Scots Slaves

Scots slaves for Sugar

Scots slaves in the West Indies


The Herald published an article 7 June 2015.  Lucy Frazer, the Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire had apologised for the lack of sensitivity that she had displayed during a debate the previous Thursday.  Shockingly, her comments made with a laugh about how Cromwell  had defeated the Scots at Dunbar & sent them as  “slaves to the colonies” had been well received by her fellow Tories, & they were reported to have shouted, laughed & responded by “guffawing and chortling with joy.”

The MP in question received negative comments via social media from Scots who told her that they found her comments distasteful & insulting, & the outcry resulted in the apology being offered.  Ms Frazer is a former Queen’s Counsel barrister, & should have known better.  Slavery is dehumanising, tragic, & continues today.  However, this incident is one of very few in recent times to have actually brought the plight of white slaves into the media.  It has long since been forgotten by most, & might well have been overlooked again except for the high levels of Scottish nationalism at the time.

To give context, I quote from the Sunday Herald, During her maiden speech, mother-of-two Frazer talked about her constituency’s chequered and colourful political past. She said: “It is the home of Oliver Cromwell who defeated the Scots at Dunbar, incorporated Scotland into his Protectorate and transported the Scots as slaves to the colonies. ” Frazer then waited until the laughing, sneering and ‘here, heres’ abated before adding: “Now there is an answer to the West Lothian question – but not one that of course I would recommend.”  In one of the comments made to Ms Frazer’s Facebook page Chris Dunsmore responded by pointing out the horrendous suffering by Scots transported overseas, & he mentioned how people who did not survive (the initial march south) were dumped in mass graves.

The incident raised here was especially cruel.  Following defeat. about 5000 Scots captives were forced to march to Durham Castle & Cathedral – A distance of over 100 miles and to the south.  Many died of disease or starvation, & of those who did survive, around 1600 died while imprisoned during the winter of 1650.  This left around 1200 people. Some were forced to fight for Cromwell in France, while the majority were sold as slaves in America & the Caribbean.  This clearly illustrates that the mechanism for exporting people as slaves out of Scotland already existed.  This exportation of people as cargo was set to escalate.

Slaves exported from Edinburgh to the colonies

Edinburgh in the 1600’s was short of space & full of people.  We know that by the 1700’s, 35000 souls lived in cramped squalor. Tenement buildings were built stories high so make the most of the precious ground space of the town, but the settlement was full.  Rich & poor lived face to face with each other, often in the same building.  The poor outnumbered the wealthy, & crime was rife.  The numbers might well have been a lot higher had judges not intervened a few years earlier.

It is unclear how many souls were exported from Edinburgh as slaves, but we do know that it happened.  Between 1662-1665,  Judges of the town eased the pressure of over population by ordering that rouges, beggars or any other persons of low-class who are a plague on society be enslaved & shipped to the colonies.  This was lawful, & according to the Egerton Manuscript  (held by the British Museum):

“It may be lawful for two or more justices of the peace within any county, citty or towne, corporate belonging to the commonwealth to from tyme to tyme by warrant cause to be apprehended, seized on and detained all and every person or persons that shall be found begging and vagrant. in any towne, parish or place to be conveyed into the Port of London, or unto any other port from where such person or persons may be shipped into a forraign collonie or plantation.”

These people were not shipped under Indentured Servitude or under any other kind of bondage – they were exported as slaves.  Indentured Servitude was similar to slavery.  The main difference was that slaves were property like livestock, & could be traded for the duration of their lives.  If they had children, their children were born into slavery & were property.  In theory, Indentured Servitude was not for life, but rather for a number of years, & the people retained their identity.  In many cases though, these contracts were badly managed, & the term could be easily extended by the master by citing transgressions.  While Indentured, these people could also be traded & sold for the duration of their contracts.  While some people chose to leave to try for a better life, many were taken by force, & being illiterate, were easily deceived as they had no idea what they were signing up for.

This is a work in progress.  If anything here is untrue, or you can provide additional information or sources that add to or disprove facts or assumptions made, please contact me.

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