Indentured servant

Indentured servant

Overview
Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture
Indenture
An indenture is a legal contract reflecting a debt or purchase obligation, specifically referring to two types of practices: in historical usage, an indentured servant status, and in modern usage, an instrument used for commercial debt or real estate transaction.-Historical usage:An indenture is a...

. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed the paperwork. They included men and women; most were under the age of 21, and most became helpers on farms or house servants.
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Encyclopedia
Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture
Indenture
An indenture is a legal contract reflecting a debt or purchase obligation, specifically referring to two types of practices: in historical usage, an indentured servant status, and in modern usage, an instrument used for commercial debt or real estate transaction.-Historical usage:An indenture is a...

. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed the paperwork. They included men and women; most were under the age of 21, and most became helpers on farms or house servants. In terms of living conditions and discipline, they were usually treated like relatives. They were not paid cash. It was a system that provided jobs and—most important—transportation for poor young people from the overcrowded labor markets of Europe who wanted to come to labor-short America but had no money to pay for it. The great majority became farmers and farm wives.

America


In colonial North America, farmers, planters, and shopkeepers found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because cash was short and it was so easy for those workers to set up their own farm. Consequently, the more common solution was to pay the passage of a young worker from England or Germany, who would work for several years to pay off the travel costs debt. During that indenture period they were not paid wages, but they were provided food, room, clothing, and training. Most white immigrants arrived in Colonial America
Colonial America
The colonial history of the United States covers the history from the start of European settlement and especially the history of the thirteen colonies of Britain until they declared independence in 1776. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major...

 as indentured servants, usually as young men and women from Britain or Germany, under the age of 21. Typically, the father of a teenager would sign the legal papers, and work out an arrangement with a ship captain, who would not charge the father any money. The captain would transport the indentured servants to the American colonies, and sell their legal papers to someone who needed workers. At the end of the indenture, the young person was given a new suit of clothes and was free to leave. Many immediately set out to begin their own farms, while others used their newly acquired skills to pursue a trade. Legal arrangements of this type have been widespread throughout world history in different forms.

Workers, usually Europeans, including Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

, Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

, English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

, or German immigrants, immigrated to Colonial America
Colonial America
The colonial history of the United States covers the history from the start of European settlement and especially the history of the thirteen colonies of Britain until they declared independence in 1776. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major...

 in substantial numbers as indentured servants, particularly to the British Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

. In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of English settlers came as indentured servants, although indentured servitude was not a guaranteed route to economic autonomy. Given the high death rate, many servants did not live to the end of their terms. In the 18th and early 19th century, numerous Europeans traveled to the colonies as redemptioner
Redemptioner
Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to America by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage...

s, a form of indenture.

It has been estimated that the redemptioner
Redemptioner
Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to America by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage...

s comprised almost 80% of the total British and continental emigration to America prior to the Revolution.

Indentured servants were a separate category from bound apprentices. The latter were American-born children, usually orphans or from an impoverished family who could not care for them. They were under the control of courts and were bound out to work as an apprentice until a certain age. The most famous of these was Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 who illegally fled his apprenticeship with his brother, and Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

, who later became president.

Costs and wages


Wages were low in England, amounting to about 50 shillings a year for a plowman, and 40 shillings a year for an ordinary unskilled worker. Ship captains negotiated prices for transporting (and feeding) a passenger on the seven or eight week journey across the ocean, averaging about 6 pounds to 10 pounds sterling in 1750 (£ to £ in pounds) (10 pounds is equivalent to $2,040.43 USD as of 2003), the equivalent of four or five years of work back in England.

Legal documents


An indenture was a legal contract enforced by the courts. One indenture reads as follows:

This INDENTURE Witnesseth that James Best a Laborer doth Voluntarily put himself Servant to Captain
Stephen Jones Master of the Snow
Snow (ship)
A snow or snaw is a sailing vessel. A type of brig , snows were primarily used as merchant ships, but saw war service as well...

