CHAPTER I.THE EUROPEAN BACKGROUND

 

†† The image of Christopher Columbus never lived up to his expectation.First, he failed to get credit from the public for his "discovery" of the new world.That honor went to Americus Vespuccius, a con artist who in 1507 forged a few letters alleging his "discovery" of the New World in 1497.A German map maker assisted in the fraud by attaching the name Americus to the first map of the new world.Hence "America" became the generic term for the Western Hemisphere.

††† Then too came the slow realization among scholars that Columbus was not the first to "discover" the New World. Throughout the early 20th century, tangible evidence of earlier discoveries in the form of maps and scrolls kept appearing in Scandinavian monasteries.Grave sites in Newfoundland also testify to the exploits of Viking explorers who not only "touched" the new world prior to the 15th century, but established temporary settlements in present day Canada as early as the 9th or 10th centuries.

†† Finally, there is the contemporary backlash against European colonization as destructive of the cultures of Native Americans to tarnished the Columbus image.Contemporary writers condemn Columbus and the Europeans who followed, for introducing various European diseases which ravaged Native Americans and with initiating European imperialism at the cost to Native Americans of their cultural identity.

†††...More extreme still, the history of the Spanish conquest of the New World is one of deliberate genocide in which the native inhabitants themselves cooperated.Their treatment at the hands of the Spaniards was so cruel that the Indians killed themselves by the thousands rather than endure it. Of 40 natives from the Gulf of Mexico who were brought to work in a min of the Emperor Charles V, 39 contrived to strangle themselves in the hold of a Spanish galleon... In the West Indies, according to the Spanish historian, Girolamo Benzoni, four thousand men and countless women and children died by jumping from cliffs or by killing each other. He adds that out of the two million original inhabitants of haiti, fewer than one hundred and fifty survived as a result of the suicides and slaughter...

-A. Alvarez, The Savage God

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†††The impact of "foreign" diseases was not confined to human diseases. As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the venerable American chestnut tree made up 25% of the trees in the Appalachian forests. But in 1904 a shipment of chestnut trees imported from China and Japan were discovered to carry a fungus that ravaged the native chestnut forests. The Oriental chestnuts had evolved a resistance to the fungus, but the American chestnut was so susceptible that 85% of them in the Great Smokey Mountains were gone by 1940.

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Alas, tis true, tis true.But it is also true that the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus beginning in 1492 are a bench mark in the history of the world.Whatever the accomplishments of Norse explorers may have been in the 9th or 10th centuries, they were not followed up by any further voyages of discovery.No permanent settlements were created.No new nations and cultures evolved and finally, no shift in the balance of world power can be traced to their individual accomplishments.

†† But such consequences did follow the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus.That they resulted in the destruction and subjugation of native cultures in the process is undeniable.It is estimated that some 75 million inhabitants occupied the Western Hemisphere in A.D. 1500.Of that number, perhaps 7 to 10 million occupied the region north of the present state of Mexico.

†† Some 40,000 years ago, a land bridge connected contemporary Siberia and Alaska.Nomads crossed this land bridge as food gatherers and hunters.For the next 20,000 years, they migrated south and east until they occupied the continent.Whatever similarity these peoples may have had when the initial migration began, was lost as their dispersion and settlement developed.By the beginning of the 16th century, some 2,000languages distinguished the Native Americans.

†† Although primarily hunters, the extinction of game in certain areas of the Western hemisphere forced some of these tribes to accelerate agricultural production.Between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago, this transition began in Central America, present day Peru, and in scattered areas of the Mississippi River valley.

†† By 1,000 B.C., several primitive civilizations began to form in Central and South America.The Olmec, was the first, and the prototype for the Toltec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations, which followed.All of these civilizations were highly stratified, consisting of a noble class, a priesthood, common agriculturalists and slaves.

†† Political centralization never followed the cultural uniformity of either Mayan or Aztec civilizations.Rather, a dominant clan, or coalition of clans, imposed their collective will by force over weaker clans, who were regularly plundered for tribute, slaves, and sacrificial victims.The resentment of the exploited tribes made them potential revolutionaries, a factor which assisted the Spanish conquistadors greatly in gaining their alliances to eventually conquer the Mayans and Aztecs.

†† In North America, the tribal organization of Native Americans in the Southwest, the Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni, were advanced agricultural peoples, utilizing irrigation to grow crops.They were exceptionally cohesive and for this reason never fell under Spanish domination.The Plains Indians, to the East, were still nomadic, and less culturally advanced then those in the Southwest.

†† The Eastern Woodland Indians, who came into contact with the English, Dutch and French, were generally agriculturalists, although nomadic hunting and fishing was still practiced.Technologically they were living in Stone Age conditions; socially they were exceptional egalitarian.Politically, at least one instance testifies to the evolution of institutional forms.In the 16th century, five tribes - the Mohawks, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca, formed the Five Nations (later, six when the Tuscarora were admitted in the 18th century), better known as the Iroquois Confederacy.

With the exception of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Native Americans in the East remained organized in clans and tribes, speaking several hundred diverse languages and dialects.Clan and tribal warfare rather than cooperation was characteristic of group life, particularly among the Iroquois tribes. Native Americans, tied together by kinship, found it difficult to merge into larger social units such as nations.The Europeans, by virtue of having national identities, benefited from Indian disunity.

†† This was particularly true in the region now known as New England. Native tribes there were caught between their traditional enemies, the Iroquois to the West, and the expansionist English settlers to the East.A united front on the part of Native Americans could have thrown the newly arrived Europeans back into the sea anytime before the mid-17th century.But unity was lacking. Only in the mid-18th century did Native Americans begin to unify against European expansion.By then it was too late. By the beginning of the 20th century, less than 500,000 Native Americans occupied North America.

†† That Christopher Columbus was somehow "responsible" for this however elevates that person beyond the rightful place he holds in history, and denigrates the complexities which abound in the history of the conflict.Nevertheless, the Columbus story is a fitting beginning to the history of the United States.It illustrates many themes that emerge, including the human traits of courage and greed.

 

THE PREREQUISITES OF COLONIZATION

 

†† Christopher Columbus then is important because of the consequences set forth above which followed his voyages.And an understanding of why these consequences followed requires that we examine certain trends that appeared in Europe between the 10th and 16th century.For these are the forces, economic and intellectual, which thrust Europeans into the New World permanently.

†† The first of these forces is an expansion of trade and commerce that began in the 11th century, commonly referred to by historians as The Commercial Revolution.A convenient, if artificial date is 1096, the year that Pope Urban II issued the call for Christians in Europe to undertake the recovery of the Holy Lands.This inaugurated The First Crusade, an outbreak of militant Christianity which was to last for five centuries.That the crusades owed as much to the motive of land grabbing as to the ideology of Christianity is patently obvious.But for our purpose, what is important in the Crusades is that they acted as a catalyst for expanded commerce.Armies need to be supplied, and the crusading armies were no exception.And those individuals who undertook to conduct this long-term supply function became a new class in feudal Europe known as the merchants.Part thief, part pirate, part warrior as well as middlemen, merchants through five centuries became the dominant class throughout the Italian peninsula.

†† The Christian armies of Europe mobilized in the port cities along the Italian peninsula, and alongside them appeared the merchants who transformed these entrepots into City States: Genoa, Pisa, Verona, Venice, creating new economic and political structures wherever their numbers and influence extended.

†† One of the early rules of trade soon impressed itself upon the minds of European merchants.Carrying supplies from Italy to the Levant - one way trade - was not particularly profitable.And having learned this, the merchants began to search for something to put into their ships for the voyage back.Fortunately, just to the North of the Holy Lands lay the Byzantine Empire in the area surrounding the Black Sea.More highly developed than Western Europe, it became the source of what economists called high valued goods, or more commonly, manufactured goods.To obtain them, merchants offered low valued goods, such as raw wool, ores, timber, flax and food stuffs.

†† It was at this point that a second rule of trade came to be recognized.He who trades low valued goods for high valued goods engages in deficit trading. He becomes a debtor who must make up the difference in value by transferring money to his creditor.Having learned this unpleasant rule of trade, it wasn't long before merchants began to take the lead in creating high valued goods for export.Slowly over the next 6 centuries they revived not only trade, but industry as well.

†† And as both revived, trade began to expand.By the 12th century, merchants were trading in the Western as well as the Eastern end of the Mediterranean.In the next century they began to push the paths of commerce into the North Sea and the Baltic. Thirteenth century merchants such as Marco Polo traveled to East Asia to establish new trade links.And everywhere commerce went, a similar revival of city states, and industrial activity occurred.By the 14th century, enough merchants had amassed personal fortunes to finance a cultural flowering that came to be called the Renaissance.In the next century this same class began to project their ambitions overseas.Technological changes in maritime technology were introduced. Shipbuilders added the triangular Arab sale to their heavy ships and created a maneuverable vessel, the caravel, that could sail against the wind.The compass and astrolabe permitted themto gain their bearing on the open sea, away from the sight of land.In the 15th century, European ships began appearing off the coast of South Africa and in 1498, a Portuguese fleet passed the southern tip of Africa en route to India.

 

NEW ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS

 

As a consequence of this expansion of trade and industry throughout Western Europe, new economic institutions began to appear which proved vital to the colonization movement that followed.One institution was known as the Joint Stock Company, alternately as a Charter Company.In essence, by whatever name they were known, they appear as the predecessors of what we now call business corporations.

††††††††††† The Sovereign

†††††††††††††††††

††††††††††††††

†††††††††††††† ††††

†††††††††

††††††††† †††††††† Bonds (Corp. Creditors)

††††††††† Charter ††††

††††††††† †††††††† ††††

††††††††† †††††††† Stocks (Corp. Owners)

††††††††† †††††††††† who elect

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Board of Directors

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† who hire

 

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Workers

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†† As any text in business administration will note, the advantages of doing business in the corporate form are overwhelming when compared to doing business as individual proprietors or partnerships.Four advantages are usually given to account for the dominance which corporations now have in the field of business.First is the advantage of limited liability.Business is always risky and nowhere is this more evident than in the areas of law where a single suit can bankrupt a defendant.Corporations provide two shields against legal action.The first is that the corporation is treated as though it is a person.The investors and owners of a corporation therefore do not have their personal wealth involved when a corporation is sued.The second aspect of this remarkable, and entirely fictional attribute, is that a corporation can legally be held to pay only an amount equal to its capitalization, which is often quite less than its net worth.

†† The second advantage of the corporation lies in its ability to attract investment capital.An individual doing business can of course borrow money in his own name, but he generally discovers that his own name will not carry him far.A corporation however presents potential investors with an added incentive.While they can of course, lend money to a corporation (and receive a corporate I.O.U. in return, which is what corporate bonds are), they have the option of becoming owners of the corporation by receiving another piece of paper known as corporate stock.And as owners, they have a voice in determining the policy and management of the corporation. In accordance with the terms of the corporate charter, stockholders get together periodically, and elect a committee to represent their interests.Hence a Board of Directors comes into existence.Their function includes hiring the employees, including the corporate officers, such as President, Secretary, etc.Not surprisingly, investors feel relatively secure when they have a voice in the business.

†† The third advantage of the corporate form of business organization lies in the area of longevity.Being fictional creatures created by the law, corporations can only be destroyed, or die, as a result of the law.Otherwise, corporations are somewhat immortal creatures.A few of them in North America have survived already for several hundred years.Try competing as an individual with something that outlives you and you grasp the advantage of longevity.

