Thursday, April 30, 2020
Good morning, Good morning,
Sometimes it is better to tell a story with the ending first. It makes for a literary style we will sometimes catch at the movies or modern television drama. Today’s letter is dedicated to Deacon Larry Hammel and his apostolate to the Loudoun County Jail. It is also dedicated to those parishioners who feel entrapped with the current lockdown. God bless the teens and collegians who miss their close intimate friends from school. God bless those out of work and feeling insecure to the future prospects of their job. God bless the mother’s who just want their homes back so they can… rest. Oh yes, Little Virginia, you can have too much of a good thing with all the company under the same roof an unexpected and unwanted extended period of time. It has all the sentimental experience of quickly going from a roommate to a cellmate relationship. Enjoy.
And now the end of the story. In 1986, Robert Hughes, wrote a book on the discovery of Australia and what motivated the search for the lost continent on the far side of the world. The “Fatal Shore” is a must read for those of us with relatives down under.
In the 18th century the English Crown found the city of London overwhelmed with problems concerning the immoral and illicit behavior of her citizens. One out of every eight people was in jail. And in the age of enlightenment all were conversant in their personal rights in the legal system. With the rising population in England the excessive punishments of public whippings were no longer effective tools to shame the prisoners. The Crown had to come up with a more effective response on how to remove the problem. If you know what I mean.
The solution was to set up penal colonies abroad. The original model response for the problem was found in the penal colonies established by the British serving in India, circa 1600. The English Parliament assumed the same standards could be applied to the Americans. Prisoners were packed onto ships and sent to the colonies in America. Not an easy solution as the length of the voyage and crowded conditions led to all sorts of problems among the prisoners. Rampant problems with disease, hunger/starvation, and internal problems with the sociopaths and psychopaths in the ranks. Life didn’t get much better on this side of the Atlantic if they survived the trip.
Allow a distraction. Many years ago I directed a retreat for the seminarians for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I opened my first conference and addressed the heritage of Georgia as a penal colony. I mentioned to them I felt overwhelmed to be in the presence of the descendants of brigands and thieves, crooks and murders of the greatest sort. They were very serious and were not sure they had permission to smile or laugh. I just said, like the Irish humorist, Hal Roach, “Write it Down.” Since that time I have met a few clerics of Atlanta at the Pro-Life March and each mentioned that one quote of crooks and murderers.
The colony of Georgia became the great penal colony for the New World. But not the only one. All looked fine as fine could be at that time. The world would change in the closing years of the 1760’s. The signs of a revolution were rising and the British realized the penal colony option was coming to an end lest the Americans use the prisoners to assist in the revolution.
The scientists of England weighed in on the discussion on what to do with the prisoners. They suggested there must be a complimentary land mass on the opposite side of the planet, away from America, that allowed the planet to spin uniformly. All they needed was for someone to go and look for it. That man was Captain James Cook. Starting in 1768 Cook made three voyages into the Indian Ocean. The first involved the discovery of Tasmania. The second to discover the Southern side the continent of Australia. The third voyage transit the Indian Ocean on a Northern trajectory to Indonesia and down the Northern and Eastern Coasts of Australia.
Captain James Cook. 1728-1799.
Cook was a true explorer. Before being called to look for an unknown continent he was studying stars and heavenly objects. Notably, the planet Venus and its orbital patterns. (Please know, at this time of year, each night, we can see Venus as one of the brightest orbs in the sky to the West of Purcellville.) He would leave from South Africa on each of his voyages and travel out over the Indian Ocean. Originally he ventured East than South. Upon the discovery of Tasmania, the large island South of Australia and the continent above the prisoners were sent in full force. Tasmania was the children’s penal colony, with children as young as seven years of age. It was run by Anglican nuns.
There were no fences in the Australian penal colony. There was no need for fences as there was truly no place to go. In his book Hughes spoke of an incident where nineteen prisoners broke away and ventured North into the interior of the continent. After two weeks they fell to cannibalism in order to survive. Only two made it back to the penal colony from which they started. The Fatal Shore is filled with such stories of hardship and survival.
Cook would continue his explorations and mapmaking all through the Pacific Ocean. He discovered Hawaii. Unfortunately, the Hawaiians were victims to health problems brought in by the explorers such as measles, influenza, and other viruses. By 1819 75-80% of the Hawaiian natives had been killed off by the unwelcome pathogens. Cook himself was killed by the natives when he tried to kidnap the tribal chief of the Hawaiian islanders.
