The topic of this story is a sensitive one yet one of great importance. White slavery in America was real. There are many documents that verify the bondage, kidnapping and transporting of Brits to the Colonies as slaves. The importance of this story will help those who cannot find a ship passenger list on their ancestor. This story may not pertain to all who came to America that are not listed on ship passenger lists.
The Journal of Negro History #52 pp.251-273 states, “The sources of racial thought in Colonial America pertaining to slave trade worked both directions with white merchandise as well as black.”
Thomas Burton recorded in his Parliament Diary 1656-1659 vol. 4 pp. 253-274 a debate in the English Parliament focusing on the selling of British whites into slavery in the New World. The debate refers to whites as slaves ‘whose enslavement threatened the liberties of all Englishmen.’
The British government had realized as early as the 1640’s how beneficial white slave labor was to the profiting colonial plantations. Slavery was instituted as early as 1627 in the British West Indies. The Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series of 1701 records 25000 slaves in Barbados in which 21700 were white slaves.
George Downing wrote a letter to the honorable John Winthrop Colonial Governor of Massachusetts in 1645, “planters who want to make a fortune in the West Indies must procure white slave labor out of England if they wanted to succeed.” Lewis Cecil Gray’s History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860 vol.1 pp 316, 318 records Sir George Sandys’ 1618 plan for Virginia, referring to bound whites assigned to the treasurer’s office. “To belong to said office forever. The service of whites bound to Berkeley Hundred was deemed perpetual.”
The Quoke Walker case in Massachusetts 1773 ruled that; slavery contrary to the state Constitution was applied equally to Blacks and Whites in Massachusetts.
Statutes at Large of Virginia, vol. 1 pp. 174, 198, 200, 243 & 306 did not discriminate Negroes in bondage from Whites in Bondage.
Marcellus Rivers and Oxenbridge Foyle, England’s Slaves 1659 consists of a statement smuggled out of the New World and published in London referring to whites in bondage who did not think of themselves as indentured servants but as “England’s Slaves” and “England’s merchandise.”
Colonial Office, Public Records Office, London 1667, no. 170 records that “even Blacks referred to the White forced laborers in the colonies as “white slaves.” Pages 343 through 346 of Historical Sketch of the Persecutions Suffered by the Catholics of Ireland by; Patrick F. Moran refers to the transportation of the Irish to the colonies as the “slave-trade.”
Ulrich B. Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South explain that white enslavement was crucial to the development of the Negro slave system. The system set up for the white slaves governed, organized and controlled the system for the black slaves. Black slaves were “late comers fitted into a system already developed.” Pp 25-26. John Pory declared in 1619, “white slaves are our principle wealth.”
The above quotations from various authors are just the tip of the iceberg on the white slave trade of the Americas. People from the British Isles were kidnapped, put in chains and crammed into ships that transported hundreds of them at a time. Their destination was Virginia Boston, New York, Barbados and the West Indies. The white slaves were treated the same or worse than the black slave. The white slave did not fetch a good price at the auction blocks. Bridenbaugh wrote in his accounting on page 118, having paid a bigger price for the Negro, the planters treated the black better than they did their “Christian” white servant. Even the Negroes recognized this and did not hesitate to show their contempt for those white men who, they could see, were worse off than themselves.
Governments have allowed this part of American and British history to be swallowed up. The contemptible black slavery has taken a grip on people associated with American History. Yet, no one will tell of these accountings that are well established on to the middle 1800’s.
Slavery is not something to be proud of but it is a fact that happened to every country, kingdom and empire that has been on this earth. Each of us needs to search our hearts and find the answer to stop racial hatred. One place to begin; realize that the black race was not the only race in the last 400 years that was in bondage.