Page 1 of 1

Excerpts from "White Cargo" related to Barbados

PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:51 pm
by bimjim
Excerpts from "White Cargo" related to Barbados, written by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh...

*Interruptions are scanned OCR'd page numbers and page headings.

(page 142 begins...)


answer to the problem of what to do with the native Irish in general. There was even a proposal as early as 1607 to transport seven or eight thousand of the most obdurate rebels and vagrants. These imaginative schemes proved to be before their time. It was not until Cromwell came to Ireland with his more robust attitudes that they would be taken up, and then with some vigour.

In London, there were those who felt strongly that the plantation of Ireland was a better bet than the plantation of North America: for a start, it was much closer. The Solicitor General, Sir Francis Bacon, thought the Irish project scored strongly on religious, political and investment criteria. The financial arrangements for the two ventures were remarkably similar; in fact, the organisation of the Ulster venture followed the lines established for North America. Just as the money for America was raised in the City of London through newly created joint stock companies such as the Virginia Company, the Ulster venture was also funded by City investment. One important difference was that while the American companies were promoted by private enterprise, the Irish Society was forced on largely unwilling City merchants by the King.

While struggling to make a go of planting Ireland, the English continued with their transatlantic endeavours. They would carry some Irish with them. The first English toehold in the West Indies was on St Christopher (now St Kitts), where some French had already settled. Captain Thomas Warner, a dogged Suffolk Puritan, together with his wife, son and a small number of men, claimed the island for James I. Warner had already travelled widely in the New World and had seen the Amazonian basin. Now he wanted a place that he could settle and make something of.

St Christopher already had its local inhabitants, the Kalinago people. They had arrived many years before, drawn by the island's good soil and had displaced the previous inhabitants, the Arawak, by being better at warfare. They were not to be trifled with. After the Kalinago had come the Spanish, then a handful of French Jesuits, followed by the Spanish again, and then by the first Englishman, John Smith, passing through on his way to Virginia. Thomas Warner came next. He developed a wary relationship with the Kalinago chief, Ouboutou Tegremante, and within two years



had established his little colony sufficiently well, he felt, to sail to England for more colonists. While he was there, he picked up a warrant from Charles I giving him control over a sizeable part of the West Indies. The new colonists that returned with Warner in 1626 were mainly Irish indentured servants who slashed and burned the vegetation to make room for the arable crops they would live on and the crop they would sell, tobacco.

And so the Irish came in numbers to the Caribbean. In the 1640s, a fanciful report claimed some 20,000 Irish were living on St Christopher. Although this number seems improbable, we can take it that a good number of Irish did arrive on the island. In whatever manner they arrived, as voluntary indentured servants or as transportees, they became, in their multitudes, slaves in the plantations. St Christopher prospered through tobacco. Those Irish who survived their indenture could start up their own smallholdings on the island's fertile land. But when the Virginian tobacco trade picked up, the smaller producers began to suffer. Some Irish in the Caribbean went on to become major planters and slave owners themselves.

Into this stark new world sailed a trading ship called the Abraham in 1636. The reports of its dealings between Ireland and Barbados are contained in a unique series of letters preserved at the Admiralty in London and these give an excellent insight into the recruitment process for servants in the mid-1600s.4 The ship was owned by a merchant named Mathew Cradock, a Puritan and the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company. His agent or supercargo, Thomas Anthony, had the job of drumming up a human cargo in Ireland before the ship arrived. The men and women Anthony persuaded to sign up would be indentured for four years and sold in the colonial labour markets.

Anthony was a punctilious employee and his letters provide a record of a man who wished his boss to know that his slow progress was not for want of trying. Though he laboured for months, Anthony had difficulty raising the necessary numbers to make up his cargo. Cradock had hoped for a hundred servants but Anthony faced competition from a local ship and from a Flemish ship out of Amsterdam.




Sir Phelim O'Neill, one of the key leaders of the rebellion, carefully made clear that the argument was not with the King but with Parliament. To begin with, this was a good move but it ceased to be so when Charles I was beheaded in 1649. On 20 June that year, Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord-Lieutenant and commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland. Macaulay, in his History of England, describes vividly what Cromwell achieved:

Everything yielded to the vigour and ability of Cromwell. In a few months he subjugated Ireland, as Ireland had never been subjugated during the five centuries of slaughter which had elapsed since the landing of the first Norman settlers. He resolved to put an end to that conflict of races and religions which had so long distracted the island, by making the English and Protestant population decidedly predominant. For this end he gave the rein to the fierce enthusiasm of his followers, waged war resembling that which Israel waged on the Canaanites, smote the idolaters with the edge of the sword, so that great cities were left without inhabitants, drove many thousands to the Continent, shipped off many thousands to the West Indies, and supplied the void thus made by pouring in numerous colonists, of Saxon blood, and of Calvinistic faith.'

