Chattel Slavery vs. Indentured Servitude



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Chattel Slavery vs. Indentured Servitude

Indentured servants were adults who signed over their rights in a contract. Indentured servants did not have the money for the voyage to the New World so they gave up their rights and worked for usually seven years working on a plantation, learning a trade, etc. Indentured servants received freedom dues after completing their services. They also gained the right to acquire land. Indentured servants were the primary workforce during most colonies early days. Because of the deplorable conditions most indentured servants did not live to fulfill their contract. Because they died before they finished their services their family did not receive the servants freedom dues because he broke the contract and his master is not required to fulfill his end of the bargain. Slaves were expensive and most plantation owners felt it meant more sense to employ an indentured servant because most did not live long enough so they did not have to give them their freedom dues. Indentured servants were given clothing, shelter and food. If you ran away or caused problems more time was added on to your contract. Also more time was added on to a woman servant’s time if she became pregnant. If a master injured his servant then he could get reprimanded however if they injured their slave they did not get in trouble because slaves were property not people. Indentured servants could be black or white. They were considered human even though they were not free. Both lives were will with hardship and many slaves and indentured servants did not survive. While colonies such as Virginia sought to improve indentured servants conditions they also restricted the freedom of blacks free and enslaved. Slaves were property that could be bought, sold, leased and fought over in court. They could not bear arms, strike a white man, join the military or own a white servant according to Virginia law. In Carolina slaves were under their master’s complete control. Northern colonies did give slaves certain rights that slaves did not have in the south. Slave marriages were recognized in the north unlike in colonies like Virginia where they weren’t valid. Slaves could also testify in court against Caucasians and bring suits. In Virginia blacks could not claim freedom by saying that they converted to Christianity or that they had a white parent. A child with an enslaved parent’s status was now traced through the mother. If your mother was a slave then you were one as well. Also laws were made to punish Caucasians who had sexual relations with slaves. Slavery became more about your ethnicity and the word freedom became synonymous with the color white and slavery with the color black. Colonies tried to exhibit their control over slaves. They wanted to make sure they were very restricted and it as hard to gain their freedom. As time passed and the death rate in colonies lowered, indentured servants began to outlive their contracts and slaves began to reproduce. Africans became bonded through slavery as opposed to their culture. Slavery brought a new culture forth among blacks that mixed African with European elements. Some colonies such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Carolina, etc. gave indentured servants land. Most indentured servants however did not gain land and were forced to either move on the frontier or spend their lives working for wages. The main difference between slavery and indentured servitude, indentured servants had more of a chance to gain freedom, land and the right to vote ( those who obtained land), while most slaves did not and were considered property. Blacks never received full rights they couldn’t even protect themselves.


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