Indentured Servitude and Slavery in Colonial America
Indentured servitude and the slavery system both played a major role in the development of colonial economy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Prior to the French and Indian war, the American colonies mostly ruled themselves and were in a relatively good economic situation. Despite their successfulness with political issues, the colonists desperately needed help with labor as there was so much work that needed to be done to the land.
The need for labor was fulfilled in two ways; indentured servants and African slaves.While the to groups were treated differently and received different levels of respect, both worked the land and ultimately helped the colonists economy to boom. The slavery system and indentured servants helped to put the American colonies in a better economic situation in the years leading up to the American revolution. Indentured servitude began in the seventeenth century when many Europeans wanted to start a life in the colonies.
In many European nations the colonies were heavily advertised and families were encouraged to move to America.The problem with the Colonies’ new popularity was the expenses: most families could not afford the trip over to America, and if they could, most would not have enough money to then purchase land and support their family. Still, many people still wanted to come to America, the solution to the financial problem was indentured servitude. A European’s trip to America would be paid for if they would then be a servant for a certain number of years (usually between four and fourteen).After they served their term, an indentured servant would be given clothes, land, and some money.
These servants did much needed work, especially in tobacco fields in the south; they helped to make tobacco a major cash crop in the south which was good for both the Colonies and Britain. The system also allowed for many to become individually rich, middlemen or agents would buy and sign a large group of indenture contracts and then sell the servants in the colonies for a profit.Some colonists bought the whole group that an agent brought over and would go door to door selling them. The indentured servants were a great aid to the colonial economy in that they provided much of the labor that was needed to produce more goods that could be exported. The slavery system in the colonies was also a great help for the economy.
Slaves did most of the same work as the indentured servants however slaves were not set free and were usually given less respect since they were not white or European.Slavery became increasingly popular during the late seventeenth century, the triangle trade allowed for slaves to be bought more easily and for fairly cheap prices. Slaves were also common because they could be forced to work by more violent means; in 1669, Virginia passed a new law that death of a slave during punishment was not to be considered a felony. By 1714, 95% of American exports to Britain came from the slave colonies, causing most to say that the African slave labor was what really made the British empire a success.Like the indentured servants, slaves greatly helped the tobacco industry which allowed plantations to spread across the colonies. Slave trade within the colonies also became a major industry, particularly in South Carolina where the slave trade was the most profitable part of the economy.
The labor slaves performed and the industry of slave trade both greatly contributed to bettering the American economy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indentured servitude and slavery were both very common within the colonies.Despite the differences between the two systems (one group was freed after finishing a short term of servitude while another was considered personal property for life) both provided labor that was desperately needed by the colonists in order to improve society. Their labor also helped to better the American economy by putting more effort into the crop industry and producing more to export. Both types of workers essentially created the American economy and helped the colonies to become stronger and more independent on the eve of the American revolution.