FIRST KNOWN PURCHASE OF AFRICAN SLAVES BY A BRITISH COLONY
[ 31 August 1619 ]
In 1619 John Rolfe, Recorder of Virginia and the colony’s first successful tobacco grower, noted that ‘about the last of August came a Dutch man of war that sold us twenty negroes.’1 Initially the number of Africans in Virginia was relatively few and legally they were classified as servants who were deemed ‘indentured for life’, though in 1661, as the expanding cultivation of tobacco required a larger workforce that could be forced to work long hours, a law was passed allowing any free person to own slaves. The legal codification of slavery was further tightened in 1662, after which all children of slaves in Virginia legally inherited the social status of their mothers, thereby guaranteeing the continued profitability of the plantations which by then had begun to depend increasingly on captive labour.
SCOTTISH REFORMER THOMAS MUIR SENTENCED TO TRANSPORTATION FOR 14 YEARS
[ 31 August 1793 ]
On this day in 1793, Thomas Muir, ‘the father of Scottish democracy’, was sentenced to be ‘transported beyond the seas… (to a penal colony in Australia) for the space of fourteen years’. He had been convicted of ‘wickedly and feloniously exciting… disloyalty and disaffection to the King and the established government.’2
BRITISH SACK SAN SEBASTIAN, KILLING AT LEAST A THOUSAND AND RAPING THE WOMEN.
[ 31 August 1813 ]
Today in 1813, British troops, under the command of the legendary Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, ransacked, looted and burned their way into the Basque town of San Sebastian, killing an unknown number of civilians, but later estimated by historians to have been at least a thousand.
HUNDREDS INJURED AS BRITISH ORDER POLICE TO ATTACK WORKERS IN DUBLIN
[ 31 August 1913 ]
On this day in 1913, a crowd gathered in O’Connell Street, Dublin, to protest against the refusal of employers to recognise the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). Four days earlier tram workers who had joined the union found themselves locked out by the management and their jobs replaced by non-union scab labour.
- Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870, Picador, London, 1997. p. 174.
- ‘Trial of Mr. Muir for Sedition in the High Court of Justiciary,’ The Kentish Gazette, 6 September 1793, p. 4
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