†† Finally, there exists within the corporation the possibility of dividing ownership and operation; a unique division of labor that permits specialization.Frequently those who have surplus funds to invest, lack business acumen, while those who know how to run a business lack the financial means to start one up.A corporation permits these ingredients to come together for mutual profit.

†† Given these advantages, it should come as no surprise that most of the permanent colonies established by Britain that evolved into the United States, were established by corporations.Far beyond being the instruments of colonization, corporations left their indelible imprint on the social organization and political institutions of those colonies.

†† A second institution that appeared at the same time as corporations developed is now known as a commercial bank.Modern banks are not simply money lenders, (the middle ages had an abundance of money lenders) rather commercial banks are mobilizers of capital and creators of money.To understand this, let us visualize a composite (and oversimplified) history of how the first bank emerged.

†† It all began in a small shop of an artisan known as the Goldsmith; a craftsman who fashioned jewelry, objects of art and occasional trinkets for the tourist trade.What set him apart from other craftsmen in the rising cities of Europe was the fact that he had a vault in his place of business; a hole dug in the basement, lined with stone, in which he placed his raw materials (gold and silver) for safekeeping.Since the goldsmith had the only available vault, it is not surprisingly to find that local merchants began to place their gold and silver with him for safekeeping.Thus the goldsmith took on the first function of a modern banker by providing a safe deposit box for the business community.

†† The next step is not hard to envision.One day our goldsmith looked out his window and across the street he saw the medieval money lender making a loan (at a usurious rate of, say 20%).The goldsmith than looked down at his vault and saw -Other People's Money.He looked across the street again and down at Other People's Money again, and human cupidity took over."Would anyone be the wiser," he asked himself," if I lent out a few ounces or perhaps a pound of the precious metals there, on a short term (say 60 day) loan, undercutting the money lender by 5%?"

†† Our goldsmith decided to risk it.And it was a risk, no question about it.If all the merchants with whom he did business decided to withdraw their money, our goldsmith would have been caught short - and then indicted for the crime of embezzlement - the use of other people's money entrusted to him.

†† But that didn't happen.And it emboldened the goldsmith to try it again, and to dig deeper into the vault and lend out more of Other People's Money.At first it was only a pound sterling, then it was two pounds, then three, then....Question for consideration.At what point, if the goldsmith keeps on lending out more and more, will he be caught short?

†† Well, the answer to that took a few hundred years before it appeared.It is now generally recognized that a 3 to 1 ratio between money in circulation and money on reserve is needed to ensure the solvency of banks.Of course if you tell this to a banker he will be quick to respond this isn't so.And, from his perspective this is true.But from the perspective of the banking system, as opposed to an individual banker, it is.

†† The next step in the transition to modern commercial banking practices came with the substitution of paper for specie.

Money:a generic term, generally thought of as a representative claim on wealth.

Bullion:gold, silver or other previous metals

Specie: coined precious metals.

Representative money: aka Bank Notes.Paper notes evidencing by a bank, the existence of specie or bullion payable "on demand." in exchange for the Note.

Checks:Paper notes by an individual ordering payment of money by a bank when presented and demanded.

Legal Tender:Money declared by the sovereign as required payment of debt and taxes.

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In the high middle ages when merchants began the practice of leaving their money with goldsmith's for safekeeping, the money they were acquainted with was gold or silver, in either bullion or specie form.Naturally they wanted, and received, a receipt when they left their money with the goldsmith.After a few hundred years, these receipts became more or less standardized and began to take the following form.

May 1, 1577

 

††† This certifies that there is on deposit the sum of Five (5) Pounds sterling, payable to the account holder or his bearer, on demand.

 

William Shakespeare†††††††† George Treadneedle

Account Holder††††††††††††† Banker

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†† You may notice the familiarity between this "receipt" and modern checks, which is because a check is simply a form of a bank note; evidence of and a promise to pay a sum of money.

†† Well, since the goldsmith's were printing these bank notes, cupidity struck again in the evolution of commercial banking.One day a customer entered the shop of the goldsmith-now-turned-banker, and asked to borrow Five Pounds Sterling.The banker said he would be delighted and when the time came to make the loan asked his customer if he wouldn't prefer taking the receipt rather than the gold coins with him when he left.After all, he told his customer, the receipt was a good as the money.He could transfer the receipt to anyone, who as "bearer" of the note could redeem it.And in addition, it was both inconvenient and a security risk to walk around the streets of London in the 16th century with gold coins forming a noticeable bulge in one's pants pockets.

†† Now you don't suppose for a moment that the customer was naive enough to take a piece of paper rather than the real money do you?What utter nonsense.No one is that foolish.That is, no one until you look closely at that green paper you carry around in your wallet or purse.You accept it, don't you?

†† Well, such a great idea, literally printing money on pieces of paper allowed virtually any goldsmith to make as much of it as he wanted.Which means, inflation!!!!And the temptation to print as much money as possible always meant that there was an exorbitant risk involved, unless of course, the bank were well established, with a reputation beyond reproach for not doing such things.Unfortunately this was hard to come by until the eighteenth century when governments began controlling banking to some extent in order to ensure the public that their bank notes were sound - and redeemable.

†† But once the government got into the game, the sovereign too discovered what a delightful thing it was to literally print money.The temptation among soverigns to monopolize this became overwhelming.In Europe, by the 19th century, governments began to issue paper money in competition with private banks.By the 20th century, the sovereigns decided to monopolize the issuance of paper money.And once this happened, the sovereigns carried this delightful practice (making one's own money) to its logical end.The sovereign simply deleted the words "Payable on Demand" from their bank notes, and substituted the words "Legal Tender" in their place.In short, today's bank notes are no longer redeemable in gold or silver (that includes those "Silver Certificates" that some of you may still have in a shoe box.)But like it or not, you have to accept the sovereign's money in payment of debt, or you forfeit the debt.

 

THE RISE OF SOVEREIGNS

 

†† All of which brings us to the last imporant institution that must be noted at this point, which emerged between the 11th and 16th centuries. It is the sovereign, or the state.As difficult as it is to imagine, there was a time when the state did not exist.Political authority certainly existed in Europe, but not in the form we know it.European states emerged out of a feudal order, in which authority and power were dispersed among a bewildering variety of lords (both temporal and spiritual.)But beginning in the 14th century, power began to be concentrated, until it finally consolidated into the hands of one entity - usually a person, such as King or Duke, but also in representative assemblies, such as the Swiss Parliament or the city states of Venice and Florence.

†† The rise of sovereigns was largely the result of actions by merchants, whose every activity was in conflict with the feudal order of the middle ages.Merchants resented the limitations which feudal lords placed upon them.Whenever the lands of a nobleman was crossed, fees were exacted by them.Each small principality had its unique coinage system and legal code.And none of the legal codes recognized the rights of merchants to have their disputes resolved.The long-term solution to the grievances of the merchants at feudal restrictions was to lend support to monarchs who were also struggling to assert their authority over their rivals, the nobility. Thus arose the sovereign, usually, but not always in the form of kings.

†† But whatever form it took, the emergence of the sovereign was uniquely different from that of the existence of a mere king or assembly.The sovereign is that which makes the law and above whom there is no higher law.As such, sovereigns are endowed with certain attributes which mere humans are denied.Sovereigns are first, of all, immortal beings.Although kings may die, the crown or the monarchy lives on.Alternately, although a president in the U.S. may die, The Presidency of the United States continues.

†† Second:sovereigns are above the law, since they are the law.One of the most formidable rules in the legal establishment is that which holds that the sovereign may do no wrong.If you doubt this, consider the fact that it is legally impossible in the year of our Lord, 1995, to sue the United States of America without its permission. True, you can sue Bill Clinton or Newt Ginrich, but not the President of the United States or the House of Representatives.

†† So, what does all this sovereignty talk have to do with America?Well, without sovereigns, we would not have had Christopher Columbus and a host of other Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and English explorers flooding the Western Hemisphere in the 15th and 16th centuries.The emerging sovereigns of western Europe, mostly kings, were above all, interested in consolidating their power against domestic rivals (the other "Lords) and other would-be sovereigns.This required that they wage almost constant war with mercenary armies.And that cost money, which stretched the imagination of monarchs to no end.

†† Merchants and the advancement of trade and commerce offered several source of new revenue.More trade, especially when conducted in accordance with the doctrines of mercantilism, resulted in a flow of money into the realm where it could be taxed.And since the distinction between orderly merchants and free booting pirates was almost non-existent at the time, the prospect of looting other merchants or pillaging natives commended itself strongly to the rising sovereigns.

†† Finally, merchants were willing to pay sovereigns for certain privileges they came to enjoy.Columbus agreed to pay Queen Isabella over 80% of the profits in return for his commission in 1492.By contrast, John Cabot, the first English discoverer, agreed to remit only 20% of the profit to King Henry VII in return for his charter.But then, John Cabot had to finance the expedition privately, while Queen Isabella put up 7/8th of Columbus' expenses.

†† By the 16th century, European sovereigns were passing out pieces of paper known as Letters of Marque, which exempted merchants from prosecution under English law for acts of piracy against other's shipping. (sometimes known as a legal immunity). And by the beginning of the 17th century, these monarchs were offeringmerchants a new group of privileges in the form of charters of incorporation.Of course, one had to pay handsomely for these privileges, just as they did for other charters, but that is always the case. (See U. S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8, Paragraph 11.)

 

MERCANTILISM

 

†† Finally, one must note at the start of the 16th century the rise of the first comprehensive body of secular thought - mercantilism, as a stimulus to colonization.Mercantilism can be thought of as an economic doctrine propounded, not surprisingly, by merchants, which rests upon three assumptions:(1)That wealth is money (meaning bullion or specie); (2) That wealth is static (there is only so much money in the world) and (3) That to acquire wealth, one must apply power.

†† Of course contemporary economists would disagree totally with the first two assumptions, and many (the laissez-faire school) would disagree with the third.But as a prescription for gaining wealth, mercantilism offered a strategy that was followed by the European sovereigns until the late 18th century, since its doctrines promised to increase the wealth of the "mother country."

†† The entire strategy surrounding mercantilism hinged upon achieving a favorable balance of trade, defined as a surplus of exports over imports.Mercantilists reasoned that when one sold more goods than he bought (a country as well as a person), his trading partner owed and paid him money.Thus money accrued to the mother country.In order to gain this favorable balance required power.The sovereign could prohibit or regulate the shipment of gold and silver out of the country or impose import tariffs which raised the price of imported goods.And of course, the sovereign could encourage the export of high valued goods (i.e., manufactured goods) while encouraging the importation of low valued goods (i.e., raw materials.)There were other devices, but this brief outline of mercantilism now permits us to place this doctrine within the context of colonization.

†† What is a colony?Well, from the perspective of English merchants in the 17th century, a colony is a trading station; an undeveloped area which can provide access to raw materials and a secure market for the sale of high valued goods.And where better to establish a colony then in the new world - circumstances - meaning security considerations - permitting.

†† Thus by the beginning of the 17th century, English merchants, armed with the advantages of charters of incorporation, with an economic doctrine to provide them with strategic and tactical guidance, and a sovereign willing to provide the needed protection against rival claims, a growing number of entrepreneurs set about to make - not fame - but fortune by establishing permanent trading posts in North America.What they inadvertently did was initiate the creation of the British Empire and the United States.

