Gypsy Slaves

many Gipsies were banished to America in colonial times, from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, sometimes for merely being 'by habit and repute' Gipsies, is beyond dispute ... Gipsies may be said to have been in America almost from the time of its settlement (1865:418).

the earliest actual document known to us, dates from the time of the administration of Oliver Cromwell's successor, his son Richard, when the first trans-Atlantic expulsion of Gypsies was instituted:
In 1661 'Commissions and Instructions' were issued anew to justices and constables, by Act of Parliament, with the view of arresting Gypsies ... a great many Gypsies must have been deported to the British 'plantations' in Virginia, Jamaica and Barbadoes during the second half of the seventeenth century. That they had there to undergo a temporary, if not 'perpetual' servitude, seems very likely (MacRitchie, 1894:102).

A reference dated November, 1665, comments upon the motives for indenturing Gypsies and others in this way:
The light regard paid to the personal right of individuals was shown by a wholesale deportation of poor people at this time to the West Indies ... out of a desire as weel to promote the Scottish and English plantations in Gemaica and Barbadoes for the honour of their country, as to free the kingdom of the burden of many strong and idle beggars, Egyptians, common and notorious thieves, and other dissolute and looss persons banished and stigmatised for gross crimes (Chambers, 1858:304).

In 1714, British merchants and planters applied to the Privy Council for permission to ship Gypsies to the Caribbean, avowedly to be used as slaves (MacRitchie, op. cit.), and in the following year, according to a document dated January 1st, 1715,
Prisoners ... were sentenced ... to be transported to the plantations for being [by] habit and repute gipsies ... On the said gipsies coming here the town was brought under a burden [and] they had used endeavours with several merchants who have ships now going abroad [i.e., to transport them as slaves], for which they are to receive thirteen pounds sterling (Memorabilia, 1835:424-426). Among the family names of those individuals were Faa, Fenwick, Lindsey, Stirling, Robertson, Ross and Yorstoun.

Gypsies, according to the legal definition which was in effect throughout this period in England, included "all such persons not being Fellons wandering and pretending [i.e. identifying themselves to be Egypcians, or wandering in the Habite, Forme or Attyre] counterfayte Egypcians" (Statutes, Eliz., 39.c.4, quoted in Smith, 1971:109. See also Axon, 1897, passim, and Beier, 1985:58-62).