Indentured Servants In Colonial America

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Although similar in many respects, the condition of indentured servants and slaves in colonial America differed in several key aspects which, taken together seem to indicate that the plight of slaves was much harder overall, than that of indentured servants, particularly those indentured servants who were of European as opposed to mixed, extraction. At first glance it might appear that there were few significant differences between the condition of slaves and indentured servants in colonial America; for example, both slaves and indentured servants were forced to labor for and at the behest of others, and were subject to the physical punishment meted out by their so-called Masters1. The evidence seems to show that both slaves and indentured servants were, on occasion, allowed to travel ‘on their own recognizance’ as it were, in order to practice their trades and in so doing, serve the economic interests of their masters. We see for example, the Irish tinkers who take French leave after being given permission by their master to travel the countryside practicing their trade2, or Billy Barber3, whose master notes in the advertisement seeking his return that he was “well known over most of this colony” due to having, we might presume, had been given leave to travel, at least judging by the advertisement…show more content…
The record shows that many of these attempts, both those of the slaves and the indentured servants, were unsuccessful5. However, it seems reasonable to suppose that those indentured servants of European ancestry were more able, more easily, to pass themselves off as being freemen than would be those slaves who had similarly escaped, even if they had somehow managed to forge a pass or other documents which might support their claim of the status of freemen to which they
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