The Role Of Indentured Servants During The Nineteenth Century

982 WordsMay 24, 20164 Pages
As tobacco became a profitable crop in the seventeenth century, the demand for labor increased. Due to the labor shortage, planters started to buy indentured servants, who were cheaper than slaves since they only serve for a certain time period. Indentured servants signed contracts to work to travel to America and to acquire promised freedom dues. The freedom dues could include land, clothes, money, or food. Servants would generally serve for four to seven years; children would serve for a longer time. Many signed the contracts without being fully aware of the actual conditions of labor and living. Indentured servants were treated only slightly better than slaves; the small difference is that the servants did not have to serve for life, and they were able to own land. Overall, the lifestyle provided to servants was horrible since they were not properly clothed, received minimal food, and were abused; even laws could not protect their rights. The servants lacked both food and clothing which weakened them and made them more prone to diseases. Both Richard Frethorne and Elizabeth Sprigs wrote to their parents, informing them of the harsh conditions they experienced as an indentured servant. Frethorne described the pitiful scene of four grown men having to share a piece of bread and asked his father to take him home or at least send him food. Similarly, Sprigs also grieved over the fact that there was only corn and salt to eat. Based on what the two servants described, one can
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