An raibh sclábhaithe Éireannach-Mheiriceánacha ag Martha Washington?  /  Did Martha Washington have Irish-American slaves?

I gcuimhne daoine i ngach aois agus i ngach áit a bhí agus atá ina sclábhaithe.

 

Taighde Nua ar Siúl

 

Tá taighde den scoth á dhéanamh anois ar sclábhaithe Meiriceánacha ag eagraíochtaí áirithe sna Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá.  Nuair a insítear na scéalta sin, faighmid amach níos mó faoinár scéal féin.

 

Mar shampla, ar láithreán gréasáin an Independence Hall Association ag www.ushistory.org, d'fhoghlaim mé le déanaí gur shaor George Washington a sclábhaithe ar a bháis i 1799, ach gur dhiúltaigh Martha Washington a sclábhaithe féin a shaoradh.  D'fhoghlaim mé freisin faoi Oney Judge agus Christopher Sheels.  Ba sclábhaithe iad i dteaghlach George Washington i Philadelphia sna 1790í, nuair a bhí an príomhchathair náisiúnta agus Teach an Uachtaráin araon suite ansin.

 

Oney Judge agus Christopher Sheels

 

I 1796, bhí Oney 22 bliana d'aois.  Bhí a craiceann bán-dhonn agus breactha le breicní.  D'fhoghlaim sí go raibh Martha Washington ar tí í a thabhairt do chara mar bhronntanas pósta.  De bhrí sin, theith Oney ó Philadelphia ó thuaidh go Portsmouth, New Hampshire, ach aithníodh i 1798 í.  Chuir George a nia chun í a thabhairt ar ais, ach chuaigh sí i bhfolach arís.  Phós sí Jack Staines, mairnéalach i bPortsmouth, agus bhí clann acu go luath.  Fuair sí bás in Greenland, New Hampshire, 25 Feabhra 1848, ag 75 bliain d'aois, bocht ach saor.  D'fhiafraigh duine éigin dí an raibh brón uirthi gur theith sí ó George Washington, "mar d'oibrigh sí chomh crua sin ina dhiaidh."  Dúirt sí 'Níl, tá mé saor, agus tá iontaobh agam go ndearnadh páiste Dé díom trí na meáin." (1)

 

Ní raibh ach seirbhíseach pearsanta amháin ag George Washington in Philadelphia ó 1790 go 1792, agus ba é Christopher Sheels é nuair a bhí sé timpeall 16 bliana d'aois.  D'fhill Christopher go Mount Vernon i 1792.  Ansin, bhain an teaghlach seirbhís as mar fhreastalaí.  Thug Louis-Philippe, an prionsa a bheadh ar ball ina rí ar an bhFrainc, agus daoine eile faoi deara gur oibrigh mulataigh amháin taobh istigh an tí de ghnáth. (2)  Dá bhrí sin, is léir go raibh Christopher Sheels ina mhulatach chomh maith mar Oney Judge.  Agus mar Oney Judge, níl mórán amhrais ann gur thóg sé ainm a athar mar shloinne.  I 1799, nuair a bhí Christopher cothrom le 24 bliain d'aois, d'iarr sé ar Washington a chead chun cailín mulatach ag feirm eile a phósadh.  Fuair sé é.  Ansin, fuair Washington amach go raibh sé beartaithe freisin ag Christopher agus a bhean chéile a éalú.  Ach tá dealramh ar an scéal nach raibh píonós curtha air.  Nuair a bhásaigh Washington i 1799, bhí Christopher Sheels sa seomra.  Ar an drochuair, ba le Martha Washington é agus níor saoradh é.  Níl aon eolas againn air tar éis 1802.

 

An bhfuil níos mó le foghlaim faoi na Meiriceánaigh seo?  B'fhéidir go n-insíonn a n-ainmneacha scéal.

