Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 10
|←IX. System of Labor: The Servant||Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century by
X. System of Labor: The Servant--continued
|XI. System of Labor: The Slave→|
SYSTEM OF LABOR: THE SERVANT—continued
The ordinary indenture was marked by great simplicity. When it was drawn previous to the departure of the servant from England, it named as the consideration for the right to his labor, payment of the cost of transportation, a sufficient quantity of drink, food, and clothing during the continuation of the term, together with lodgings and whatever else was thought to be essential to his livelihood. It was always in the power of those assuming the obligations of an instrument of this character by mutual consent to insert unusual conditions as to what was to be done by either party — for the special advantage of the other before or during its operation and at the expiration of the time which it covered. Thus the servant, in entering into covenants with a merchant or shipmaster engaged in the Virginian trade, could insist upon the privilege of having the interval of a fortnight at least in which to make inquiries concerning the characters of the different planters and then of disposing of himself to the one he should select.
Both master and servant could protect themselves from every form of encroachment upon each other. It was, for instance, in the power of the master to require that the servant should pay double the value of the labor of every day he lost for avoidable causes, and if this happened to be in the harvest time, the sum was to be increased by ten. On the other hand, the servant might covenant that he should not be compelled to plant and tend to more than two hundred weight of tobacco during any one year, this being a much smaller task than was usually imposed upon individuals of his class.
Many controversies arose between masters and servants who had been introduced without indentures, as to the time when their terms ought to expire, and this led to the passage of a large number of important acts. The rule which prevailed at first was that every member of the latter class who had been imported into Virginia without written covenants, should be bound for a period of four years if his age was in excess of twenty-one, five if he was under twenty, and seven if under twelve. The provisions of this statute were substantially modified in 1654 so far as aliens were involved. When the latter had come in without indentures, they were required, if more than sixteen years old, to remain in the employment of the planter to whom they were assigned, for a term of six years. If the person in question was under sixteen, this term was extended until he had attained his twenty-fourth year. It was found that this law worked to the disadvantage of the Colony by retarding its growth in population, the length of service expected of aliens discouraging their emigration to Virginia in the character of laborers. It was decided to place all servants of whatever nationality upon the same footing, no disparaging distinction being allowed in dealing with any class of them.
In the season of 1661-62, an important change was made in the general law that prevailed, by the adoption of the regulation on the same point which had long been in operation in England; it was provided that all servants who were imported without written agreements should be bound for a term of five years if more than sixteen years old, or if less than sixteen, until the completion of the twenty-fourth year. Every master who had introduced a laborer into the Colony or who had purchased one from a merchant or shipowner, there being no indenture in either case, was directed to bring him before the nearest court with a view to having his age adjudged. If the master failed to conform to this general order, the servant, although he may not have attained his twelfth year, was considered to be bound only for the term which would have been required of him if he had been adjudged in court to have passed his sixteenth year. Four months was the limit in which it was permitted to conform to the order of the justices. It was discovered that the law as to length of service in the absence of indentures, operated with great harshness in the case of a youth who had been declared to be only a few months under sixteen, since it compelled him to remain in the employment of his master until his twenty-fourth year, while a companion, whose age was only a few weeks in advance of sixteen years, was in consideration of that fact called upon to serve only until he was twenty-two. The law was amended in 1666 to the effect that all who were imported without indentures should, if they were nineteen years of age or above, continue with their masters for a term of five years, and if under that age, until the completion of their twenty-fourth year.
It became extremely common for those who had been sold in accord with the custom of the country, to wait very quietly until the persons who had brought them in and the ships in which they had come over, had left for England, and then to advance the claim of having been introduced under indentures which were lost, but which if produced would show that they were bound to serve for a shorter time than was now required of them. To remove the confusion and annoyance arising from this source, it was provided that any one who had presumably been imported without formal covenants, from the fact that he had been disposed of by the custom, should be carried before the nearest justice of the peace, and if it was alleged that he had originally bound himself by a written agreement for a regular term, he was to be allowed one month in which to produce the document, or sufficient evidence of its former existence, and if in that length of time the claim could not be sustained in the manner required, he was to be debarred from urging it a second time.
Whether the servant was bound to a master by an indenture which laid down in the clearest language the full nature of their mutual relations or simply by the custom of the country, he had a legal as well as a moral right to expect that provision would be made for his comfortable existence, in the form of victuals, apparel, and lodging. During the administration of the Company, he subsisted on hominy boiled with milk alone, or with milk, butter, and cheese, or with fish and the flesh of bullocks. He was supplied with a definite quantity of corn by the week, amounting, as a rule, probably to fourteen cans, this being the allowance for that length of time in the else of the servants employed in working the lands of Martin’s Hundred. A graphic account of his food and clothing in 1622 has been transmitted to us in a letter written in that year by a young man of this class. The author’s spirits at the time of its composition were greatly depressed, but the details which he gives, instead of conveying the impression that the laborers at this period were very meanly situated, rather raises our conception of the advantages which they enjoyed. It should be remembered that the letter bore the date of the year in which the great massacre of the settlers by the Indians occurred, when the losses attending that event and the confusion following it, very naturally produced a condition of extraordinary hardship in the Colony, among masters as well as among servants. In times marked by peace and abundance, such as those immediately preceding the massacre or following it at a long interval, the various articles given the laborer either for subsistence or comfort must have been greater in quantity and better in quality. Richard Frethorne, the author of the letter referred to, declared that his food consisted of peas and loblolly, that is, a mass of gruel, chowder, or spoon meat, with one-fourth of a loaf of bread and a small piece of beef. This seems to have been the allowance for a single meal. The loaf was most probably Indian corn bread, flour not being easily procurable in that age. Bread made of Indian corn, it should be remembered, is one of the most concentrated forms of nourishment, and one-fourth of a loaf of the ordinary size would be sufficient for an ordinary man. Frethorne makes it plain that he belonged to a higher class than that of the agricultural servant in England — indeed, he appears to have been the son either of a tenant farmer or a small landowner — by seriously lamenting that his master did not give him a penny “to help him to spice, sugar, or strong waters.” He prays that his father will send him some cheese. For clothing he stated that he had received one suit, one cap and two bands, and one pair of stockings. Some thief had stolen his cloak. The profound dissatisfaction felt by Frethorne was that of a sensitive mind suffering from homesickness and exposed to unaccustomed conditions. How many workingmen were there in England who would not gladly have exchanged the starvation against which they were constantly contending for the situation in which he was placed? I have already referred to the cases mentioned by Copeland, in which some of the most industrious laborers of London were only able to secure brown bread and cheese for their families. The food might have seemed poor and the clothing scant to a youth brought up in an English home of a moderate degree of refinement and with every reasonable comfort, but to the English Hodge, who tilled the fields at the rate of wages prescribed by the justices of the peace, the very lowest which would enable him to earn a subsistence for his family, and in only too many cases not affording him this without the aid of the levy for the benefit of paupers, the provision made for the servant in Virginia in the most frightful year in the history of the Colony does not appear to show that his position was as mean and intolerable as it was represented to be. This was the age in which Henry IV of France had won the lasting gratitude of his countrymen, in expressing the hope that under his administration of the affairs of his kingdom every French peasant would be so prosperous that he could without extravagance have a fowl in the pot on Sunday.
As early as 1661, at a time when the live stock of the Colony were far less numerous then they became in the closing decades of the seventeenth century, it was the custom in York County to give the servants rations of meat at least three times a week. It could not have been many years before this allowance was extended to each day in consequence of the enormous increase in the herds of hogs and horned cattle.
The character of the clothing worn by the servants is shown in an advertisement for the recovery of two runaways, placed on record in York County in 1694. The garments of one consisted in part of a coat, made of frieze, a black hat and a pair of wooden heel shoes; of the other, of a frieze coat, a pair of leather breeches, a cap of fur, and a pair of plain shoes. The under linen was of dowlas and lockram.
The author of Leah and Rachel, a pamphlet published about the middle of the century, denied very emphatically the correctness of the report prevailing at that time in England that the servants in Virginia were compelled to sleep on boards by the fireplace instead of in comfortable beds. The best indication of the treatment which they received in the way of physical comforts, as he averred, was the general satisfaction expressed by all persons of this class who had been recently imported, a satisfaction which had led them to use their influence with friends and acquaintances in the mother country to induce them to emigrate to the Colony. The author of Public Good without Private Interest went so far as to charge the planters with forcing the laborers in their employment to “lie by all the time of their servitude on ash heaps or otherwise to kennel up and down like dogs.” If this occurred, it was only in rare cases, for the General Assembly had always shown a remarkable solicitude to furnish every means as a protection for those who were bound by indenture, being prompted to this line of conduct not only by an impulse of common humanity, but also by a desire to remove every obstacle and repress every influence tending to discourage the growth of population. They were also commanded by the English authorities to suppress all inhuman severity towards servants. The people of Virginia, the author of Leah and Rachel, the pamphlet already quoted, remarked, were Christians. While there may have been a disposition on the part of some to overlook the obligations which they had assumed towards their laborers, the enlightened spirit of the laws in this connection proved conclusively that the sentiment of the planters at large was sternly condemnatory of any abridgment of the usual comforts of this class. It was provided that every master should allow his servants sufficient food, clothing, and shelter, and that in inflicting punishment he should be careful not to exceed the bounds of moderation. If the servant had just grounds for thinking that he was deprived of his necessary amount of food, or that the house set apart for him did not furnish a sufficient protection from the weather, or that the correction he received for his negligence was harsher than the character of the offence called for, he possessed the right, which had been expressly granted to him, to enter a complaint with the commissioners of the court for the county in which his master resided. If, upon a hearing, this complaint seemed just, the latter was required to appear at the following session and defend his conduct, and if he failed to show good cause, was compelled to give ample satisfaction for the charges against him. These provisions, which were well calculated to afford the servant absolute security in the enjoyment of every comfort that he could reasonably claim, were in operation during the remainder of the century, and if in any case he suffered, it was to be attributed to his own supineness and not to any deficiency in the law prescribing the remedy. How great was the solicitude of the General Court to ensure him the amplest protection in all of his rights, is shown in the order passed in 1679-80, which forbade a woman who had proved herself a cruel mistress to have servants in her employment.