 Sally to serve the said Stephen Jones and his Assigns, for and during the full
Space, Time and Term of three Years from the first Day of the said James’ arrival in Philadelphia in AMERICA, during which Time or Term the said Master or his Assigns shall and will find and supply the said James with sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparel, Lodging and all other necessaries befitting such a Servant, and at the end and expiration of said Term, the said James to be made Free, and receive according to the Custom of the Country. Provided nevertheless, and these Presents are on this Condition, that if the said James shall pay the said Stephen Jones or his Assigns 15 Pounds British in twenty one Days after his arrival he shall be Free, and the above Indenture and every Clause therein, absolutely Void and of no Effect. In Witness whereof the said Parties have hereunto interchangeably put their Hands and Seals the 6th Day of July in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Three in the Presence of the Right Worshipful Mayor of the City of London. (signatures)


When the ship arrived, the captain would often advertise in a newspaper that indentured servants were for sale:

Just imported, on board the Snow Sally, Captain Stephen Jones, Master, from England,
A number of healthy, stout English and Welsh Servants and Redemptioner
Redemptioner
Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to America by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage...

s, and a
few Palatines [Germans], amongst whom are the following tradesmen, viz. Blacksmiths,
watch-makers, coppersmiths, taylors, shoemakers, ship-carpenters and caulkers, weavers,
cabinet-makers, ship-joiners, nailers, engravers, copperplate printers, plasterers, bricklayers,
sawyers and painters. Also schoolmasters, clerks and book-keepers, farmers and labourers,
and some lively smart boys, fit for various other employments, whose times are to be disposed of.

Enquire of the Captain on board the vessel, off Walnut-street wharff, or of MEASE and CALDWELL.


When a buyer was found, the sale would be recorded at the city court. The Philadelphia Mayor’s Court Indenture Book, page 742, for September 18, 1773 has the following entry:

James Best.
Who was under Indenture of Redemption to Captain
Stephen Jones now cancelled in consideration of £ 15,
paid for his Passage from London bound a servant
to David Rittenhouse of the City of Philadelphia
& assigns three years to befound all necessaries.

Restrictions


Indentures could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment (like many young ordinary servants), and saw their obligation to labor enforced by the courts. To ensure uninterrupted work by the female servants, the law lengthened the term of their indenture if they became pregnant. But unlike slaves, servants could look forward to a release from bondage. At the end of their term they received a payment known as "freedom dues" and become free members of society. One could buy and sell indentured servants' contracts, and the right to their labor would change hands, but not the person as a piece of property.

Both male and female laborers could be subject to violence, occasionally even resulting in death. Richard Hofstadter
Richard Hofstadter
Richard Hofstadter was an American public intellectual of the 1950s, a historian and DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University...

 notes that as slaves arrived in greater numbers after 1700, white laborers became a "privileged stratum, assigned to lighter work and more skilled tasks."

Redemptionist profile


Indentured servitude was a method of increasing the number of colonists, especially in the British colonies. Voluntary migration and convict
Convict
A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison", sometimes referred to in slang as simply a "con". Convicts are often called prisoners or inmates. Persons convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentences often are not termed...

 labor only provided so many people, and since the journey across the Atlantic was dangerous, other means of encouraging settlement were necessary. Contract-laborers became an important group of people and so numerous that the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 counted them specifically in appointing representatives:
Displaced from their land and unable to find work in the cities, many of these people signed contracts of indenture and took passage to the Americas. In Massachusetts, religious instruction in the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 way of life was often part of the condition of indenture, and people tended to live in towns.

The labor-intensive cash crop of tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 was farmed in the American South by indentured laborers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Indentured servitude was not the same as the apprenticeship
Apprenticeship
Apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill. Apprentices or protégés build their careers from apprenticeships...

 system by which skilled trades were taught, but similarities do exist between the two, since both require a set period of work. The majority of Virginians were Anglican, not Puritan, and while religion did play a large role in everyday lives, the culture was more commercially based. In the Upper South, where tobacco was the main cash crop, the majority of labor that indentured servants performed was related to field work. In this situation, social isolation could increase the possibilities for both direct and indirect abuse, as could lengthy, demanding labor in the tobacco fields.

