Out of curiosity, why *do* the Irish wear green? I don't trust the sources that Google presented to me.
From what I can recall, it goes waaaaaay way back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which (if memory serves) was one of many short-lived attempts to overthrow British rule in Ireland. The wearing of green cockades or clothing was one way of showing support for the rebel faction. It didn’t always end well for those wearing it, and the rebellion was put down within six months, but like so many things in Ireland, the events live on in song and sartorial adornment.
In order to fully understand the Irish Rebellion of 1916, one must first comprehend the causes; the first of which being the failed Irish Rebellion of 1798. In that year, 1798, the Irish led an unsuccessful upbringing against the British imperialists which led to all the leaders being hung in public and resulted in the British closure of Irish parliament. Due to this, any grievances or sufferings Irish people endured were disregarded. This is a significant cause to the rebellion more than a century earlier because now, not only were the Irish under completely control, and utterly shut out from any say in parliament. This was similar to Britains past colony rallying with “no taxation without representation” which also led to a revolt decades earlier.
In 1800, England also passed the “Act of Union” which fully merged Ireland with Great Britain without Irish permission or negotiation. Because there no Irish representation in parliament, they were unable to have a dictation. John Edward Redmond, an Irishman at the time stated, “…We know that eighteen years after the solemn declaration it was disregarded, and the Irish parliament, which lasted for five hundred years, was destroyed by the Act of Union… the Act of Union was carried by force and fraud by treachery and falsehood” (Redmond). In the quote, Redmond illustrated how unlawfully the Act of Union was passed into commission as well as how it paid no heed to Irish requests for independence. He mentions the “fraud” of how it came into existence. The act would lead to justification of the 1916 rebellion because they were unable to voice their reasons and British injustices.
There has been a lot of whitewashing of the Irish slave trade, partly by not mentioning it, and partly by labelling slaves as indentured servants. There were indeed indentureds, including English, French, Spanish and even a few Irish. But there is a great difference between the two. Indentures bind two or more parties in mutual obligations. Servant indentures were agreements between an individual and a shipper in which the individual agreed to sell his services for a period of time in exchange for passage, and during his service, he would receive proper housing, food, clothing, and usually a piece of land at the end of the term of service. It is believed that some of the Irish that went to the Amazon settlement after the Battle of Kinsale and up to 1612 were exiled military who went voluntarily, probably as indentureds to Spanish or Portuguese shippers.
King James II and Charles I also led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanizing one’s next door neighbor.
The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.
Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia.
The initial plan was to offer freedom to Irish slaves on the island of Barbados and elsewhere or to take more rebellious Irish slaves and transport them to Jamaica where they would be offered their freedom and 30 acres of land to work. Cromwell also launched appeals within England and the Americas for planters to come to the new colony of Jamaica. This met with little success and so Cromwell increased his drive to liberate and offer freedom & land to indentured servants in Barbados. The policy met with resistance from the plantation owners of Barbados as one would expect. They quickly complained about being short of labour to work their sugar crops. Therefore, many plantation owners moved along with their Irish slaves to Jamaica also and were granted land there.
At the same time another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidders in Jamaica. In 1656, Cromwell also ordered that 2,000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers as well. Repeated escape attempts were punished with hangings. Slaves who struck salve owners or plantation owners were burned alive in a gruesome manner. A visitor to Jamaica in 1687 reports that “they are nailed to the ground with crooked sticks on every limb and then applying the fires by degrees from the feet, burning them gradually up to the head, whereby their pains are extravagant”.
There was no racial consideration or discrimination, you were either a freeman or a slave, but there was aggressive religious discrimination, with the Pope considered by all English Protestants to be the enemy of God and civilization, and all Catholics heathens and hated. Irish Catholics were not considered to be Christians. On the other hand, the Irish were literate, usually more so than the plantation owners, and thus were used as house servants, account keepers, scribes and teachers. But any infraction was dealt with the same severity, whether African or Irish, field worker or domestic servant. Floggings were common, and if a planter beat an Irish slave to death, it was not a crime, only a financial loss, and a lesser loss than killing a more expensive African. African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African. Parliament passed the Act to Regulate Slaves on British Plantations in 1667, designating authorized punishments to include whippings and brandings for slave offenses against a Christian. Irish Catholics were not considered Christians, even if they were freemen.
Like with what was done to African girls and women, the English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.
In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish girls and women with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.
Historical Irish immigration to Jamaica occurred primarily (but not exclusively) through importation of Irish slaves and also constituted [along with the Indian Diaspora and Chinese Diaspora …etc.] one of the largest recorded historical ethnic influxs into the country. Some Irish slaves in Jamaica were indentured servants – especially during the 19th century – but most more were complete chattel slaves imported by tens of thousands by the English. “Jamaican Patois” – which contains some words of Gaelic origin – is often spoken in a dialect(s) that is heavily Irish-influenced, with some minor Scottish-influence. Like Barbados, Jamaica has a sizable “White” population that incudes those of Irish ancestry.
There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in Satan’s highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded this chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.
Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.
Humane he is, and good-natured beyond the usual standard of men. In him, it is not merely a habit, or a natural quality, but it is a moral duty. And yet, when firm decision is requisite, he can exert it. What is best of all, he is… ‘statesman, yet friend to truth’ … His public conduct has gained him the approbation of all moderate men. He has appeared in this political hurricane, not like Addison’s angel, merely directing the storm of just vengeance, but rather like the angel who guided the Ark of Noah through the deluge - shedding, from the very serenity of his countenance, a ray of hopeful brightness over the dark and troubled waters… In many instances, loyalty has become impetuous; and his has been the happy energy to moderate and restrain it. There is no bloodshed for which he does not grieve.
Alexander Knox on Lord Castlereagh
A private letter, recounting Castlereagh’s conduct during the Irish Rebellion of 1798