Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

Convict Transportation to America and Penal Slavery

June 6, 2022

When most people think of the transportation of convicts, they probably think of Australia. But before Britain started sending its convicts there, the destination in the 17th and 18th centuries was America. There’s a ballad lamenting the fate of such criminals, ‘The Lads of Virginia’, in Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England From 1588 to the Present Day (London: B.T. Batsford 1979), p. 67. The section discussing the policy on the previous page, 66, taken from A.G.L Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, (Faber 1971) gives a short description of the history of the trade and the way the British government paid merchants to carry it out. It also suggests that once in America, the convicts were sold to the plantation masters. The extract runs

‘For most of the seventeenth century, merchants trading with the plantations were willing, and often anxious, to carry out the relatively few convicts who were sent; bu8t as time went on they found some, particularly women or bad characters, who were difficult to dispose of, and they became reluctant to take them… After the [Transportation] Act of 1718 the Treasury let regular contracts for the job, first for £3 a head from London and £5 from ‘other parts’ but after 1727, £5 for all; when added to the sale price this allowed a good profit, even taking into account losses through sickness or death on the voyage.

The ‘trade’ grew as the years went by. Between 1729 and 1745 the two contractors for London and the Home Counties sent out an average of 280 a year, which suggests that about 500 a year were sent from all England. In 1753 there were nearly 800. During the Seven Years’ War, 1756-63, fewer were transported, for many convicts were sent to the army, the navy and the dockyards… After 1763 transportation to America increased again, and between 1769 and 1776 about 960 convicts a year were sent out. The demand for convict labour in the plantations was so high that in 1772 the Treasury was able to stop paying its £5 subsidy, though contractors were for a time still able to persuade local authorities to pay…. Between 1719 and 1772, the years of the subsidy payments, 17,742 were sent from London and the Home Counties, and perhaps 30,000 from the whole of England. At least two-thirds went to Virginia and Maryland, and very probably more.

Was it an effective punishment? Sir John Fielding, magistrate and penal reformer, thought it was, though in 1766 Mr Justice Perrott declared that for common offenders it was no punishment at all….’

Those Monmouth rebels, who Judge Jefferies didn’t hang, were also transported to the new world and sold, though they were taken to the Caribbean colonies and sold to the planters for sacks of sugar. The transported convicts also included Irish rebels, and I’ve been told that you can still tell which of the slave cabins they occupied on the plantations by the shamrocks they painted on them.

I have to say that while I was aware of convict transportation, I wasn’t aware that once there they were sold, except in the case of the Monmouth rebels. This makes the practice look like penal slavery, which existed in ancient Rome and early medieval Europe. This punished certain types of criminals by selling them as slaves. I feel that the similarity between convict transportation and penal slavery also somewhat complicates the issue surrounding transatlantic African slavery, as it shows that certain punishments inflicted on Whites also approached a form of slavery or unfreedom. Back in Britain, the Scots miners at the time were also unfree. They were bondmen, who were effectively the property of the mine owners and even had to wear something like a slave collar around their necks. It also raises issues when it comes to the payment of reparations for slavery. If reparations are to be paid to the Black community for their abduction, exploitation and brutalisation during the era of the slave trade, it can also be argued that other groups, who suffered a similar fate like the transported criminals and rebels to America and the West Indies, and Scots mining communities in Britain for the enslavement of their ancestors.

Bonded Miners, Indentured Servants and the Victorian Labour Laws

March 17, 2022

I’ve been reading Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam (London: Oneworld Academic 2019), and it is fascinating. Brown’s a White American convert to Islam, and he ties in the debate about slavery in Islam to the contemporary American debate about slavery and its legacy in American and western society. He also begins the book with the question of definition and the problem presented in forming a universal and transhistorical definition of slavery that applies in all circumstances. This is because under different types of slavery, the slave could have more power and respect that nominally free people. For example, the viziers of the Ottoman Empire were slaves, but they ran the Ottoman Empire, had bodyguards, who were also slaves, often married the sultan’s daughter and were clearly men of immense power and respect. At the same time, slavery existed in Chinese society but wasn’t defined as such, for the simple reason that there was no such thing as a ‘thing’ in Chinese law.