 

Owney Judge

 

Is sloinne Sasanach agus Éireannach araon é 'Judge.'  In Éirinn, tá sé ina leath-aistriúchán de 'Mac an Bhreitheamhan.'  Is leagan nua-aimseartha é Mac an Bhreithimh.  Faightear teaghlaigh ar a bhfuil an sloinne seo i gCo. Sligeach, in Uladh Thiar, agus i gCo Chorcaigh. (3)(4)

 

Ach níl 'Oney' nó 'Owney' ina ainm Sasanach ar bith.  Is ainm Éireannach é ar fad.  Ní i bhfad ó thuaidh ó na Mic an Bhreithimh i gCo. Chorcaigh, faighimid dúiche threibhe na nUaithne ar an imeall nua-aimseartha idir Co. Thiobraid Árann agus Co. Luimnigh, .i. na barúntachtaí 'Owney' (Uaithne) i gContae Thiobraid Árann agus 'Owneybeg' (Uaithne Beag) i gContae Luimnigh. (5)(6)(7)

 

Tugann Coghlan faoi deara go bhfuil 'Oney', 'Owney', 'Hewney', agus 'Anthony' (do fhir) ina mBéarlachais do Uaithne. (8)  Deimhníonn Woulfe gur bhain Uí Mhórdha, Uí Lochlainn, agus teaghlaigh eile (mar Mac an Bhreithimh?) áis as Uaithne agus a leaganacha Bhéarlachais mar chéad-ainm. (9)

 

Bhí Uí Mhórdha suite díreach soir ó dhúiche na nUaithne ar thalamh atá anois i gCo Laoise. (10)  Bhí Uí Lochlainn lonnaithe i gContae an Chláir, an contae lámh le Luimneach agus Tiobraid Árann ó thuaidh. (11)

 

Deirtear go raibh athair Oney, Andrew Judge, ina thailliúir Sasanach.  Is féidir leat a pháipéir dhintiúir a fheiceáil.  Téigh go http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/mgwquery.html agus clóscríobh “Andrew Judge” isteach san inneall cuardaigh. (12)  Nach bhfuil sé ait go dtabharfadh athair Sasanach-Mheiriceánach agus máthair Afracach-Mheiriceánach dá leanbh ainm a bhí dea-aitheanta mar ainm Gaelach sa 18ú haois? (13)  Tabhair faoi deara gur féidir leat an t-ainm “Cornelius McDermott Roe” a fheiceáil mar fhinné ar dhintiúr Andrew.  Ar shliocht Mhic Dhiarmada atá Mac Diarmada Ruaidh.  Bhí siad suite i dTír Thuathail, ar a dtugtar Paróiste Chill Rónáin, Co. Ros Comáin, na laethanta seo. (14)  Nach bhfuil sé suimiúil go mbaineadh áis mar fhinné ar an ndintiúr seo as Éireannach, go follasach ina Ghaeilgeoir, a bhí chomh bródúil sin as a shloinne Gaelach gur bhain sé feidhm as a fhoirm thraidisiúnta?  Cén fáth?  Comhtharlú amháin?  Nó an raibh fadhb theanga ann?  An raibh gá aistritheora acu?  An raibh Gaeilge amháin ag Andrew Judge, a shínigh a ainm le 'X"? 

 

Christopher Sheels

 

Maidir le Christopher, is sloinne Éireannach amháin é "Sheels."   Is beag amhras atá ann, dá bhrí sin, go raibh Christopher Sheels ina Éireannach-Mheiriceánach.  Is béarlachais d'Ó Siadhail iad "Sheels" agus a leaganacha (Shiel, Sheals, Shields, 7rl.).  Bhí clú ar an muintir seo mar lianna agus máinlianna i mórán áiteanna in Éirinn.  Mar shampla, "ba lia do airm Chomhdháil Chille Chainnigh ó 1642 go 1650 é Eoghan Ó Siadhail, ar a dtugadh 'Iolar na nDochtúirí.'" (15)  Bhí príomh-chraobhacha na muintire seo suite ar cheantair atá anois i gCo. Uibh Fhailí agus i gCo. Dhún na nGall. (16)  Níl ach teaghlach amháin den sloinne seo.  Tá siad go léir gaolta.  Is ionadaí nua-aimseartha den teaghlach seo í an t-aisteoir iomráiteach Brooke Shields, agus níl mórán amhrais ann go bhfuil sí ina gaol i bhfad amach ó Christopher.  

