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Indentured Servants

By krystin21 Apr 11, 2009 1145 Words
Indentured Servants
Throughout U.S. history the United States has encountered many stressful and life taking hardships, and all for what? For the world to continue growing, for each individual to feel safe and to be created equal. History is a word that we look upon and think of famous people who changed our way of living, who went beyond what they were capable of in order to be remembered. People like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Hancock, all these men did great things. Yet we still forget to remember those who went through terrible hardships in order to survive back in those days. I’m talking about indentured servants; these particular individuals lived lives we couldn’t even imagine. The hardships they went through are unforgettable, yet they are also relevant to our history.

To get a better glimpse into an indentured servant’s everyday life imagine you have a job that doesn’t pay you anything for your labor. A job that transports you to a multiple of places where all you can do is work, for no money, and food that is rotten, unbearable life styles, being packed densely while being transported across the ocean. On a ship where the water is black and warm food is served only three times a week, indentured servants were pretty much manipulated into thinking they would be taken care of. Labor was hard and living conditions were generally harsh for indentured servants. Many servants had difficulty adjusting to the climate and native diseases of southeast Virginia, and many servants did not live to receive their freedom. In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, many colonists arrived as indentured servants who would serve a term of hardworking labor before receiving their freedom. Men, women, and sometimes children signed a contract with a "master" to serve a term of 4 to 7 years. In exchange for their service, indentured servants received their passage paid from England, and food, clothing and shelter once they arrived in the colony. When the contract had expired, the servant was paid "freedom dues" and allowed to leave the plantation. Freedom dues usually consisted of corn, tools and clothing freedom back then meant a lot to anyone who was a human being it meant that you could live your own life without anyone’s say so. So being an indentured servant meant being one step closer to freedom.

The year 1756 a letter was written by a disobedient girl named Elizabeth Sprigs who was working as an indentured servant in order to finance her passage from England she was banished from her family’s sight and wrote a letter to her father begging him to send her clothing in order to survive. Living in the Chesapeake building spacious mansions needed a lot of people’s labor in order to finish the job so most small farmers were tenants, renting the land from larger landowners. Elizabeth needed more than clothing though she was pretty much naked when working she had no shoes nor stalking to wear, she didn’t even have a bed to sleep in all she could do was wrap herself in a blanket where she would rest her body in order to survive a hard day’s work in order to wake up in the morning only so she could do the same routine until her debt was paid off. Elizabeth Sprigs wasn’t the only indentured servant who lived this horrible life indentured servants ranged in millions. About 70% of migrants from England who came between 1630-1660 were indentured servants. These people’s lives consisted of nothing but work in the worst possible conditions and most unfair treatment you can imagine. Being an indentured servant meant sacrificing your well being in order to be free again, there really was no escaping this hurtful unlawful labor. Female indentured servants were often raped without legal recourse. Master’s often whipped and beat their indentured servants if you tried to run away from this your master would make you regret your decision by making you pay for your mistake for example the consequences for such behavior were along the lines of tripling the time the indentured servant must serve before they can be let go. Every two weeks at sea the indentured servant passengers received an allowance of bread. One man and his wife, having eaten their bread in eight days, staggered before the captain and begged him to throw them overboard, for they would otherwise starve before the next bread day. The captain laughed in their faces, while the ship's mate, even more of a brute, gave them a bag of sand and told them to eat that. The couple did die before the next ration of bread, but the captain charged the other passengers for the bread the two would have eaten if they had survived. This mistreatment was not only encountered upon adults, children also were indentured servants, and whole families were separated when being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money. If and when a husband or wife died on their journey at sea the survivor of the two must pay for both terms before being free again. One way or another indentured servants paid the debt to society, even if that meant dying in doing so. If both parents had died at sea then their children remained indentured servants until they were twenty one years of age when one has served their time period they were rewarded with a new suit of clothes sometimes the man would be entitled to clothing and a horse. For the women they would receive clothing and a cow, so much for their hardworking labor. Richard Frethorne who was an indentured servant in Virginia wrote a letter to his mother and father preaching to them the deaths and diseases which he gazed upon just three months after living in Jamestown colony. Their plantation was weak every hour they would stop just to gaze upon who was going to die next, the diseases were taking lives constantly. Sadly there was no comfort, no cure for this hardship. Indentured servants didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into before agreeing to sell themselves as slave. Pretty much treated like slaves in order for them to become free again, the lives they encountered with were sincerely unforgettable and permanently damaged their self control to where all they wanted was death itself. Rather than be treated like an animal they only wished to end their sentence by ending their life. There was no happy ending for most indentured servants. These people lives are relevant to our history in order to understand how things were settled back then, how debt was paid off and how certain sacrifices were made in order to be considered free.

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