Many poor teenagers had to go to work early in their lives to ease the burden of their families. Most of the teenagers found jobs as indentured servants in the homes of more prosperous people. Indentured servitude meant that one would work for three to seven years in exchange for food and other necessities, and apprenticeship. During difficult times, even the adults would work as indentured servants as fewer positions were available. Most of the workers were immigrants from other nations who had come to seek work in America. Consequently, they agreed to work for more than four years to work and pay for their tickets. This study evaluates the concept of ‘indentured servitude’ and what made it an ethical act for both the master and the servant.
Indentured servitude was the preferred method of survival for most slaves in early 1600 because it provided incentives for both the servant and the master. The leaders of each colony knew that labor was essential for economic gains, therefore, they provided the servants with survival incentives such as basic needs in the form of contractual agreement with the master[a1]. In some states, such as Maryland and Virginia, the system of ‘headright’ was adopted where each leader would be awarded 50 acres of land for each laborer brought across the Atlantic. Additionally, the leaders of the colony received services from the workers for the entire indenture period. The systems seemed to benefit the indentured servant too since each one of them would have their fare paid for by the master. Moreover, they signed a contract that would stipulate the length of the servitude which was in most cases five years. Therefore, the servants agreed to the terms because they were supplied with accommodation, food, and clothes while serving in the Master’s field. The servant would receive servant dues upon completion of the contract or an arranged pre-termination bonus which could be money, a gun, or basic commodities.
Less than 50% of the indentured servants completed the full term of servitude because many terminated their contracts due to harassment from their masters. Shaw and Jenny (2018), illustrate that some servants were able to possess the land in the early century after they completed their contracts and were free men. However, it was only under tough circumstances where the servants would acquire land in Europe. According to Sharron (2018), the process of servitude would be very perilous although they had hoped for a brighter future in Europe, the conditions of the camps and harassment by the masters were incomprehensible and at times life-threatening. The masters ensured that they would make the most out of the servants as well as maintain them for as long as they preferred. Additionally, servants were displayed as cattle in a market, and those who were not bought right away were placed in merchant’s buildings.[a2]
Indentured servitude seemed ethical because of the nature of the agreement between the servant and the master that was based on contractual terms. However, on arrival, the indentured servants were publicly announced for sale on the newspapers as commodities for enhancing productivity in farms. Most immigrants preferred indentured servitude because they were promised of a better life abroad and the possibility of owning land in Europe was rear, although it never happened for many of them.
Shaw, Jenny. “Indentured Migration and the Servant Trade from London to America, 1618–1718:” There is Great Want of Servants.” by John Wareing.” The William and Mary Quarterly75.1 (2018): 187-189.
[a2]What do you mean?This doesn’t make sense