Cromwell began his war in Ireland in August 1649 by marching against Drogheda, a prosperous town thirty miles north of Dublin and a key strategic position from which to advance into Ulster. On the, evening of 11 September, the Parliamentarians overwhelmed the town, slaughtering officers and soldiers. Catholic priests and friars were treated as combatants and killed on sight. A moment of gruesome farce came when the commander of the defending forces, Sir Arthur Aston, was bludgeoned to death with his wooden leg, in which Parliamentarian soldiers believed he had hidden gold coins. Some 3,500 people died in the storming of Drogheda. Parliamentarian losses were around 150. Many of the surviving defenders were transported to Barbados.
An interesting two-way trade in people was developing in which




something beneficial emerged for both those wanting to colonise -Ireland and those backing America: native Irish could be deported to feed the voracious labour market in America while making room in Ireland for planters from England. This does not seem to have been an orchestrated movement but it was a nice piece of serendipity for nascent imperial capitalism.

In the ensuing turmoil, famine followed war on a terrible scale. Proposals for deportation came quickly to the fore. It is difficult to know how many people were banished during this period, for no records exist. However, there are clues to what was going on. The Puritans who now ruled Ireland had only one goal: the total subjugation of Ireland by the method of destroying its people and planting in their stead Protestant stock from England and Scotland. The destruction of the Irish was to be carried out by three methods: by starvation, by banishment to the West or to Continental Europe and by transportation across the Atlantic. Priests, defeated soldiers, men, women and children were all shipped off at various times from various locations. The transportation of the Irish began in the late 1640s and certainly reached a high level in 1652-3, the years that mark the partial obliteration of the Catholic people of Ireland.

On 1 April 1653, Cromwell's Council of State issued a licence to one Sir John Clotworthy to transport to America 500 Irishmen. The licence was careful to point out that these unfortunates should be `natural Irishmen' in case the assiduous Sir John made the mistake of sending off some descendants of the 'Old English' or Anglo-Norman settlers. Such a mistake was made when young women descended from the early Anglo-Norman settlers were abducted and sold by traders to the sugar plantations in the West Indies .7 Licences were granted to English merchants throughout the year. In June, the Council of State in England ordered that `the governors of the precincts be authorised to transport 8,000 Irish'.

Later that year, the Council of State granted a licence for 400 Irish children to be taken to New England and Virginia. Around the same time, a contract was signed with Boston merchants to carry off 250 women and 300 men from ports along Ireland's southern and south-eastern coast. The contracted merchants, Leader and




potential support base a pummelling. Politics in the seventeenth century was a difficult game, especially if one wanted to be king. Parliament suspected that Charles would now soon raise an army and advance on England.

On a September day in 1650, Cromwell led an army of 16,000 men over the Scottish border.

Cromwell's genius resided in being well prepared. But the self-taught general was not only sensible in preparation, he was also flexible in battle. Perhaps his greatest quality as a commander was that he could inspire his men. At Dunbar, he faced a much stronger Scottish force of 23,000. According to reports, before going into battle Cromwell appealed to the enemy commander to consider his position. After all, Cromwell did not see that he had a quarrel so much with the Presbyterian troops as with Charles himself. `I beseech you in the bowels of Christ think it possible you may be mistaken,' he said. The Scots took no heed. Maybe one group of zealots knew better than to trust another. Three thousand Scottish soldiers died in the battle and many broke ranks and fled.2 Cromwell's smaller army won the day.

Cromwell took 9,000 to 10,000 prisoners. About half of them were quickly freed as being too badly injured to remain a threat. Plans were drawn up to disperse the remaining prisoners among the colonies in Ireland, Virginia and Barbados. How many were in fact sent is unknown, for a series of calamities were to overwhelm both plans and the prisoners.

The remaining 5,000 prisoners were force-marched to Durham. Along the way, 2,000 or more died of illness, exhaustion and starvation. Others simply drifted away. On 11 September, the survivors were herded into various makeshift prisons in Durham, including the castle and the Norman cathedral, one of the most beautiful hymns to the miraculous in northern Europe. For many, the cathedral became their place of death. Army commanders siphoned off the money allocated to feed them.

Malnutrition led to disease and the cold sapped the prisoners' strength. The desperate soldiers ripped up pews and wooden panelling to burn in dwindling efforts to keep warm. Starvation was their chief enemy. By the end of October, 1,600 had died. Of the remaining 1,400, many were deported to the West Indies as slave labour.

