Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/632

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By Colonel A. B. ELLIS,


FEW but readers of old colonial state papers and records are aware that between the years 1649 and 1690 a lively trade was carried on between England and the "plantations," as the colonies were then termed, in political prisoners, who were sentenced to banishment in the former country and shipped to the colonies, where they were sold by auction to the colonists for various terms of years, sometimes for life, as slaves.

The government of the Commonwealth appears to have been the first to adopt this convenient if unjustifiable method of disposing of troublesome adversaries; and in Cromwell's proclamation to the Irish people, dated Youghal, January, 1649, and written in answer to the declaration of the Irish prelates at Clonmacnoise, we find the following: "The question is of the destruction of life, or of that which is but little inferior to it—to wit, of banishment. Now, first, I shall not willingly take or suffer to be taken away the life of any man not in arms, but by the trial to which the people of the nation are subject by law for offences against the same; and, secondly, as for the banishment, it hath not hitherto been inflicted on any but such who, being in arms, might justly upon the terms they were taken under have been put to death, as might those who are instanced in your declaration to be 'sent to the Tobacco Islands.'" And in a dispatch from Cromwell to the "Hon. William Lenthall, Esq., Speaker of the Parliament of England," dated September 17, 1649, and describing the storming of Drogheda, we find with reference to those men who, contrary to the custom of war, had continued their resistance after the place had been carried and quarter given: "When they submitted, these officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed; and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes."

Banishment, however, was not a punishment reserved for the Irish taken in arms against the Commonwealth, for the same measure was meted out to Englishmen and Scotchmen who incurred the displeasure of the Protector; and the "Tobacco Islands"—namely, St. Christopher, Nevis, and Barbadoes—did not enjoy a monopoly of this traffic, for prisoners were sent in large numbers to the New England colonies, and, after the capture of Jamaica from the Spaniards, to that island. Of the ten thousand Scottish prisoners who were taken at the battle of Dunbar, five thousand were dismissed on account of sickness and other causes,