White Slaves

White Slaves, by Roger McGrath.

For many years I taught a U.S. history survey course.  One of my lecture topics was American slavery. I made a real effort to put the peculiar institution into historical perspective. I noted that slavery was not something reserved for blacks here in America but was as old as man himself and recognized no racial bounds.

There had been slavery in Asia, slavery in Africa, slavery in Europe, and slavery in the Americas. Yellow man enslaved yellow man, black man enslaved black man, white man enslaved white man, and red man enslaved red man. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to college students, but, as the years went by, more and more incoming freshmen were surprised to learn that slavery was not uniquely American and not uniquely a black experience.

Shortly before I retired from teaching I began running into something more stupefying than sheer historical ignorance: victimology. I encountered black students whose worldview was formed by a sense of victimhood.  They were not willing to concede that suffering enslavement was universal.  If I were black, I would have been elated to learn that slavery was not something reserved for blacks only — that my race had not been singled out as deserving nothing better.  This was certainly the reaction, more often than not, of my black students in my early years of teaching.  Today, however, we are reaping the bitter fruit of years of politically correct indoctrination in schools, and blacks are outraged when the enslavement of other peoples is discussed.

The outrage deepens when white slaves are mentioned and becomes near hysteria when it is pointed out that whites suffered far more severe forms of slavery than that experienced by blacks in American colonies and the United States.  Examples abound, but one of many from ancient Rome should suffice: The average life expectancy for a slave in the Roman mercury mines was nine months.  Moreover, most of the slaves put to work in the mines were of Celtic or Germanic stock—as white as one could get.  They became slaves as a consequence of Roman wars and therefore cost next to nothing.  They worked under brutal conditions and day by day absorbed more and more mercury.  They experienced terrible pain, mental confusion, loss of eyesight and hearing, and died as their liver and kidneys failed.  No matter.  There were thousands upon thousands of conquered folks waiting to replace them.

If ancient Rome is too distant, though, examples of white slaves in the New World can be cited.  … Tens of thousands of Irish were enslaved and shipped to the West Indies to labor and die on sugar plantations.  There have been studies of recent vintage devoted entirely to the subject, including Sean O’Callaghan’s To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland.  Such works have caused a near hysterical reaction in academe. Politically correct professors are livid that the topic is even discussed. As one of my teaching assistants, who was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, said to another one of my TAs — 30 years ago now — “There are some facts students just shouldn’t know.” …

So many Irish soldiers were killed or exiled to continental Europe that the Emerald Isle was left with tens of thousands of widows and fatherless children. … Cromwell’s soldiers now rode about Ireland rounding up Irish women and children, and some men, as if they were cattle being driven to market.  The captives were herded into holding pens and branded with the initials of the ship that was to transport them to the New World.  Fetching the highest prices were young women, who were highly prized by the Caribbean planters, who “had only Negresses and Maroon women to solace them.”  Estimates of how many women and children were transported and sold vary widely, but 50,000 is a conservative number. …

After four years the horrific trade in women and girls was stopped but only because, says John Patrick Prendergast in The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, “the evil became too shocking and notorious, particularly when these dealers in Irish flesh began to seize the daughters and children of the English themselves, and to force them on board their slave ships.”

The media and academia systematically misinform us by omitting information that does not support their political narrative. Dishonest.

hat-tip Stephen Neil