And now the beginning of the story. Virginia.
The colony of Virginia accepted three different groups of people sequestered for the menial tasks involved in planting and harvesting the tobacco crops. There were: indentured servants; African Slaves, and convicts. The interesting question never addressed by the historians from the Commonwealth concerns the number of Catholics sent to the colony that opposed any Catholic identity, including clergy, in the boundaries of the Colony dedicated to Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.
“Indentured servants were men and women who signed a contract (also known as an indenture or a covenant) by which they agreed to work for a certain number of years in exchange for transportation to Virginia and, once they arrived, food, clothing, and shelter. Adults usually served for four to seven years and children sometimes for much longer, with most working in the colony’s tobacco fields.
“Selling Wives to the Planters.”
In the early days, long before the American Revolution London selected the young to be sent to the colony of Virginia. “In 1619 the spirit of this law was invoked to ship 100 destitute children from the streets of London to Virginia. In theory those that survived the journey were required to be apprentices for seven years. The mortality rate in Virginia was exceptionally high for colonists at this time due to disease and hard labour and it is unknown how many of these transported children survived into adulthood. In November 1619 the Virginia Company requested that another hundred children be sent from London but this time the minimum age was set at 12 years.
In 1620, the Virginia Company was granted authority by the Privy Council to coerce the ‘obstinate” into going. Similar orders for poor children to be sent to Virginia as “apprentices’ were fulfilled throughout the 1620s and the illegal “spiriting” of children from the metropole (London) continued into the 18th century.”
- Cromwell’s Protectorate of Ireland.
“The most significant forced movement of Irish people into the colonies, however, occurred under Oliver Cromwell’s “protectorate”. After his scouring of Ireland during the Civil War, which raged across the whole of the archipelago, the Lord Protector gave a personal assurance to the Irish people in 1650 that only those “ready to run to arms by the instigation of their Clergy or otherwise” would be at risk of being sent to the “Tobacco islands”.
But the focus and scope of transportation changed dramatically in 1653. It expanded to include the poor, their destination was the American colonies, their fate was indentured servitude, and coercion was now the policy’s defining characteristic. The first order to transport the destitute from Ireland to the colonies was issued in July when the “overseers of precincts” “Authorised to treat with merchants for transporting vagrants into some English plantation in America, where the said persons may find livelihood and maintenance by their labour, and to deliver over the said persons to the said merchants accordingly…”
(I recommend you read the entire article offered in the website above.)
- “Convict Labor during the Colonial Period
English courts began to send convicts to the colonies as a way of alleviating England’s large criminal population. This practice was unpopular in the colonies and by 1697 colonial ports refused to accept convict ships. In response, Parliament passed the Transportation Act of 1718 to create a more systematic way to export convicts. Instead of relying on merchants to make arrangements on their own to ship felons to the colonies, the British government subsidized the shipment of convicts through a network of merchants, giving a contract for the service to one individual at a time. Between 1700 and 1775, approximately 52,200 convicts sailed for the colonies, more than 20,000 of them to Virginia. Most of these convicts landed and were settled along the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. Although many were unskilled and thus put to work in agriculture, particularly tobacco production, others with skills were sold to tradesmen, shipbuilders, and iron manufacturers, and for other similar occupations. Convict laborers could be purchased for a lower price than indentured white or enslaved African laborers, and because they already existed outside society’s rules, they could be more easily exploited. Nevertheless, Virginia tried repeatedly to pass laws to prevent England from sending convicts, though those laws were overturned by the Crown.”
2.“Contrasting Indentured, Enslaved, and Convict Servants
Indentured servants voluntarily entered into the master-servant arrangement for a specified number of years (between five and seven), made the decision themselves to go to the colonies, and had to be given a freedom fee, clothes, and seeds at the end of their service. Thus, it was more economical for some planters to purchase British felons who also served for seven years in most cases, but who did not have to be paid at the end of their term of labor. The purchase price of convicts was also lower than that of indentured white and enslaved African laborers. Late in the colonial period, a male enslaved person cost between £35 and £44. Most male convicts sold for less than £13 and the women for £7 to £10. Even semiskilled convicts could be purchased for £7 to £14 and skilled felons for £15 to £25. A final inducement for buying convicts came from the fact that because they were already outlaws from society’s rules, they could more easily be exploited.”
