San Jose State University
Servitude in the New World
In a lot of ways indentured servants and slaves were very similar. Indentured servants had more hope for a better future but slaves could have better immediate conditions. They were both generally treated the same, subjected to the physical punishment of the masters. They worked for no immediate pay and had no real control over their working conditions.
Although they were similar in some ways, they definitely had their differences. A main difference was that the indentured servants had the prospects of being free after a certain amount of years. This helped a lot of them deal with the harsh conditions. On the other hand, slaves tended to be worth more to the masters. As a result they could sometimes be treated better because of their master’s financial investment in them. Indentured servants, especially those nearing the end of their terms, were worth very little to the master and did not need careful handling. Also Indentured servants came somewhat voluntarily and were mainly white males.
Slaves were forced, not paid, and mainly dark skinned. indentured servants were seen treated like the Christians and the slaves were treated like the pagans. Slaves were also enslaved for life and often brought offspring into those horrible conditions.
There are numerous ways in which these indentured servants would arrive in America.
Majority of them signed contracts saying that they would serve for a set amount of time and in return they were granted passage, food, and necessities. It was like a credit system, everything was taken care of and there was a promise of future services to pay it off. (Pursell, 2014) There were also people who came to America without any contract, these people were usually young and had no useful skills. There was a phrase “Custom of the Country” which basically meant they were regulated by the provincial statutes. (Pursell, 2014) The third way in which they
would come was the redemptioner system. The system brought immigrants, mainly German, to the Delaware Valley. The redemptioners would pay a part of their own transportation before leaving and then once they arrived they had a short amount of time to find a third party that was willing to pay the rest of the money. If they were unable to find a third party then the shipper would sell them. This system usually worked out because it allowed the immigrants to somewhat chose their masters and negotiate their service.(Pursell, 2014)
As bad as it is, in the end the labor produced by both indentured servants and slaves helped enhance our nation in many ways. To begin with, there is no way that the European colonist could have settled and developed as much of America and the Caribbean without the aid from these laborers.(Berkin, 2015) On top of that, slave labor in turn produced the main consumer goods like coffee, rum, tobacco, sugar, and cotton, which became the basis of the world trading system in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Slavery also played a crucial role in the economic development of the nation during the preCivil War period. Cotton alone accounted for over half the nation’s export earnings and by 1840 the south provided sixty percent of the world’s cotton. WIthin that, the South provided the British with seventy percent of the cotton needed for the textile industry. (Berkin, 2015) Which means that slavery actually helped pay for a large share of the capital, manufactured goods, and iron that paved the way for
American economic growth. BEcause the South focused in cotton, the North was able to develop businesses that serviced the South. Businesses like insurance companies, textile factories, chippers, meat processors, and cotton brokers all helped stimulate the economic growth in
America. (Berkin, 2015)
An indentured servant’s period of servitude started with the