How many




is not known but it is safe to assume that not nearly as many were deported as originally planned for.

This was not the only example of Parliament using transportation as a solution to political dissent. The decisive battle of Worcester was fought in 1651 between a combined Scots-Royalist army under the direct command of Charles II, and the Parliamentarian army under the command of Oliver Cromwell. It was to be the final battle for both commanders and a `crowning mercy' according to the victorious Cromwell. Eight thousand Scots soldiers were taken prisoner. While Charles went into hiding, pending his escape to France, the Parliamentarian Council of State charged the Committee for Prisoners to grant a licence for the transportation of the Scots to the West Indies. In 1656, Scottish prisoners who had fought at Worcester and been transported complained that their sentences of servitude were being illegally extended to seven years. A committee of inquiry back in London investigated the matter and upheld their sentences.

Four years later, the Council of State was issuing directives for Scots, Irish, English and other seamen imprisoned in Plymouth Castle to be sent to Barbados, and a further 1,200 men imprisoned in Portpatrick in Scotland and Knockfergus in Ireland were to be sent to Jamaica.

Not all fared badly. Many years later, one of the Scots who settled in New Jersey from around 1680 onwards wrote home that he had had a drink with one of the `old buckskin planters', a Scot who `was sent away by Cromwell to New England as a slave from Dumbar [sic]. Living now in Woodbridge like a Scottish Laird, wishes his countrymen and his Native Soyle very well tho' he never intends to see it.'

Following Cromwell's death in 1658 and the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the threat of transportation might have lifted over Scottish dissenters. It was not to be. Charles II, who had only a few years earlier signed a covenant supporting Presbyterianism, quickly moved to re-establish episcopacy, rule of the church by a hierarchy of bishops. For twenty years, the Church in Scotland had been run along Presbyterian lines. Now it seemed that the Scottish wish for the liberty to worship in their own manner was again to be thwarted.




In the 1640s, something happened that turned the plantation of the Caribbean into a goal more important for England than even the colonies on mainland America. European sugar prices shot up. The new Barbadians saw their chance. According to some accounts, the suggestion to move into sugar cane came from Dutch Jewish traders who had been sailing the region long before the British arrived, and who imported the sugar business from Guyana. Others say that James Drax was the hero of the hour, not only bringing sugar cane from Brazil but also setting up the first efficient sugar mills.

In 1640, St Christopher changed over to the cultivation of sugar cane and Barbados quickly followed. By 1642, sugar-cane farming was up and running in Barbados. By 1644, roller mills were in use that could squeeze a piece of cane so hard it could turn fifty per cent of its weight into liquid. The romance was wrung out of sugar; it became an industrial commodity.

Both the crop and the technology were now in place for a revolution that would make men rich at a speed impossible in England. True, there were side effects. Such quantities of high-octane rum became available that in a few years in Connecticut a General Court Order allowed the confiscation of `whatsoever Barbados liquors, commonly called rum, Kill Devil or the like'.

One other ingredient was necessary for success: a large, cheap workforce, sugar farming being even more labour intensive than the cultivation of tobacco. In 1630, there were only some 1,800 people in Barbados. This was soon to change rapidly. In 1634, the total number of servants shipped from Britain was 790 males and forty-six females, of whom 246 were aged between ten and nineteen years old.

The first cargo of English convicts arrived in 1642 to work on the new sugar crop. Barbados was on its way to becoming a penal colony in all but name. The transportation of convicts has been described as a `deferred death sentence'.

Prior to the Restoration of the monarchy in the 1660s, even more people from the British Isles arrived in the West Indies than in America, perhaps three-quarters of the total who emigrated.4 Of these, half were Irish. In the period leading up to the American




Revolution, half of all Scots, English and Irish crossing the Atlantic went to the West Indies.

As in America, the servants were slaves in all but name and were treated as chattels. On 12 June 1640, estate agents valued the estate of one George Bulkley. They noted livestock worth 42,000 pounds' weight of cotton, household stuffs worth 1,125 pounds of cotton and nine servants worth 3,120 pounds of cotton. Barbadian servants could be sold to pay a debt or inherited upon death of a planter.

Fortunes were made. The enterprising James Drax became the richest planter on the island. He was one of those who had benefited from the share-out of the 10,000 acres after the fall of Sir William Tufton. Drax's monument stands today, a large grey block of a house built in the 1650s. From the exterior, Drax Hall is no tropical pleasure dome designed to titillate and delight the viewer. It was built as a stolid, fortified house of power; the unyielding shape of his home said something about its owner. Drax had influential friends in England and the organisational abilities to make a success of his new enterprise. He established an estate that became the envy of all. Architecture might not have been Drax's forte but with his business based on food he certainly knew how to entertain. The following is an example of the sumptuous fare on offer at one of his regalios.

