The main difference between indentured servants and slaves is that indentured servants worked for another only for a set period of time while slaves worked throughout their lifetime for their masters.
Both indentured servants and slaves worked for others without receiving any payment. Although there are several similarities between indentured servants and slaves, there are also differences between them. Indentured servitude was limited for a set period of time while slavery was in perpetuity.
Key Areas Covered
1. Who are Indentured Servants
– Definition, Features
2. Who are Slaves
– Definition, Features
3. Similarities – Indentured Servants and Slaves
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Indentured Servants and Slaves
– Comparison of Key Differences
Indentured Servants, Slaves
Who are Indentured Servants
Indentured servants are people who sign a bond to work for another for a specified time in order to repay an indenture or loan. Generally, these people worked in return for payment of transportation costs, food, clothing, and shelter. We can describe indentured servitude as a type of barter system. When a person wanted to move to a new location but didn’t have the money for the transportation or accommodation, he or she agreed to work for a wealthy person in that location for a period of time. Indentured servants did not receive regular payment for their work.
In the 1600s, indentured servitude was especially popular in the United States. Early American settlers needed labor to work in their large estates and farmlands and many European immigrants worked in exchange for the price of passage to America. Since people entered into indentured servitude of their own free will, it was not a form of slavery. The contract usually lasted only a few years. Nevertheless, during the period of their contract, they could be sold, leased, or inherited. Although the life of indentured servants was harsh, there were laws to protect them. But today, indentured servitude is not legal in most countries of the world.
Who are Slaves
Slaves are people held in forced servitude. In the past, a slave was the legal property of another and was forced to obey them. Historically, the enslavement of individuals occurred when the enslaved became indebted, broke the law, or suffered a military defeat. However, in history, we can also observe how slavery was instituted along demographic lines like race. Although some forms of slavery were common throughout history, the concept of chattel slavery reached its peak in the United States. It was in 1619 that slaves were first bought to America. In 1865, slavery was abolished in the United States. In the modern world, slavery is illegal, but it still exists throughout the world.
When considering the various characteristics of slavery, slaves were completely under the power of their masters and were obliged to live in perpetual service. Only the master had the power to free a slave. Since slaves were property, their masters could sell them. Moreover, the condition of slavery was transmitted from parents to children; if a slave woman gave birth to a child, that child too became a slave.
Similarities Between Indentured Servants and Slaves
- Both slaves and indentured servants did not receive payment for their work.
- They could be sold or inherited.
- Both are illegal in the modern world.
Difference Between Indentured Servants and Slaves
Slaves are people held in forced servitude, while indentured servants are people who sign a bond to work for another for a specified time in order to repay an indenture or loan.
Period of Work
Indentured servants worked under another only for a set period of time, while slaves worked throughout their lifetime for their masters.
Children of indentured servants did not become indentured servants, but children of slaves also became slaves.
There were some laws to protect indentured servants, but slaves were considered the legal property of masters and did not have any rights under the law.
The main difference between indentured servants and slaves is that indentured servants worked for another only for a set period of time while slaves worked throughout their lifetime for their masters. There were some laws to protect indentured servants, but people considered slaves as the legal property of masters and they did not have any rights under the law.
1. “Indenture certificate” By The original uploader was Greensburger at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Yuval Y using CommonsHelper. (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Picking cotton on a Georgia plantation” (CC0) via Picryl