But he also discusses certain types of servitude and unfreedom in British and American history. This includes the indentured servants who were used to populate the British colonies in North America. He states that it’s difficult distinguishing them from slaves. He writes

‘The division between slavery and indentured service can similarly b e hard to pin down. Indentured servants from Britain, who made up two-thirds of the immigrants in British North America before 1776, could be sold, worked to exhaustion and beaten for misbehavior. They could not marry and, in Virginia at least, could be mutilated if they tried to escape. In Maryland the punishment was death. Slavery in colonial America was worse, but only in that it was permanent.’ (p.49).

He also notes that the bonded miners in Scotland had to wear a ring on their necks with their master’s name on,, and he includes the ‘master/servant’ relationship on a list of various forms of servitude. He writes of this form of service

‘when serfdom disappeared from Western Europe, it was replaced by the relationship between the laborer and the landowner/employer. Unlike our modern notion of a worker’s contract, however, failing to live up to this contract was a criminal offense. Only in the British colonies in North America did a notion of free labor eventually appear in the 1700s, and this did not make its way back to Britain until 1875.'(p.,48.) Earlier, Brown gives the example of a shop worker in 1860. If he didn’t turn up for work, he was guilty of theft under British law, and could be imprisoned. (p.30).

The current debate over slavery and its legacy doesn’t include those aspects of British or western society that also approached slavery as they affected Whites, although there is now a debate about the ‘Irish slave trade’ – the trade in indentured servants from Ireland. The similarity between White indentured servitude and slavery is closer when you consider that originally the Dutch limited the period of slavery to 25 years. This was more than three times the length of the usual contract for indentured service, and slavery soon became permanent. But it also explains how indentured servants also frequently took part in slave uprisings and even intermarried with slaves.

I knew that the Scots miners were also unfree, bonded to their masters. I think it was one of the reasons Scots working people had great sympathy with Black slaves, to the extent that the slaves’ masters grumbled about them helping them to escape. The neck ring is the classic thrall ring, also used in the middle ages and Roman Empire to mark slaves out as property.

I wasn’t aware, however, that the Victorian labour laws could have you imprisoned for not turning up for work. It’s not quite slavery, but does come close.

And given the current lot of exploiters in government, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were people in the Conservatives who’d dearly like to bring it back.

American Muslim Civil Rights Group Attacks Anti-BDS Legislation

January 12, 2019

Yesterday’s issue of the I for Friday, 11the January 2019, reported that CAIR, an American civil rights organization defending Muslims, has challenged the local legislation in Maryland banning the state authorities from dealing with firms boycotting Israel. The article, entitled ‘Rights Group Sues State Over Israel Boycott Law’, by Michael Kunzelman, ran

A Muslim civil rights group says that an order in Maryland barring state agencies from signing contracts with businesses that boycott Israel is a violation of First Amendment.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) has launched a lawsuit that seeks to block the state from enforcing an executive order that Governor Larry Hogan signed in 2017 forbidding contractors from boycotting Israel.

The US Muslim group claims the order amounts to an un-constitutional attack on the First Amendment rights of groups supporting the Palestinians. Cair’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, says 25 other states have enacted measures similar to Maryland’s, through legislation or executive orders.

The group has sued Mr Hogan and state attorney general Brian Frosh on behalf of software engineer Syed Saqib Ali, a former state legislator, who claims that the order bars him from government contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organisations that “contribute to the oppression of Palestinians”.

“Speech and advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is core political speech… entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection,” the lawsuit says.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hogan’s office said: “We are confident our executive order is completely consistent with the First Amendment and will be upheld in court”. (p.25).

