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Like impoverished people of other nationalities, many emigrated from Ireland to the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries as indentured servants; a smaller number were forcibly banished into indentured servitude during the period of the English Civil Wars; indentured servants often lived and worked under harsh conditions and were sometimes treated cruelly. history largely unfamiliar to Americans themselves is the role of indentured servitude in the survival and growth of the original 13 colonies.Unlike institutionalized chattel slavery, indentured servitude was neither hereditary nor lifelong; unlike black slaves, white indentured servants had legal rights; unlike black slaves, indentured servants weren't considered property. The earliest settlers needed laborers, but only wealthy people could afford passage to the New World.Slaves had few legal rights: in court their testimony was inadmissible in any litigation involving whites; they could make no contract, nor could they own property; even if attacked, they could not strike a white person.The Dred Scott decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1857 reaffirmed that racialized definition of slavery. Sanford held that plaintiff Dred Scott, a black slave, did not qualify as an American citizen and had no standing to sue in federal court because, in part, persons imported as slaves “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order”: In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument …His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.
The most influential book to claim that there was ‘white slavery’ in Colonial America was Michael Hoffman’s They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America.
We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we?
We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade. King James VI and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish.
Beginning in the late 1600s, the colonies all adopted “slave codes” which, among other things, routinely defined slaves as “Negro” or “African,” according to the In all of them the color line was firmly drawn, and any amount of African heritage established the race of a person as black, with little regard as to whether the person was slave or free.
The status of the offspring followed that of the mother, so that the child of a free father and a slave mother was a slave.