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The History of Indentured Servants

By Edited Jul 23, 2015 0 0

Who Were Indentured Servants?

      Indentured servants were typically poor folk of England, or other nationalities such as the Irish. They were poor folk looking for new opportunities and land. After all, the poor had very little to lose and so much more to gain. Besides, back then being poor was considered a crime in England and could land them in jail. It didn't matter if they never stole anything. So getting out of their country was an opportunity that many couldn't afford to miss.


Where Would They Find the New Lands?

     They would find their new land and opportunities in the New World, otherwise known as New England. They however could not get to the New World without paying and they either had no money or not enough to pay for the trip to the New World. This was where people seeking contracted workers came into play.


Immigrants, possible Indentured Servants

What Happened To Those Unable To Pay For The Trip?

      They either didn't get to go, or due to their economic straits many offered to work for a length of five to seven years. This was so that they'd be able to pay off their voyage fare across the Atlantic to whomever had paid for their passage. Those who were unwilling to work, could not cross. Those who did cross, but would not work, were thrown into jail or deported.


What Happened After Their Indentured Servitude?

     After their indentured servitude, some were sometimes offered small parcels of land once their contracts had ended. Land was something they wanted more than anything, because land equaled wealth and freedom. Land was in fact more valuable than monetary wealth. The more land they had, the wealthier they were.


What About Indentured Female Servants?

      A women usually had it more difficult as an indentured servant. If a woman were to become pregnant, her indentured servant contract would be extended. Sometimes the person to which they were indebted would be the father and the woman wouldn't always be willing either. One has to wonder if the men to whom they were indebted thought they were lower than animals, or if it was a deliberate ploy to keep them in servitude.

     It didn't matter if the woman was married or not, or that the woman was a child to the other indentured servants. For whatever reason, many land owners thought of themselves as entitled to a bit of a frolic with their servants. It didn't matter to some of them that the woman didn't want anything to do with them in that capacity. It also didn't matter that it would upset their parents who might also have been working for them. It could sometimes lead to attempted assassinations of the land owner, because of their crimes.


What Happened To The Land Owner After The Contracts Ran Out?

      Whenever a contract for an indentured servant ran out, the land owner would simply have to find others who would come to the New World. They'd have to be on the look out for those whom were unable to pay their own passage and pay for them by offering a contract of indentured servitude. In this way they always had someone working for them, but sometimes it wasn't always enough. Indentured servants were in high demand, but they did not come in great enough numbers for the land owners to be satisfied.


Was Getting An Indentured Servant Easy?

       No, getting an indentured servant wasn't easy. At least it wasn't easy for some areas. The areas where it was most difficult to get an indentured servant were those which were afflicted by high levels of death and disease. Another thing which put of those wanting to come to the New World were areas that had low levels of opportunity and wealth. If a place had a combination of all the above, it was like winning today's lottery, or getting struck by lightening as far as chances went. The higher the level of opportunity and wealth and the lower the rate of death and disease of certain areas were ideal to indentured servants. In such areas, indentured servants were more willing to work.


What Happened To The Indentured Servant When Their Contract Was Finished?

      Once an indentured servants contract had been completed in full, they might not have had anywhere to go. If they did have somewhere to go, the land they were given was usually in an undesirable location. A location in an area where they were close to or right on the front of the frontier. The frontier was a place where they could run into hostile natives. Not that the natives didn't have a right to be hostile.


What Did The Demand For Indentured Servants Lead To?

      The constant need for more indentured servants eventually led to people turning to slavery of Africans. It wasn't the only reason, but it was a major contributing factor. The fact that Africans were not given contracts and would probably never be free in their lifetime was thought to be a resource that no land owner wanted to miss out on. Unfortunately it led to an era of horrible misfortune for the Africans who were brought over from Africa and the African-Americans that were born in America.

Why Was There A Demand For Indentured Servants?

      The reason there was a demand for indentured servants, was because land owners needed them. Especially land owners that had a lot of land and couldn't work it all themselves. Thus they needed hands, as many as they could get, to work the lands in order for them to make a profit. When they turned to the slavery of Africans, mainly the Fulani, they began making a bigger profit. This, because they could make them work as many hours as they wished, without repercussions.

      It was greed more than anything which turned the people toward using slaves instead of indentured servants. It was unfortunate that other Africans would capture other Africans and give them to the slavers. The Fulani was the main source as they were less likely to fight and run than Africans from other tribes whom were more aggressive.





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  1. "Us History - Lesson 5: Indentured Servitude: Why Sell Yourself Into Bondage." econedlink. 4/05/2012 <Web >
  2. "Indentured Servitude in the Colonial U.S.." EH.net. 4/05/2012 <Web >
  3. "Indentured Servants in the U.S. | History Detectives." PBS.ORG. 4/05/2012 <Web >

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