It’s about time laws banning local government from working with firms boycotting Israel were challenged and overturned. They are a clear infringement of civil rights. These laws, and an attempt to pass similar legislation in Congress are an attempt to outlaw criticism and protest against Israel under the spurious guise of tackling anti-Semitism. This is despite the fact, as Harry Tuttle amply showed on his Twitter stream the other day taking Rachael Riley’s specious wails of anti-Semitism apart, many of the leaders and supporters of the BDS and other movements critical of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, are decent, self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews. This includes people who either survived the Holocaust themselves, or had parents who did, and who lost relatives in the horror. People, who have suffered real anti-Semitism, instead of using it to try to discredit even the mildest criticism of the state of Israel and its military.

The anti-BDS legislation has already resulted in more than one terrible injustice against firms and employees. Last week or the week before an Arab woman in a Texas school was sacked because she refused to sign an agreement behind her and other staff from criticizing Israel or supporting the Palestinians. The woman was speech therapist, whose skills are obviously needed by the school. She also wasn’t a Palestinian. None of the reports of her sacking suggested that she was any sort of genuine anti-Semite. She was sacked simply because she insisted on her right to criticize Israel for its savage maltreatment of people of the same ethnicity and religion as herself.

The attempt to stifle criticism of Israel by libeling those who do as anti-Semitism is increasingly being attacked and rebutted in its turn. Tony Greenstein on his blog today put up a piece about how the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham Holocaust Education Council have been seriously embarrassed by their attempts to refuse the veteran Black civil rights activist Angela Davis the Fred Shuttlesworth Award for her human rights work. This is, I assume, Birmingham, Alabama, the centre of civil rights activism in America, rather than our Birmingham over here. Davis is a civil rights activist and a former Black Panther. She was first recommended for the award, but the BCRI then withdrew it following a letter of complaint from the B.H.E.C., who said they were concerned about her support for the Palestinians and the BDS campaign. The result was public protests by civil rights groups against the decision. The city council immediately published a resolution supporting her. Civic, religious, educational, legal and business leaders also announced their support, and that they were going to hold a special day to honour her, culminating with an event in the evening, ‘A Conversation with Angela Davis’. The chairman, vice-chairman and secretary of BCRI resigned, and the Holocaust Education Centre has backpedaled from their letter, claiming that they didn’t intend it to be taken as it was. The whole affair has spectacularly backfired.

Greenstein in his comments about this affair concludes

The Zionist attempts to humiliate and ban Angela Davies and the reaction to them are a sign of the increasing weakness of political Zionism in the USA. Following on from their inability to promote a Bill in the Senate making support for BDS akin to a crime and the recent election of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a supporter of BDS, the Zionist hold is beginning to weaken in the USA as the Jewish community itself becomes more divided. For this we can thank, at least in part, Donald Trump. Indeed according to Netanyahu, Evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friends. For American Jews that isn’t true.

See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/01/zionist-attack-on-angela-davies-symbol.html

I’ve seen it reported elsewhere that the number of Jewish Americans going on the Israeli state-sponsored heritage tours of Israel has fallen by 50 per cent. Coupled with the fact that one third of the Israel firms operating in the Occupied Territories have closed, this shows an increasingly large section of the American Jewish community is not supporting Israel because it, like many non-Jews, is sick and tired of the Israeli state and military’s persecution of the Palestinians. Which also has a downside. We can expect the Zionists in America, Britain and elsewhere to increase their efforts to criminalise or discredit reasoned opposition and criticism of Israel by screaming that it’s all anti-Semitic.

Undoubtedly Davis was able to confound her libelers and abusers because she is such a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement. Just as the British Labour party was embarrassed, and had to reverse its decision to expel the very well respected Israeli mathematicians and pro-Palestinian activists, Moshe Machover, after he was smeared as an anti-Semite. Unfortunately, there are thousands of lesser people, who aren’t so lucky. People like Mike, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and so many, many others.

But hopefully this, and CAIR’s challenge to the odious Maryland anti-BDS legislation, will be the beginning of the collapse of the Zionists’ efforts to smear and defame decent people.