Indentured Servants In The 17th Century

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In the first half of the 17th century, the primary labor source in the Chesapeake region was indentured servitude. Many poor whites, who had previously been laborers in the English working class, came to America as indentured servants. In addition to poor whites, many Africans were indentured servants. In these early years, both African and white indentured servants were treated equally. Although the life of an indentured servant was typically one of hard labor and mistreatment, all indentured servants were treated the same regardless of race. Then, once their contract was up, they would be paid their freedom dues and become free. While Africans were still a minority in the colonies, most Africans were free or would be free after their contracts …show more content…
This posed a serious problem for property owners as slaves were both a cheap and permanent source of labor. This led to a shift in who could be considered a slave and over time, the basis for slavery changed from religion, which could be easily changed, to race, which was unchangeable. As this change occurred, slavery began to outstrip indentured servitude in the later half of the 17th century. Besides from being more expensive and lasting a shorter period of time than slaves, freed indentured servants threatened wealthy property owners. Slavery was beginning to look even more appealing to property owners and in 1662, Virginia passed a law that declared that slavery could be passed down from mother to child, essentially making slavery an inheritable condition. Less than 50 years later, Virginia passed another law that helped firmly establish slavery as the dominant labor source in the Chesapeake region by declaring all slaves of color, including Africans and Native Americans, as property. At the same time, the English Parliament ruled that any British subject, including colonists, could trade in slaves which led to the slave trade becoming much more prominent in England and its

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