American colonist protestations against British government importation of unwanted peoples went unheeded until the American Revolution brought an end to it and forced England to turn to Australia as a substitute destination for undesirables.
America the Dumping Ground
“Why then will Americans purchase Slaves? Because Slaves may be as long a Man pleases or has Occasion for their Labour; while hired Men are continually leaving their Masters (often in the midst of his Business) and setting up for themselves.” – Benjamin Franklin
At the time of the Revolution, about half the white population of the Colonies consisted of indentured laborers and their descendants. Some were orphans, debtors, paupers and mental defectives. Others had committed petty crimes. Still others were whores. Children were stolen and spirited off to be sold under indenture.
The Irish in particular were victimized. Oliver Cromwell believed that they were admirably suited for slavery and saw to it that the survivors of Drogheda massacre met their fate in Bermuda. His agents scoured Ireland for children to be sold to planters in the Americas. Between 1717 and 1775, 50,000 English felons were transported to mainland North America.
For the most part, the indentured workers settled in the South where the demand for unskilled labor was greatest. American writers and politicians protested against the use of the Colonies as a dumping ground for the unwanted, the impoverished and, in some cases, the vicious and mentally inferior. Benjamin Franklin compared British emigration policy with sending American rattlesnakes to England to teach them manners.
The importation of Negro slaves became quantitatively significant by the end of the 17th century. At the eve of the Revolution the black population of Georgia equaled or exceeded the white in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland. Delaware and Pennsylvania were one-fifth Negro; New York one-sixth or so.
Like some of their Northern counterparts, Federalists in the South openly opposed institution and in 1789 an anti-slavery society was founded in Maryland. Further south, in North Carolina, Hugh Williamson worked against any extension of slave power. Opposition both the African slave trade and to the slave-based plantation economy was grounded partly on moral considerations and partly on the belief that the African was a savage who could not and should not be assimilated into American society. When American rationalists in the late 18th century spoke about the unalienable rights of man, it was tacitly understood that the African was not included.”
(The Negro in American Civilization. Nathaniel Weyl. Public Affairs Press, 1960; pp. 23-24)