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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

White Convict Servants in the American Colonies outnumbered African Slaves.

By the eighteenth century indentured servants outnumbered African slaves in the North American colonies. Unlike the situation endured by slaves, however, the state was an impermanent one for indentured servants. Initially an attempt to alleviate severe labor shortages in New World settlements, the system of indenture comprised not only willing English women, children, and men, but also convicts, religious separatists, and political prisoners. Indentured servants labored a set number of years (usually four to seven, though the period for convicts could be considerably longer), during which time they were considered the personal property of their masters. Couples were often prevented from marrying, and women from having children. If a woman did become pregnant and was unable to work, an equivalent amount of time was added to her period of servitude. Upon their release, indentured servants.  British Parliament passed the Transportation Act, under which England began sending its imprisoned convicts to be sold as indentured servants in the American colonies. While the law provoked outrage among many colonists ΓΆ€" Benjamin Franklin equated it to packing up North American rattlesnakes and sending them all to England ΓΆ€" the influx of ex-convicts provided cheap and immediate labor for many planters and merchants.


Convict Servants in the American Colonies

The William Brown House, an elegant Georgian brick building built in the 1760s, sits on the banks of the South River in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Now a museum, the house is the last visible structure of London Town, an 18th century tobacco port and one of the Atlantic trading sites where thousands of convicts from England entered the colonies to begin their indentured servitude.
In 1718, the British Parliament passed the Transportation Act, under which England began sending its imprisoned convicts to be sold as indentured servants in the American colonies. While the law provoked outrage among many colonists — Benjamin Franklin equated it to packing up North American rattlesnakes and sending them all to England — the influx of ex-convicts provided cheap and immediate labor for many planters and merchants. After 1718, approximately 60,000 convicts, dubbed "the King's passengers," were sent from England to America. Ninety percent of them stayed in Maryland and Virginia. Although some returned to England once their servitude was over, many remained and began their new lives in the colonies.