indian slavery ." Rhode Island enslaved them "for debt, captivity, for rearing, for protecting or to perform covenant." In 1676, Massachusetts' regulations stated:

This court sees cause to prohibit all and every person or persons within our jurisdiction or elsewhere to buy any of the Indian children or any of those ourcaptive salvages (sic) that were taken and became our lawful prisoners with the Indians, without special leave and liking and approbation of the government of this jurisdiction (Hurd 256).

Pennsylvania held similarly that "indian slaves of servants shall be forfeited to government" set free of disposed of according to governor or council's will if an owner imported the Native American into the colony, as long as the Indian was not a deserter.

During the 18th century, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts considered "Indian and other slaves... bad characters" because their procreation and existence tended to discourage European servants from coming into the colonies. These colonies enacted legislation prohibiting Native American importation without the individuals engaged in the process putting up security for the importees (Hurdpassim). The 1705 free trade acts sentenced most Native Americans to indentured servitude in lieu of slavery, but this ruling was not handed down until 1793, long after many of them had been destroyed in slavery (Caterall II:100).

Some Native Americans adapted to the English-Europeans lifestyle, and fortheir reward, lost any cultural identity with their ancestral heritage. Most of the indigenous groups, however, suffered genocide, others, internal and external migrations, patterns of perpetual bondage, and eventually the reservations which exist today.
Posts: 1531

« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2003, 07:01:54 AM »

After disposing of many of the Native Americans through wars, harsh labor, and new diseases, which in turn left insufficient numbers to fill the slave labor pool, the Europeans turned to their homelands; and "poor" Whites served as the natural successors. The White servants fell into several categories: indentured servants, redemptioners, convict labor (slaves). The transportation of these poor Whites also followed mercantilist rationale. The poor represented for England's double commodity, in the avoidance of people (there) and in making use of them (here)" (E. Williams 211-219).

England always had a class of people on the level of slaves villains in feudaltimes, stolen Africans under Elizabeth and the House of Tudors, or Caucasian children in her mines and mills. Some authorities claim 10,000 children were kidnapped from Europe (G. Williams 120; Jordan 48-52). White servitude proved common. England met her colonies' extraordinary demand for labor through colonization of many convicts, women sold for wives (sometimes kidnapped), the indentured servants, and the redemptioners. "From various publications of the day, there were accounts of many instances in which persons feloniously kidnapped were sold into the West Indies or the Americas for a term of years,or as slaves for life."

Generally, though, Whites ended up as servants. But acts existed in the colonies which reduced the immigrants to slavery. White women marrying slaves ended up in bondage in Maryland fro 1663 to 1677. Debt satisfaction in Connecticut in the 17th century required servitude (Hurd 219,220,261). Punishment for certain types of sales, particularly by Quakers, ended up in slavery. Europe viewed crime and slavery as interrelated. Convicts were slaves and vice versa. Therefore, the condemnation of convicts to slavery merely served as lateral status transference (Sellin 61, 83; Hurd 218, 219).

Isolated instances of Whites in slavery and not just as servants occurred throughout the colonial period. In 1641, Massachusetts convicted WilliamAndrews, an indentured servant, for assaulting his master. Andrews receivedthe punishment of enslavement. For theft and house breaking, John Hasslewoodand Giles Player received similar sentences. As late as 1790, Connecticut sold a White man into slavery to Barbados for "notorious stealing, breaking up and robbery of mills and living in a renegade manner in the wilderness" (Greene 19n; Shurtleff 246; Sternier 23). New Jersey legislation of 1754 stated the following:

any White servant, servants, slave or slaves, which shall be brought before the mayor and so forth by their masters of other inhabitants of the borough for any misdemeanor or rude or disorderly behavior may be committed to the workhouse to hard labor to receive correction not exceeding thirty lashes (Hurd229).

This act clearly indicates White slavery.