 

II.VIRGINIA AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE SOUTHERN COLONIES

 

MOTIVE FOR THE MIGRATION

 

†† Although not the first English colony in North, American, Virginia proved to be the first permanent settlement established by Englishmen in North America.In 1573 and again in 1583, Humphrey Gilbert, with Queen Elizabeth's blessings had attempted to establish a settlement in Newfoundland.It failed.In 1585, Sir Gilbert's half brother, Sir Walter Raleigh continued the effort by establishing a settlement on Roanoke Island on present-day North Carolina's Outer Banks, which he named "Virginia" in honor of Queen Elizabeth, "the virgin queen."Those colonists disappeared without a trace.

†† Fifteen years later another effort was organized. In 1605, two groups of merchants organized joint stock companies that combined the investments of small shareholders with theirs, and petitioned James I for a charter to colonize Virginia.The first group, known as the Virginia Company of London was given a gant of land to what was then called "southern Virginia."The second group, the Plymouth Company, received "northern Virginia."Where individual resources, which was what Gilbert and Raleigh could muster, had failed, the combined resources and longevity associated with the corporate form of business organization succeeded.

†† With respect to both the investors and the settlers, who established the first settlement at Jamestown in 1607, the overwhelming motive for the colonization was economic.And by the first decade of the 17th century, there was good reason why investors could anticipate that colonization would yield profits.

†† For one thing, Englishmen were struck by the example of Spain, which for over a century had been plundering Mexico and Peru of vast quantities of gold and silver.What was more natural than for Englishmen to conclude that they too would find the precious metals to the north in the New World. Or, if not gold, then at least the investors hoped to find the North-West passage to the Orient, which had eluded Christopher Columbus and every navigator since him.

†† In addition, English investors were aware of other favorable factors that promised success to a colonial project in the early 17th century.The decline of Spain as a sea-power was evident following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.It was the presence of that armada that prevented Raleigh from resupplying the settlers in Roanoke in 1588, and doomed that effort.And although Spain clung tenaciously to her colonies in the New World, by 1600 the Spanish Empire was no longer expanding.Spain's northern imperial border was anchored by Fort Augustine in present day Florida. To the north was "no man's land" into which English investors invaded.

†† Finally, English investors had before them the track record of the recently evolved Joint Stock Company.By 1606 when the Charter to the Virginia Company was granted, there were several highly successful early corporations in existence.The Muscovy Company was already engaged in commerce with Russia.the Levant Company was showing profit from its trade in the Near East.And the famous East India Company was reaping tremendous profits from trade in India.

†† In short, Englishmen had at hand a form of commercial organization with a proven record of success, security from the Crown and an optimism that never faltered.Which is fortunate.Jamestown proved to be a financial failure.The London Company of Virginia eventually failed.A variety of reasons account for this economic failure.

†† First, the settlers at Jamestown met a relatively uninhabited land with a relatively primitive culture, which the earlier and successful English Joint Stock Companies did not face.This meant that the Company was forced to assume functions other than trading, which added an unexpected burden upon its resources.

†† Then too, the hoped for discovery of gold and silver didn't materialize.Several years were lost in the vain pursuit of the precious metals by the settlers at Jamestown who were interested in quick returns and planned accordingly.

†† But many of the difficulties experienced by the settlers were self inflicted.The location of the settlement was poor, for Jamestown lay in a malarial swamp.Then too, many of the settlers were adverse to working and crops were not planted during the first year.Within a few months after landing in May, 1607, 51 out of the original 104 immigrants were dead, most from starvation.

 

THE TURNING POINT IN VIRGINIA

 

†† The turning point in Virginia's history came with the near-simultaneous occurrence of two separate developments.The first was a series of reforms introduced by Sir Edwin Sandys, the Chief Executive Officer (official title Treasurer) who took over direction of the company from London in 1617.Among his reforms were:

†† * The introduction of private property.Prior to Sandy's arrival, all property, both real and personal, was held by the company.that reform gave a significant stimulus to individual initiative, as others have learned since.

†† *To further immigration, and take advantage of the private property idea, Sandy's offered 100 acres of land in Virginia for each share of stock they had purchased.

†† * Immigration was encouraged by offering each new settler, or existing settler, an additional 100 acres of land for each newimmigrant they sponsored.

†† *The new "Governor," George Yeardly, sent to the colony in 1619, was instructed to create an assembly representing freemen in Virginia.That assembly, known as the House of Burgesses, was empowered to make laws binding on the settlers.The seed from which representative government would grow was thus planted.

†† The second development of importance to the continuity of Virginia, came with the introduction of tobacco into that colony.In 1612, John Rolf had smuggled in the seed from a mild Jamaican leaf controlled by Spanish tobacco growers and crossed it with native tobacco.The result was that delightful variety known as Virginia burley.It was an instant hit in England.

†† And this despite the first anti-smoking crusade initiated by no less an authority than the sovereign.James I, is quoted as saying of tobacco consumption that it was

 

††††† ...a custome lothsome to the eye, hateful to the

†† nose, harmful to the braine, dangerous to the lungs,

†† and in the black stinking fume thereof, neerest

†† resembling the horrible Stigiam smoke of the pit that

†† is bottomlesse.

 

†† Despite this attitude, pragmatic considerations of a mercantile nature prevailed.Smoking was gaining popularity on the European continent and Virginia tobacco would sell well there.

†† The introduction of tobacco in Virginia led to two immediate results.It provided an economic basis for the continued growth of that colony.Virginia's continued existence was assured.Second: it offered an immediate inducement for more settlers to come - and those settlers were not traders or adventurers, but permanent settlers, in Virginia for the long-term.

†† In addition, tobacco was to have a long-term impact upon Virginia, and the other southern colonies which followed:Maryland, North and South Carolina.For it is apparent that tobacco led the South along a path of economic development that set this region off sharply from the paths taken by the middle and northern British colonies and provided a division which accelerated in the 19th century resulting in the Civil War.

†† Tobacco, and later rice, indigo and hemp (and in the 19th century, cotton) which were grown in the Southern colonies, are commodities commonly called staples.Staples require a heavy investment in land and labor.But they do not require a heavy investment in capital - machinery, physical plant, tools, etc.

†† But, unlike subsistence agriculture, or homesteading as it came to be called in the New World, which can be undertaken by a single family, staple production requires the development of a capitalistic type of agricultural organization which in America came to be called the Plantation System.On the plantation, large amounts of land and labor come together with the needed capital.

†† Quite obviously, the relative ease with which land could be acquired made staple production possible in the southern colonies.Although never free (land in America was always sold until 1862), it was available. Thus there emerged the large estates rivalrying medieval fiefs in Europe, consisting of 2,000, 20,000 and in one instance, 200,000 acres throughout the South.

†† The tobacco plant also grew best on level ground with good drainage, called "light soil" which was found adjadent to the navigable rivers which are a predominant feature of the areas geography.Dependent upon those rivers for transportation to the European markets made these lands even more valuable.Consequently, up to 80% of all settlements throughout the 17th century lay within one half mile from a riverbank and east of the fall line, the furthest point of navigation along the river.

†† But obtaining the needed supply of labor to produce staples profitably proved to be a long term problem that was not easily solved.And a variety of measures were attempted in order to fillthe labor shortage that developed throughout the South for the next half century.

†† The Virginia Company early exploited the advertising media of the day in order to attract immigrants.Broadsides and public announcements were made.Minstrels were sometimes hired to paint a rosy picture of Virginia.The results were less than rewarding in attracting free laborers to the colony.

†† Sir Edwin Sandy's reforms provided for another form of labor, indentured servants.These were, initially, and in a manner of speaking, hired hands of the company.The men signed a contract, either in England or in the colonies, binding them to a term of service, from 4 to 7 years as common laborers.In return, the indentured servant received passage to the New world, food, clothing, shelter and other benefits clearly spelled out in the contact.The catch was, the servant could not quit his employment to obtain better work should the opportunity exist.†† This legal loophole doomed most indentured servants to a status of voluntary slaves."

†† One redeeming element in the indentured servant's contract needs emphasis.The contract provided for something called "Freedom Dues" upon the expiration of the term of labor.Sometimes this amounted to a sum of money.More usually, and by the middle of the 17th century almost universally, it meant 50 acres of land.

†† Although unattractive from our point of view, indentured servitude had a rather significant appeal to Englishmen in the 17th century.Those in England who were depressed (or "disadvantaged" as we would not call them) had no or little hope of bettering their lot in the mother country.Land ownership was the road to social mobility as well as economic betterment in the agricultural society they knew. In the mid-17th century, about one half of the real estate of England was legally frozen.The English law of entail forbade owners from selling land.The law of primogenitureprohibited owers from dividing land among their heirs.In short, the pent up land hunger of Englishmen could not be satisfied at home.It could be satisfied in the New World.

"At a given time and place, what words would prompt the most fervor in the most people? In 1600 the most effective trigger was 'God.' Next on the list was 'Land.' In 1776 the brighest spark was 'Liberty." Nest on the list still was 'Land.' We may safely guess that at the time of the American Revolution most citizens of the country spent more time, if less spleen, thinking about land than about liberty."

-Ray Ginger

0

†† The too, for a variety of reasons, England during the 17th century was filled with petty criminals, vagabonds and chronically unemployed beggars.Often, the court system dealt with them via a 17th century form of what lawyers now call "probation before judgment."In practice this meant, Go to Virginia or face trial in England. For many facing trial in which the penalty was death or imprisonment, Virginia looked immediately attractive.

†† By the beginning of the 17th century, it is possible that nearly 50% of the inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, North and South Carolina were indentured servants; unfree and bound for service for a term of years.Those who survived, and statistically only a minority survived, gained a new status as small farmers, with 50 acres of land upon which to scratch out a living.

†† The fate of most indentured servants, particularly during the first three decades of the 17th century can best be summarized with a few statistics associated with Sir Edwin Sandys' performance as CEO of the Virginia Company.When Sandys introduced his reforms in 1619, there were 700 settlers in Jamestown.Due to his efforts, including the introduction of indentured servitude, an additional 3,570 settlers arrived during the next three years.Yet a head count of Jamestown in 1662 saw a population of - 700.

†† What had happened to 3,570 immigrants to that colony?Indian attack accounted for some deaths.Disease also took its toll.But the overriding cause of this staggering mortality rate was - starvation - or disease which struck down workers due to malnutrition.Tobacco proved to be the villain here.The price of tobacco in England rose some 350% during the decade between 1613 and 1623, causing the emerging Planters in Virginia to exploit literally every square foot of available land to tobacco cultivation.Food simply wasn't grown.The planters were regularly supplied with food from the company and greed so dominated their actions that they refused to waste time or soil on planting food.The indentured servants, even if they died from malnutrition after 12 months of labor, supplied their owners with profit - the lure of the New World.

 

THE SLAVE TRADE

 

†† All of which brings us to the last source of labor to be introduced in Britain's Southern Colonies - imported bond slaves from Africa and the source of the race problem that has ever since proved to be endemic in the United States.

†† The slave trade did not begin with the colonization of the New World. Slavery had existed universally in all ancient civilizations including those established by the Greeks and Romans in the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries it was practiced not only in Europe, but throughout Asia, Africa and among Native Americans in the New World. John Smith, perhaps the most noted figure among the early colonists at Jamestown, was at one time held in slavery in Turkey.Throughout Western Europe it is true, slavery had been replaced by a not-too-dissimilar form of servitude known as serfdom, but the distinction was legal rather than substantive.

†† In the 8th century, with the spread of Islam throughout the Mediterranean World, the slave trade (as opposed to the institution of slavery) was extended by Arab and Moorish traders into Africa.Some seven centuries later, the first Portuguese merchants reached the west coast of Africa.There they found an abundance of slaves taken from indiginous sources, held by native tribesmen of present day Liberia, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Gabon, the Cameroons and the Congo.These indigenous slaves were primarily the unfortunate individuals captured in tribal wars which characterized West africa during the period.