3. Arrival Ports.
The slave ships arrived in Norfolk. In my last assignment in Fauquier County the descendants of the original slaves informed me that the slave ships arrived in Norfolk. The slaves were walked to Fredericksburg and then on what is now VA Rt. 17, West to Midland, Virginia. More on that another time.
Many of the convicts and indentured arrived in the Northern Neck, (territory of the Arlington Diocese) on either the Potomac or Rappahannock Rivers. Some were walked overland to Baltimore.
Time Line for Convicts coming to Virginia. Please note the event of March 13, 1774 that involves George Washington. More on that in another story.
- January 24, 1615 – King James I authorizes the transportation of convicts who could “yeild a profitable service to the Common wealth in parts abroade where it shall be found fitt to imploie them.”
- 1617 – Transportation of British convicts to the colonies begins.
- September 1663 – Enslaved Africans and British convict servants (once soldiers of Oliver Cromwell’s) in Gloucester and York counties plan a mutiny. Their plan is exposed by John Berkenhead, an indentured servant.
- April 6, 1671 – The Virginia General Court reads an order from the king’s Council stating that “noe Newgate or Goale [jail] birds should be imported into this Collony or other parts of America.”
- October–November 1671 – Hugh Nevett, a merchant who owns a Gloucester County plantation, is caught importing some Newgate “Goale” birds. A month later, the Virginia General Court orders Nevett to “send out the Newgate birds within 2 months.”
- 1697 – The process of transporting British criminals to America ceases to function because the colonies refuse to take them and few merchants are willing to pay for the passage.
- 1718 – Parliament passes “An Act for the further preventing Robbery, Burglary and other Felonies, and for the more effectual Transportation of Felons,” which begins British government–subsidized transportation of felons to Virginia. By 1775, Britain will have sent about 20,000 convicts to Virginia under this law.
- 1718 – Jonathan Forward, a London merchant, contracts with the British treasury to ship convicts to America. This arrangement is the first of its kind.
- 1722 – The Virginia Assembly passes an act to set fees and restrictions on the shipment of British convicts to Virginia—fees that would make the practice cost-prohibitive. The law is overturned by the Board of Trade.
- 1722 – Author Daniel Defoe publishes The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, in which the heroine is convicted of stealing and sent to Virginia.
- 1733 – The rise in the number of convict arrivals to Virginia motivates John Clayton, Virginia’s attorney general, to petition the lords of the treasury in London for a salary increase. The treasury officials grant his request, agreeing that the influx of convicts has increased the colony courts’ business.
- May 9, 1751 – The Pennsylvania Gazette publishes a letter by Benjamin Franklin, writing under the name “Americanus,” in which he rails against the practice of shipping convicts to the colonies.
- November 1766 – The General Assembly passes an act to quarantine those who arrive in Virginia’s ports suffering from “goal fever,” or typhus. Ships’ captains are required to swear upon arrival in Virginia that no one on board has gaol fever; the penalty for making a false oath is £50. The law is renewed at the General Assembly’s February 1772 session.
- March 13, 1774 – Captain William McGachen (McCachen) writes to George Washington that Washington’s secretary Valentine Crawford has bought “four men convicts, four indented servants for three years, and a man and his wife for four years” on Washington’s behalf.
- Spring 1775 – With the outbreak of rebellion against Great Britain, most colonial ports cease accepting convict transportees.
- April 1776– The ship Jenny arrives on the James River bearing the last boatload of convicts from Britain, and is apparently allowed to land them.
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus declares, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” The bread is referred to as living. Bread is good, but it’s not alive. Instead, when we take it in, and it is turned by our bodies into fat or muscle or bone, then it comes alive.
But oit is just the opposite with the living bread of Christ. This we take in and we become alive in a way that we were not before. And this is why Jesus says that he is bread come down from heaven.
What is heaven? St. Paul says, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love him.” Paul’s pithy remark gives us a clue: “those who love him.” Whatever heaven is, it is the realm of God, and therefore it is a realm of love.
What is the Eucharist, this heavenly food, but a participation in the love between the Father and the Son? In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and the sacrifice of Christ is the fullest expression of the love of the Father and the Son.
Catholic Feast Day for Pope Pius V One of my favorites.
Let us pray for one another.