Not same as slavery
Published: Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Regarding the feature story “History Center takes a long look at slavery in Western Pennsylvania” (Nov. 28 and TribLIVE.com): I don't know if anybody fact-checks Trib stories, but indentured servitude was not a form of slavery. It was a way for somebody who had no money to pay off a debt.
Probably more whites were indentured servants than blacks. It was a common way for a poor young person from Europe to get to the U.S.
There was some sort of agreement involved that could cover almost anything, but at minimum would specify how long and under what terms an individual would have to work to retire his debt. Further, the term “servant” didn't mean “house servant.” Most worked on farms or in industry.
In many, perhaps most, cases these contracts could be traded and the indentured individual would go to work for somebody else. However, that was not the same as being sold. The servant was not owned. He was under contract. Think modern sports.
I am sure this concept was abused from time to time, but if so, it would no longer be indentured servitude.
Robert B. Peirce
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