†† Thus, the slave trade which sprang up between Africa and the New World was a collaborative effort between European and African traders.Europeans rarely participated in the actual slave raids that took place along the west coast of Africa, preferring to leave that business to the native Africans. As the demand for slaves began to exceed the supply, the African rules on the Atlantic coast began to seek ways of securing more slaves.By the 17th century, the African coastal kingdoms of Benin, Oyo, Dahomey and Ashanti were raiding for slaves far into the linterior of the continentl†† For their part, Africans received about one half the price that the European traders received in the New World.The arrangement struck few as being particularly immoral. Writing in the mid-18th century, Ottobah Cugoano, a first generation slave in America noted, "I must own to the shame of my own countrymen, that I was first kidnapped and betrayed by my own complexion." (meaning, by those of his own complexion.)

†† The Portuguese, who initiated the African slave trade, gave way to the Spanish, who then gave way to the Dutch and English.While the European powers competed and warred upon one another to control this lucrative trade, somewhere between 12 and 20 million African slaves were transported across the Atlantic to the New World.Most were destined for the West Indies, Brazil or Spanish America.Fewer than 600,000 reached North America.About 10,000 arrived in the American colonies during the 17th century and perhaps 350,000 arrived in the 18th century before their importation was outlawed.

†† It was another staple that, more than anything, defined the terms of the slave trade.For centuries, sugarcane production was restricted to the Mediterranean countries where it sweetened the diet of the wealthy.The Portuguese were the first to capitalize on the production of this staple.In the 16th century, Portugal discovered that the island of Madeira, off the coast of Africa, provided the climate and soil conducive to sugar production.And in Madeira, the first overseas colony existed organized around the slave trade.

†† By the 17th century, the islands of the Caribbean, then called the Spice Islands, became the center of sugar production and targets for European expansion. And with control of the Spice Islands came control of the slave trade in Africa.There, tribal chiefs and kings, eager for European manufactured goods, sugar and - particularly RUM, distilled from sugar, warred against other tribes in order to supply the slaves needed to sustain trade with the Europeans.

†† Although familiar to the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch in the Western World of the 17th century, the English colonists in North America turned only slowly to Africa to solve their labor problem.Like other Europeans, the English settlers had initially looked upon Native Americans as a source of labor.But European diseases soon proved that the Indians could not survive in close proximity to white settlers.

†† In addition, black slaves were expensive, particularly when compared with the price of indentured servants.Finally, there was no position for bond slaves within the legal system, the common law, which colonists inherited from England.†† Thus as late as 1671, fewer than 3,000 slaves served in Virginia.By comparison, the islands of English Barbados contained 30,000 black slaves.

†† This situation changed at the turn of the 18th century.England, due to that nationís success in commercial war.England

emerged as a first rate naval power in this century, at the expense of the Spanish and the Dutch.The price of slaves in the English colonies diminished with the rise of British naval power.†† At about the same time, (from 1730 on) the supply of indentured servants began to dry up.Finally, signs of social discord and political rebellion associated with indentured servants made colonial planters reluctant to increase their numbers.The appeal of bond slaves from Africa increased accordingly in the Southern colonies, dedicated as they were to staple production and labor intensive economy.

†† In the northern tier of British colonies,(now New England and the mid-Atlantic states) slavery while legal, never established itself as an institution.As we shall shortly see, the economic foundations of New England and the Middle Colonies worked against the introduction of staples which was the economic foundation of slavery.That is not to say that New England did not participate in the slave trade.By the middle of the 18th century, New England merchants, taking advantage of Britain's growing naval power, were becoming deeply involved in the international slave trade.The sea ports of New England became centers for the distillation of Rum made from the sugar of the Spice Islands and exported to West Africa.Profits soared.

†† Slowly, the legal basis for slavery in America was established out of custom rather than from precedent.At first African blacks were treated as indentured servants.This was the case when in 1619, the first African slaves were purchased by the Jamestown settlers from a Ditch frigate.Having served out their terms of indenture, they became free men, acquired property and some became owners of slaves themselves.But gradually, black Africans experienced greater restrictions than those indentured.By 1640, Virginia law forbade all blacks, free or indentured, from carrying firearms.Miscegenation was outlawed in 1660. By the beginning of the 18th century, the southern colonies, borrowing heavily from the slave codes of England's Caribbean colonies, prohibited slaves from testifying in court, owning property, participation in the political process, to wit from functioning as though they had recognizable claims.Thus black Africans gradually devolved to the legal status of property - identifiable entities not endowed with rights and capable of being owned by others.

 

THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE SOUTH

 

†† By the end of the 17th century then, the social structure of the Southern colonies was set.At the top of the social order sat the Planters, an aristocracy based upon land ownership.the more successful planters, such as that of William Byrd, II owned almost a quarter of a million acres and existed "in a Kind of Independence (of) every one but Providence."And there is truth in that judgment.Plantations were not merely large estates, but self-contained fiefs, containing the main house, slave quarters, gardeners, free farmers and often a chapel or parsonage to boot.

†† Beneath the Planters were the freemen, small independent farmers, most of whom were recently indentured servants until their "freedom dues" came into being.Struggling on a mere 50 acres of land they became self-sufficient farmers occasionally attempting to grow a "cash crop" such as tobacco for sale in Europe to provide them with a small cash inflow.

†† Beneath this yeoman class were the unfree; indentured servants in the 17th century and bond slaves in the 18th century.The contrast between the "haves" and "have nots" was clear.And yet, surprisingly upon first examination, the growing conflict among the classes in the colonies did not pit the two extremes - planters and slaves - against one another, but rather the rising class of small farmers against the Plantation aristocracy.

 

THE EMERGENCE OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS

 

†† Turning to the political scene, government in Virginia, as in the other Southern colonies, evolved from the legal basis upon which they were founded.In the case of Virginia, this was the company charter.

†† As earlier noted, in 1606, King James I granted a charter of incorporation to two merchant groups, one known as the Virginia Company, the other as the Plymouth Company.These two groups operated independently of one another despite their common charter.The Plymouth Company has a destiny that will be dealt with in another chapter.Her our focus is upon the Virginia Company, that agent of the establishment of the Jamestown colony in 1607.

†† The form of government for that colony was outlined in the 1606 charter.It provided for a form of dual control.One governing authority of 13 members was to be appointed by the king and was required to reside in England. It came to be known as the "Royal Council" and was charged with general administrative control.The other council of 13 was to reside in the colony and consisted of shareholders.Its function was economic and administrative.It was to ensure that the colony paid its way financially and with enforcing instructions sent out from London by its counterpart.

†† One last point concerning the Charter of 1606 deserves mention; the status of the colonists were spelled out clearly in that instrument.And their status was clearly that of first class citizens.The charter declared,

 

††††† ...that all and every the Persons, being our subjects which†††† shall dwell and inhabit within every or any of the said several†††† Colonies and Plantations, and every of their children, which†††††† shall happen to be born within any of the Limits and Precincts†††† of the said several Colonies and Plantations, shall have and†††††† enjoy all Liberties, Franchises, and Immunities, within any of†††† our other Dominions, to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had†††† been abiding and born, within this our Realm of england, or any†††† other of our said Dominions.

 

 

†† By its very nature, the separation of political and administrative control proved unworkable.Nor was it practical to have a policy making body sitting in London, some 3000 miles and 6 weeks away from Virginia, attempting to solve political problems in Jamestown.By 1609, it was evident to the investors that a change was needed.

†† Thus in that year, the first adaptation of the original charter occurred.In 1609, a new charter was issued, modeled closely on the charter of the successful East India Company.Her we can begin to see a recognizable political structure that is vaguely familiar to use all.

†† That charter vested most political power in the hands of a single council composed of the leading investors of the company.One function of that council (really a Board of Directors) was to elect a Governor, an early form of Chief Executive Officer, a functionary which today would be described as the Treasurer.Lastly, the rights and interests of the small stockholders were recognized.These were to be represented through a General Court.Today we would simply call them the stockholders meeting.

†† Note the tripartite instruments of this corporationThey are really the three basic institutions of colonial government in the future.The company governor was destined to become the Colonial Governor.The Royal Council was destined to become the upper house of a bicameral legislature, and the General Court would evolve into the colonial assembly - the lower house of a bicameral legislature.

†† This took a little time and another reorganization or two to become as clear as set forth.The General Court, consisting of large stockholders, held its early meetings where the stockholders lived - in London.However, in 1619, as part of Sir Edwin Sandys reforms, the site of the stockholders' meeting was moved to Jamestown. Also in that year, a new Treasurer or Governor, named George Yeardly, was sent out to the colony.Thus two out of three corporate institutions were located in Virginia by 1620.The final move of the Royal Council awaited a future development which we shall deal with shortly.

†† What was emerging in Virginia at the time these institutions were being transplanted was, implicitly, a theory of government based upon the corporate mold.Today, we rightly assume that, within a corporation, only stockholders have the right to vote.The workers merely supply labor and are paid for their services.But control - a voice in establishing policy - within a corporation is generally deemed to be restricted to those who have invested in the company.

†† This basic view also characterizes the adaptation of political institutions in Virginia where it came to be called the "stake in society" theory of government.Hardly democratic, the southern colonies were in uniform agreement that those who had a stake in society, as evidenced by land ownership or commercial wealth, should have a voice in its governance.Those who merely labored, free or unfree, received wages or some other form of monetary reward - and that was all.

 

VIRGINIA BECOMES A ROYAL COLONY

 

For 17 years, Virginia was run as a corporate commercial adventure.During that period of time more and more of the substance of authority was passing out of the hands of investors in England and into the hands of land owners in Virginia.The investors, having pumped over 10,000 pounds sterling into the adventure saw no profit during this period.

†† The inevitable happened.Unhappy investors staged what we today would call a "stockholder rebellion."They charged that the company directors had mismanaged, manipulated and siphoned off the profits to their personal advantage.And they brought this charge to the attention of the Crown which responded.Due to a variety of reasons, political as well as economic, the Crown finally moved to revoke the Charter of incorporation of the Virginia Company.In 1624 that action was finalized.The charter was repealed.

†† What happened to Virginia?Nothing much really.Recognizing that the colony existed, and apparently was self-sufficient, the Crown merely replaced the revoked charter with a new one in which investors had no role.It was a Royal Charter and Virginia became England's first Royal Colony.

†† Not that the Crown wanted it that way.In point of fact the Crown was rather perturbed at the entire experiment.A few investors had created a corporate mess in the New World and left it up to the King to pick up the pieces.That was the Crown's attitude. Consequently, the Crown altered only one institution of government.Henceforth, the Governor would be appointed by the King rather than by stockholders.Appointed by the Crown - Yes!Paid by the Crown - No!There was absolutely no way that the King was going to pick up colonial chestnuts from the fire just because a group of investors had stuck their necks out too far.If the colonists wanted a Governor they would have to pay for him.Otherwise, no Governor.

†† The colonists wanted a Governor - They paid for him.The first Royal Governor to Virginia was offered what that colony had - a few thousand acres of land and some indentured servants in lieu of a salary. Thus was established a precedent that Englishmen would later rue and colonists - oddly enough at first blush - would later champion.

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† White Servitude

 

†††††††††††††††††††† by ††††† Richard Hofstadter

 

††††† Land and labor are indispensable ingredients in the development of all new societies.In North America it was the land of Native Americans and the unfree labor performed by indentured servants and slaves upon which most colonial wealth was built.As many as half of the Europeans who arrived in North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may have come as indentured servants.As such, they were not free to move where they wanted, marry, or work for themselves.They had "bound out" their labor and their lives for four to seven years to somebody in the colonies whom they had never seen before.

