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CICERO History Beyond The Textbook Indentured Servitude CICERO © 2007
CICERO Introduction History Beyond The Textbook Indentured servants, or bonded laborers, played a large role in the creation of the British colonies in America. Most of these laborers made their way to the southern colonies, where they were worked cultivating tobacco and other cash crops. After serving their term of service, these settlers would venture west in search of new land to farm. They would form the foundation of early American society. CICERO © 2007
Origins CICERO Indenture MarksHistory Beyond The Textbook Indenture Marks The term indentured servant derives its name from the indenture, or mark on two copies of the contract the master and the servant signed. To prevent one of the parties from trying to alter the contract, the two copies of the contract were laid on top of one other, and identical marks were made. If anyone questioned the contract, the two pieces of paper would be placed on top of one other to try match the marks. This contract has been marked, but not yet indentured. This contract has been indentured. CICERO © 2007
Supply and Demand CICEROHistory Beyond The Textbook In the early part of the 1600s, there were many unemployed people in England and other European countries. At the same time the Virginia Company was beginning to make money raising and selling tobacco. However, because of the shortage of laborers to plant and harvest the crop, settlers were unable to meet the European demand for tobacco. Company agents advertised a new life in America in exchange for a few years of bonded labor. CICERO © 2007
CICERO The Deal History Beyond The Textbook An indentured servant contract was simple. The servant would agree to a term of service (usually four years for skilled workers and seven years for unskilled workers) in exchange for passage to America, food, shelter, and clothing. At the end of the contractual period, the servant was entitled to freedom dues. The freedom dues usually consisted of clothing, two hoes, three barrels of corn, and fifty acres of land. To unemployed and hopeless Europeans, the opportunity to own land and learn a skill were irresistible. CICERO © 2007
CICERO The Journey History Beyond The Textbook The journey to America took about two months and was a very difficult, especially for poor settlers traveling to the colonies. Servants received rations of food every two weeks. If the servant were to finish his food before the next distribution of rations, he faced starvation. Many passengers died from diseases and illness that swept through the ships carrying settlers to the colonies. Upon arrival in the colonies, the master of company agent would pay the ship’s captain for the indentured servant’s passage. Servants made the journey in the steerage or hold of the ship where there were cramped conditions and little privacy. CICERO © 2007
Who Were Indentured Servants?CICERO History Beyond The Textbook Who Were Indentured Servants? People of all ages and races came to America as indentured servants. However, most were young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Some of the first indentured servants in Jamestown arrived about 1619 on a Dutch ship carrying African slaves captured from a Portuguese ship. While some of the Africans were sold as slaves, about half were sold as indentured servants. It is estimated that during the 1600s more than 300,000 settlers arrived in the colonies as indentured servants. In fact, seventy-five percent of the settlers in Virginia during the seventeenth century had come as servants. CICERO © 2007
CICERO Treatment History Beyond The Textbook The treatment of indentured servants depended on their masters. A servant was considered the master’s property. The most common punishment time added to the indenture. Servants were also flogged, or whipped (usually twelve times). Servants were forbidden to marry or to have children during their indenture and were unable to trade or sell to freemen. Indentured servants could not travel without written permission from their masters. Minors were often cheated and forced to work more than the usual seven-year maximum. Young boys were often given the task of whipping those who broke the rules. CICERO © 2007
Enforced Servitude and RedemptionersCICERO History Beyond The Textbook Enforced Servitude and Redemptioners Bonded laborers came to the colonies in a variety of ways. Many were brought against their wills. A person who committed a crime in England could be sentenced to a term of servitude in America. This led to tens of thousands of criminals immigrating to the colonies, many of them became the first settlers of Georgia. A person also could become an indentured servant through redemption. Redemptioners often included families from Germany, Switzerland, and Ireland. They would sell their labor when they arrived in in the colonies. Many of these people settled in Pennsylvania and the western regions of Maryland and Virginia. This is a diary entry regarding Samuel Mau, a redemptioner from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. CICERO © 2007
Racism and Servitude CICEROHistory Beyond The Textbook By the middle of the 1600s, colonial governments began to treat white servants differently than servants of African descent. A 1640 court case was the first to establish that only Africans could be held in slavery for life. In 1691 a law was passed in Virginia (and later in other colonies) that stated a child born to a black woman automatically became the property of her master. This would come to be known as generational slavery. Laws also were passed that forbid intermarriage between races and other laws that allowed for much harsher treatment of black servants. CICERO © 2007
Slavery Replaces Indentured ServitudeCICERO Slavery Replaces Indentured Servitude History Beyond The Textbook While the practice of indentured servitude would continue well into the nineteenth century, slavery was beginning to replace it by the end of the 1600s. One factor that led to the demise of indentured servitude occurred in 1676 when many indentured servants joined poor farmers and rallied behind Nathaniel Bacon who led a rebellion against wealthy planters. A second uprising in Maryland a year later would mark a sharp decline in the number of indentured servants brought from Europe. Instead, Southern planters and merchants in the North turned to the African slave trade as a source of cheap, lifelong labor. CICERO © 2007
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