The fact that a youthful servant was disposed to run away was often accepted not as an indication of an incorrigible nature but of hard usage. A case of this kind occurred in Lower Norfolk about the middle of the century. A boy had frequently fled from his mistress, Mrs. Deborah Farneshaugh, seeking refuge in his last flight with a Mrs. Lambard. A complaint was filed in the local court in his behalf, and the judges directed that he should remain with Mrs. Lambard until Mrs. Farneshaugh should provide him with food, clothing, and other necessaries, of which it was declared that she had deprived him while in her service. A committee was appointed to enforce the order, and upon the continuation of her ill treatment, her right to hold the boy was summarily withdrawn.
In the code adopted in 1705, which represented the sentiment of the Colony in the closing years of the previous century, a sentiment that so far as the servants were concerned was even more enlightened than it had been forty years before, we find all the details of the original statute reenacted, with some additional provisions which made the regulations on this point still more effective. No master, for instance, was to be permitted to whip a white servant on the naked back without special authority from the court, and in case this order was disregarded, he was to be mulcted twenty shillings. The justices of the peace were, as formerly, to receive the complaints of all persons under articles of indenture as to unwholesome food, inferior clothing, and uncomfortable lodging. If there was good reason to suspect that a justice, the justices being generally large landowners, and, therefore, naturally disposed to sympathize with the master rather than with the servant, leaned in any case towards the former without adequate cause, the servant could enter a petition in the county court without the usual delay of a formal process of action.
From this it will be seen that the laborers of Virginia, whether bound by indenture or by the custom of the country, were shielded by laws that recognized the fallibility and selfishness of the local magistrates and provided a remedy as swift and as summary as if a landowner and not a servant had been involved. Under the code of 1705, which, as already stated, reflected the state of public feeling at the close of the seventeenth century as well as at the beginning of the eighteenth, if the servant became disabled in consequence of the meagreness of the provisions made for his comfort, or as the result of the punishment to which he might have been subjected on any occasion, he was to be taken away from his master, and in case he could not be sold to a second one, turned over to the church wardens of the parish, and until the expiration of his term supported at the expense of his original employer, the amount required for this purpose to be levied, if necessary, upon the employer’s distrainable property. If still considered valuable when put up for sale at public auction, and in consequence found a purchaser, the sheriff under authority of the court could compel the original master to make good any deficiency in the charges incurred by the county in maintaining such a servant in the interval during which he continued under its protection. If the disabilities of the servant arose from no fault of the master, but were due to unavoidable causes in the course of nature, he had a claim upon his employer for support until the end of his term. This claim the master could not ignore without being exposed to a forfeit of ten pounds sterling annually to the parish, which was required by law to furnish the disabled servant with the necessaries of life in case the master shirked the responsibility of his maintenance.
These enlightened provisions of the code of 1705 were in accord with the general spirit, not only of the laws of 1645, 1657, and 1661, which permitted a servant to complain to the nearest commissioner if he was denied by a master the ordinary comforts to which he was entitled, but also of a statute of an earlier date prescribing the medical attention he should have a right to expect. The Assembly, having reason to believe in 1664 that the exorbitant charges of physicians had caused a large number of the planters to defer calling them in until it was too late to save the lives of their sick laborers, the fee demanded being frequently greater in value than the amount of capital invested in individual servants at the time of purchase, adopted a rule to prevent the abuse. It was provided that in every case in which a practitioner asked for his medical attention in behalf of persons of this class a remuneration plainly far more than the condition of his patient or the other circumstances of the case justified him in doing, the planter who was the object of the attempted imposition should be allowed the right to summon him to court to explain his conduct. If he failed to do so, it was assumed that he had been actuated simply by a motive of extortion, and was condemned to be punished severely.
The Assembly did not content itself merely with ensuring necessary physical comforts for the servants, or throwing safeguards about their health by inflicting penalties for negligence in masters or extortion in medical practitioners. It looked also to the improvement of their moral character. In case their servants had never been instructed in the catechism, employers were compelled by the express provisions of the statute law of the Colony to send them to the nearest church, there, in the hour preceding the opening of the exercises of the evening, to be grounded by the minister of the parish in the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the general articles of belief.
The principal labor in which the servant was engaged was the cultivation of tobacco and the removal of the forest for the opening up of new grounds. As a rule, white women were not employed in the fields. This was the case even in the time of the Company, the duties of women being confined to the performance of household duties, to cooking, milking, churning, cleaning, washing, and sewing. It was only when the female servant was an unmitigated slattern in person, offensive in her bearing and dissolute in her conduct, that she was required to do work in the field. Even the strongest of the women were not considered very useful in this sphere, being looked upon as a burden rather than a help. Labor of a purely agricultural character in Virginia was thought to demand less painful exertion than in England. It was neither so taxing nor so long continued. This did not apply to the task of clearing the forest lands, the most severe and trying undertaking, perhaps, which has ever been imposed upon a farm hand. Its performance, however, was restricted to a brief portion of each year and fell more heavily on the axemen, a comparatively small number, than upon the others, who were employed in rolling the trunks into piles and in burning the brushwood. The soil of the new ground was thickly interspersed with roots, but as it was broken up with the hoe, it did not offer any serious obstacles to cultivation. In the long interval in winter between the sale of the crop of the preceding season and the removal of the plants from the beds to the fields, the servants had few important duties to occupy their attention. The principal tasks, which consisted in tending the corn and tobacco, began in the spring. The hours of labor were then extended from sunrise to sunset, but there was an intermission of five hours in the day when the sun in the openings was most oppressive and dangerous. Doubtless, to untried and unseasoned servants, it was extremely taxing to be compelled to exert themselves at all, whether in the morning or the afternoon, in the months of June, July, and August, and to many of those who had been recently imported into the Colony, the influence of the heat in these months was fatal by bringing on fevers, which their constitutions, accustomed to a different climate, found it impossible to resist. Omitting from view all considerations of humanity, the prospect of losing valuable laborers whose terms had been purchased a short time before at a high price, and who could not easily be replaced, was sufficient in itself to lead to the adoption of rules that operated as a protection to their general health. Among the most important of these rules was, that no white laborer who had just arrived in the Colony should be forced to engage in any form of work in the fields in very hot weather. The immigration agents in England, who were familiar with the climate of Virginia, frequently urged their inexperienced patrons to secure at least a few seasoned laborers before they began the cultivation of their newly opened plantations. There are indications that many of the servants had been prompted to leave England by extravagant representations of the ease and comfort of the life which they would be able to lead in the Colony, and the contrast, not necessarily very great, between the conditions which they expected and the conditions which they found, threw many into a state of dejection in which they soon succumbed to the lurking miasma of the marshes and the newly exposed soil of the clearings. And the same was also the fate of many in that class which was represented by Frethorne, already referred to, men who had occupied a station of comparative independence in England, and who were cast down by the different situations in which they found themselves in Virginia. The work of men of this stamp being carried out with a faulting or unwilling spirit, was certain to be grossly defective, and was, therefore, well calculated to provoke harshness in the attitude of their master towards them. Regarding them as incurably worthless, there was little inducement on his part to encourage them. He accepted them as incorrigible, and weary of chafing against an evil which it was impossible to remove, he finally sank into a state of carelessness and indifference as to the matter of their improvement.
As the servants increased in number, it became more necessary to employ overseers to supervise them, and this was especially the case in the instance of planters who had obtained patents to large tracts so widely separated in the point of locality that the owners were unable to give the management of them their constant attention. When a more careful superintendence was required than the land owner himself could personally give, the most faithful and capable of his laborers was probably quite frequently appointed overseer. If he had under engagement to himself a servant who was perfectly competent to perform the duties of the position, there could have been little inducement for him to select a man who was in full enjoyment of his freedom. The legal tie which gave him control over the actions of the servant made the servant a more desirable subordinate. On the other hand, the fact that the overseer was still bound by the terms of an indenture was calculated to diminish his influence with the laborers over whom he was placed. In the county records of Virginia previous to 1700, the references to overseers become more frequent as the close of the century is approached. These undoubtedly were freemen. At no time in the history of the Colony were such men absent from the class of overseers. Indeed, this class was principally recruited from among those whose indentures had expired. The duties incident to the position required for their performance a firm and energetic spirit as well as intelligence and fairness. However amenable to authority the great mass of English servants may have been, there must have been a large number who needed the utmost strictness and sternness for their governance. To control such persons, the master was compelled to rely upon his overseer, who, however well adapted to his office, often found this an impossible task. In seeking to perform it, he was not infrequently assaulted by fractious servants. Of all offences of which the servants were guilty, running away was the most common. The inclination to this act was exhibited at an early date in the history of the Colony and was attributable to a variety of causes, such as harsh treatment in special instances, the desire to escape from the trammels of an uncongenial situation, or the promptings of an intractable nature. It is easily conceivable that this disposition developed itself more frequently in youths under nineteen years of age who were bound for long periods, than in older persons whose terms would end in a much shorter time, and who, therefore, had not the same inducement to desert their masters. The younger laborers were naturally more restless, more unruly, and less likely to show patience and self-restraint if the conditions of their lives were repugnant to their tastes and ambitions. The inclination to run away was, however, confined to no age. The man who, in consideration of being transported across the ocean to Virginia, without payment of the usual charges, had conferred upon the merchant or shipowner the right to dispose of him in the Colony, would much more probably feel this impulse and act upon it than the man who had come out under articles of indenture with the planter to whom he was consigned, and as to whose character and standing he must have obtained more or less definite information. In such cases, the engagement of the servant had not been formed unadvisedly, but after consultation and thoughtful consideration.