††††† In this essay, Richard Hofstadter paints a portrait of the life of indentured servants who came to the English colonies in the eighteenth century.Primarily they were Scotch-Irish, Irish, and Germans. Because they were so numerous and important to the developing economy, we cannot ignore them in any consideration of everyday life in America.

††††† One of the most important comparisons the student may wish to make while reading this and following selections is between the quality of life for the white indentured servant and that for the black slave.Both servant and slave endured a debilitating and disorienting Atlantic passage; both faced not only physical acclimatization in North America but psychological adjustment to a new condition; and both were locked into an intimate and oppressive contact with a hitherto unknown master.Of course there were major differences between servitude and slavery.The slave was bound for life and the servant for a limited period of time. The children of slaves inherited their parents' status, whereas children of servants were born free.And the slave, if freed, faced many more obstacles than the indentured servant who had served his or her time.But the large number of servants who ran away or committed suicide suggests that the conditions of life during the period of bondage may not have been so different for the servant and the slave.

††††† Because so much of our history is centered on the idea that the settlement of America by Europeans was an epic exercise in the enlargement of individual rights and the pursuit of opportunity, we tend to pay little attention to the ordinary experiences and feelings of the people who made the settlement possible - especially those who did not achieve success.Richard Hofstadter attempts to correct this distortion by giving the reader a feeling for what life was like for most indentured servants.Also, rather than focusing on the fact that all servants attained their freedom, assuming they survived the years of servitude, he directs our attention to the prospects that lay before servants at the moment of freedom.The great goal of every servant was to obtain a place on the ladder of opportunity - or what, from villages in Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, seemed to be such a ladder.But as Hofstadter notes, the chief beneficiaries of the system of servitude were not the laborers themselves but those for whom they labored.Although the survival rate among servants was undoubtedly higher in the eighteenth century than it had been earlier in Virginia's history, the opportunities for the recently freed servant to attain a secure niche in society as a landowner or Independent artisan were considerably less, according the recent studies.The likelihood of physical survival for indentured servants in the eighteenth century increased, but among survivors the probability of economic success decreased.

 

†††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I

 

The transportation to the English colonies of human labor, a very profitable but also a very perishable form of merchandise, was one of the big business of the eighteenth century.Most of this labor was unfree.There was, of course, a sizable corps of free hired laborers in the colonies, often enjoying wages two or three times those prevalent in the mother country.But never at any time in the colonial period was there a sufficient supply of voluntary labor, paying its own transportation and arriving masterless and free of debt, to meet the insatiable demands of the colonial economy.The solution, found long before the massive influx of black slaves, was a combined force of merchants, ship captains, immigrant brokers, and a variety of hard-boiled recruiting agents who joined in bringing substantial cargoes of whites who voluntarily or involuntarily paid for their passage by undergoing a terminable period of bondage.This quest for labor, touched off early in the seventeenth century by the circulars of the London Company of Virginia, continued by William Penn in the 1680's and after, and climaxed by the blandishments of various English and continental recruiting agents of the eighteenth century, marked one of the first concerted and sustained advertising campaigns in the history of the modern world.

††††† If we leave out of account the substantial Puritan migration of 1630-40, not less than half, and perhaps considerably more, of all the white immigrants to the colonies were indentured servants, redemptioners, or convicts.Certainly a good many more than half of all persons who went to the colonies south of New England were servants in bondage to planters, farmers, speculators, and proprietors.[1]The tobacco economy of Virginia and Maryland was founded upon the labor of gangs of indentured servants, who were substantially replaced by slaves only during the course of the eighteenth century."The planters' fortunes here," wrote the governor of Maryland in 1755, "consist in the number of their servants (who are purchased at high rates) much as the estates of an English farmer do in the multitude of cattle."Everywhere indentured servants were used, and almost everywhere outside New England they were vital to the economy.The labor of the colonies, said Benjamin Franklin in 1759, "is performed chiefly by indentured servants brought from Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany, because the high price it bears cannot be performed in any other way."[2]

††††† Indentured servitude had its roots in the widespread poverty and human dislocation of seventeenth-century England.Still a largely backward economy with a great part of its population permanently unemployed, England was moving toward more modern methods in industry and agriculture; yet in the short run some of the improvements greatly added to the unemployed.Drifting men and women gathered in the cities, notably London, where they constituted a large mass of casual workers, lumpenproletarians, and criminals.The mass of the poverty-stricken was so large that Gregory King, the pioneer statistician, estimated in 1696 that more than half the population - cottagers and paupers, laborers and out-servants - were earning less than they spent.They diminished the wealth of the realm, he argued, since their annual expenses exceeded income and had to be made up by the poor rates, which ate up one-half of the revenue of the Crown.[3]In the earlyseventeenth century, this situation made people believe the country was overpopulated and emigration to the colonies was welcomed; but in the latter part of the century, and in the next, the overpopulation theory gave way to the desire to hoard a satisfactory labor surplus.Yet the strong outflow of population did not by any means cease.From the large body of poor drifters, many of them diseased, feckless, or given to crime, came a great part of the labor supply of the rich sugar islands and the American mainland.From the London of Pepys and then of Hogarth, as well as from many lesser ports and inland towns, the English poor, lured, seduced, or forced into the emigrant stream, kept coming to America for the better part of two centuries.It is safe to guess that few of them, and indeed few persons from the other sources of emigration, knew very much about what they were doing when they committed themselves to life in America.

††††† Yet the poor were well aware that they lived in a heartlessworld.One of the horrendous figures in the folklore of lower-class London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the "spirit" - the recruiting agent who waylaid, kidnapped, or induced adults to get aboard ship for America.The spirits, who worked for respectable merchants, were known to lure children with sweets, to seize upon the weak or the gin-sodden and take them aboard ship, and to bedazzle the credulous or weak-minded by fabulous promises of an easy life in the New World.Often their victims were taken roughly in hand and, pending departure, held in imprisonment either on shipboard or in low-grade hostels or brothels.To escaped criminals and other fugitives who wanted help in getting out of the country, the spirits could appear as ministering angels.Although efforts were made to regulate or check their activities, and they diminished in importance in the eighteenth century, it remains true that a certain small part of the white colonial population of America was brought by force, and a much larger portion came in response to deceit and misrepresentation on the part of the spirits.

††††† With the beginnings of substantial emigration from the Continent in the eighteenth century the same sort of concerted business of recruitment arose in Holland, the Rhenish provinces of Germany, and Switzerland.In Rotterdam and Amsterdam the lucrative business of gathering and trans-shipping emigrants was soon concentrated in the hands of a dozen prominent English and Dutch firms.As competition mounted, the shippers began to employ agents to greet the prospective emigrants at the harbor and vie in talking up the comforts of their ships.Hence the recruiting agents known as Neulander-newlanders-emerged.These newlanders, who were paid by the head for the passengers they recruited, soon branched out of the Dutch ports and the surrounding countryside and moved up the Rhine and the Neckar, traveling from one province to another, from town to town and tavern to tavern, all the way to the Swiss cantons, often passing themselves off as rich men returned from the easy and prosperous life of America in order to persuade others to try to repeat their good fortune.These confidence men - "soul sellers" as they were sometimes called - became the continental counterparts of the English spirits, profiteers in the fate of the peasantry and townspeople of the Rhineland.Many of the potential emigrants stirred up by the promises of the newlanders were people of small property who expected, by selling some part of their land or stock or furnishings, to be able to pay in full for their passage to America and to arrive as freemen.What the passage would take out of them in blood and tears, not to speak of cash,was carefully hidden from them.They gathered in patient numbers at Amsterdam and Rotterdam often quite innocent of the reality of what had already become for thousands of Englishmen one of the terrors of the age - the Atlantic crossing.

 

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2

 

††††† In 1750 Gottlieb Mittelberger, a simple organist and music master in the Duchy of Wurttemberg, was commissioned to bring an organ to a German congregation in New Providence, Pennsylvania, and his journey inspired him to write a memorable account of an Atlantic crossing.From Heilbronn, where he picked up his organ, Mittelberger went the well-traveled route along the Neckar and the Rhine to Rotterdam where he sailed to a stopover at Cowes in England, and then to Philadelphia.Abut four hundred passengers were crowded onto the ship, mainly German and Swiss redemptioners, men pledged to work off their passage charges.The trip from his home district to Rotterdam took seven weeks, the voyage from Rotterdam to Philadelphia fifteen weeks, the entire journey from May to October.

††††† What moved Mittelberger, no literary man, to write of his experiences was first his indignation against the lies and misrepresentations used by the newlanders to lure his fellow Germans to America, and then the hideous shock of the crossing.The voyage proved excruciating and there is no reason to think it particularly unusual.The long trip down the Rhine, with constant stops at the three dozen customs houses between Heilbronn and Holland, began to consume the limited funds of the travelers, and it was followed by an expensive stop of several weeks in Holland.Then there was the voyage at sea, with the passengers packed like herring and cramped in the standard bedsteads measuring two feet by six."During the journey," wrote Mittelberger, "the ship is full of pitiful signs of distress - smells, fumes, horrors, vomiting, various kinds of sea sickness, fever, dysentery, headaches, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and similar afflictions, all of them caused by the age and the highly-salted state of the food, especially of the meat, as well as by the very bad and filthy water, which brings about the miserable destruction and death of many.Add to all that shortage of food, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, fear, misery, vexation, and lamentation as well as other troubles.Thus, for example, there are so many lice, especially on the sick people, that they have to be scraped off the bodies.All this misery reached its climax when in addition to everything else one must suffer through two or three days and nights or storm, with everyone convinced that the ship with all aboard is bound to sink.In such misery all the people on board pray and cry pitifully together."[4]

††††† Even those who endured the voyage in good health, Mittelberger reported, fell out of temper and turned on each other with reproaches.They cheated and stole."But most of all they cry out against the thieves of human beings!Many groan and exclaim: 'Oh! If only I were back at home, even lying in my pig-sty!'Or they call out: 'Ah, dear God, if I only once again had a piece of good bread or a good fresh drop of water.'"It went hardest with women in childbirth and their offspring:"Very few escape with their lives; and mother and child, as soon as they have died, are thrown into the water.On board our ship, on a day on which we had a great storm, a woman about to give birth and unable to deliver under the circumstances, was pushed through one of the portholes into the sea because her corpse was far back in the stern and could not be brought forward to the deck."Children under seven, he thought (though the port records show him wrong here), seldom survived, especially those who had not already had measles and smallpox, and their parents were condemned to watch them die and be tossed overboard.The sick members of families infected the healthy, and in the end all might be lying moribund.He believed disease was so prevalent because warm food was served only three times a week, and of that very little, very bad, very dirty, and supplemented by water that was often "very black, thick with dirt, and full of worms...towards the end of the voyage we had to eat the ship's biscuit, which had already been spoiled for a long time, even though no single piece was there more than the size of a thaler that was not full of red worms and spiders' nests."

††††† The first sight of land gave heart to the passengers, who came crawling out of the hatches to get a glimpse of it.But then for many a final disappointment lay in wait:only those who could complete the payment of their fare could disembark.The others were kept on board until they were bought, some of them sickening within sight of land and, as they sickened, losing the chance of being bought on good terms.On landing some families were broken, when despairing parents indentured their children to masters other than their own.