The system was still widely practiced in the 1780s, picking up immediately after a hiatus during the American Revolution. Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects, each representing several decades of intense study: The Mediterranean , Civilization and Capitalism , and the unfinished Identity of France...

 (The Perspective of the World 1984, pp 405f) instances a 1783 report on "the import trade from Ireland" and its large profits to a ship owner or a captain, who:
In modern terms, the shipowner was acting as an contractor
Independent contractor
An independent contractor is a natural person, business, or corporation that provides goods or services to another entity under terms specified in a contract or within a verbal agreement. Unlike an employee, an independent contractor does not work regularly for an employer but works as and when...

, hiring out his laborers. Such circumstances affected the treatment a captain gave his valuable human cargo. After indentures were forbidden, the passage had to be prepaid, giving rise to the inhumane conditions of Irish 'coffin ship
Coffin ship
Coffin ship is the name given to any boat that has been overinsured and is therefore worth more to its owners sunk than afloat. These were hazardous places to work in the days before effective maritime safety regulation. They were generally eliminated in the 1870s with the success of reforms...

s' in the second half of the 19th century.

Decline


Indentured servitude was a major element of colonial labor economics, from the 1620s until the American Revolution. Few indentures arrived after 1775, so Southern planters turned increasingly to black slaves for their labor force.

Several factors contributed to the decline of indentured servitude. The expansion of staple crop production in the colonies led to an increased demand for skilled workers, and the price of indentured agricultural labor increased. For example, the cost of indentured labor rose by nearly 60 percent throughout the 1680s in some colonial regions.

Relative labor costs changed, with an increase in real income in Europe and England. This, along with improved transportation productivity and efficiency with smaller crew sizes, and cheaper insurance rates the proportion of annual income needed to pay for voyage to the colonies, so immigrants could refrain from entering indentured contracts.

Rising prices for English servants made the rather elastic supply of Africans comparatively less expensive and more desirable. Colonial farmers preferred not to train adult slaves to do skilled labor, and chose to train younger Africans when they reached the colonies or to train the children of adult slaves already in British America. By the turn of the 17th century, unskilled labor positions were often filled by African slaves and skilled service positions were still filled by white indentured servants. Thereafter, Africans began to replace indentured servants in both skilled and unskilled positions.

Caribbean


A half million Europeans went as indentured servants to the Caribbean (primarily the south Caribbean, Trinidad, French Guiana, and Surinam) before 1840. Most were young men, with dreams of owning their land or striking it rich quick would essentially sell years of their labor in exchange for passage to the islands. The landowners on the islands would pay for a servant’s passage and then provide them with food, clothes, shelter and instruction during the agreed upon term. The servant would then be required to work in the landowner’s (master) field for a term of bondage (usually four to seven years). During this term of bondage the servant had a status similar to a son of the master. For example they were not allowed to marry without the master’s permission. They could own personal property. They could also complain to a local magistrate about mistreatment that exceeded community norms. However, his contract could be sold or given away by his master. After the servant’s term was complete he became independent and was paid “freedom dues”. These payments could take the form of land which would give the servant the opportunity to become an independent farmer or a free laborer. As free men with little money they became a political force that stood in opposition to the rich planters.

Indentured servitude was a common part of the social landscape in England and Ireland during the 17th century. During the 17th century, many Irish were also taken to Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

. In 1643, there were 37,200 whites in Barbados (86% of the population). During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms formed an intertwined series of conflicts that took place in England, Ireland, and Scotland between 1639 and 1651 after these three countries had come under the "Personal Rule" of the same monarch...

many Scottish and Irish prisoners of war were sold as indentured labors to the colonies.

After 1660, fewer indentured servants came from Europe to the Caribbean. Newly freed servant farmers, given a few acres of land, were unable to make a living because profitable sugar plantations needed to cover hundreds of acres. The landowners’ reputation as cruel masters became a deterrence to the potential indentured servant. In the 17th century, the islands became known as a death traps, as between 33 to 50 percent of indentured servants died before they were freed, many from Yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

, malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and other diseases.

