Earn your ride to make it in life
The importance of indentured servants in early America can be attributed to our interest in wanting to know “where we came from.” Almost every family has a sound ancestor who was an indentured servant. Being a “bound servant” was certainly no disgrace, the system was simply a product of the time. Slavery among all races was not and should not be considered a disgrace to those affected. Perhaps, bondage of people, whether voluntary or not, can serve to remind us of man’s value, dignity, and respect, so that these conditions can never be imposed again.
People were needed in the colonies to provide a source of labor. Among those needed were bricklayers, barbers, joiners, smiths, weavers, bakers, tanners, and husbandmen. Husbandmen or one who plows and cultivates the land was considered more valuable than all the rest. Most servants obligated themselves to serve four years for the cost of their passage.
Life aboard the ship of indentured servants was very much like all slave ships. Some were captured by other white people to be sold into slavery. Most came voluntarily. Life was never easy. Ships were overcrowded, but probably never to the extent that African trade ships were loaded. One ship designed to carry 223 was loaded with 322 passengers. Some ships ran out of fresh water and food. Many passengers suffered from sickness and disease. One German listed the sufferings: “terrible misery, stench, fumes, horrible vomiting, many kinds of seasickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like.” The captain claimed his ship was better than most. In 1749, one in five German passengers died, while in 1729, two vessels from Ireland had 50 percent mortality.
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