††††† Not even passengers of means who paid their way, moved more or less freely about ship, occupied cabins or small dormitories, and had superior rations could take an Atlantic crossing lightly.In addition to the hazards of winds too feeble or too violent, of pirates, shipwrecks, or hostile navies, there were under the best of circumstances the dangers of sickness.Travelers in either direction frequently died of smallpox or other diseases on board or soon after arrival.Anglican colonials often complained of the high mortality rate among their young would-be clergymen crossing to England to be ordained.The Dutch Reformed preacher Theodorus Frelinghuysen lost three of his five sons on their way to be ordained in Amsterdam.The evangelist George Whitefield on his first crossing to the colonies in 1738 saw a majority of the soldiers on board afflicted with fever and spent much of his time "for many days and nights, visiting between twenty and thirty sick persons, crawling between decks upon his knees, administering medicines and cordials" and giving comfort.On this voyage the captain's Negro servant died, was wrapped in a hammock and tossed into the sea.In the end all but a handful of the passengers took the fever, including Whitefield, who survived treatment by bleeding and emetics.The ship on which he returned a few months later was afflicted by a "contrary wind," drifted for over a week to the point at which crew and passengers were uncertain where they were, and took so long to arrive at Ireland that water rations, which had been cut to a pint a day, were just about to run out.[5]

††††† When paying passengers were exposed to such afflictions, how much worse must have been the sufferings of the servants and redemptioners packed into the holds, frequently at a density that violated the laws, and without adequate ventilation.Food provisions were calculated to last fourteen weeks, which was normally sufficient, but the rations deteriorated rapidly, especially in summer.Water turned stale, butter turned rancid, and beef rotted.If Mittelberger's voyage ranked among the worst, Atlantic crossing were frequently at or near the worst, and many more disastrous ventures were recorded.[6]With bad luck, provisions could give out.The Love and Unity left Rotterdam for Philadelphia in May 1731 with more than 150 Palatines and a year later landed with 34, after having put in toward the end at Martha's Vineyard for water and food.On the way rations became so low that water, rats, and mice were being sold, and the storage chests of the dead and dying were broken open and plundered by the captain and crew.A ship called the Good Intent - the names of eighteenth-century vessels often reek with irony - arrived off the American coast in the winter of 1751 but found herself unable to make port because of the weather; she was able to put in to harbor in the West Indies only after twenty-four weeks at sea.Nearly all of the passengers had died long before.The Sea Flower, which left Belfast with 106 passengers in 1741, was at sea sixteen weeks, and lost 46 passengers from starvation.When help arrived, six of the corpses had been cannibalized.

††††† It is true that given adequate ventilation, a stock of lemon juice and vegetables, and good luck with the winds, decent sanitaryarrangements were possible.The philanthropic Georgia Trustees, who were concerned about the health of their colonists, "put on board turnips, carrots, potatoes, and onions, which were given out with the salt meat, and contributed greatly to prevent the scurvy."Out of some fifteen hundred people who had gone to Georgia at the public expense, it was claimed in 1741, not more than six had died in transit.A traveler to Jamaica in 1739 reported that the servants on his ship "had lived so easily and well during the voyage, that they looked healthful, clean and fresh, and for this reason were soon sold," yet he saw another vessel arrive not long afterward with "a multitude of poor starved creatures, that seemed so many skeletons:misery appeared in their looks, and one might read the effects of sea-tyranny by their wild and dejected countenances."[7]

 

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††††† The situation in which the indentured servant or the redemptioner found himself upon his arrival depended in large measure upon his physical condition.There would be a last-minute effort to clean up and appear presentable, and in some ports the healthy were separated from the sick, once colonial officials adopted quarantine measures.Boston, the most vigilant of the ports, had long kept a pesthouse on an island in the harbor and fined captains who disregarded the regulations."As Christians and men," the governor of Pennsylvania urged in 1738, "we are obliged to make a charitable provision for the sick stranger, and not by confining him to a ship, inhumanly expose him to fresh miseries when he hopes that his sufferings are soon to be mitigated."[8]Pennsylvania then designated Province Island for quarantine and built a pesthouse to harbor sick immigrants.In 1750 and again in 1765 it passed laws to bar overcrowding on ships.Laws passed by Virginia and Maryland in the 1760's providing for the quarantine on convict ships were frowned upon in London, and Virginia's law was disallowed.

††††† Buyers came on shipboard to take their pick of the salably healthy immigrants, beginning a long process of examination and inspection with the muscles and the teeth, and ending with a conversational search for the required qualities of intelligence, civility, and docility.At Philadelphia buyers might be trying to find Germans and eschew the Scotch-Irish, who were reputed to be contumacious and work resistant and disposed to run away.Some buyers were "soul drivers" who bought packs of immigrants and brutally herded them on foot into the interior where they were offered along the way to ready purchasers.On the ships and at the docks there were final scenes of despair and frenzy as servants searched for lost articles of indenture, or lamented the disappearance of baggage, unexpected overcharges, the necessity of accepting indentures longer than their debts fairly required, the separation of families.

††††† The final crisis of arrival was the process we would call acclimatization, in the eighteenth century known as "seasoning."Particularly difficult in the tropical islands, seasoning also took a heavy toll in the Southern colonies of the mainland.People from cities and from the mild English climate found the summer hard going in any colony from Maryland southward, especially on plantations where indentured servants were put to arduous field labor by owners whose goal it was to get a maximum yield of labor in the four or five years contracted for.Fevers, malaria, and dysentery carried many off, especially in their first years of service.Seasoning was thought to be more or less at an end after one year in the new climate, and servants who had been wholly or partly seasoned were at a premium.

††††† During the voyage, thoughtful servants might have recalled, quite a number of persons had battened on their needs - the spirit or the newlander, the toll collectors and the parasites of the seaports, the ship captain or merchant; now there was the master.Any traffic that gave sustenance to so many profiteers might well rest on a rather intense system of exploitation.A merchant who would spend from six to ten pounds to transport and provision an indentured servant might sell him on arrival - the price varied with age, skill, and physical condition - for fifteen to twenty pounds, although the profits also had to cover losses from sickness and death en route.The typical servant had, in effect, sold his total working powers for four or five years or more in return for his passage plus a promise of minimal maintenance.After the initially small capital outlay, the master simply had to support him from day to day as his services were rendered, support which was reckoned to cost about thirteen or fourteen pounds a year.In Maryland, where exploitation was as intense as anywhere, the annual net yield, even from unskilled labor, was reckoned at around fifty pounds sterling.[9]The chief temptation to the master was to drive the servant beyond his powers in the effort to get as much as possible out of him during limited years of service.The chief risk was that the servant might die early in service before his purchase price had been redeemed by his work.That he might run away was a secondary risk, though one against which the master had considerable protection.Still, hard as white servitude bore on servants, it was nevertheless not always a happy arrangement for owners, especially for those with little capital and little margin for error:shiftless and disagreeable servants, as well as successful runaways, were common enough to introduce a significant element of risk into this form of labor.

††††† Indentured servants lived under a wide variety of conditions, which appear to have softened somewhat during the eighteenth century.Good or bad luck, the disposition of the master, the length of the term of work, the size of the plantation or farm, the robustness or frailty of the worker - all these had a part in determining the fate of each individual.Servants in households or on small farms might be in the not uncomfortable situation of familiar domestic laborers.Tradesmen who were trying to teach special skills to their workers, or householders who wanted satisfactory domestic service, might be tolerable masters.The most unenviable situation was that of servants on Southern plantations, living alongside - but never with - Negro slaves, both groups doing much the same work, often under the supervision of a relentless overseer.One has to imagine the situation of a member of the English urban pauper class, unaccustomed to rural or to any sustained labor, thrust into a hot climate in which heavy field labor - including, worst of all, the backbreaking task of clearing new land of rocks, trees, and shrubs - was his daily lot.Even as late as 1770 William Eddis, the English surveyor of customs at Annapolis, though that the Maryland Negroes were better off than "the Europeans, over whom the rigid planter exercises an inflexible severity."The Negroes, Eddis thought, were a lifelong property so were treated with a certain care, but the whites were "strained to the utmost to perform their allotted labor; and, from a prepossession in many cases too justly founded, they were supposed to be receiving only the just reward which is due to repeated offenses.There are doubtless many exceptions to this observation, yet, generally speaking, they groan beneath a wore than Egyptian bondage."Yet in Virginia, as the blacks arrived in greater numbers, white laborers seemed to have become a privileged stratum, assigned to lighter work and more skilled tasks.[10]

††††† The status and reputation of Southern indentured laborers were no doubt kept lower than elsewhere because there were a considerable number of transported convicts among them.Colonies to the north were not completely free of convict transportees, but the plantation system regularly put honest unfortunates alongside hardened criminals and lumped all together as rogues who deserved no better than what was meted out to them.Among the by-products of English social change of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was a very substantial pool of criminal talents.The ;laws devised to suppress[[ the criminal population were so harsh-scores of crimes were defined as felonies and hanging was a standard punishment for many trivial offenses- that England would have been launched upon mass hangings far beyond the point of acceptability had it not been for two devices that let many accused off the penalties prescribed for felons.One was the benefit of clergy-a practice inherited from the Middle Ages and continued until the early nineteenth century-which permitted a convicted felon to "call for the book" and prove his literacy.On the ancient assumption that those who could read were clerics and thus exempt from severe punishments by the secular state, the relatively privileged class of literate felons could be permitted to escape with the conventional branding of the thumb.

††††† A second practice, the predecessor of convict transportation, was to secure royal pardons for ordinary offenders deemed by the judges to be worthy of some indulgence.Until the end of the French wars in 1713 it was customary to send them into the army, but in peacetime England did not know what to do with felons and drifters.In 1717 Parliament passed an act which in effect made royal clemency contingent upon transportation to the colonies for a term of labor; in consequence the large-scale shipping of convicts began which continued to the time of the American Revolution.To America at large, including the island colonies, around thirty thousand felons were transported in the eighteenth century, of whom probably more than two-thirds reached Virginia and Maryland, where they were readily snapped up by the poorer planters.[11]

††††† The whole procedure, though clearly intended to be a humane and useful alternative to wholesale hangings, was dreadfully feared by convicts, who may have guessed, quite rightly, that whoever bought their services would try to get the most out of them during their seven-year terms (fourteen years in the case of transmuted death penalties) of hard labor.In transit felons probably were fed somewhat better than they were used to, but usually they were kept below deck and in chains during the entire voyage, and on the average perhaps one in six or seven would die on the way."All the states of horror I ever had an idea of," wrote a visitor to a convict ship, "are much short of what I saw this poor man in; chained to a board in a hole not above sixteen feet long, more than fifty with him; a collar and padlock about his neck, and chained to five of the most dreadful creatures I ever looked on."[12]Mortality could run very high:on one ship, the Honour, which arrived in Annapolis in 1720, twenty of the sixty-one convicts had died.Merchants transporting felons on government contracts pleaded for subsidies to cover losses that hit them so hard.

