Indentured Servants During Colonial America

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During colonial America, many of the people who came from England were indentured servants. In colonies, like Virginia, the presence of indentured servants and slaves was an indication of the prosperity of the colony. In the 17th century about 96,900 immigrants to the colonies were indentured servants. About 67 percent of those who migrated to the colonies were unfree, indentured servants, slaves, and felons. This importation of the unfree was a part of the English Poor Law of 1601. The law was supposed to help the poor get employment in the American colonies. In the late 16th and into the 17th century, poverty became a growing epidemic in English society. As a result of the rising population of poor and the unemployed, the English Poor Law…show more content…
Frethorne state that in his condition he lacked food, clothes, and shelter, and because of this he asked his parents and Bateman, a parish official, if they would redeem him. “The Poor Law allowed parish administrators, like Bateman, to rescind an indenture contract if a master failed to maintain a child with sufficient food, clothing, and shelter” (11). Frethorne seemed desperate for redemption, even comparing his state to the biblical account of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery. One of the provisions of the Poor Law required shelter. Frethorne had no extra clothes, only the ones he was wearing when he wrote his letter. This showed how although the law was set up to foster a decent life for each servant, not all were treated accordingly. Free labor was a necessity to vitalize the work and demands of the colony. Indentured children played an important role by providing labor. The poor children became a crucial component of the colonial economic system because the free labor they performed stabilized the risk for middling planters and thus contributed to the sustained viability of the colonial communities (21). The economy depended on how many workers were at hand in Virginia, therefore children were used to do work on plantations. Because of the demands, many indentured children were treated poorly, and their welfare was often overlooked. To stifle rebellion by servants punishments were established for misconduct, such as running away, stealing food, and “impudent”
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