In the beginning, the frequency with which servants abandoned their masters was in some measure due to the scarcity of labor. Many unscrupulous planters were led by this circumstance to hold out secret offers to persons of that class who were in the employment of landowners residing at a distance. These offers were accompanied by the promise that protection would be afforded them in case their whereabouts were discovered, an improbable contingency, as was asserted, on account of the remoteness and the isolation of the separate estates. Even in the cases in which the planters receiving absconding servants had not instigated them to leave their masters, the readiness with which they were often employed without any questions being asked amounted to a positive inducement to restless and discontented laborers to break their engagements whenever they felt the desire.
So general became the complaint of the action of the planters who gave employment to absconding servants, whether informed or not as to the expiration of their terms, that it was found necessary to adopt a regulation that no one should enter into a contract under any circumstances with a worker for wages or for a share of the crop, or with a laborer who was subject to an ordinary indenture, unless he could produce a certificate signed by the commander of the place where he had formerly resided, showing that he was at liberty to bind himself by new covenants to any one who was willing to employ him. If, notwithstanding his inability to furnish this certificate, he should be engaged, then the person who was thus guilty of violating the law was compelled to pay to the master or mistress of the servant, if his term was still unexpired, twenty pounds of tobacco for every night he was entertained. Even though the laborer concerned should happen to have hired himself for a short time and for a definite sum, the same penalty was to be enforced. So determined were the members of the Assembly to probe to the heart of the evil, that it was provided that even if the laborer who was thus employed should be a freeman who had not before entered into any contract, the person covenanting with him should still be under the necessity of requiring of him a certificate of absolute freedom. If without this certificate the laborer should still receive employment, the person who gave it was exposed to such punishment as the Governor and Council should prescribe. If the certificate offered was in reality a forgery, the servant or freeman incurred a heavy penalty for his crime. In 1676, when the insurrection had drawn away so many laborers from their masters, the Assembly provided that every planter who had in his employment a servant whose antecedents were unknown, and who had not been residing in the country nine months, should present a report to the nearest justice of the peace showing his age, stature, the place from which he came, and the length of time he had been in the country.
There was one strong influence at work among the planters which was likely to have made the operation of these laws more effective than is the case in general with prohibitory statutes in communities recently settled. The very reasons moving those who entertained absconding servants or hirelings to enter into covenants with them in spite of their failure to produce the certificate demanded by the law, impelled the masters or first employers of the runaways to pursue and seize them and to bring them back to the estates to which they belonged. The scarcity of labor made it dear, and it was less expensive to follow a servant or hireling who had absconded than to replace him by the purchase of a substitute. The most important interests of the landholders were involved in the sanctity of the regulation, and there are innumerable indications in the county records that the penalty imposed for disregarding it was strictly enforced. The character of the punishment incurred by the servant in absconding offered an additional inducement to his master to discover the place to which he had fled, and to capture and lead him back. If the act of running away under consideration was the first offence of that nature on his part, he was punished to the extent of being required to remain in the employment of his master double the time for which he was bound by his indenture, or by the custom of the country in the absence of a written agreement between them; and if his flight had been marked by aggravated circumstances, or was taken at the season of the year when the crops needed special attention, it lay in the power of the commissioners of the county to enlarge still further the term for which he had become liable by way of penalty for his violation of his covenants. If the offence was committed a second time, the servant was also branded in the cheek and shoulder.
In some cases, the servant was not only required to remain with his master double the time agreed upon at first, but also to pay the amount which had been spent in capturing him. The punishment occasionally extended to the infliction of stripes. In 1640, Hugh Gwyn followed two absconding white laborers and a negro slave into Maryland, in which Colony they had taken refuge, seized them and brought them back. By order of court, they were whipped on their bare backs until they had received thirty lashes. The two white men, a Dutchman and a Scotchman, were forced to remain with their master twelve months beyond the terms for which they were bound in their indentures, and at the end of that interval they were required to serve on the public works for three years. The negro was delivered over to his master to continue a slave during the rest of his life. In the same year, several servants planned to make their escape to the Dutch provinces in the North, the ringleader in the conspiracy being a Dutchman, and one of the participants a negro. They were captured when they had gotten only as far as Elizabeth River. The punishment in this case was severer than in that previously mentioned. The Dutchman was sentenced to receive thirty lashes, to have the letter “R” branded in his cheek, and to carry a shackle upon one leg as he worked. When his term of service expired, he was to be delivered to the authorities, to remain in the public employment for seven years. One of his accomplices, after receiving thirty lashes, and being branded in the cheek, was upon the close of the period covered by his indenture to become the servant of the Colony, and to continue so for the space of three years. A second accomplice was to be bound over to the public for two years after the expiration of his term. The negro was to be burnt in the face with the letter “R” and to be whipped severely.
In 1660-61, it was provided that if a white man bound by indenture or the custom, fled in company with negroes, who, being the property of their owner for life, could not be punished by an extension of their terms, he was to be compelled, when brought back, to remain in the employment of his master double his own time, and of the slaves’ master, during a set period for every slave who had gone off with him; and if more than one white person was in the party of runaways, the whole number of white men were to be proportionately liable for the time for which the negroes, if they had been English laborers, would have been compelled to serve, in addition to those terms for which they were already bound. In the session of 1655-56, the penalty of twenty pounds of tobacco for each night, imposed upon any person who gave entertainment or employment to an absconding servant, was increased to sixty pounds for every twenty-four hours. The letter “R” deeply burnt into the cheek, forehead, or shoulder not being found a sufficient mark of degradation, the right was granted to the master to keep the hair of the runaway cropped close to his ears, which would lead to his detection as soon as he escaped from the plantation to which he belonged.
The pursuit of a runaway seems to have been generally made by hue and cry. It was required that this should be passed from the house of one county commissioner to that of another, under a heavy penalty for neglect. This method proving unsatisfactory, an additional regulation was adopted in 1663, by the terms of which, at the request of a master whose servant had fled, the justices of the peace were commanded to issue their warrants directing the impressment of men and boats to take part in the pursuit, and the cost thus entailed was to be included in the regular county levies. The enactment of such a law indicates that the public sentiment of the Colony regarded the loss of a laborer by flight as common to the whole community, and therefore to be made good out of the public funds.
As numerous runaways were able to escape from the country by means of ships engaged in carrying freight to the Dutch Colony, provision was made for their return by a standing request to the Governor of that Colony to send all absconding servants back by the first vessel which might sail to the part of Virginia from which they had fled. When a person was returned under these circumstances, he was received by the collector of the district in which the ship came to anchor, and a certificate was given to the master of the vessel, containing a statement of the expenses which he had incurred in the transportation of the runaway, and this amount was discharged by the General Assembly upon the presentation of the document to that body. In the meanwhile, the collector had notified the master of the arrival of his servant. If he was willing to take the servant into his employment again, he was required first to pay all the charges that had fallen upon the public, but if unwilling, then the servant was either sold or hired out until the public had been reimbursed for the outlay entailed; and if any part of his term remained unexpired, after this was accomplished, he was returned to his master. If, instead of attempting to escape in a ship that was about to set sail for the Northern Colonies, the runaway fled to the nearest Indian village, its chief was commanded to produce him before a justice of the peace. The latter, on receiving him, was required to pay to the Indians who had apprehended him, twenty arms’ length of roanoke, or its value in such goods as the captors might prefer. The justice then forwarded the servant to his master. This law was passed to continue in force only for a very short time.
Experience showed that the neglect of constables in making search as directed by their warrants, which empowered them to enter dwelling-houses, was the most frequent cause of a permanent evasion of capture on the part of absconding servants. To counteract the secret influence brought to bear upon these officers, a master, in case his runaway was apprehended, was ordered to pay the constable who was the agent in the capture, two hundred pounds of tobacco. This was also a means of stimulating him to greater energy in a subsequent instance of a like nature.
In 1669, it was provided that a reward of one thousand pounds of tobacco should be allowed to every person who apprehended a servant absenting himself from the plantation to which he belonged without a passport from the authorities of the place where he resided, or a note from his master, granting him permission. This reward was to be paid not by the master, but by the public at large, the amount thus expended to be returned to the public funds by the sale of the runaway for a term of years as soon as his present employment came to an end. This law was enacted for the benefit of the class of landowners who were in possession of so few laborers that they were unable to follow fugitives at certain seasons of the year without abandoning their crops in the ground to ruin. When a servant was captured after the passage of the Act of 1669, he was at once carried to the office of the nearest justice of the peace. A certificate of the term for which the runaway was bound to his master was then drawn up and transmitted to the next General Assembly. In the meanwhile, the runaway was delivered to the constable of the parish in which he had been seized, by whom he was conveyed to the constable of the adjacent parish, and so in turn until he was finally delivered to his owner. In case he was suffered to escape by the neglect of one of these officers, a penalty of one thousand pounds of tobacco was imposed upon the delinquent for the offence.
