Life as an Indentured Servant - History Essay Example

2021-07-21 03:11:59
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Being an indentured servant, life was not an easy one since I was confronted with a lot of challenges while working for seven years. Although I was not handled as a slave, I experienced harsh treatment from my masters who were so strict. Any mistake I did was met with cruel punishment and in some cases any small issue I did which broke the law resulted in being threatened with extending my contract beyond the seven years.

Moreover, I faced the enormous and cumbersome tasks of working in a vast tobacco, indigo and rice plantations without a wage. My fellow indentured servants and I worked manually without the assistance of modern machinery. Our human sweat and blood were driving factors from land cultivation, planting up to harvesting the produce. This was in return for food, lodging and little annual wages which were for sustenance only. Due to our poverty level, we had to agree and sign the contracts just for survival and to feed ourselves at the masters household.

Furthermore, the masters had the right that prohibited marrying in their household. This forced me to live a single and lonely life that affected my psychology. Additionally, I was at risk of being sold any moment without my consent. In some instances, I attempted to run away due to hard work and the unsatisfactory labor system. Although it was a life-threatening move, it proved to be the only option due to the unbearable environment under the masters. In other cases, some of my colleagues committed suicide while others ended up poisoning themselves.

However, the masters at some occasions treated us in a better and decent way. I had the freedom to access and testify in court in case my rights were violently violated. I was also given an opportunity to acquire private land and property if I honestly worked for my masters without being troublesome. In addition to that right, I was promised a cash payment of freedom fees at the end of my servitude and other welfare. Other small privileges include having the power to request a change in master, bringing my master to court if he does not fulfill the indenture agreement and lastly being taken care of by masters in case of sickness and inept.

Challenging Aspects

The servitude is generally a single step from slavery. Being an indentured servant is a challenge because it prevents you from enjoying the freedoms and rights that you would ordinarily have. The arrangement forces you not to marry unless the master grants you the right. If you disobey his commands, your term of servitude is increased without appeal. Besides that, the situation forces you to perform work that nobody else can do. This resulted in the death of many servants due to complications brought by being exhausted and weak. The conditions of the ship that transported the indentured servants were worse such that there was escalation of diseases and infections (Galenson and David).

Additionally, being indentured servant puts you at the lowest rank of the economic order. You are required to swear allegiance to the king and take the oath. Going through poor living conditions where food and water are scarce gives a depiction of how servitude is challenging. The life of an indentured servant can be compared to the life of a slave in many aspects.

Rewarding Aspects

Although primarily cruel some, the servitude arrangement had some rewarding aspects. The indebtedness of the servants was forgiven after finishing their bondage period. They also passed to American colonies or Australia freely without any expense. In some cases, some individuals with families were experiencing acute hunger before being taken as servants (Snyder and Mark). The conditions of being an indentured servant were better than starving in their original homes. When compared to slavery, servitude was a better option because their terms do not exceed seven years while slavery is a lifetime.

Consequently, a servant received accommodation facilities and training as a return of his/her services. The passage cost given at the end of servitude is motivating factor since it is almost same as four years wage of an average farm worker. The families with young children were assisted in raising the young ones. The masters paid for their sons apprenticeships as well as dowering their daughters (Snyder and Mark). These small, encouraging aspects show that servitude had some benefits although was harsh.

If given another chance to do it again, I will reject the offer. Although it helps in some instances, the treatment of being an indentured servant is unbearable. I would rather search for a job to be farm worker at the employers farm because I have rights to either accept or deny the job. Being an indentured servant once more will be a nightmare basing in mind the kind of experience I went through over the last seven years.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Such Patterns Of Existence As A Plantation, A Colonial City, A New England Village Or An Isolated Farming Community.

Living in the above settlements can have various benefits to the servants, masters and the whole society. Firstly, the servants are trained to acquire a variety of skills that will help them contribute to the society. Specifically, the plantation instill the servants with farming techniques which makes them effective during crop production (Hockedy and Doreen). This, in turn, increases productivity for the servants and in long-term making the whole society food secure.

Furthermore, being in isolation with colonial masters can be an opportunity for indentured servants to acquire education to better their future. A wise servant can learn new ways and be innovative in various accomplishments they undertake. This will be crucial in starting a new life after completing his/her servitude period. The servants will use acquired knowledge and education to teach their children current activities that will reduce poverty levels (Hockedy and Doreen).

However, their existence in the above settlement can be their major setback. Being in isolation does not expose you to the outside world thus acquiring new skills will be a challenge. Also staying in the colonial city can affect you mentally because it elicits flashbacks of the traumatizing experience you endured at the hands of colonial masters. Living in plantation also is spiteful because of forced labor you experienced for over seven years. Although having a piece of land at plantation will help you in growing food crops, you will not get enough motivation to do farming.

My future settlement area should be a new place that will help in forgetting my past at the hands of the masters. The New England can be the appropriate place to start a new life. The new habitation will provide a conducive environment for developing new methods to build a new society.

Work Cited

Galenson, David W. "The rise and fall of indentured servitude in the Americas: an economic analysis." The Journal of Economic History 44.1 (1984): 1-26.

Hockedy, Doreen M. "Bound for a New World: Emigration of Indentured Servants Via Liverpool to America and the West Indies, 16971707." Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 144 (1995): 115-35.

Snyder, Mark R. "The Education of Indentured Servants in Colonial America." Journal of Technology Studies 33.2 (2007): 65-72.

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