But even though White persons might have been reduced to slavery, "the legal condition of a White bondsman was essentially different from that of chattel slaves in its origin and duration. The Whites slaves' legal condition rested altogether on the law of national origin and in the case that the personality of the slave was recognized during its existence, and that it was limited to as pecific time." The differences. notwithstanding, the recognition under law for their special protection and seeing them as legal persons rather than as chattel slaves as in the case of African and Native American slaves, the White slaves' and servants' general conditions and disabilities under colonial legislation appeared to be nearly as oppressive as the African and Native American bondsmen's (Hurd 229, 285).
Posts: 1531

« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2003, 07:03:17 AM »

At the end of the 17th century, the emphasis on England's national economy shifted from acquiring natural resources (precious metals) to developing industrial areas. The need for a large cheap labor force at home impinged on the continual deportation of the poor Whites. The mercantilists argued for the retention of the mass population at home and for the extension of slave procurement. Thus, the West African coast offered the practical solution. In addition Europeans saw Africans as hardier more productive agricultural workers, particularly in the tropical zones, than either the European or Native American (E. Williams 14-16; R. Williams passim; Davidson 84-86; Rodney80-81).                    

The African presented a particularly unique problem for the English. In European terms, it could be claimed that the Africans high civilized state more than adequately prepared them for the exploitation they received from Europe's Christian invaders. Culturally diversified, Africans originated from agricultural and pastoral communities. They existed in a both/and reality, allowing a perception of the world in other than European either/ orbifurcation. Unlike the Europeans' need to exclude everyone different from them, the Africans' pattern involved including all people. This pattern provided Africans with a unique adaptability to change. Accustomed to hard work, taxes, ruling elite, sophisticated trading, political and social stratification, Africans had experienced feudalistic rigidity, had come from atradition of organic village communities, had functioned in a atmosphere of mobility and learning, and proved to be the most suitable workers for the colonists' needs (Wheathersford 90). The agriculturalists, experienced with hoe cropping, knew how to use hand tools and easily learned necessary jobs for cane culture and other staple crops (Dunn 72-73).

Africans also incorporated their societal norms: bride wealth, polygamy, serial partnerships, unrepressed sexual practices, a reciprocity principle which required communal sharing and collective responsibility, as well as a presumption that every individual is entitled by birth to the basic needs of survival--food, clothing and shelter. Social mobility existed even for slaves; and the slavery in African societies must always be defined as non-chattel, as domestic slavery. African slaves first and foremost remained human beings(Welch 140-141). Unfortunately, the Africans' experience, adaptability, and humaneness failed to be matched by any European reciprocal acceptance.

The first Africans in Virginian 1618 or 1619 were taken in exchange for food, given to relieve the hunger of famished sailors. These Africans became publicly owned servants of the colony because they were bought with public provisions. They served the governor who took 11 of the 23. Other officers of planters associated with the administration of the colony took the rest. These "first" Africans entered the world which later became the United States as indentured servants. Since the European indentured servants belonged to private individuals and companies, this first generation of Africans could be called civil servants in Virginia entering the system one step up from the lowest level of White servants (E, Williams 119; Craven 78-79). The initial distinction to be made, however, is not that Whites originally occupied a lowerrung on the social ladder but rather that the first generations of Africans in the colonies were not slaves.

Between 1619 and 1623, the Virginia population increased to 1275 with 23 Blacks. The Africans fared better physically than the Europeans. Not one African died in the first three years; whereas, from hard work and probably malaria, the European death rate reached a level of two out three in the first year. By 1624 the first detailed census listed 23 Blacks in Virginia. There 11 men, 10 women, and 2 children. They equaled 2% of the population which by then included 487 White and indentured servants and 608 free White men andwomen. Either 157 Whites died or ran off, perhaps to the nearest Powhatan community (Craven 77-78).

We must also recognize that the free Black population began with "pure" Africans and not with the "Mulatto" offspring of African, European or Native American mixtures. In Virginia and New York, these first generations Blacks joined an existing labor system unrelated to pigmentation. Lerone Bennett, Jr.describes the times:

Side by side in the fields, planting, weeding, suckering or cutting tobacco... or in the barn preparing the leaf for market, using axes to clear trees from forest of opening up new ground, slaves of all three races worded together. They celebrated the same holidays and received more or less the same privileges to work their own little plots of land growing vegetables. They occupied the same world. They recognized their mutual oppressors (2; Ballagh4).