The allowance of one thousand pounds for the apprehension of an absconding servant was found to be not only burdensome to the public revenues but also promotive of a spirit of collusion, defeating the object which the law had in view. The reward was reduced to two hundred pounds whenever the fugitive was captured at a greater distance than ten miles from his master’s home, and this amount was to be paid out of the public levy in the county to which he belonged. No claim was to be considered valid until it had been clearly shown to the justices that the runaway and his captor had not entered into a mutually advantageous arrangement as to his arrest; that the arrest occurred at a certain distance from the plantation on which he had been employed; that the claim had or had not been purchased from the captor; and that the person urging it in the court was or was not the master or overseer of the fugitive. If the claim was found to be tainted with fraud, the person guilty of the offence, in case he was unable to pay the one thousand pounds imposed as a penalty, was compelled to submit to corporal punishment in the discretion of the court.
If the servant had absconded on two occasions, the master was directed to keep the hair of the fugitive closely cut, or forfeit two hundred pounds as often as he was subsequently apprehended. Each constable into whose hands he was delivered to be returned to his owner was authorized by the commissioner’s warrant to give him a severe whipping. The heavy fine which was imposed in case a captured servant was allowed to escape by the negligence of one of these officers was, in 1670, reduced from one thousand pounds to four hundred pounds of tobacco. Under the regulations in operation immediately previous to the enactment of the statute of 1686, as soon as the period for which a captured runaway was bound had expired, the master was required to deliver him at once into the hands of the nearest justice of the peace in order that he might be assigned for the public use, his term being extended at the rate of four months for every two hundred pounds of tobacco which the county had expended in his capture. Under the law of 1686, however, the entire amount of the outlay which had fallen upon the public was assessed upon his master or mistress, to be reimbursed by the extension in his or her favor of the servant’s time for a period which would cover the value of the loss entailed by his recovery.
There can be little doubt that the last provision made was the wisest that could have been adopted in the circumstances existing in the Colony. When a servant absconded, all the resources of the public treasury and its personal instruments for carrying on the machinery of the government and preserving the peace were brought to bear to effect his capture, and when that end had been accomplished, the master was very properly required to save the people at large from pecuniary loss. The rule prevailing at one time that the community was to be reimbursed by the sale of the runaway by the public officers as soon as his original term had expired, must have given rise to much inconvenience and some complication in the affairs of each county. The authorities, from the great number of fugitives, were placed in the position, as long as the law was in operation, of being vendors of labor on a very important scale, and this made necessary a serious enlargement of the public accounts without any pecuniary advantage accruing from it.
The fact that so few conspiracies were hatched among the laborers bound by articles of indenture is to be attributed not only to the fair treatment which, as a rule, they received from their masters, but also to the comparative brevity of the time for which all whose ages exceeded nineteen, among whom alone a plot was likely to be formed, were required to serve. It was entirely natural that the older members of this class should have been disposed to endure much that was harsh or repugnant to their wishes in the expectation of the early ending of their terms, rather than plunge into secret schemes that exposed them to the risk of certain death in the event of detection. There seems to have been a seditious feeling in York in 1661, and its display was considered to be sufficiently serious to justify the authorities in warning the magistrates and heads of families in that county to punish all discourse among those in their employment tending to a popular tumult. The conspiracy of 1663, to which reference has been made already, had a religious and political object in view. Only a few servants appear to have been included among those implicated in it. The Cromwellian soldiers, reduced to the condition of common laborers, doubtless smarted with the sense of degradation, but beyond all this, there was a hope that the status of the English Protectorate might by their bravery and resolution be restored in the Colony. The discovery of this plot led to the passage of severe laws in repression of the sinister meetings of servants. They were forbidden to come together in considerable numbers on Sunday, a day on which they had been allowed entire rest, and the same rule was also probably applicable to all recognized holidays. By the custom prevailing in the Colony, the laborers were granted not only the Sabbath and the usual holidays observed in England, but also the greater part of every Saturday. Apart from the hours of night, there were many occasions when they were wholly at leisure, and if there had existed any disposition to conspiracy among them, the opportunity would not have been lacking. In the period of great depression following the collapse of the Rebellion of 1676, there was imminent danger of an open insurrection on the part of the servants, but if it had occurred, the motive would have been not merely impatience of the landowners’ authority but apprehension of famine. The feeling died out when relief had been obtained.
Among so large a body of laborers, it is not remarkable that there should have been many instances of resistance to masters. One of the earliest petitions presented to the General Assembly in 1619, the first legislature convening in the Colony, was that of Captain Powell, who desired to have his servant punished for falling into grossly insubordinate conduct. The petitioner was empowered to place this servant in the pillory for a period of four days, to nail his ears to the post, and to give him a public whipping on each day included in his sentence. The severe punishment inflicted in this case does not appear to have been repeated in later times. The person who was found guilty of offering resistance either to his master, or to the overseer who was appointed to supervise him, was compelled to continue in the same employment two years beyond the expiration of the term for which he was bound either by indenture or the custom of the country. If the spirit of insubordination which he exhibited rendered him dangerous, he could, upon complaint, be committed to jail, a bond being given by his owner that the charge would be pressed to a trial. During the imprisonment, the master was required to support the servant, five pounds of tobacco being paid to the sheriff to cover the expense of each twenty-four hours of detention.
At each county seat there was a whipping-post, and this mode of punishment was frequently used as a substitute for the jail. The servant condemned to the lash was delivered to the sheriff to be publicly chastised as a warning to all who were similarly disposed, and afterwards returned to the plantation to which he or she might be attached. The master had a right to whip a delinquent with his own hands if unwilling to put himself to the inconvenience of sending him to a magistrate for that purpose. When the servant had shown on any occasion the desire to inflict injury on any one not his employer, the latter might be ordered, in the discretion of the court, to furnish a bond that his servant would keep the peace. Should a servant be guilty of murder or an attempt to kill, six men were summoned from the neighborhood where he lived whose names were put at the head of the panel. By the jury thus formed he was tried, and if convicted, was sentenced to be imprisoned or hanged, according to the circumstances of his crime. Aggravated cases of robbery were doubtless punished with severity, but small offences like hog-stealing, especially when the person who suffered was the master, exposed the offender as a rule only to the pains of a public or private whipping. In some cases, in addition to public chastisement, he was compelled by order of court to continue in the same employment for a term of two years after the expiration of the time upon which he had agreed. It not infrequently happened that in condonation for the most serious forms of robbery, a servant bound himself upon the conclusion of the period covered by his indenture to enter into a second indenture by which he agreed to serve a second period. Whoever induced a man of this class to dispose of his master’s property by stealth, more particularly when the tempter became the beneficiary of the theft, was compelled to suffer imprisonment for a month and to restore four times the value of the articles which had been carried off.
In the Assembly of 1619, a law was passed that provided that the servant should receive a whipping for every oath he uttered, and should afterwards confess his guilt in the parish church when the congregation had convened for religious services. There is no record of this statute having been repealed. The regulation imposing a fine of tobacco upon all freemen who had been heard to swear was steadily enforced, and there is no reason why there should have been any relaxation of the special punishment inflicted for the same offence upon those in their employment.
A certain degree of liberty in the sexual relations of the female servants with the male, and even with their masters, might have been expected, but there are numerous indications that the general sentiment of the Colony condemned it, and sought by appropriate legislation to restrain and prevent it. A woman who was got with child by her employer was, upon the expiration of her term, delivered to the church wardens of the parish in which she resided, who were empowered to dispose of her for two years, the tobacco thus obtained to be devoted to parochial objects. The purpose that this regulation had in view was of a twofold character. The wardens secured by the sale of the mother for a new period of service, the means to meet any charge which the bastard might impose upon the parish; on the other hand, her master was prevented from deriving any advantage from his criminal association with her such as would have resulted from an extension of the term for which she was bound to him. If the woman had been required to remain in his service, then this would have constituted an additional inducement to a dissolute master to tamper with the virtue of his female servants. It was clearly recognized, at the same time, that to allow such a woman to go entirely free on the expiration of her first term, on the ground that the father of her bastard child was her employer, who used the influence of the relation to force her to yield to his solicitations, was to offer a strong temptation to all women in the same situation to lay their offspring at the doors of their masters, whether the latter were guilty or not.
If the father of the bastard was a freeman, owning, however, no interest in the mother, he might satisfy the claim against him by paying fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco, or serving for one year the master of his paramour. He had also to give security to save the parish and her employer harmless, and was compelled to defray the whole charge imposed by the existence of the child. If, on the other hand, the latter was the offspring of a servant who was unable to contribute to its support, the expense of maintaining it fell upon the parish until his term had expired; as soon as this was the case, he was compelled to reimburse the vestry for the amount which they had already been called upon to pay.
In the latter part of the century, some alteration was made in these regulations. If a woman gave birth to a bastard, the sheriff, as soon as he learned of the fact, was required to arrest her, and whip her on the bare back until the blood came. Being turned over to her master, she was compelled to pay two thousand pounds of tobacco, or to remain in his employment two years after the termination of her indentures. By delivering five hundred pounds of the same commodity to the parish, her master could relieve her of the chastisement, and, in return, he had a right to claim of her a service of six months, in addition to the two years prescribed by law. Katharine Higgins, of York, having borne a child out of wedlock, was ordered to receive thirty-nine lashes. To secure remission of this part of her punishment, John Page, her master, gave the vestrymen assurance that he would deliver to the parish the required amount of tobacco as a guarantee against loss in providing food and clothing for the bastard. The punishment of whipping seems to have been also remitted in case the mother and the father appeared together in church at the time the congregation was assembled, both clothed in white sheets. A bastard child remained in the service of the parish until his twenty-fourth year, being apprenticed under strict indentures. If the bastard child to which the female servant gave birth was the offspring of a negro father, she was whipped unless the usual fine was paid, and immediately upon the expiration of her term, was sold by the wardens of the nearest church for a period of five years. One-third of the proceeds of the sale was turned over to the public treasury, one-third was paid to the informer, and the remainder reserved for the use of the parish in which the offence was committed. The child was bound out until his or her thirtieth year had been reached. The heaviness of the penalty was in some measure to be attributed to the desire to inflict a certain degree of moral punishment, for, as will be seen when we come to the subject of the slave, all physical intimacy between whites and blacks, even under the sanction of marriage, was not only severely condemned, but also rigidly punished.