††††† While some planters rushed to the seaports to find convicts for their field labor supply, others were disturbed by the effect they expected criminals would have on the character of the population.These hazardous importations caused most anxiety in the colonies that received masses of transported felons.Pennsylvania subjected the importation of convicts to constant statutory harassment after 1722.Virginia at mid-century seems to have thought herself in the midst of a crime wave.The Virginia Gazette complained in 1751: "When we see our papers filled continually with accounts of the most audacious robberies, the most cruel murders, and infinite other villainies perpetrated by convicts transported from Europe, what melancholy, what terrible reflections it must occasion!What will become of our posterity?These are some of thy favours Britain.Thou art called our Mother Country; but what good mother ever sent thieves and villains to accompany her children; to corrupt some with their infectious vices and murder the rest?What father ever endeavour'd to spread a plague in his family?...In what can Britain show a more sovereign contempt for us than by emptying their jails into our settlements; unless they would likewise empty their jakes [privies] on our tables!"[13]The concluding metaphor seems to have come quite naturally to the colonials:Franklin also used it, although he is better remembered for his suggestion that the Americans trade their rattlesnakes for the convicts.[14]But all laws rejecting transported convicts were disallowed in England by the Board of Trade and the Privy Council, while subterfuge measures designed to impede or harass the trade were looked at with suspicion.

 

 

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††††† The system of indenture was an adaptation, with some distinctively harsh features, of the old institution of apprenticeship.In fact, a few native-born colonials, usually to discharge a debt or answer for a crime but sometimes to learn a trade, entered into indentures not altogether unlike those undertaken by immigrants.In law an indenture was a contract in which the servant promised faithful service for a specified period of time in return for his housing and keep and, at the end of his term of work, that small sum of things, known as "freedom dues," which his master promised him upon their parting.The typical term was four or five years, although it might run anywhere from one or two years to seven.Longer terms were commonly specified for children, and were calculated to bring them to freedom at or just past the time they reached majority.Most indentures followed a standard pattern:as early as 1636 printed forms were available, needing only a few details to be filled out by the contracting parties.Often an emigrant's original indenture was made out to a merchant or a ship's captain and was sold with its holder to an employer on arrival.Indentures became negotiable instruments in the colonies, servants bound under their terms being used to settle debts, even gambling debts.In theory the contract protected the servant from indefinite exploitation, but in practice it had quite limited powers.It was a document vulnerable to loss, theft, or destruction, and when one considers both the fecklessness and inexperience of most indentured servants and the lack of privacy under which they lived, it is little wonder that their contracts often disappeared.

††††† During the eighteenth century. however, circumstances began to alter the prevailing system of indentures and to lessen its severities, particularly when a special class of bonded servants, the redemptioners, became numerous.The redemptioner appeared at the beginning of the century, coming largely from the Continent, often emigrating with a family and with a supply of tolls and furnishings.The passengers who traveled with Mittelberger were mostly redemptioners.Indentured servants were simply a part of a ship's cargo, but redemptioners were low-grade, partially paid-up passengers.The redemptioner embarked without an indenture, sometimes having paid part of the money for his own and his family's passage, and arranged with the shipping merchant to complete payment within a short time after landing.Once here, he might try to find relatives or friends to make up his deficit; failure to pay in full meant he would be sold to the highest bidder to redeem whatever part of his fare was unpaid.The length of his servitude would depend upon the amount to be redeemed.It could be as short as one or two years, although four years seems to have been much more common.Redemptioners would try to go into service as a whole family group.Although redemptioners were often swindled because of their lack of English and were overcharged for interest, insurance, and the transportation of their baggage, it was less profitable to carry them than indentured servants.Still, merchants were eager to fill their ships as full as possible with a ballast of redemptioners.[15]

††††† All bonded servants, indentured and redemptionist, were chattels of their masters, but the terminability of their contracts and the presence of certain legal rights stood between them and slavery.A servant could be freely bought and sold, except in Pennsylvania and New York where laws required the consent of a court before assigning a servant for a year or more.His labor could be rented out; he could be inherited on the terms laid down in his master's will.Yet he could own property, although he was forbidden to engage in trade.He could also sue and be sued, but he could not vote.It was expected that he would be subject to corporal punishment by his master for various offenses, and whipping was common; but a master risked losing his servant on the order of a court for a merciless or disfiguring beating.The right of a servant to petition the courts against abuse was more than a negligible protection.Penniless servants were, of course, at a disadvantage in courts manned by representatives of the master class:in effect they were appealing to the community pride, compassion, or decency of the magistrates, and the sense that there were certain things that ought not be done to a white Christian.Yet the frequency of complaints by servants makes it clear that the prerogative of appeal was widely used, and the frequency of judgments rendered for servants shows that it was not used in vain.NO colony recognized the validity of agreements between master and servant made during servitude unless both parties appeared before a magistrate and registered their consent.Statutes regulated the terms of servitude in cases in which no papers of indenture existed.

††††† For many thousands of servants their term of indentured servitude was a period of enforced celibacy.Marriage without the consent of the master was illegal, and the crimes of fornication and bastardy figure importantly in the records of bound servitude- not surprisingly, when we realize how many of the servant population were between the ages of eighteen and thirty.The sexuality of redemptioners, since they commonly came in families, was a much less serious problem for them and their masters.Among indentured servants as a whole, however, there were many more men than women.The situation of maidservants was full of both opportunities and hazards.Their services were considerably prized, and a clever or comely woman, as mistress or wife, might escape from the dreariest exactions of servitude.Still, women were also vulnerable to sexual abuse, and the penalties for simply following their own inclinations were high.Masters were unwilling to undergo the loss of time, the expense of rearing a child, or the impairment of health or risk of death in childbirth, and thus were unlikely to give consent to marriage.But the laws contrived to give masters the chance to turn such events to their own account.For fornication and bastardy there were ceremonial whippings, usually of twenty-one lashes; more to the point, sentences of from one to two or three years of extra service were exacted, an overgenerous compensation for the loss of perhaps no more than a few weeks of work.From Pennsylvania southward, Richard B. Morris has concluded, the master was often enriched far beyond his actual losses.Where a manservant fathered a child, he could be required to do whatever extra service was necessary to provide for its maintenance.Merely for contractingunsanctioned marriages, servants could be put to a year's extra service.If a maidservant identified her master as the father of her child, he could be punished for adultery, and she removed from him and resold.A keen disrelish for miscegenation provided an additional term of punishment: for bearing a mulatto bastard a woman might get heavy whipping and seven years of extra service.Despite such restraints, there were a substantial number of illegitimate births, mulatto and otherwise.

††††† However, the commonest crime committed by servants, not surprisingly, was running away - not an easy thing to get away with, since in the colonies everyone had to carry a pass, in effect an identity card, and stiff penalties ranging from fines and personal damages to corporal punishment were imposed upon persons harboring fugitives.Runaways were regularly advertised in the newspapers, rewards were offered, and both sheriffs and the general public were enlisted to secure their return.Returned they often were, and subjected o what were regarded as suitable penalties; captured servants who were unclaimed were resold at public auction.On the whole, and especially in Pennsylvania and colonies to the south, the laws turned the punishment of the recovered runaway into an advantage for the master.The standard penalty in the North, not always rigorously enforced, was extra service of twice the time the master had lost, though whipping was also common.In Pennsylvania, a five-to-one penalty was fixed and commonly enforced, while in Maryland, the harshest of all the colonies, a ten-to-one penalty was authorized by a law of 1661 and very often enforced to the letter.A habitual runaway, or one who succeeded in getting away for weeks, could win himself a dreary extension of servitude.There was one horrendous case of a maidservant in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, who ran off habitually for short terms, and whose master quietly kept a record, true or false, of her absences.Finally taking her to court, the master rendered an account of 133 accumulated days of absence.Since it was impossible for her to deny her frequent absences, she had no shadow of an answer, and was booked for 1,330 days of extra service.[16]Hers was an unusual but not a singular case:there are recorded penalties of 1,530 days, 2,000 days, and even one of 12,130 days, which the master handsomely commuted to an even five years.[17]Virginia assessed double time, or more if "proportionable to the damages" which could be high in tobacco-harvesting time, plus an additional punishment, more commonly inflicted in the seventeenth than the eighteenth century, of corporal punishment.On the eve of the Revolution, Negro slavery had largely replaced indentures in the tidewater plantations but indentures were still important on the accessible and inviting edges of settlement, and there runaways became a critical problem.In South Carolina, where fear of insurrection had been a dominant motive, a law of 1691 had authorized a week's extra service for a day of absence, and for absences that ran as long as a week, a year for a week - a fifty-two-to-one ratio that made Maryland seem relaxed.In 1744 the week-for-a-day ratio was still kept, but the maximum penalty was set at a year's service.Whipping was also routine.

††††† The problem of preventing and punishing runaways was complicated by what was held to be the "pirating" of labor by competing employers - and it became necessaryto establish a whole series of penalties for enticing or distracting indenture labor.Plainly, if neighbors could entice bound laborers from their owners for occasional or even permanent service by offering money or promising better treatment, a rudimentary subterranean labor market would begin to replace servitude, and property in servants would become increasingly hazardous.Pirating was not taken lightly in the law, and enticers of labor were subject to personal damage sits as well as to criminal prosecution, with sentences ranging from whipping or sitting in the stocks to fines.The penalties were so heavy in the tobacco colonies that law-abiding planters might even hesitate tofeed or shelter a servant who had apparently been deserted by his master.Indeed, inn-keepers in these colonies were often fined simply for entertaining or selling liquor to servants.Suits for damages for brief enticements were hardly worth the trouble in the case of servants whose work was valued at a few pence a day.But in New York a skilled cabinetmaker and chair carver indentured in 1761 was lured away by a competitor at frequent intervals, and a few years later his master won a smashing judgment of L128.[18]

††††† Plots hatched by several servants to run away together occurred mostly in the plantation colonies, and the few recorded servant uprisings were entirely limited to those colonies.Virginia had been forced from its very earliest years to take stringent steps against mutinous plots, and severe punishments for such behavior were recorded.Most servant plots occurred in the seventeenth century:a contemplated uprising was nipped in the bud in York County in 1661; apparently led by some left-wing offshoots of the Great Rebellion, servants plotted an insurrection in Gloucester County in 1663, and four leaders were condemned and executed; some discontented servants apparently joined Bacon's Rebellion in the 1670's.In the 1680's the planters became newly apprehensive of discontent among the servants "owing to their great necessities and want of clothes," and it was feared they would rise up and plunder the storehouses and ships; in 1682 there were plant-cutting riots in which servants and laborers, as well as some planters, took part.

††††† By the eighteenth century, either because of the relaxed security of the indenture system or the increasing effectiveness of the authorities, disturbances were infrequent, although in 1707 a gang of runaways planned to seize military stores, burn Annapolis, steal a ship, and set up as pirates, but were stopped.Again in 1721 a band of convict servants conspired unsuccessfully to seize military stores at Annapolis.An insurrection of some consequence did actually break out among white servants under the British regime in East Florida during the summer of 1768, when three hundred Italians and Greeks in that very heterogeneous colony revolted against hard work and stern treatment, seized the arms and ammunition in the storehouse, and prepared to set sail from a ship at anchor in the river at New Smyrna.They were intercepted by a government vessel and promptly surrendered.Three leaders were convicted of piracy, one of whom was pardoned on condition that he execute his two comrades.Discontent and dissension, reaching into the local elite, were still rife in Florida at the time of the Revolution.[19]

††††† A serious threat to the interests of masters, one which gives testimony to the onerousness of servitude, was the possibility of military enlistment.In New England, where there were not many servants, military service was obligatory and seems to have posed no major temptation to escape servitude, but in Pennsylvania and the tobacco colonies, where servants were numerous and essential, the competing demand by the army for manpower in the intercolonial war of the 1740's, and, even more, in the French and Indian War of the 1750's, aroused great anxiety among the master.In the 1740's, more than a third of the Pennsylvania enlistments were from men in the servant class whose masters were compensated at the colony's expense; in Maryland, during the French and Indian War, Governor Horatio Sharpe reported not only that "servants immediately flocked in to enlist, convicts not excepted," but also that recruits among freemen were extremely scarce, and in Virginia volunteers lest they seize the alternative and join the regular army.[20]The resistance of the Pennsylvania Assembly to enlistments during the 1750's became provocatively stubborn and in Maryland there was armed resistance and rioting against recruitment.Parliament, whose interest it was to increase the army, passed a measure in 1756 authorizing officers to enlist indentured servants regardless of restraining colonial laws or practices.The best that masters could hope for was compensation from their colony's legislature, a practice that was repeated in Pennsylvania in 1763, or suing the recruiting officer for civil damages.During the Revolution, the Continental Congress and some of the states encouraged the enlistment of servants, but Pennsylvania and Maryland exempted them from military service.When despite this recruiting officers in Pennsylvania continued to enlist servants, a group of Cumberland County masters complained with magnificent gall that apprentices and servants "are the property of their masters and mistresses, and every mode of depriving such masters and mistresses of their property is a violation of the rights of mankind..."[21]A good number of servants ran off to the British forces, especially in Virginia, but neither the wars nor the Revolution ended the practice of servitude, which declined but did not die until the nineteenth century.