The system the settlers formalized incorporated tri-racial servitude, primacy of private property, and semblances of representative democracy. Black, White, and Red, men and women, received similar treatment, sold in the same way by captains or agents of captains of ships. The focus in the community on class, religion, and nationality relegated race to an inconsequential position.

The general terms for identifying the different groups fell under the following headings: English, Irish, Indian for Native Americans. The designations appeared to be establishing English and non-English categories, emphasizing nationality rather than race. The fundamental stratification reflected class orientations between master and servant not color between Black, Red, and White (Handlin 6-10)

Throughout the 17th century, a very close association between indentured servants and slaves existed. Historian James Hugo Johnston described theattitudes as follows:

in those colonies where the number of Negro slaves were comparatively few whenthe master's only interest in his indentured servant was in the profits of his labor, many masters must have been little concerned to prevent intermixture of the... races (Johnston 6-10).

Other noted historians over the years have tried to explain away the interracial patterns of the early colonial times by attributing degrading and demeaning profiles to White women. In the 19th century, Phillip A Bruce, an economic historian, echoed Edward Long, the Jamaican longtime resident and 18th century social theoretician. Both referred to any women found or known to be involved with a Black man as the lowest of sorts. This sexism/ racism connection can be seen when we realize that the consideration of character traits of White men cohabiting with Black women, slave or free, rarely surfaced as cause for defamation.

Some writers suggested that the White servants forced to work alongside the Blacks and/or slaves became debased and were considered "disorderly persons." This interpretation overlooks the fact that the degraded loathsome status occupied buy White convicts and other lower class members of Europe departed to the colonies existed prior to the arrival of the Africans (Smith 168). Apparently, colonial authorities considered European criminality and what they called African "paganism" equal sins, so they forced the Blacks into association with these degraded Whites. Looking at the situation this way leads one to the logical conclusion that debased Whites pulled the foreign Africans down to the lowest level of society, not the other way.

Conclusion--The Process of Regression, Dehumanization. The process for furthering the debasing of Africans in America over the years evolved through social estrangement, legal differences, and political disagreement and struggle. Intermarriages of cohabitation between the races became illegal. Perpetual servitude precluded assigning the same punishment for the same crime to Blacks and Whites. For instance, White servants could have years added their indentures. Blacks' lifelong servitude could not be extended and, instead, received brutal beatings or some other bodily penalty. Slave laws enacted in Virginia and Maryland by mid-17th century reintroduced many proscriptions the English had levied on the Irish one century before (Hurdpassim).

Possibly, the Irish and Native American's inability to adapt to the mercantilistic trust of the times necessitated changing their way of life. But, African people incorporated fairly fluid arrangements with hard work and industry, and one could become just as great a capitalist in the African as in the European community. But, the English could not accept the attending culture along with the work force, so they stripped the Africans of their traditions.

The English always intended to make their colonial world Anglo-Saxon, and any cultural alternatives implied terrifying negations. The presumptions of cultural superiority, the assumptions of God's chosen people which justified their civilizing the world and proselytizing in the name of one "true" God and reaping the attendant economic benefits, all would have been negated by their acknowledging alternative worldviews. So the English/ Europeans embarked on aprocess of dehumanizing the African to justify the racialistic chattel slave system they developed in the western hemisphere; and the process of regression became part of that dehumanization.

(This excerpt is Chapter II from the book Criminalizing A Race: Free BlacksDuring Slavery)

Charshee C. L. McIntyre is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. She is a former president of theAfrican Heritage Studies Association. Her many writings and lecturescover African, Native American, Free Black, Women , African Spirituality, and Music.

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Bennett, Lerone Jr. Before the Mayflower. Baltimore: Penguin Books,1964.

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Williams, Richard, "From Class to Race and Ethnicity in the World Economy."SUNY at Binghamton: unpub. diss/

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