Secret marriages among the servants of the Colony seem to have been a common source of serious loss to masters, and steps were taken at an early period to prevent their occurrence. The penalty attached, in 1643, to this act was the prolongation of the term of the husband for twelve months, while the term of the wife was extended twice its original length, owing to the anticipated loss of valuable time in the event that she gave birth to a child. A minister was strictly prohibited from publishing the bans of persons of this class, or joining them in marriage without first having received a certificate showing that the consent of their masters had been obtained, and if the union took place without that consent, the parties to it were made liable, in 1662, to the penalty of serving one year after their articles of indenture expired. The same punishment was inflicted upon the servant who intermarried clandestinely with a free person, the latter being compelled to pay the master fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco or bacon, or become his employee for a period of twelve months. Although there was a law interdicting a union of free whites with negroes, mulattoes, and Indians, whether enslaved or free, there seems to have been no provision against marriage between persons of African or Indian race and pure whites, in case the latter happened to be still bound by indenture or by custom of the country. This, however, is probably explained by the fact that the consent of the master or mistress was necessary to give the marriage of a servant validity, a consent practically unattainable on account of the prejudice which existed even at this early day to such a union.
It is interesting to find that the private funerals of servants were the occasion of so much scandal as to lead to their prohibition. This scandal related to various persons nearly associated with the dead, who, if guiltless of what was whispered against them, could not vindicate their innocence, and if guilty, could always be successful in evading punishment. In order to remove all occasion for aspersion previous to the burial, three or four neighbors were summoned to view the corpse whenever there was the smallest ground for suspicion, and if not, to accompany the body to the grave. It was not permitted that any servant should be interred in a private spot. They were to be buried in public cemeteries established for this purpose. The passage of such a law illustrates with singular force the great care with which every precaution was adopted by the General Assembly for the protection of persons of this class against all forms of encroachment upon their welfare.
If we examine the relations which the servant bore to the community at large, we find that he was in the enjoyment of none of the higher privileges of citizenship. He was furnished the amplest protection to life and limb which the law could give, and was entitled to the strictest observance on the part of his master of all the covenants in his indenture that assured him proper food, apparel, and lodging, but he was denied the right of suffrage, and had no voice in the general or local administration of affairs. It was only in the case of a great emergency that he was called upon to bear arms in the defence of the soil. Under ordinary circumstances, he was not permitted to have weapons in his possession, although the royal instructions in the time of James II required that he, as well as his master, should be regularly mustered. At all times, unless a war was in progress, he was subject to be taken in execution as if he were a mere bale of merchandise. He formed the most important part of the basis of taxation. At one period, all servants under sixteen were exempted from being included in the list of tithables. This regulation, however, led to many serious frauds, and was, therefore, revoked. It became a general custom that after a youth had been brought into the country, and his age shown to be under sixteen years, he was not again produced, and, therefore, to the end of his term remained unlisted. In consequence of the loss of public revenue from this course of action, it was provided that all persons of this class, however young, who were imported into the Colony after 1649, were to be liable for the payment of county levies. Natives of Virginia under sixteen were excepted from the operation of this statute, and to this number also were added the children under that age who had arrived in the country in the company of their parents, or without articles of apprenticeship. In 1680, the general law applicable to tithables was again substantially altered, the fourteenth year being adopted as the legal age in the case of all Christian servants who had been brought into the Colony. Every woman who was employed in the fields had to be returned as a tithable. No servant who had been imported by a merchant for sale was for the first year held to be a tithable until he was disposed of.
When the term for which a servant was bound, whether by indenture or the custom of the country, had expired, he proceeded to the court of the county in which he lived, in company with his master, or with the testimonial of the latter that he was now at liberty. The fact that he was free was entered on record by the clerk, and a certificate to that effect was drawn up and presented to him, which justified any one in employing him as a laborer. If the document was shown to be a forgery, the servant was compelled to stand two hours in the pillory on court day. The certificate, in case it was lost, could at any time be renewed. The General Court appears to have leaned towards rather than away from members of this class when a question as to their right of freedom came before them for decision.
When the servant was discharged, upon the expiration of his term, there were certain privileges bestowed upon him which it is improbable that he ever failed to claim. Reference has already been made to the benefits conferred on the laborers who, during the early existence of the Company, were imported to cultivate the public lands. At the close of their periods of service, each was granted one hundred acres, and, when this tract had been seated, each was probably entitled to an additional tract of the same extent. When the apprentices bound out to the tenants were set free, their position was still more advantageous. They had an allowance of corn for twelve months, and for each a house was erected; each was presented with clothing and a cow of the value of forty shillings. As much land as each could till was placed in his control, together with gifts of armor, implements, tools, and utensils. At the expiration of the tenancy, which continued for a term of seven years, — during which time one-half of all the increase of the earth and of the cattle was theirs, — a tract of twenty-five acres was granted to each one in fee simple subject to the payment of an annual rent of a few pence. They could, however, continue tenants of the Company if they wished to do so.
After the dissolution of the Company, the amount paid to the servant at the end of his term was, in the absence of any provision in the indenture, fixed by custom with as much precision is if it had been prescribed by law. He was entitled to such a quantity of grain as would furnish him a support for one year. This, at the end of the century, was estimated at ten bushels. He was also to receive two sets of apparel, — including in general two suits, one of kersey, the other of cotton, a pair of canvas drawers, two shirts, one of which was made of canvas, the other of lockram, and one felt hat. In the time of Beverley, a gun worth twenty shillings was added. The value of the grain, clothing, and other articles thus received was estimated at ten pounds sterling.
The impression prevailed in England that every servant was also entitled to fifty acres. For this belief, however, there seems to have been no ground, — at least, previous to the administration of Culpeper. In 1679, this Governor was enjoined to lay off for each person of that class at the end of his term fifty acres of land, and a similar order was given to Sir Henry Chichely in January 1681-82, by the Committee for Trade and Plantations, which was renewed in a somewhat modified form in 1685 in the instructions to Howard. It does not appear that the General Assembly passed a law at any time in pursuance of these instructions. The author of Leah and Rachel about the middle of the century declared that the report that fifty acres were allotted to each servant when he became free was a delusion. There must have been strong ground for opposition on the part of the landowners to the establishment of such a regulation. If it had been customary to make such a grant, the large body of persons who, when their terms expired, entered into indentures again, or hired themselves out at stated wages, would have been drawn away at once to their own estates, and the ability of the planters who had been their masters to secure laborers in place of them would have been diminished to a serious extent. If, during the period covered by his indenture, the servant was guilty of some gross violation of its provisions, or if, in the absence of written covenants, he disregarded what was required of him by the custom of the country, he forfeited, at the expiration of his term, those benefits which, under ordinary circumstances, he received. The courts, general and local, were rigidly scrupulous that the amplest justice should be done him in the payment of the articles due him when he became free. All agreements between his master and himself before his term had ended had, to acquire validity, to be acknowledged in the presence of a legal officer, and, in case such contracts were lacking in this sanction, his employer was deprived of the right to hold him longer, although many months of the period for which he had bound himself still remained unexpired. If he was detained beyond the limit of the time laid down by his indenture or by custom, his master was compelled to pay him in wages for this additional time. In one case, the General Court ordered that a hogshead of tobacco should be delivered to a servant whose term had thus been forcibly extended.
A fair proportion only of those who were imported into Virginia as laborers acquired handsome estates and became prominent and influential citizens. Many Assemblies, after 1632, contained burgesses who had begun their career in the Colony by binding themselves out for a set period of time. In the early sessions of the legislature, the members who had at one time been servants or apprentices had been brought in as employees of the Company, and, through the grants of land which they received on the expiration of their terms, had acquired immediate importance in the community. As late as 1654, however, we find in the Assembly, burgesses who, only a few years before, had been working for different planters, under indenture or by the custom of the country. The explanation of this fact is to be sought either in their superior ability and energy after securing a release, or in their thrifty habits during the continuation of their service.
It was not impossible for an active and industrious man bound by indenture or by the custom of the country to accumulate a good estate in the course of his employment; it is said that there was a general disposition on the part of the landowners to assist their laborers in acquiring property as a preparation for starting under the most advantageous circumstances on their own account as soon as they had obtained certificates of freedom. The relation of kindness and confidence prevailing between master and servant was shown in the frequency with which the latter acted as the attorney of the former. The servant was often allowed a tract of cleared ground in which to plant tobacco to be disposed of by himself when the annual shipping arrived in the rivers. The articles he thus acquired in exchange for his small crop, enabled him to buy a sow, which his employer permitted to range with his own cattle; one litter of pigs furnished him with means to purchase a cow and calf, and by the time his term had drawn to an end, he was in possession of a sufficient number of live stock to supply his needs when he opened a plantation of his own. His indenture not infrequently required that his master should provide him with several head when he became free. Bullock strongly recommended that every planter should pay to each of his servants a certain amount of tobacco for every pound of flax which he dressed, and should in other branches of agricultural work offer rewards that might stimulate them to greater energy and assiduity. The law strictly protected the right of persons of this class in all goods which they had brought into the country, or which they had secured since their arrival during the course of their terms. It frequently happened that they obtained freedom in consideration of a payment of cattle or the conveyance of land.
