Free Essay On The Indentured Servant
Immigrating to the English Colonies
The sacrifices made by the original European immigrants to arrive to the English colonies during the 17th and 18th century are difficult to imagine. The move to this foreign land was not always a better life for many of the new settlers. Unless you had the money to pay for your travels, purchase land, and become a merchant of some sort, life was extremely challenging. The writer will examine the various motivations for the reason Europeans chose to immigrate to the English colonies, leaving behind the familiarity of their homeland.
Often, individuals felt the lure of a new and exciting possibility when considering their move to the New World. In some cases, people came against their families will. Whatever the reasons were, they varied for the immigrants who left Europe to begin a new life in America. The unknown reality of life in the English colony was not always what people imagined, and unfortunately much more difficult than the one they left behind in Europe. Many of the new settlers did not even have the funds to pay for their travels to the new land and found themselves at the mercy of the established wealthy individuals, looking for cheap labor, upon their arrival.
A letter written by a female indentured servant to her father, paints a troubling picture of the life that many found themselves living in America in the 17th and 18th centuries. The life of many English immigrants was bound to many years of servitude to pay off the debt for their travels, freedom, and lodging in America. “What we unfortunate English People suffer here is beyond the probability of you in England to Conceive, let it suffice that I one of the unhappy Number, am toiling almost Day and Night” (Sprigs, 1756). Although the indentured servants were not slaves, the life they had was nothing short of brutal labor and minimal belongings. Elizabeth Springs only request to her father was if he could be so kind to send some clothing for her since she did not have but the clothes on her back (Sprigs, 1756).
Prior to arrival, the conditions that the indentured servants endured on ships from Europe to America were dreadful. They were loaded up in cramped quarters and miserable surroundings. “One person receives a place of scarcely 2 feet width and 6 feet length in the bedstead, while many a ship carries four to six hundred souls; not to mention the innumerable implements, tools, provisions, water-barrels and other things which likewise occupy much space” (Mittelberger, 1750). The environment was not the only problem that immigrants experienced on their 7-12 weeks aboard the ship. The food and water were spoiled and filthy, disease was rampant among the people, death was common because of the dire conditions, and every aspect of the weeks of travel was filled with immense misery.
Many people on the ships died during the voyage and had to be thrown overboard. Young children rarely lived to reach the shores of America. No treatments were available for the diseases that immigrants suffered. With excessive contamination of food, water, and a combination of all the illness that spread among the lives aboard the ship conditions only became worse. An unbearable reality was the price they paid as they waited to reach the shores of the New World.
The people, who were alive to reach the destination, were forced to remain on the ship if they had not paid their travel fees. The wealthy merchants would come when they knew a ship of new immigrants was arriving because they knew they could purchase them for cheap labor. The immigrants only way off the ship was to offer themselves to the businessmen who could pay for their freedom off the ship, but the price they paid for this release was generally 5-7 years of indentured servitude to the ‘Masters’. The heartbreaking story of the immigrants included the breaking apart of families from each other because different men would purchase members of a family. Often the children who had lost their parents were forced to offer servitude until they reached the age of 21. Life of the new immigrant to the English colonies was brutal and full of suffering.
Immigrants Who Found Freedom
There were some immigrants who actually found a land of opportunity and a new life that was full of possibility. These individuals were generally the wealthy members of society who could afford their travel to America, and had money to purchase land and a home upon arrival. The experience of this group was extremely different from the large number of less fortunate immigrants. (Note to client: I would suggest that you put a quote or paraphrase a section from the 3rd primary source here. I would have happily included it; however, I could not access the material for free. I tried on multiple occasions with no luck; I was hoping that you would be able to upload the materials so I could use them.)
The source for that third reference must also be included in the works cited page. Let me know if you need help, but I will need the necessary materials.
Mittelberger, Gottlieb “Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania in the Year 1750 and
Return to Germany in the Year 1754”. Philadelphia, John Jos. McVey, 1898. 19-29. Print.
Sprigs, Elizabeth, “Letter to Mr. John Sprigs in White Cross Street near Cripple Gate, London,
September 22, 1756,” in Isabel Calder, ed., Colonial Captivities, Marches, and Journeys, New York: Macmillan Company, 1935. 151–152. Print