 

Chun Deireadh a Dhéanamh

 

In ndeireadh na dála, áfach, is cuma an raibh Oney Judge agus Christopher Sheels ina Éireannach-Mheiriceánaigh.  Ba dhaoine daonna iad, Meiriceánaigh, a raibh oiread dúile do shaoirse acu agus a bhí ag George Washington.  Tá gá a scéal a insint faoi dheireadh, agus tá eagraíochtaí mar Independence Hall Association á insint.

 

 

BUÍOCHAS:

 

Táim an-bhuíoch de Edward Lawler, Jr., Staraí do Independence Hall Association, as a chabhair agus mise ag déanamh taighde ar an alt seo.

 

 

In memory of people in every time and in every place who were or who are slaves.

 

New Research

 

Excellent research is now being done on American slaves by certain organizations in the U.S.  As those stories are told, we find out more about our own story.

 

 

For example, on the website of the Independence Hall Association ag www.ushistory.org, I recently learned that George Washington freed his slaves on his death in 1799, but Martha Washington refused to free her own slaves.  I also learned about Oney Judge and Christopher Sheels.  They were slaves in George Washington's household in Philadelphia in the 1790s, when the nation's capital and the presidential mansion were both located there. 

 

 

 

Martha’s Slaves and George Washington

 

In 1796, Oney was 22 years old.  Her skin was the color of pale coffee, and sprinkled with freckles.  She learned that Martha Washington was about to give her to a friend as a wedding gift.  So Oney fled north from Philadelphia to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but she was recognized in 1798.  George sent his nephew to bring her back, but she went into hiding again.  She married Jack Staines, a sailor, in Portsmouth, and they soon had children.  She died in Greenland, New Hampshire, on February 25, 1848, at 75 years of age, poor but free.  Someone asked her whether she was sorry that she had fled from George Washington, "as she has labored so much harder since."  She said, "No, I am free, and have, I trust been made a child of God by the means." (1)

 

George Washington had only one personal servant in Philadelphia from 1790 to 1792, and he was Christopher Sheels when he was about 16 years old.  Christopher returned to Mount Vernon in 1792.  There, the household used him as a waiter.  Louis-Philippe, the future king of France, and others noted that only mulattos worked inside the house as a rule.  (2)   Therefore, it's apparent that Christopher Sheels was a mulatto like Oney Judge.   And like Oney Judge, there's little doubt that he took his father's last name.  In 1799, when Christopher was about 24 years old, he asked Washington's permission to marry a mulatto girl at another farm.  He got it.  Then, Washington discovered that Christopher and his wife also planned to escape.  But it seems that he was not punished.  When Washington died in 1799, Christopher Sheels was in the room.  Unfortunately, he belonged to Martha Washington and was not freed.  Nothing is known of him after 1802.

 

 

 

 

Is there more to be learned about these Americans?  Perhaps their names tell a story.

 

 

Owney Judge

 

Judge is both an English surname and an Irish surname.  In Ireland, it's a partial translation of Mac an Bhreitheamhan / Son of the Judge.   Mac an Bhreithimh is a modern variation.  Families of this name are found in Sligo, western Ulster, and Co. Cork. (3)(4)

 

 

But 'Oney' or 'Owney' isn't an English name at all.  It's pure Irish. Not far north of the Mac an Bhreithimhs  in Co. Cork, we find the tribal territory of the Uaithne straddling the modern Tipperary/Limerick border, i.e., the baronies of Owney (Uaithne) in Co. Tipperary and Owneybeg (Uaithne Beag = 'Little Uaithne') in Co. Limerick. (5)(6)(7)

 

 

Coghlan points out that anglicizations of Uaithne include Oney, Owney, Hewney, and Anthony for males. (8)   Woulfe confirms that the O'Mores, the O'Loghlens, and other families (like the Mac an Bhreithimh?) used Uaithne and its anglicizations as a first name. (9)

 

 

The O'Mores (Ó Mórdha) were seated just east of the Uaithne territory in what is now Co. Laois. (10)  The O'Loghlens (Ó Lochlainn) were based in Co. Clare, the county adjoining Limerick and Tipperary to the north. (11)

 

