16. Some Irish Were Indentured Servants, But That is Not The Same as Slaves
Irish immigrants arriving in America often had it rough. However, they were never enslaved. In Colonial America, many poor whites – Irish and others – were indentured servants, either willingly via contract, or reluctantly because of a court sentence. Benjamin Franklin, for example, had been an indentured servant. While indentured servants were exploited, their indenture was for a limited term, typically seven years. Afterwards – provided they were white – they could do as they pleased, equal under the law to their former contract holders and everybody else.
Indentured servitude was not the same thing as slavery. American chattel slavery was a unique institution that was based on race, had no end date, and was hereditary. Unlike indentured servitude contract holders, slave masters owned their black slaves outright, same as they owned their barn animals, for their entire lives. Slave status attached to the slaves’ children from birth to death, as well. African Americans were enslaved. Irish Americans were not. The myth that Irish Americans were also slaves is just that: a myth.