In 1610, Sir John Harvey presented a favorite servant with a negro slave, an English laborer, and a cow, and about the same time, Robert Felgate of York bequeathed to one of his employees four head of cattle, and also corn sufficient to last him for one year. To these, sixty acres and five hundred pounds of tobacco were added. In 1681, Robert Hodges of Lower Norfolk left two breeding sows by will to his servant Dorothy Rowell, and also granted her the right to dwell on one of his plantations during a period of seven years without paying rent. The bounty of masters was not restricted to live stock and land; it also extended to coin. Nor were the acts of generosity confined to the employer. In 1631, Robert Healing of Accomac, who was bound by indenture to Thomas Young, gave his master a man-servant, whom he had probably purchased from a merchant or shipowner. Other instances of equal liberality and good-will might be mentioned.
A large number of the servants, as has been pointed out, upon the expiration of their terms became either overseers or renters, if they were lacking in the means to sue out patents to estates of their own. In the seventeenth, as in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the position of an overseer furnished many opportunities to the incumbent for the improvement of his condition by the accumulation of property. His share in the crops which he produced for his employer was invested in the purchase of laborers of his own to obtain the basis of head rights for the acquisition of land by public grant, or it was used in buying a plantation which had already been cleared. The number of renters among those who had been servants was probably small, for the reasons upon which I have already dwelt at length.
There are many evidences that it was common for servants upon the close of their terms to earn a subsistence in the character of hired laborers. Payment of wages was not unusual even during the supremacy of the Company. Adam Dixon, a master caulker living in the Colony in 1622, was remunerated for his work at the rate of thirty-six shillings a month. In 1623, as we learn on the authority of George Sandys, the wages generally received were one pound of tobacco in addition to food each day, but this amount was considered to be very onerous, being much in excess of the sum paid to the same class of persons in England at this time. It was not very long before Sandys is found writing to a friend in London and urging him to procure indented laborers to be sent to Virginia, as the wages paid in the Colony were intolerable. A maid was engaged by Sir Edmund Plowden in 1648, at the rate of four pounds sterling annually, payable in merchandise valued at its first cost in England; three years later, he declared that he was unable to hire for thirty days a servant supplied with clothing for less than two hundred pounds of tobacco. It was at this time that John Weekes of York agreed to work during two months for William Light of the same county in return for a bed, a bolster and blanket, and a pair of pot-hooks. In 1649, annual wages ranged from three pounds sterling to ten or their equivalent in tobacco. If the laborer had come over at the expense of his employer, the amount of his remuneration was diminished by his being required to return the sum spent in meeting the charges of his passage, but this was carefully proportioned to the four years covered by the contract. When he had been in the Colony many years, he was exempted from such a deduction. In payment for services extending over a period of twelve months, Stephen Tarleton of York, in 1666, delivered to Edward Jenkins one suit of broadcloth and one of kersey, two shirts, a hat, one pair of shoes, and two pairs of stockings.
In 1680, the wages of a hired laborer did not in Virginia differ substantially in amount from the wages of a servant engaged in the same character of work in England. Fitzhugh, writing about this time to his agent in London, requests him to send him a trained housekeeper, offering to pay her passage money; to allow her three pounds sterling by the year; and to furnish her with food without charge. He considered that this would be highly acceptable, as the remuneration, he said, would be equal to that which was received by the same class of domestics in the mother country.
In a contract between Mrs. Weldon of York and Isabel Nicholas in 1684, the former promised to pay the latter for domestic service, to be prolonged over a period of one year, fifty-five shillings, a new apron being given as an earnest of the bargain. So high were the average wages at this time that it was thought in some instances that no profit was to be derived from hired labor. How great wages were in cases probably not considered extraordinary, may be seen in the agreement between Josephine Chowne and John Corbett of Elizabeth City County in 1697, by the terms of which Mrs. Chowne was to receive remuneration for her work during a period of two months and a half, at the rate of five pounds sixteen shillings and six pence a month. The average wages by the year appear to have been at the close of the century six pounds sterling, or if paid in tobacco, fourteen hundred pounds of this commodity, with one pair of shoes and one pair of stockings. The rate by the day was twelve pence.
If these wages were carefully husbanded, they could be invested in ways that were certain to bring handsome returns. Bullock has left an interesting opinion as to the disposition which a hired laborer at this time should make of his earnings. A part of the sum received should go to the purchase of a heifer, and the remainder be spent in buying three or four flitches of bacon for exportation to England, where they could be easily sold for two pounds three shillings and four pence sterling. This amount was to be expended in combs, laces, and pins, which commanded in Virginia double the price current in the mother country, ensuring the owner upon his original outlay in bacon not less than five pounds sterling. In the interval, the cow which he had purchased had probably given birth to a calf, and the wages of the second year had been received. At the end of four years, Bullock estimated that the laborer, by the exercise of sound judgment in his trading, ought to have accumulated sixty pounds sterling, and if he had been allowed by his employer to cultivate a patch of tobacco of his own, this sum would be very materially increased.
The women who were exported from England to the Colony had unusual opportunities of advancing their welfare in life. If they enjoyed an honorable reputation, they found no difficulty in marrying into a higher station than they had been accustomed to; Bullock mentions the fact that no maid whom he had brought over failed to find a husband in the course of the first three months after she had entered into his service. The fortunes of these imported women were frequently superior to their deserts, for a large proportion of them were considered to be worthless.
The number of persons in the Colony who had been condemned to servitude for violating the law was always small, and in 1642, the statute prescribing this form of punishment, which had been passed in 1619, was abolished.
The salable value of the servant depended in principal measure on the length of time which his indenture still had to run. It was of course affected by the degree of his physical strength. Striking the general average for the series of years represented in the uncompleted terms appraised in the inventories of estates entered in the county court records, the following will be found to be substantially correct: a man having still one year unexpired, ranged in value from two pounds sterling to four; having two years, from six pounds sterling to eight; having three years, from eight to fourteen pounds sterling; having four years, from eleven to fifteen pounds sterling; having five years, from twelve pounds sterling to sixteen; having six years, from thirteen pounds sterling to seventeen.
The value of female servants was fixed at lower rates. Thus a woman having one year of her term unexpired was appraised at a figure ranging from one to three pounds sterling; having two years, from three to five pounds sterling; having three years, from four to eight pounds sterling; having four years, from eight pounds sterling to twelve; having five years, from twelve pounds sterling to fourteen; having six years, she was appraised at a figure which did not exceed fifteen pounds sterling.
There are many indications that the largest proportion of the negro servants who were found in the Colony in the seventeenth century were mulattoes, who had either been set free by their white fathers or were sprung from emancipated African mothers. The county records show the presence of numerous persons of half blood who were earning a livelihood under ordinary covenants for a comparatively short time, or who had been bound out until they should reach their majority. If the mulatto was the offspring of a white woman, his period of service was extended by the vestry, which had all bastards at their disposal, to his thirtieth year. Among those who were employed by Robert Dudley of Middlesex just before his death, was a mulatto woman whose term was to expire at the end of two years. The estate of Mrs. Rowland Jones of York, in 1689, included among its items of property a mulatto man who hall sixteen years to serve. Colonel John Walker was the owner of an African apprentice whose indenture was to remain in force for twenty-eight years. Among the laborers of Mr. George Light was a negro who had come into Virginia a free man, and bound himself out for a period of five.
Upon the close of the negro’s term, he was entitled to the same quantity of clothing and corn as the white servant. Independent provision was often made for him in the indenture itself. In 1685, William, the son of a mulatto woman named Katharine Sewell, was apprenticed to William Booth of York for a period of thirty years, Booth agreeing not only to supply him with the usual quantity of food and raiment, and to provide him with the customary lodging, but also on his reaching his fourteenth year, to give him a heifer, whose increase was to be carefully preserved for his benefit until his term expired. In some cases, the negro servant was permitted to raise hogs on condition that he turn over to his master one-half of the amount obtained from their sale.
There is no reason to think that the negro servant was appraised lower in inventories than the white. His labor was equally as valuable, and he was probably much more easily controlled, an element of special advantage in employing him.
There were found in Virginia in the seventeenth century a number of persons of Turkish blood, who had been imported like English laborers under the terms of ordinary indentures. One of the head rights which Francis Yeardley, in 1647, gave in to obtain a patent to land in Lower Norfolk was acquired by his importation of Simon, who was of Turkish nationality. Jonathan Newell of York County owned four Turkish servants, whose value was placed at the very high figure of ninety-five pounds sterling. The inventory of the estate of George Jones of Rappahannock included a Turk whose term had still seven years to run. In the last decade of the century, a suit was entered in York by Mathew Catillah, probably an Algerian, for the recovery of his freedom, his mistress retaining him beyond his twenty-fourth year.