When slavery ended in the British Empire in 1833, plantation owners turned to indentured servitude for inexpensive labor. These servants arrived from across the globe; the majority came from India. Indeed, From 1846 to 1932, an estimated 28 million Indians departed India as indentured laborers to work in colonies requiring manual labor. As a result, today Indo-Caribbean
Indo-Caribbean
Indo-Caribbean people or Indo-Caribbeans are Caribbean people with roots in India or the Indian subcontinent. They are mostly descendants of the original indentured workers brought by the British, the Dutch and the French during colonial times...

s form a majority in Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, a plurality in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

 and Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

, and a substantial minority in Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, Grenada
Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

, Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

, and other Caribbean islands.

Australia and Pacific


In the article on the history of Vanuatu
History of Vanuatu
The history of Vanuatu begins obscurely. The commonly held theory of Vanuatu's prehistory from archaeological evidence supports that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300 B.C...

, it states that, "During the 1860s, planters in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Fiji
Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, and the Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 Island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

s, in need of laborers, encouraged a long-term indentured labor trade called "blackbirding
Blackbirding
Blackbirding is a term that refers to recruitment of people through trickery and kidnappings to work as labourers. From the 1860s blackbirding ships were engaged in seeking workers to mine the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands in Peru...

." At the height of the labor trade, more than one-half the adult male population of several of the Islands worked abroad".

Over a period of 40 years, from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, labor for the sugar cane fields of Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 included an element of coercive recruitment and indentured servitude, of the 62,000 South Sea Islanders (from Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

, mainly the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

 and Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

, with a small number from the Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

n and Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

n islands such as Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

, Kiribati
Kiribati
Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

 and Tuvalu
Tuvalu
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

). They were collectively known as Kanakas
Kanakas
Kanaka was the term for a worker from various Pacific Islands employed in British colonies, such as British Columbia , Fiji and Queensland in the 19th and early 20th centuries...

.

How many Islanders were kidnapped (or blackbirded
Blackbirding
Blackbirding is a term that refers to recruitment of people through trickery and kidnappings to work as labourers. From the 1860s blackbirding ships were engaged in seeking workers to mine the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands in Peru...

) is unknown and remains controversial. Whether Islanders were legally recruited, persuaded, deceived, coerced or forced to leave their homes and travel by ship to Queensland
is difficult. Official documents and accounts from the period often conflict with the oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 passed down to the descendants of workers. Stories of blatantly violent kidnapping tended to relate to the first 10–15 years of the trade.

Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 repatriated many of these people to their places of origin in the period 1906-1908 under the provisions of the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901
Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901
The Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 was an Act of the Parliament of Australia which was designed to facilitate the mass deportation of nearly all the Pacific Islanders working in Australia. Along with the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, enacted six days later, it formed an important part of the...

.

The Australian colonies of Papua and New Guinea (joined after the Second World War to form Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

) were the last jurisdictions in the world to use indentured servitude.

Indian Ocean


The islands of the Indian Ocean, especially Mauritius, with extensive sugar cane plantations sought a cheaper workforce than emancipated workers negotiating for higher wages. Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

 was the country of coolitude, the 'Great Experiment
Great Experiment
-Nations:* United States, The Great Democratic Experiment.* Confederate States, Great Experiment of States' rights.* Soviet Union, The Great Socialist Experiment.* Nazi Germany, The Great Nordic Experiment.* Israel, The Great Zionist Experiment....

' of widespread recourse to indentured labor having started there. Mauritius acted as a hub or plaque tournante for this indentured population of coolie
Coolie
Historically, a coolie was a manual labourer or slave from Asia, particularly China, India, and the Phillipines during the 19th century and early 20th century...

s, receiving and onward dispatching hundreds of thousands of coolies to Africa and the Indies through the Aapravasi ghat
Aapravasi Ghat
The Immigration Depot is a building complex located in Port Louis, on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, which was the first British colony to receive indentured, or contracted, labor workforce from India. From 1849 to 1923, half a million Indian indentured labourers passed through the...

.

