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Convict Transportation to America: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies.
Almost as soon as British convict transportation to America ended, Americans began to downplay the numbers and significance of convicts sent to the colonies. InThomas Jefferson led the way by claiming, The Malefactors sent to America were not sufficient in number to merit enumeration as one class out of three which peopled America.
It was at a late period of their history that the practice began. I have no book by me which enables me to point out the date of its commencement. Jefferson should have known better.
The British were sending nearly 1, convicts to America The american journey to independence essay year around the time he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and about half of them ended up in his own home state of Virginia.
Much Higher Numbers Nineteenth-century historians participated in this cover-up as well. Most of them ignored the institution of convict transportation to America, and those who did recognize it usually claimed that most of the people who were transported were political prisoners.
Not untilwhen an article on convict transportation by J. Butler appeared in the American Historical Review, did this thinking begin to change. Butler pointed out that the majority of convicts shipped to America during the colonial period were decidedly not political prisoners and that their numbers were much higher than previously reported.
Today, historians of convict transportation to America have settled on much higher numbers than those cited in the nineteenth century. Of theimmigrants to the thirteen colonies during the yearsabout 52, were convicts and prisoners 9 percent of the total.
Note that almost three quarters of all the people arriving in the American colonies during this time period did so without their freedom.
These numbers account for immigrants arriving in America from all countries during these years. When the numbers arriving in America from Great Britain are examined in isolation, the percentage of immigrants who were convicts is of course much higher.
From towhen the Transportation Act was in full force, convicts accounted for one-quarter of all immigrants arriving in the American colonies from the British Isles. Short Stories, Momentous Events This series on convict transportation to the American colonies began with the story of James Bell, who in was caught stealing a book and was sentenced to transportation for a 7 year term.
Other than the description of his criminal act at his trial in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and the appearance of his name on a convict shipping list, we do not know much more about his story. In being sentenced to transportation, he joined the ranks of thousands of others who could tell a similar story.
Transportation to the American colonies constituted a major transformation in the lives of the people who received this punishment—a transformation so profound that they probably never could have conceived of what was in store for them before it actually happened to them.
For what could very well have been an impulsive act, Bell was sent on an epic journey across the ocean and into the unknown. Modern Resonances The history of convict transportation has modern resonances that are hard to ignore.
In recent years, drug crimes in the United States have soared and strict sentencing laws meant to contain such activity have led to a dramatic increased in the prison population. Today, more than 1 out of every adults is now locked away behind bars in the United States.
Convicts who have committed a wide range of offenses are housed in overcrowded and dangerous conditions, often with nothing to do all day. Prison gangs are rampant, and violent clashes between rival gangs and guards are common. Many prisoners have become institutionalized and see prison as their only and most comfortable way of life.The Daughters of the American Revolution is an organization with a deeply rich history while also being truly relevant in today’s world.
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