The greater number of the Indian servants were children, many of whom were of a very tender age, the explanation of this circumstance lying in the fact that Indian parents were always at liberty to bind out their offspring as apprentices. Doubtless, too, it was recognized by the planters that the younger the Indian, the greater the probability that he might be educated to become tractable and useful. The grown persons of the race, when reduced to this condition, were in most cases unmanageable, and hardly worth the constant attention required to control them. In every agreement which an Indian parent in disposing of his son or daughter entered into, a covenant had to be inserted providing that the child should be instructed in the Christian religion. The contract, as a whole, was to be sworn to before two justices of the peace in order to exclude the possibility of collusion. The regulation was established and strictly enforced that all Indian children who had been obtained by the planters with the assistance of Indian kidnappers, or who had been procured from their fathers directly by means of fraud, and then held, on the claim that they had been purchased for an adequate consideration, were to be returned to the place to which they belonged within ten days after it had been shown that they had been wrongfully acquired. The master of a young Indian was not permitted to carry him out of the country until the local court had received satisfactory evidence that the consent of his parents had been obtained. Youthful servants of this race were ordered to be brought before that body to have their age inquired into and adjudged, so that they might be included among the tithables, if they had reached the degree of maturity prescribed.
In his relation to his master, the Indian servant stood upon precisely the same footing as the white; he too was held strictly to the observance of his obligation to work, and he also could not be retained longer than the legal period. In some particulars, the law was more unbending in the case of an Indian than of a white person, since it was desirable to avoid all causes of conflict with the neighboring tribes. No servant of aboriginal blood could be owned without a special license from the Governor, and his master had to place himself under bonds to be responsible for all injuries and damages which he might inflict. Unlike members of the same sex among the whites, the women of the race whose ages exceeded sixteen years were held to be tithable whether they were employed in the field or not, and in this they occupied the same position as negresses. The value of the Indian servant, whether male or female, did not differ materially from that of the English or African.
◄Chapter IX Directory of Files Chapter XI►
- For the indenture of an ordinary servant, see Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, p. 57; see also Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 38, Va. State Library. The following is an interesting example of the indenture of a planter’s apprentice: “This indenture made the 6th day of June in the year of our Lord Christ 1659, witnesseth, that Bartholomew Clarke ye Son of John Clarke of the City of Canterbury, Sadler, of his own liking and with ye consent of Francis Plumer of ye City of Canterbury, Brewer, hath put himself apprentice unto Edward Rowzie of Virginia, planter, as an apprentice with him to dwell from ye day of the date above mentioned unto ye full term of four years from thence next ensuing fully to be complete and ended, all which said term the said Bartholomew Clarke well and faithfully the said Edward Rowzie as his master shall serve, his secrets keep, his commands most just and lawful he shall observe, and fornication he shall not commit, nor contract matrimony with any woman during the said term, he shall not do hurt unto his master, nor consent to ye doing of any, but to his power shall hinder and prevent ye doing of any; at cards, dice or any unlawful games he shall not play; he shall not waste the goods of his said master nor lend them to anybody without his master’s consent, he shall not absent himself from his said master’s service day or night, but as a true and faithful servant, shall demean himself, and the said Edward Rowzie in ye mystery, art, and occupation of a planter which now . . . the best manner he can, the said Bartholomew shall teach or cause to be taught, and also during said term shall find and allow his apprentice competent meat, drink, apparel, washing, lodging with all other things fitting for his degree and in the end thereof, fifty acres of land to be laid out for him, and all other things which according to the custom of the country is or ought to be done.” Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1664-1673, p. 21, Va. State Library. The following is an indenture drawn up for a female servant: “This Indenture made the Second of Jany in ye year 1686 between John Porter of ye one party, and Samuel Polly of ye othar party, both of ye County of Henrico in James River in manner and form following, witnesseth, that ye said John Porter doth covenant, grant and agree to and with ye sd Samll Polly to take his daughter Mary Polly ye full end and term of ten years from ye 1st month September in ye year 1685, In consideration ye sd John Porter shall use or maintain ye sd Mary noe other ways than he doth his own in all things as dyett, cloathing and lodging, the sd Mary to obey the sd John Porter in all his lawful commands within ye sd term of years above menconed as also att ye full end and term of years that ye sd John Porter doth bind himself his executors or administrators to pay unto ye said Mary Polly, three barrells of corn and one suit of penistone and one suit of good serge with one black hood, two shifts of dowlas and shoes and hose convenient. And ye said Saml Polly doth assure and bind firmly his sd daughter to ye said Porter for ye full end of test years by these presents whereunto both the sd partyes have set their hands.” Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 424, Va. State Library.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 11, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Bullock’s Virginia, p. 63.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 257.
- Ibid., p. 411.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 539.
- Ibid., vol. II, pp. 113, 114.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 240; Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 219.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 297.
- Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 886.
- Examinations, etc., Concerning Demands of Captain Martin, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. III, No. 36, IV; McDonald Papers, vol. I, p.100, Va. State Library.
- Letter of Thomas Best, Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx. p. 41.
- The letter will be found in Eighth Report of Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Appx., p. 41. It is reprinted in Neill’s Virginia Vetusta. Henry Brigg, who was a servant in Virginia during the spring of 1623, writing to his brother in England, said that at this time he was living on a wine-quart of corn a day. Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 42.
- The ordinary victuals of an English thatcher, who probably was provided with better food than the common agricultural laborer, was, in 1641, butter, milk, cheese, and either eggs, pies, or bacon. Porridge was sometimes substituted for milk. Cunningham’s Growth of English Industry and Commerce, p. 193.
- Henry IV of France died in 1610.
- Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 384, Va. State Library.
- Records of York County, vol. 1694-1697, p. 118, Va. State Library. Among the items in a statement of Edward Moss of York County, showing his expenditures on account of his servant, Richard Stephens, were the following: for a pair of shoe strings, 3 lbs. of tobacco; for a peniston coat, 60 lbs. of tobacco; for a dowlas shirt, 50 lbs. of tobacco. Vol. 16571663, p. 411, Va. State Library. The following from the records of the General Court, Dec. 11, 1640, preserved in a minute in the Robinson Transcripts, p. 8, is also of interest: “Whereas William Huddleston, servant unto Mr. Canhow, hath complained to the board against his master for want of all manner of apparel, the court hath, therefore, ordered that the said Canhow shall before Christmas next provide and allow unto the said Huddleston such sufficient apparel of linen and woollen as shall be thought fit by Captain William West or otherwise that the said Captain West shall have power to dispose of the said servant until the said Canhow do perform this order.”
- Leah and Rachel, p. 12, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Instructions to Culpeper, 1679, McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 318, Va. State Library.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 16, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. In April, 1658, Nicholas Smith, a servant of Thomas Brookes, of York County, entered a complaint with the justices of the peace that he was badly used by his master. Smith was ordered to remain under the protection of the constable, whilst a summons was issued requiring Brookes to appear before the court on the following day to justify his conduct. Vol. 1667-1662, p. 56, Va. State Library.
- General Court Orders, 1677-1682, Sept. 20, 1680, Robinson Transcripts, p. 265.
- Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 117.
- See General Head “Servants,” 1705, Hening’s Statutes, vol. III.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 316.
- Ibid., pp. 181, 182. If a passage in Virginia’s Cure can be relied on as accurate, some of the masters were very lax in observing this provision of the law. “Some of the heathen complained that Sunday was the worst day of the seven to them because the servants of the Christian plantations nearest to them being then left at liberty, often spent that day in visiting the Indian towns, to the disquiet of the heathen and to the great scandal of the Christian religion.” Virginia’s Cure, p. 7, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. It ought to be remembered in reading this passage that the author of Virginia’s Cure was seeking to place in the most unfavorable light, the religious condition of the people of the Colony.
- Royal Hist. MSS. Commission, Eighth Report, Appx., p. 41. Thomas Nicholls, writing to Sir John Wolstenholme, April 2, 1623, said: “all that the women did was nothing but to devour the food of the land without doing any day’s deed.” p. 41.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 12, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. In 1669, Alice Rogers, a servant of Thomas Spilman, of York County, complained in a petition entered in court that her master made her “work in the ground.” Vol. 1664-1672, p. 385, Va. State Library.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 12, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Ibid., p. 14.
- Verney Papers, Camden Publications, See Neill’s Virginia Carolorum, pp. 109-111.
- Life of Thomas Hellier, pp. 28, 29. The author of the Life also asserted that there was no encouragement for any one to come over as a servant unless he was “able of limb and healthy of constitution, it being more to the interest of Virginia to have servants who can chop logs lustily than chop logic. Let robustious rustics sail to Virginia to seek their fortunes.”
- Bullock’s Virginia, p. 14.
- There is a reference to an overseer as early as the year 1622. See letter of John Baldwin to a friend in the Bermudas, printed in the appendix of Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, p. 203.
- One of the overseers of Major Robert Beverley, Sr., was a servant. Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1679-1694, p. 4.
- Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 54. The overseer was sometimes a negro. “General Court Orders, April 23, 1669, Hannah Warwick’s case extenuated because she was overseen by a negro overseer.” Robinson Transcripts, p. 256.
- Records of the General Court, pp. 44, 99; Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1694, p. 36.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 253, 254
- Ibid., vol. II, pp. 405, 406.
- Many instances of the expenses incurred in recovering a runaway are preserved in the records of the county courts. The following is an example taken from the records of Lancaster County:
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 254, 440; vol. II, p. 117.
- General Court Orders, June 4, July 9, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, pp. 9, 10.
- General Court Orders, July 22, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, p. 11.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 117.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 517, 518.
- Ibid., p. 483.
- Ibid., vol. II, p. 187.
- Ibid., vol. II, p. 188.
- This act was modified in 1686. See Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 28.
- Hening’s Statutes, Vol. II, p. 299.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 273, 274.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 277, 278, 284
- Ibid., p. 284.
- Ibid., p. 278.
- Ibid., p. 278.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 29.
- Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 369, Va. State Library. “A dangerous conspiracy among servants discovered Oct. 13, 1640.” Robinson Transcripts, p. 12.