For the first course, the theme was beef, the most expensive item on a tropical island menu. Drax served rump boiled, cheeks baked, chine roasted, breast likewise roasted, tongue and tripe minced and baked in pies seasoned with sweet herbs, spice and currants: in all, fourteen varieties of beef.

The plates were cleared away. After the glory of the steer, more humble beasts had an opportunity to show their worth: Scots collops (escalope of pork), a fricassee of pork, a dish of boiled chickens, shoulder of young goat dressed in thyme, a kid with a pudding in its belly, suckling pig - and on and on.

Finally, there were custards and creams, preserves of fruit, cheesecakes, puffs and more. To drink, there was the ubiquitous kill-devil, plus brandy, claret wine, white wine and Rheinish wine, sherry, Canary red sack, spirits from England, and `with all this you




The plantation owners ranged from the merciful to the cruel, `but if the masters be cruel, the servants have very wearisome and miserable lives', noted Ligon. Food was very basic: potatoes for dinner and loblolly (a kind of gruel or porridge) or bonivist beans or potatoes for lunch. Very occasionally, there might be meat, and that only if a steer had died. It could get cold at night. With -no bedclothes to keep the chill from a servant's hammock, and having to sleep in the shirts and drawers in which they worked, `a cold taken there is harder to be recovered than in England by how much the body is enfeebled by the great toil and the sun's heat ...'

This, then, was the island home to many thousands of displaced English, Irish and Scots. Long lines of labourers would clear the tropical forest, then plant the cane. Harvesting was particularly backbreaking work, for the best part of the cane was near the root and so the plant had to be cut close to the ground. Overseers ensured regimented efficiency. It was unrelenting work in an unyielding climate. Under the tropical sun, it must have been a most terrible place in which to labour day after day with little respite and with frequent applications of the lash. For the Irish, it must have been especially unpleasant to find themselves under a regime that was designed and administered by Puritans and Cromwellians, who would have seen their Irish Catholic workers as the enemy not only of their country but also of their religion. The reasons for cruelty therefore existed on three levels: identity, religion and commerce.

The treatment of white bonded-slaves in the Caribbean caused concern to some of those in authority. In 1651, Barbados passed a law saying that no merchant should send a servant under fourteen years of age without the written permission of a guardian or person in authority. This was ignored. A few years later, a Colonel William Brayne wrote a letter to Oliver Cromwell from Jamaica saying that the planters should employ Africans. The reasoning was that `the planters would have to pay for them and would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of bond servants'. Such observations by the colonel and others led to tens of thousands of Africans being shipped into Barbados in the middle of the century.

The civil wars in England had far-reaching effects on the tiny



island of Barbados. It is estimated that between 1648 and 1655, 12,000 political prisoners arrived as a result of the conflict. Deported Royalist prisoners were sold as bonded slaves. Rank was no safeguard. In 1656, two Royalist officers named Rivers and Foyle wrote: `The Master of the ship sold your miserable petitioners and the others ... for 1551b weight of sugar apiece (more or less according to their working facilities).' In a petition to Parliament, they described:

this insupportable captivity ... grinding at the mills, attending furnaces, or digging in this scorching island, having nothing to feed on. . . but potato roots. being bought and sold from one planter to another, or attached as horses and beasts for the debts of their masters ...12

In 1659, an impassioned debate erupted in Parliament over the plight of Rivers and Foyle. Sir Arthur Haslerigge, one of the five MPs whose attempted arrest by Charles I had hastened the onset of the English Civil War, confessed that when he heard the petition read out, he had almost wept: `Our ancestors left us free men. If we have fought our sons into slavery, we are of all men most miserable." Despite such sentiments, Rivers and Foyle received no redress.

Apart from the Royalist prisoners, wealthy Royalist refugees also turned up on the island. They saw it as a bolt-hole in which to escape the revolution being forced along by Cromwell and the Parliamentarians. This tipped the political scales in Barbados significantly towards the Crown. However, the pragmatism shown by the merchants and planters enabled them to continue their trade without significant political strife.

This happy state of affairs could not last. When Charles I was beheaded, the island declared itself for Charles II. Parliament was quick to respond. All trade with the island was suspended. Likewise, all trade between Barbados or any other English colonies or Dutch ships was forbidden. By this manner, England got a stranglehold on Atlantic trade and held the tiny rebellious isle of Barbados to book. A military force was sent to ensure that the