Indentured Servants and Slaves



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In early colonial days in the 1600`s, there was plenty of land, but not enough workers to produce the crop, so the growth of tobacco, rice, and indigo created a tremendous need of labor. With passage to the Colonies expensive for all but the wealthy, the Virginia Company developed the system of indentured servitude to attract workers. Indentured servants became vital to the colonial economy. Indentured servants were not slaves, but neither were they free.  Indentured Servants were poor people from England who came to America and were placed under contract to work for another over a period of time, usually for seven years. 

Servants wanted to move away to a place that had opportunities to make their life better. The servant would be supplied room and board while working in the master’s fields. Upon completion of the contract, the servant would receive “freedom dues,” a pre-arranged termination bonus. This might include land, money, a gun, clothes or food, So after they were free they would be able to have their own place to live. However, only about 40 percent of indentured servants lived to complete the terms of their contracts. Servants were given a period of time to work for the farmers and were treated pretty fairly, and they were also given a shelter, clothing, and food until the contract expired.

On the other hand slaves weren’t given the option to be free after a period of time, they were kept as a property for the rest of their lives.  Owners wouldn’t even give them any food for days and would beat them until they would do what ever the owner asked from them. . They weren’t getting paid either and weren’t really given any clothing.  It is surprising to think slavery in America lasted for more than 200 years.  The British outlawed slavery and indentured servitude about 80 years before the Americans.

America continues to be supported by poor immigrants but at least all citizens have a right to their freedom.

Resolution to prohibit slavery and indentured ...
Resolution to prohibit slavery and indentured servitude under the Ordinance of 1784 (resolution failed) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)