 

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††††† Numerous as are the court records of penalties which lengthened service, most servants did not run afoul of the law; their periods of servitude did at last come to an end, entitling them to collect "freedom dues" if they could, and to start in life for themselves.Freedom dues were usually specified by law, but little seems to be known about their payment.Virginia and North Carolina laws of the 1740's required L3 in money, and North Carolina added an adequate suit of clothes. The Crown provided 50 acres of land, free of quitrent for ten years, in South Carolina.A Pennsylvania law of 1700 specified two complete suites of clothes, one of which was to be new, one new ax, one grubbing hoe, and one weeding hoe.Massachusetts long before in the seventeenth century had provided in biblical fashion that servants after seven years' labor should "not be sent away empty." but what this maxim was actually worth to servants is difficult to say.Like the dues of ordinary apprentices, freedom dues may have functioned most importantly as a kind of inducement to servants to carry out in good faith the concluding months and weeks of servitude.Where the labor of a servant was particularly valuable, his master might strengthen that inducement by a cash payment considerably beyond what had been promised.[22]

††††† What was the economic situation of the servant after completing his servitude?It varied, no doubt, from colony to colony, and with the availability of lands.In the mainland colonies, it appears to have been assumed that an ex-servant was to be equipped for work as a free hired man with enough clothes and tools or many to give him a small start.It was assumed that wages for a freeman were high enough to enable him to earn an adequate competence or to provide himself with a plot of land within a fairly short time.Some ex-servants no doubt went westward and took up new lands."The inhabitants of our frontiers," wrote Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia in 1717, "are composed generally of such as have been transported hither as servants, and being out of their time, settle themselves where land is to be taken up that will produce the necessaries of life with little labor."[23]But it is quite likely that Spotswood erred considerably on the side of optimism.For example, in Maryland, where a freed servant in the seventeenth century was entitled to 50 acres of land upon showing his certificate of freedom at the office of the land office secretary, the records show that relatively few became farmers, though many assumed their land rights and sold them for cash.Abbot E. Smith, in one of the most authoritative studies of colonial servitude, estimates that only one out of ten indentured servants (not including redemptioners) became a substantial farmer and another became an artisan or an overseer in reasonably comfortable circumstances.The other eight, he suggests, either died during servitude, returned to England when it was over, or drifted offto become the "poor whites" of the villages and rural areas.There is reason to think that in most places servants who had completed a term of bondage and had a history of local residence met the prevailing parochial, almost tribal qualifications for poor relief, and were accepted as public charges.[24]Redemptioners, Smith remarks, did a good deal better, but the scrappy evidence that has thus far been found does not yet allow much precision.Sir Henry Moore, governor ofNew York, thought them so anxious to own land that they made great sacrifices to do so:"As soon as the time stipulated in their indentures is expired, they immediately quit their masters, and get a small tract of land, in settling which for the first three or four years they lead miserable lives, and in the most abject poverty;but all this is patiently borne and submitted to with the greatest cheerfulness, the satisfaction of being land holders smooths every difficulty, and makes them prefer this manner of living to that comfortable subsistence which they could procure for themselves and their families by working at the trades in which they were brought up."[25]An Englishman who traveled in America in the opening years of the nineteenth century noticed "many families, particularly in Pennsylvania, of great respectability both in our society and amongst others, who had themselves come over to this country as redemptioners; or were children of such."[26]

††††† As for the indentured servants, the dismal estimate that only two out of ten may have reached positions of moderate comfort is an attempt to generalize the whole two centuries of the experience of English servitude, taking the seventeenth century when the system was brutal and opportunities were few with the eighteenth, when it became less severe.[27]In the early years more servants returned to England, and mortality was also higher.But it will not do simply to assume that freed servants, especially those from the tobacco fields, were in any mental or physical condition to start vigorous new lives, or that long and ripe years of productivity lay ahead for them.If we consider the whole span of time over which English indentured servitude prevailed, its heavy toll in work and death is the reality that stands out.

††††† The Horatio Alger mythology has long since been torn to bits by students of American social mobility, and it will surprise no one to learn that the chance of emergence from indentured servitude to a position of wealth or renown was statistically negligible.A few cases to the contrary are treasured by historians, handed down from one to another like heirlooms - but most of them deal with Northern servants who came with education or skills.The two most illustrious colonial names with servitude in their family histories are Benjamin Franklin and the eminent Maryland lawyer Daniel Dulany.Franklin's maternal grandfather, Peter Folger of Nantucket, a man of many trades from teacher and surveyor to town and court clerk and interpreter between whites and Indians, had bought a maidservant for L20 and later married her.Dulany, who came from a substantial Irish family, arrived in 1703 with two older brothers; the brothers melted into the anonymity that usually awaited indentured arrivals, but Daniel was picked up by a lawyer who was pleased to buy a literate servant with some university training to act as his clerk and help with his plantation accounts.The closest thing to a modest, American-scale family dynasty to come out of servitude was that of the New England Sullivans.John Sullivan and Margery Browne both came to Maine as indentured servants in the 1720's.After Sullivan earned his freedom he became a teacher, bought Margery out of servitude, and married her.Their son John became a lawyer, a Revolutionary patriot, one of Washington's leading generals, and governor of New Hampshire.His younger brother, James, also a lawyer, became a congressman from Massachusetts and in time governor of the state.In the third generation, John's son, George, became a Federalist congressman and the attorney general of New Hampshire; James's son, William, pursued a successful legal career in Boston, played a prominent role in state politics, and was chosen to be one of the three delegates to take the manifesto of the Hartford Convention to Washington.John Lamb, a leader of the Sons of Liberty and later an officer in the Revolution, was the son of Anthony Lamb who had followed an improbable career:an apprentice instrument maker in London, Anthony became involved with a notorious burglar who ended on the gallows at Tyburn; as a first offender, Lamb was sentenced to be transported, served out an indenture in Virginia, moved to New York, and became a reputable instrument maker and a teacher of mathematics, surveying, and navigation.Charles Thomson, one of six children orphaned by the death of their father on shipboard in 1739, began life under indenture, became a teacher in Philadelphia, a merchant, a Revolutionary patriot, and Secretary of the Continental Congress.Matthew Thornton, whose parents came to Maine in the Scotch Irish emigration of 1718, began life under indenture, became a physician, a patriot leader in New Hampshire, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.Matthew Lyon, who won notoriety as a peppery Republican congressman from Vermont and as a victim of the Sedition Act, emigrated from Ireland in 1765 and paid off his passage by three years of indentured service on farms in Connecticut before he bought his own farm in Vermont.And there were others, brands snatched from the burning, triumphs of good fortune or strong character over the probabilities.

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 6

 

††††† Thoreau, brooding over the human condition in the relatively idyllic precincts of Concord and Walden Pond, was convinced that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.His conviction quickens to life again when we contemplate the human costs of what historians sometimes lightly refer to as the American experiment.It is true that thousands came to the colonies in search of freedom or plenty and with a reasonably good chance of finding them, and that the colonies harbored a force of free white workers whose wages and conditions might well have been the envy of their European counterparts.Yet these fortunate men were considerably outnumbered by persons, white or black, who came to America in one kind of servitude or another.It is also true that for some servants, especially for those who already had a skill, a little cash, or some intelligence or education or gentility, servitude in America might prove not a great deal worse than an ordinary apprenticeship, despite the special tribulations and hazards it inflicted.But when one thinks of the great majority of those who came during the long span of time between the first settlements and the disappearance of white servitude in the early nineteenth century - bearing in mind the poverty and the ravaged lives which they left in Europe, the cruel filter of the Atlantic crossing, the high mortality of the crossing and the seasoning, and the many years of arduous toil that lay between the beginning of servitude and the final realization of tolerable comfort - one is deeply impressed by the measure to which the sadness that is natural to life was overwhelmed in the condition of servitude by the stark miseries that seem all too natural to the history of the poor.For a great many the journey across the Atlantic proved in the end to have been only an epitome of their journey through life.And yet there must have seemed to be little at risk because there was so little at stake.They had so often lefta scene of turbulence, crime, exploitation, and misery that there could not have been much hope in most of them; and as they lay in their narrow bedsteads listening to the wash of the rank bilge water below them, sometimes racked with fever or lying in their own vomit, few could have expected very much from American life, and those who did were too often disappointed,But with white servants we have only begun to taste the anguish of the early Americanexperience.



†††† Abbot E. Smith, Colonists in Bondage (1947), 3-4; Richard B. Morris, Government and Labor in Colonial America (1946), 315-16.

†††† Smith, 27; M.W.Jernegan, Laboring and Dependent Classes in Colonial America (1931), 55; see also K.F.Geiser, Redemptioners and Indentured Servants in ...Pennsylvania (1901), 24-5.

†††† Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution (1961), 206.

†††† For the voyage, Mittelberger, Journey to Pennsylvania (ed. 1960), cd. and trans. by Oscar Handlin and John Clive, 10-13.

†††† Quoted in Luke Tyerman, The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield (1876), I, 124-5, 144-5.

†††† See Geiser, chapter 1; F.R.Diffenderfer, German Immigration into Pennsylvania...(1900), chapter V, esp. 63-7.

†††† Smith, 217-18.

†††† Difffenderfer, 82.

†††† Raphael Semmes, Crime and Punishment in Early Maryland (1938), 80, 278: cf. Samuel McKee, Jr., Labor in Colonial New York

†††† William Eddis, Letters from America (1777), 69-70; J.C. Ballagh, White Servitude in the Colony of Virginia (1895), 89-92.

†††† See Smith, 116-19; cf. Lawrence H. Gipson, The British Empire before the American Revolution, II (1936), 69, 79.

†††† Smith, 125.

†††† Ibid., 130.

†††† Cheessman A. Herrick, White Servitude in Pennsylvania (1926), 131-2.

†††† Smith, 41.

†††† Ibid., 268-9.

††††† Morris, 452.

††††† Ibid, 416-29, esp. 421-3.

††††† On insurrections, see ibid, 169-81.

††††† Ibid, 284n, 286; E.I. McCormac, White Servitude in Maryland (1904), 90.

††††† Morris, 292; on the enlistment problem generally, see ibid., 278-94; Geiser, 94-101; Smith, 278-84; McCormac, 82-91.

††††† McKee, 95-6.

††††† Smith, 197.

††††† See ibid., 251-2.

††††† McKee, 112-13.

††††† Geiser, 108-9.

††††† See Smith, 288-9, on later conditions.