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Old 04-12-2009, 08:10 PM
 
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It's estimated that upwards of two-thirds of emigrants to Colonial America were indentured servants. There was hard, rough work to be done and enterprising British merchants found a way to get it done and make a good return.They "encouraged" their undesirables and indigent to seek a new life in America.

The grinding poverty of lowland Scotland, Ulster and the bleak mill cities of England provided a reservoir of people that found the idea of a better life in America attractive. To meet the demand for more laborers, the British added convicts to their human inventory. Those destined to be sold as indentured servants often found themselves aboard ship with convicts, whose services might be sold at the same place. These were the disposable people.

It would be pleasant to think that most of these emigrants found their way to a better life, but it wasn't always so. They were often abused and neglected. Indeed, as in the case of one unfortunate young man's hidden remains found on Maryland's eastern shore, they were sometimes victims of homicide. I found a couple interesting sites that provide a glimpse into the life of the indentured:

The official site of Colonial Williamsburg - Lusty Beggars, Dissolute Women, Sorners, Gypsies, and Vagabonds for Virginia

If that link doesn't work, please do a search on the following:

The Official Site of Colonial Williamsburg -- Lusty Beggars

To access an interesting site on convict transportation, search the following:

Early American Crime: The Business of Convict Transportation
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:44 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Indentured servitude has long been overlooked because slavery was so much more visible. But the practice has for a long time been more widespread than slavery, and is still widespread in many third world countries.

It exists in many guises, including the Bracero Project, with a quota of 125,000 Mexican workers in the United States, which survived until 1964.
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Old 04-13-2009, 11:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
Indentured servitude has long been overlooked because slavery was so much more visible. But the practice has for a long time been more widespread than slavery, and is still widespread in many third world countries.

It exists in many guises, including the Bracero Project, with a quota of 125,000 Mexican workers in the United States, which survived until 1964.
Exactly true. My great-grandfather essentially came over as an indentured servant in the 1880s. I know that it was totally commonplace in areas of Scandinavian immigration into the early 20th century.
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Old 04-14-2009, 08:07 AM
 
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The Chinese were particularly used in indentured servitude.. from the railroads to the sugar cane fields.
As bad as it was, it at least gave them the chance to come to the US.. and unlike slaves, they did have the chance to become free.
Coolie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 04-14-2009, 09:46 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Sadly, indentured servitude as now practiced in many parts of the world is a great deal less benign than the historical examples. There are many cases in Latin America (that I know of, and probably elsewhere) , where a father cannot afford medical care for a child, and goes into open-ended servitude, until the debt is paid, which in many cases is never.
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Old 04-14-2009, 01:27 PM
 
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Well, in the eighteenth century, somebody who wanted to get to the New World had one of two options:

1) Figure out a way to scrounge passage and then struggle to establish himself in a completely alien country, or...

2) Agree to have somebody else pay his passage, house him, feed him, pay him and teach him a trade, in exchange for seven year's work. That doesn't exactly seem exploitive to me.

After all, the indentured servant didn't have to enter into the agreement at all. He could have just stayed home.
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Old 04-14-2009, 01:36 PM
 
Location: Rural Central Texas
3,605 posts, read 9,277,630 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
2) Agree to have somebody else pay his passage, house him, feed him, pay him and teach him a trade, in exchange for seven year's work. That doesn't exactly seem exploitive to me.

After all, the indentured servant didn't have to enter into the agreement at all. He could have just stayed home.
IF the indentured servant was lucky enough to land in a situation near a strong moral community with an honest legal system, then they likely did not suffer too much.

More likely they did not since those communities were few and most colonists did not reside in townships in those days, but were instead in smaller villages and rural farmsteads.

As you mention, there are methods to free oneself from indentured servitute. There were also methods of freeing oneself from slavery in those days. It happened, but infrequently. There were few slaves freed on the generosity of their owners and few more that were able to save enough money to buy their own freedom. Indentured servants were slightly more able to save money, but many bondholders were motivated by the free labor to ensure that they were never able to save quite enough to buy their freedom. There were ways to ensure that the bond price increased through insolence, disobedience, carelessness, and neglect on the part of the servant and if those failed to be enough, outright deceipt on the part of the bond holder as to what had been paid or time served.

Many indentured servants were treated worse than slaves because their cost of purchase was lower and their prospective time in service was shorter. This prompted the dishonest bond holder to try to make as much profit as possible with less regard for the condition of the servant.
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Old 04-14-2009, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Colorado
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I thought a lot of indentured servants came over as a result of having committed a crime? That this was considered a better alternative to being hanged and once they got here they were "sold" to an employer (who could resell them if they wanted) and once they'd finished their 7 years, they were manumitted and free to remain in the country or return to England?
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Old 04-14-2009, 06:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by chilaili View Post
I thought a lot of indentured servants came over as a result of having committed a crime? That this was considered a better alternative to being hanged and once they got here they were "sold" to an employer (who could resell them if they wanted) and once they'd finished their 7 years, they were manumitted and free to remain in the country or return to England?
Many of those who accepted indentured servitude were criminals, but the majority were undesirables -- vagabonds, beggars, and paupers -- that the English government was eager to discard. Transporting indentured servants became big business in the 1600s and 1700s. Some servants were probably treated well, but, apparently, there were many abuses. They had few rights. A runaway White servant would be hunted down the same as a Black or Indian slave. Notices would be posted in papers for the return of an indentured servant the same as any slave. Female domestic servants were sometimes subjected to improprieties and worse.

After the American Revolution, about 1780, the English government started a new program of 'transportation and seven years,' where a criminal would be sent to Australia, Tasmania or one of the remote islands. Many of the "crimes" committed were little more than petty offenses. Even though their term was seven years, few were ever given the option of returning to their homeland. Often, the work farms would be administered by a martinet who made life miserable. One such place was remote Norfolk Island, where several prisoners committed suicide rather than endure the hardships. A famous rebellion ensued on Tasmania in which a gang of prisoners escaped and terrorized the countryside for several months before they could be captured. A great book on that period is Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore. It's about 600+ pages, but a fascinating read. Interestingly, I found, on ship manifests, four individuals of my surname who made the trip. I believe about 60,000 prisoners were transported over several decades into the 1800s. .
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Old 04-14-2009, 06:54 PM
 
Location: southern california
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wow sounds a lot like mexico and cuba.
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