T.H. Breen, ‘A Changing Labor Force and Race Relations in Virginia’, Journal of Social History
CHANGE OVER TIME
Virginia in the years 1660-1683: much unrest, rioting, violence. According to the landowners and politicians this was due to “opportunists” (individuals usually) taking advantage of the “giddy multitude” (H.R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia 1659/60-1693, [Richmond, 1914], 73) – indentured servants, slaves, poor whites and blacks, debtors and landless freemen. BUT ENDED IN THE 1680S….
-planters saw the lower classes as a serious threat to Virginia’s internal security: “Great Virginia planters expressed disappointment with the quality of their servants regardless of the means by which they had been recruited. The owners of large tobacco plantations wanted hard-working, honest and obedient laborers, but the merchants seemed to be delivering “the very scum and off-scouring" ([Lionel Gatford], Publick Good Without Private Interest.... (London, 1657), 9-12.) of England.”
-Ex-servants, preferred to work for wages or rent land in secure areas than set up plantations on the frontiers- fear of Indian attack (until 1680s), only 6% of ex-indentured servants became independent planters. Freemen most vulnerable planters – subject to market and weather changes more- and couldn’t afford labourers- often did not make much profit. Creation of social tensions between richer and poorer groups – sense of unfairness – anger needed to be directed somewhere. Introduction of slave labour a) meant people had more profit – reduced wages, b) the was a class more worse off than the poor whites and servants but c) also reduced the need for paid workers – but hatred directed towards the slaves instead of slave-owners.
- in mid-17th century, use of white indentured servants was cheaper and more reliable than importing black slaves – not