- The account which Beverley gives of this conspiracy is as follows: The rigorous circumscription of their trade (i.e. of the Virginians), the persecutions of the Sectaries and the little demand for tobacco, had liked to have had fatal consequences; for the poor coming thereby very uneasy, their murmurings were watched and fed by several mutinous and rebellious Oliverian soldiers that were sent thither as servants. These, depending upon the discontented people of all sorts, formed a villainous plot to destroy their masters and afterwards to set up for themselves.” History of Virginia, p. 55. See also letter of Thomas Ludwell, British State Papers, Colonial Papers; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1665, p. 72, Va. State Library.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 12, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Lawes of General Assembly, 1619, Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, p. 24.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 538.
- Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 171, Va. State Library.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 266.
- Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 139, Va. State Library.
- Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 207; Palmer’s Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. I, p. 35.
- Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1673-1685, p. 36.
- Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1666-1680, orders March 9, 1669.
- “Know all men by these presents that I, Henry Rewcastle . . . being now free and having liberty to bargain, I doe freely binde myselfe and absolutely without compulsion or persuasions of any person or persons whatsoever, to serve from the day of the date hereof three complete years to Mrs. Elizabeth Lockey or her assigns, and to doe all such labour as she the said Mrs. Lockey or her assigns shall sett me about duely and truly in every respect, the consideration I doe owne to have received of the said Mrs. Lockey, namely, for the breaking open of her store and taking rum, mackerell and sugar out thereof, and convey it away, and for this consideration and the true performance of three years’ service from the date hereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 18th day of November in the year of our Lord, 1675.” Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 162, Va. State Library. See also Orders of Court, Jan. 12, 1684, Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1680-1694.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 274, 275.
- Lawes of Assembly, 1619, Colonial Records of Virginia, State Senate Doct., Extra, 1874, p. 27.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 167.
- Ibid., vol. I, p. 438.
- Ibid., vol. II, p. 168.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 115; Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 427, Va. State Library. See also Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1666-1670, f. p. 79.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 115; vol. III, p. 139.
- Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 7, Va. State Library.
- Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1644-1655, Feb. 16, 1645.
- Records of the General Court, p. 47. Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1668-1672, pp. 60, 61; Va. State Library, contains an example of these indentures: “This indenture witnesseth that we the subscribers, Col. John Catlett and Capt. Thomas Hawkins, two of his majesty’s Justices of the Peace for Rappahannock County, do hereby covenant, promise and agree to and with William Hodgson of the same county, planter, that Nicholas Willard, a bastard child, begotten on the body of Katharine Jones by Nicholas Willard, late of aforesaid county, decd, shall from henceforth become a servant to the above said Hodgson, his heirs and assigns, until the said Nicholas attains to the age of 20 years fully to be completed and ended, and, as soon as God shall enable him, the said Hodgson, to serve his heirs or assigns in such service and employment as by him or them he shall be employed in for and during the aforesaid time; in consideration whereof the said Hodgson, for himself, his heirs, executors doe hereby covenant . . . to and with the aforesaid justices in behalf of the said Nicholas during his said time, to find and allow him meat, drink, washing, lodging and sufficient apparel, and at the end and expiration thereof to pay and deliver him or assigns two suits of apparell, one, kersey, the other, cotton; a canvas pair of drawers and two shirts, one canvas, the other lockram; and one felt and 3 basketts of good sound Indian corn. In witness whereof . . .” At the date of the indenture the child was two years and five months old.
- Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 209, Va. State Library; Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 87.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 253.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 114.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 53.
- Instructions to Howard, 1685, and to Culpeper, 1679, McDonald Papers, vol. VII, p. 180; Ibid., vol. V, p. 305, Va. State Library.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 297.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 454.
- Ibid., p. 361.
- Ibid., vol. II, p. 480.
- Ibid., p. 170.
- Ibid., p. 488.
- Ibid., p. 116.
- Numerous instances of this fact will be found in the Records of the General Court, preserved among the Manuscript Collections of the Virginia Historical Society.
- Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, pp. 41, 42. The following reference to one of these apprentices is of interest: “Whereas it appears to ye court that one Henry Cayman, late servant to Mr. Saml. Sharp, and one of those fifty boys which were by James R. commanded to be sent over hither, and arrived here in 1610, the condition of whose service was appointed to be for seven years at first to their masters to whom they were first put, and further if during thus time, they should commit any great malifice as whoredom, theft, drawing of blood, that then from that time toties quoties the time of their service to begin again for seven years, now whereas it appeareth to ye court that the said Henry Carman hath committed fornication with one Alice Chambers, servant of Abraham Chambers, the court orders he shall serve seven years longer.” Orders of General Court, Oct. 11, 1626, Robinson Transcripts, p. 52.
- Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 221.
- See Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1668-1672, pp. 60, 61, Va. State Library. In this case, provision was made for an apprentice at the expiration of his term.
- Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 221.
- Colonial Entry Book, vol. 92, pp. 275-283.
- Instructions to Culpeper, 1679; Howard, 1685, McDonald Papers, vol. V, p. 518, vol. VI, p. 259, Va. State Library. See also Colonial Entry Book, No. 106, pp. 339, 340; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1681-1682, p. 151, Va. State Library.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 11, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. This statement is confirmed by an order of the General Court, Jan. 13, 1626, Robinson Transcripts, p. 61.
- Beverley, who wrote at a time when the right of appropriating land had been very much enlarged, states that “each servant had a right to take up fifty acres where he can find any unpatented.” There is preserved in the Records of York County, an indenture between an English carpenter and a Virginian planter, in which the allotment of fifty acres is referred to as “according to the custom of the country.” Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 367, Va. State Library. This indenture was drawn up in England in 1647, and probably by one who was really ignorant of the customs prevailing in the Colony. The desire of the Virginian planter, who was a party to it, to secure the carpenter, may have been so great that he was willing, when the mechanic’s term came to an end, to grant him fifty acres whether it could be legally claimed or not. There is no concurrence of evidence that at this time the allotment of fifty acres to a servant on the expiration of his term was an established regulation. If he obtained thus area it was probably by a perversion of the head right.
- General Court Orders, Oct. 9, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, p. 8.
- Records of General Court, p. 10.
- The Assembly of 1629 included among its members Anthony Pagett, William Poppleton, and Richard Townsend, who had come into the Colony under the terms of indentures, Townsend, as we have seen, having been bound over to Dr. Pott to learn the art of a physician. Adam Thoroughgood, who acquired large wealth, and was appointed a councillor, came to Virginia as an apprentice, perhaps agricultural, although he had high social connections in England. Abraham Wood and John Trussell, members of the Assembly of 1654, had begun life in the Colony as servants or apprentices. The author of Virginia’s Cure went so far as to assert, in 1662, that those who occupied seats in the House of Burgesses had in general been men who had emigrated from England under articles of indentures. This, however, is certainly erroneous. Virginia’s Cure, p. 16, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Leah and Rachel, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.
- Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 124, Va. State Library.
- General Court Orders, Oct. 9, 1640, Robinson Transcripts, p. 8.
- Bullock’s Virginia, p. 62.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p.165; General Court Orders, Oct. 9, 1640, Robinson Transcripts.
- Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, pp. 121, 131, Va. State Library.
- Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1654-1702, pp. 374-379.
- Records of York County, vol. 1633-1694, p. 72; see also p. 76, Va. State Library.
- Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 106.
- Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., bequeathed ten pounds sterling to one of his servants. Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 155. See also Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 239, Va. State Library; also Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1677-1692, p. 139.
- Records of Accomac County, original vol. 1632-1640, p. 46.
- Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, p. 188.
- Sandys to Wrote, Neill’s Virginia Vetusta, p. 123.
- Archives of Maryland, Judicial and Testamentary Business, vol. 1637-1650, p.224.
- Records of York County, vol. 1638-1648, p. 321, Va. State Library.
- Bullock’s Virginia, p. 52.
- Records of York County, vol. 1604-1672, p. 106, Va. State Library. The service was sometimes in compensation for a wilful act. See Ibid., 1684-1687, p. 58.
- Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 1, 1680.
- Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 59, Va. State Library.
- Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 250, Va. State Library.
- Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 415, Va. State Library.
- Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1692, p.136, Va. State Library.
- Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1679-1694, p. 695. “Jeremy Overy of Middlesex County is indebted to Hugh Conaway:
- Bullock’s Virginia, pp. 52, 53.
- Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 1, 1680.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 259.
- These estimates are based upon hundreds of entries found in the inventories of personal estates preserved in the county records.
- Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, p. 103; see also Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 658, Va. State Library.
- Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 381, Va. State Library.
- Records of General Court, p. 119.
- Ibid., p. 161.
- Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 61, Va. State Library.
- General Court Orders, March 31, 1641, Robinson Transcripts, p. 30.
- Records of Lower Norfolk, original vol. 1646-1651, f. p. 50. A Turk was imported by George Menefie in 1635. See Va. Land Patents, vol. I, p. 200.
- Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 142, Va. State Library.
- Ibid., vol. 1694-1697, p. 135, Va. State Library. References to Portuguese servants will be found in Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 558, Va. State Library, and in Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1664-1674, f. p. 138.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 410.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 481, 482.
- Ibid., p. 546.
- The master was required, as in the case of white and negro servants, to supply the Indian with proper clothing, food, and shelter. The provision in the matter of garments made for one of the Indian servants of William Randolph of Henrico County, in 1696, was one leather and one cotton waistcoat, one pair of leather breeches, one pair of shoes, and one pair of stockings. Original vol. 1677-1699, Orders, Oct. 1, 1696, p. 124.
- Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p.492.