re Hong Kong - Enslavement of Whites in Early America

Thu Oct 21 16:47:41 BST 2010


The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America

White slavery and bondage in British colonial America cannot be fully understood without also un-derstanding how British Whites came to be dehumanized in their homeland across the sea.

The desperate condition of the poor Whites of Britain was most obvious in the cities. The English slums of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were pits of White suffering. London's St. Giles was known locally as "Rat's Castle." A policeman who worked the area used metaphors from the insect world to describe the conditions of the poor Whites there, referring to them as "vermin haunted heaps of rags." Opening the door to a tiny shack the policeman discovered: 
"Ten, twenty, thirty-who can count them? Men, women, children, for the most part naked, heaped upon the floor like maggots in a cheese... a spectral rising, unshrouded, from a grave of rags." ("On Duty with Inspector Field," in Household Words, June 14, 1851, pp. 265-267).

Herman Melville, in his autobiographical account of his first voyage as a sailor, described the same living death in the English port city of Liverpool in 1839:

"...l generally passed through a narrow street called 'Launcelott's-Hey... once passing through this place... l heard a feeble wail... It seemed the low, hopeless, endless wail of someone forever lost.

"At last I advanced to an opening... to deep tiers of cellars beneath a crumbling old warehouse; and there, some fifteen feet below the walk, crouching in nameless squalor, with her head bowed over, was the figure of what had been a woman.

"Her blue arms folded to her livid bosom two shrunken things like children that leaned toward her, one on each side. At first, I knew not whether they were alive or dead... They were dumb and next to dead with want. How they had crawled into that den, I could not tell; but there they had crawled to die. 
"...l tried to lift the woman's head; but feeble as she was, she seemed bent upon holding it down. Observing her arms clasped upon her bosom, and that something seemed hidden under the rags there, a thought crossed my mind which impelled me forcibly to withdraw her hands for a moment when I caught glimpse of a meager little babe, the lower part of its body thrust into an old bonnet.

"Its face was dazzling white, even in its squalor; but the closed eyes looked like balls of indigo. It must have been dead some hours... I stood looking down on them, while my whole soul swelled within me; and I asked myself, what right had any body in the wide world to smile and be glad when sights like this were to be seen?" (Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage, Anchor Books edition, pp. 173-178).

"Such is the course of nineteen out of twenty of the fatal cases originating in deficiency of food, as they occur among the destitute poor in our large towns-the first effect of the gradual starvation to which these persons are subjected... It is a strange anomaly to see in wealthy, civilized, Christian England, multitudes of men living in the lowest state of physical degradation and absolutely perishing from neglect... the fact is undeniable, that no inconsiderable portion of our fellow-creatures is living on food and in dwellings scarcely fit for brutes-certainly worse provided for than many of our domestic animals, and that the death of numbers is accelerated or indirectly produced by gradual and pro-tracted starvation..." (Joseph Adshead, Distress in Manchester: Evidence Tabular and Otherwise of the State of the Laboring Classes in 1840-1842, pp. 49-50).

Charles Darwin's uncle, factory owner Josiah Wedgewood, owned a business that worked White children of five years of age in a chemical factory permeated with lead oxide, a deadly poison. Wedgewood acknowledged that the lead made the children "very subject to disease" but worked them anyway.

The English writer Frances Trollope estimated that at least 200,000 English children were "snatched away" to factories, "...taken and lodged amid stench, and stunning, terrifying tumult; driven to and fro until their little limbs bend under them... the repose of a moment to be purchased only by yielding their tender bodies to the fist, the heel or the strap of the overlooker (overseer)." (Marcus Cunliffe, Chattel Slavery and Wage Slavery, p. 73).

In 1 723 the Waltham Act was passed which classified more than 200 minor offenses such as steal-ing a rabbit from an aristocrat or breaking up his fishpond, a crime punishable by hanging. Starving youths, fourteen years old, were strung-up on Tyburn gallows for stealing as little as one sheep. When their bodies were cut down their parents had to fight over, them with agents of the Royal College of Physicians who had been empowered by the courts to use their remains for laboratory dissection.


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