The Plight of Bound Slave and Free Workers in British Colonies

William Moraley perceived the British colonies from the perspective of poor laborers and recounted the plight of these people explaining why they could not reach prosperity. The British bound servants were mostly servants by choice after agreements with the people who introduced them and made their travel arrangements. Getting necessities at the masters’ houses was not a guarantee but it could happen depending on the humanity of the master. According to Moraley, the British colonies were extremely productive in farming. He also considers the people very hospitable to the bound servants and the poor in the society. The lack of provisions or financial rewards from masters during the servitude period contributed to the servants’ inability to prosper. The lack of resources to start economic endeavors and the inconsistent employment were hindrances to the servants’ well-being. The plight of bound servants and free workers, from Moraley’s perspective, was one of strife and pain ignited by the barriers to their prosperity such as failed expectations, slavery without escape, financial crisis, and lack of employment.

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The lives of bound servants were miserable compared with their expectations. The bound servants had certain hopes when they decided to enter into the agreement. Moraley explains that the pain of bound servants escalated because of the failure to honor the terms of the indentures by the masters.

They could not force their masters to honor the indenture stipulations since no complaint to the magistrate on the issues yielded. The hearing and ruling were in masters’ favor. However, to their disappointment, their expectations were shattered at sea when their lives changed all of a sudden. Moraley writes, “…which altered our way of living for the worse…” . That moment, the voluntary servants found themselves aboard in deep sea, their dreams died, and suffering and frustrations came to be. Moraley notes that bought servants are the least pitied since they become servants by choice . Moraley states, “…voluntary slaves, who are the least, pitied I saw all my companions sold off before me…” . Therefore, contrary to their expectations, they were sold out at the slaves market in Philadelphia and transported to masters’ places . As it is evident in Moraley’s case, he could not decide where he wanted to live while under his master. His attempt to convince the master to sell him out so that he could live in Philadelphia was in vain. Moraley notes, “…but being desirous to settle at Philadelphia, … I declared to him…and desired him to dispose…this demand made him cross to me…” . It is evident that Moraley could not work or live where he wanted. The servants did not have a say in what they wanted anymore. They had signed off their rights and everything about them. 

Secondly, there was no escape for bound servants. A servant could not demand disposition or reselling by the master for whatever reason. The only way to become free from the master was to complete the servitude term, which the servant had agreed . Moraley notes that his master forgave him two of his years, which was a favor as he points his master was very kind with him . An escape attempt was futile since there were rewards for finding escaping servants . Besides, an attempt to escape was punished by imprisonments, as Moraley denotes, “… I attempted to escape, but I was taken, and put in prison …” . Also, seeking justice in such a case, the master got the upper hand and the servant had to complete the term or serve longer terms . Moraley states, “… they are perpetually running away but seldom escape;…when a justice settles the expences, and the servant is oblig’d to serve a longer term” . It was only in rare cases where the master could pardon a servant some years of the term, thus rendering him free like in Moraley’s case. Regardless of the severity of the conditions of servitude, the bound servants could not redeem themselves before their tenure was complete, a factor that not only troubled them but also impaired their capacity to prosper.

The lack of resources after freedom acquisition made prospering impossible for free workers. Most of these bound servants were in search of fortunate futures after experiencing what Moraley call misfortunes . The servants were promised provisions of food and every necessity at their masters’ place while accepting the deal. However, on arrival, they could hardly get the necessities, let alone financial pay. During the servitude term, the servants could not accumulate wealth to survive after freedom acquisition. Moraley writes, “… nor giving wages either to purchased servants or Negro salve…”  implying that the servants did not receive any pay, salaries, or wages. When they completed the terms, the masters did not reward them with paid labor or financial assistance to help them start life as free individuals. However, as for free workers, as Moraley say, “…at the expiration of their servitude, land was given to encourage them to continue there…” . Without resources to develop the lands, the status of the now free workers did not improve. Therefore, they started lives being heavy in debts.

The lack of employment for free workers impaired their ability to flourish. With bound servants and Black slaves available, it was difficult to secure employment. Most people relied on slaves and bought servants for unpaid labor in their farms and business . Therefore, hiring free workers, who would require constant remuneration was out of question. In that case, the free workers could only secure occasional labor. Moraley, gives several instances in which he secured a job temporarily. For example, immediately after his servitude expiration, he served Edmund Lewis; he als took a job with Mr. Graham (worked for ten weeks and then left). Moraley says, “Then I roam’d about like a roving Tartar,…and for three weeks had no abiding place.”  From this statement, it is clear that securing a job was difficult, and earning a living or a home was impossible. Living without provisions pushed the free workers further into debt and poverty.

In conclusion, the lives of bound servants and free workers were miserable because of the lack of provisions and necessities, as well as shattered dreams and expectation. British people agreed to be bound servants in an attempt to solicit financial progress and meet hostile environments without escape. The bound servants did not have any rights at the masters’ houses, and they had to follow the latter’s rule until their tenure came to an end. Any attempt to get the masters comply with the indentures was to no avail, and an escape attempt was futile. Servitude expiration only meant freedom for precarious and dependence on the master, but everything else about the individuals was static. Their lives were no less miserable. To their pain, freedom from servitude did not improve their conditions; they had to survive miserably without incomes, homes, or even necessities.   

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