Legal status


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 in 1948) declares in Article 4 "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms". However, only national legislation can establish its unlawfulness. In the United States, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) of 2000 extended servitude to cover peonage as well as Involuntary Servitude.

A strict reading of the US military terms of service seems to fit the definition of indentured servitude, creating a loophole in US law whereby servitude is permitted, but only when enacted by the government of the United States.

See also

  • Indenture
    Indenture
    An indenture is a legal contract reflecting a debt or purchase obligation, specifically referring to two types of practices: in historical usage, an indentured servant status, and in modern usage, an instrument used for commercial debt or real estate transaction.-Historical usage:An indenture is a...

     (document)
  • Redemptioner
    Redemptioner
    Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to America by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage...

  • Runaway servants
  • Slavery
    Slavery
    Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

  • Coolie
    Coolie
    Historically, a coolie was a manual labourer or slave from Asia, particularly China, India, and the Phillipines during the 19th century and early 20th century...

  • History of Guyana
    History of Guyana
    The recorded history of Guyana can be dated back to 1498, approximately 500 years ago, when it was rediscovered by Europeans. The history of Guyana is punctuated by battles that were fought and won, and possessions that were lost and regained, while the Spanish, French, Dutch and British wrangled...

  • Involuntary servitude
    Involuntary servitude
    Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs...

  • Trafficking in human beings
  • Bracero Program
    Bracero Program
    The Bracero Program was a series of laws and diplomatic agreements, initiated by an August 1942 exchange of diplomatic notes between the United States and Mexico, for the importation of temporary contract laborers from Mexico to the United States.American president Franklin D...

  • Padrone system
    Padrone system
    The padrone system was an indentured labor system that preyed upon Italian immigrants to the United States.Many thousands of Italian immigrants found themselves prisoners of the padrone, or patron, system of labor. The padroni were labor brokers, sometimes immigrants themselves, who recruited...

  • Indian indenture system
    Indian indenture system
    The Indian indenture system was an ongoing system of indenture by which thousands of Indians were transported to various colonies of European powers to provide labour for the plantations...

  • Indentured servitude in Pennsylvania
    Indentured servitude in Pennsylvania
    Indentured servitude in Pennsylvania : The institution of indentured servitude has a significant place in the history of labor in Pennsylvania. From the founding of the colony to the early post-revolution period , indentured servants contributed considerably to the development of agriculture and...



Further reading

  • Immigrant Servants Database
  • Abramitzky, Ran; Braggion, Fabio. "Migration and Human Capital: Self-Selection of Indentured Servants to the Americas," Journal of Economic History, Dec 2006, Vol. 66 Issue 4, pp 882–905,
  • Ballagh, James Curtis. White Servitude In The Colony Of Virginia: A Study Of The System Of Indentured Labor In The American Colonies (1895)
  • Brown, Kathleen. Goodwives, Nasty Wenches & Anxious Patriachs: gender, race and power in Colonial Virginia, U. of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Hofstadter, Richard. America at 1750: A Social Portrait (Knopf, 1971) pp 33–65 online
  • Jernegan, Marcus Wilson Laboring and Dependent Classes in Colonial America, 1607-1783 (1931)
  • Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. (Norton, 1975).
  • Salinger, Sharon V. To serve well and faithfully: Labor and Indentured Servants in Pennsylvania, 1682-1800. (2000)
  • Khal Torabully and Marina Carter, Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora Anthem Press, London, 2002, ISBN 1-84331-003-1
  • Saxton, Martha. Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.
  • Zipf, Karin L. Labor of Innocents: Forced Apprenticeship in North Carolina, 1715-1919 (2005).
  • Whitehead, John Frederick, Johann Carl Buttner, Susan E. Klepp, and Farley Grubb. Souls for Sale: Two German Redemptioners Come to Revolutionary America, Max Kade German-American Research Institute Series, ISBN 0-271-02882-3.
  • Marion, Pascal. Dictionnaire étymologique du créole réunionnais, mots d'origine asiatique, Carré de sucre, 2009, ISBN 978-2-9529135-0-8

External links