Slavery and Indentured Servants

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 2 October 2016

Slavery and Indentured Servants

PART ONE Question 2: Thomas Jefferson feared the growth of manufacturing mainly because he knew that America land compared to Europe’s land wasn’t as adequate and sufficient enough to manufacture our own goods and we would produce different results. Jefferson stated in the “Republican Thomas Jefferson Celebrates the Virtue of the Yeoman Farmer, 1785” document that “In Europe the lands are either cultivated, or locked up against the cultivator. Manufacture must therefore be resorted to of necessity not of choice, to support the surplus of their people” (Jefferson, 1).

Also, Jefferson kept the lower class in mind and he knew that a lot of lower class families couldn’t afford to buy and sell manufactured goods. Therefore, Jefferson focused more on a nation of commercial agriculture and independent farmers, so that the low class families could work and toil for their needs. Jefferson also believed that people wanted to manufacture their own goods for the wrong reasons. For instance, Jefferson stated that people “depend on land for the casualties and caprice of customers” (Jefferson, 1). However, Alexander Hamilton’s view of America’s socioeconomic future differed from Thomas Jefferson because Hamilton dreamed of transforming the United States into a manufacturing giant like Great Britain.

Hamilton was against commercial agriculture and independent farmers because he felt that “the separation of occupations causes each to be carried to a much greater perfection, than it could possibly acquire, if they were blended” (Hamilton, 1). This statement proves true to me because if everyone did the same occupation, less people would try as hard to succeed and there would also be fewer opportunities for people. Diversity brings forth a greater changer and it has more significance.

If a society focused solely on complete agriculture the result and produce would vary for numerous of reasons. One reason for example is location, which can be referred to by the temperature. According to Hamilton “the difference of seasons, in the countries which are consumers make immense differences in the produce of their own soils; in different years; and consequently in the degrees of their necessity for foreign supply” (Hamilton, 2), as well as other natural problems that may occur such as lack of soil and land. Therefore, in order to secure a stable and consistent market, one would need to agree with Hamilton and set up manufacturing establishments. In my opinion, I think that both men have correct and valid point and opinions. Today, American political system expresses both elements of their philosophies.

PART TWO Question 3: The thought of coming to North America for indentured servants seemed like a dream to many because it was an answer or at the very least a solution to their many problems. According to Divine textbook, indentured servants are “individuals who are contracted to serve a master for a set number of years in exchange for the cost of boat transport to America” (Divine, 26). Also in exchange for their transportation were food, lodging, clothing, and other necessities that were provided as well. Before immigration to North America indentured servants lived a very poor life in their country and suffered immensely. Most English immigrants faced poverty, unemployment, lack of clothing and food, and even shelter.

But upon entering into North America most indentured servants (but not all), received the opposite of what they expected, hoped, and dreamed of and instead experienced negative results within this new land. According to the document “Our Plantation is Very Weak”, which is a letter from Richard Frethorne written to his parents during his experience as an indentured servant in Virginia in 1623; it displays extreme suffering and pity. As the title implies, his plantation was very weak due to the many death and sicknesses that the English carried over with them. For example, “For we came but twenty for the merchants, and they are half dead just; and we look every hour when two more should go” (Frethorne, 1). Therefore, they transitioned from poor suffering adults in England to the continuation of suffering as becoming servants, indentured servants.

Furthermore, Frethorne begged for his parents to redeem his indenture and if not possible then at the very least that they would send some money to purchase him food. From reading this letter I really saw how much he and the other indentured servants suffered. It was so severe that the English cried out that they wished “that they were in England without their limbs-and would not care to lose any limb but to be in England again” (Frethorne, 1). Also, Frethorne quoted that “he has eaten more in [one] day at home than what he has eaten there for a week” (Frethorne, 2). These quotes really demonstrated the disparity of the indentured servants in Virginia and Frethorne’s true desire of wanting to return back to England, which wasn’t so bad after all compared to the horrible new land.

