COLONISTS FOR SALE: The Story of Indentured Servants in America by Clifford Lindsey Alderman

COLONISTS FOR SALE: The Story of Indentured Servants in America

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Many of the cases Alderman has culled from his researches don't necessarily add anything to our knowledge of indentured servitude as an institution: revolutionary hero Peter Francisco; James Annersley, heir to an earldom, who was shipped off by a conniving relative; and Elizabeth Morris, housemaid to Captain Kidd, are simply too good for this anecdote-loving, author to pass up. This colony-by-colony survey does, however, give some idea of the scope of a phenomenon that's usually treated as a footnote to black slavery. While tales of plucky bondsmen who made their,fortune through a master's benevolence or through escape (far easier for white slaves than blacks or Indians) abound here as they do in fiction, Alderman also shows the ugly side of the business: shiploads of German peasants tricked into indentures and confined in inhuman conditions; starving Irishmen who were considered undesirable because of anti-Catholic prejudice; individuals whose mistreatment came to the attention of the courts. Alderman's condemnation of the system is undercut by his allowance that some servants of ""low character profited by having to work under discipline."" (Why should remarks that wouldn't be acceptable in a book about black slavery be' allowable when the victims are Irish or German?) But Alderman has collected the often elusive source material and compiled a very respectable bibliography which points the way to further investigation.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Macmillan