It's said that Oney's father, Andrew Judge, was an English tailor.  You can see his indenture papers at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/mgwquery.html

by typing ‘’Andrew Judge’’ into the search engine. (12)   Isn't it odd that an English-American father and an African-American mother would give their child a name which was well-recognized as a Gaelic name in the 18th century? (13)   It's also interesting that you can see the name of 'Cornelius McDermott Roe' as a witness on Andrew's indenture.  The "McDermott Roe" are a branch of the family of Mac Diarmada.  They were seated in Tír Thuathail, now called the parish of Kilronan, Co. Roscommon. (14)   Isn't it interesting that an Irishman, obviously an Irish spaker who was so proud of his Gaelic surname that he used its traditional form, was used as the witness on this indenture.  Why?  Just Coincidence?  Or was there a language problem?  Did they need a translator?  Did Andrew Judge, who signed his name with an X, speak only Irish?

 

 

Christopher Sheels

 

As for Christopher, "Sheels" is solely an Irish surname. There is little doubt, therefore, that Christopher Sheels was an Irish-American.  Sheels and its variations (Shiel, Sheals, Shields, etc.) are anglicizations of Ó Siadhail.  This family was renowned as physicians and surgeons in many parts of Ireland.  For example, "Owen O'Sheil, known as the 'Eagle of Doctors,' was physician to the armies of the Confederate Catholics of Ireland from 1642 to 1650." (15)   The main branches of this family were seated in what is now Co. Offaly and Co. Donegal. (16)   There is only one family of Ó Siadhail.  They are all related.  The well-known Irish-American actress Brooke Shields is a modern representative of the family, and no doubt a distant relative of Christopher.

 

 

Conclusion

 

All in all, however, it doesn't really matter whether or not Oney Judge and Christopher Sheels were Irish-Americans.  They were human beings, Americans, who wanted freedom as much as George Washington.  Their story finally needs to be told, and organizations like the Independence Hall Association are telling it.

 

 

 

THANKS:

 

I am extremely thankful to Edward Lawler, Jr., Historian of the Independence Hall Association, for his help as I researched this article.

 

 

BUNFHOINSÍ  /  SOURCES:

 

Coghlan, Ronan.  Irish First Names.  Belfast:  Appletree Press, 1985.

 

Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org

 

MacLysaght, Edward.  The Surnames of Ireland.  Dublin:  Irish Academic Press, 1980.

 

Mac Niocaill, Gearóid.  Ireland Before the Vikings.  Gill History of Ireland, Volume 1.  Dublin:  Gill and MacMillan, 1972.

 

O'Rahilly, Thomas F.  Early Irish History and Mythology.  Dublin:  Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1972.

 

Thompson, Mary V.  Different People, Different Stories: The Life Stories of Individual Slaves from Mount Vernon and Their Relationships with George and Martha Washington.  A Talk Given at a Symposium Entitled “George Washington & Slavery” at Mount Vernon, Virginia, November 3, 2001; revised, 4/22/2002

 

Woulfe, Rev. Patrick.  Irish Names for Children.  Dublin:  Gill and MacMillan, 1979.

 

Woulfe, Rev. Patrick.  Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall.  Reprint - Kansas City, Mo.:  Irish Genealogical Foundation, 1992.

 

FONÓTAÍ  /  FOOTNOTES

 

1.   http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/news/oj052245.htm

2.   Thompson, Mary V.  p. 15-16

3.   MacLysaght, p. 1, 26

4.   Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall, p. 310

5.   Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall, p. 517, 601

6.   Mac Niocaill, p. 8

7.   O'Rahilly, p. 10, 538

8.   Coghlan, p. 38, Hewney; p. 56, Owney

9.   Woulfe, Irish Names for Children, p. 38

10.  Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall, p. 619

11.  Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall, p. 585

12.  http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/mgwquery.html, agus clóscríobh “Andrew Judge” isteach san inneall cuardaigh

13.  Coghlan, p. 38, Hewney; p. 56, Owney 

14.  Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall, p. 350

15.  Woulfe, p. 643-644 

16.  MacLysaght, p. 271

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Gerald A. John Kelly

All Rights Reserved - No reproduction without written permission of the author

 

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