However, in contrary to Frethorne, George Aslop’s writing in “They Live Well in the Time of their Service” during 1663 in Maryland document was viewed more positively than Frethorne’s outlook. He actually and surprisingly agrees with servitude. Aslop wrote, “For I’m certainly confident, that there are several Thousands in most Kingdoms of Christendom, that could not at all live and subsist, unless they had served some prefixed time” (Aslop, 2); he found servitude necessary for better living. I think it is very interesting how Frethorne’s and Aslop’s outlook on being a servant is very different. Aslop was an indentured servant for four years and instead of viewing it as enslavement he viewed it as simply serving because he was more focused on the benefits and not the circumstances.

For example, “And what’s a four year’s Servitude to advantage a man all the remainder of his dayes, making his predecessors happy in his sufficient abilities, which he attained to partly by the restrainment of so small a time?” (Aslop, 2) Nonetheless, I have to keep in mind that what they experienced were in different locations (Virginia/Maryland). For instance, according to Aslop Maryland had it easier compared to other colonies, “For know, That the Servants here in Mary-Land of all Colonies, distant or remote Plantations, have the least cause to complain, either for strictness of Servitude, want of Provisions, or need of Apparel” (Aslop, 3).

Also, Aslop’s document was written after his servitude as an indentured servant and Frethorne’s letter was written during his servitude. Therefore, Frethorne was more focused on his present situation because that was what he was currently enduring and dealing with. As for Aslop, who was currently enjoying the fruits of his labor therefore all of the negative experiences that he may have had meant less to him now that he survived. Also, another important difference between Frethorne and Aslop is that Aslop wasn’t necessarily a typical indentured servant because he had prior experience as an artisan or mechanic, which is more beneficial. Aslop noted, “Now those Servants which come over into this Province, being Artificers [craftsmen], they never (during their Servitude) work in the Fields” (Aslop, 3). All in all, these are the life of an indentured servant before, during, and after immigration; as well as how their life changed from that in which it was in Europe.

Compared to the life of a slave, I personally view indentured servants as a form of slavery. One difference that slavery and indentured servants have to me is that slavery never had a guaranteed ending for the slaves. In most cases, in order for a slave to become free they had to escape; and if caught most often slaves were killed without any negative repercussions to the master or caregiver. Unlike indentured servants who had a signed contract guaranteeing that after they served a certain amount of years they would become free. However, if an indentured servant decided to escape, if caught death was not the punishment. According to Gottlieb Mittelberger document, “Work and labor in this new and wild land are very hard” indentured servants simply had to keep serving or at worst get sold to another master. “If such a runaway has been away from his master one day, he must serve for it as a punishment a week, for a week a month, and for a month half a year. But if the master will not keep the runaway after he has got him back, he may sell him for so many years as he would have to serve him yet” (Mittelberger, 3).

Some similarities between slaves and indentured servants were that they both endured extreme hardships beginning on their voyage in the ship to their arrival on the plantations. Also, they both were sold to slave owners and masters. “No one is permitted to leave the ship except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased, and are released from the ships by their purchasers” (Mittelberger, 1). According to the Virginia Slave Laws, indentured servants were allowed to marry and were allowed to own property, unlike slaves. Also, another difference of the treatment of slaves that differs from the treatment of indentured servants is that slaves were allowed to be stripped naked and whipped but indentured servants were not. In summary, the more slaves endured severe things then the better it was for indentured servants, their status improved drastically compared to the rigid treatment of slaves.

Some of the main factors that contributed to the waning of indentured servitude and the growth of American slavery is that the supply of white servants fell sharply, which included many factors. To replenish its labor force, planters turned to enslaved Africans. Also, Virginia and Maryland’s land became less attractive as land grew scarcer which is why many immigrants began to migrate to different colonies. Something that I found interesting within the Virginia Slave Laws is that black slavery took root in the Americans slowly. “There was a small number of Africans that already lived in Virginia before 1619, the year a Dutch ship sold some twenty blacks to the colonists. But it was not until the 1680’s that black slavery became the dominant labor system on plantations here. By 1640, only 150 blacks resided in Virginia and in 1650, 300. But by 1680, the number rose to 3,000 and by 1704, to 10,000” (Virginia Slave Laws, 1). Contrary to my assumptions in which I thought that slavery happened rapidly. In conclusion, indentured servants suffered just like slaves did. As seen above slaves and indentured servants shared commonalities as well as some divine differences.


  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 2 October 2016

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