Growing tobacco in Virginia was lucrative for planters, but it required a big amount the land and a substantial labor force. The tobacco growing procedure was a year-round occupation. First, land was cleared for fields. Seeds were started in January. Harvesting, curing and also packing that the leaves developed in late summer and fall. With a small populace in Virginia, planters sought workers from England, regularly paying their passage to the colony.

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The mechanism of indentured servitude to be the answer to the dilemma confronted by the Virginia agency and personal landowners. It thrived out of the 2 English systems of service. One was apprenticeship, in i m sorry a person served a duration of time come a understand in exchange for food, clothing, housing and learning a skill or trade. The other, “service in husbandry,” to be a one-year duration of agricultural or residential service. The two were combined into the indenture system to supply job for the new colony. The period of service, usually four to 7 years, was much longer than company in husbandry in England because of the expense of transport to Virginia.

In 1607 it seems that everyone, consisting of gentlemen, came as a servant to the Virginia Company, because there to be no exclusive ownership of floor or supplies. ~ 1609, a seven-year ax was placed on company in exchange because that a re-publishing in the company profits and also some land. Seven years later, in 1616, there to be no profits to pay investors. All the agency could give was land, so because that every re-publishing of stock, a shareholder obtained 100 acres of land. Those who had actually invested their labor were promised soil too. These previous servants the the company in theory ended up being landowners. Once land sponsor began, servants concerned Virginia to serve not only the Virginia Company, but could be servants of private planters. In 1619 the basic Assembly clarified the indenture system, stipulating that indentures had actually to be taped to enforce the contract and also to protect against masters from expanding the duration of servitude to which the parties had actually agreed. One colonist wrote that year, “All our riches for the current doe consiste in Tobacco” and “our principall riches . . . Consisteth in servants.”

An indentured servant signed a contract agreeing to occupational for a resolved period—usually four to 7 years—in return for meals, clothes, shelter and also their i to the colony. In ~ the finish of your term, the understand was required to offer the workers “freedom dues,” usually 3 barrels of corn and also a suit of clothes. After 1616, many freed servants go not obtain land and also had to work-related for someone else, or as a tenant farmer, come acquire enough money come buy land. They advanced through a series of steps from maid to tenant/renter, come landowner.


First Tobacco, Sidney King

In 1622, john Upton concerned Virginia as an indentured servant bound to Abraham Peirsey, the cape merchant or human being in charge of procuring offers for the colony. Upton is an example of a servant who was successful. He functioned for Peirsey for 3 years ~ above Peirsey’s plantation, “Flowerdew Hundred,” until 1625, as soon as he controlled to purchase his freedom, paying Peirsey because that the eight months staying on his contract. In 1626 Upton rented a little farm on jamestown Island, agreeing to salary the owner partly in tobacco and partly in enhancements to the property. V a partner, Upton likewise became a part-time peddler or trader, buying items from larger Jamestown vendors for resale to other colonists.

Upton thrived in his enterprises. By 1633 he to be financially maybe to acquire a plantation the his own in Isle of Wight County, across the James river from Jamestown. He ongoing to gain land there and also by 1637, he own 2500 acres. Upton became one the Isle the Wight’s most significant citizens, serving together a justice of the peace, captain the the militia, and as a burgess in the general Assembly. He died in 1652, leaving a widow, Margaret, and also a son, john Upton II.

At least fifty percent of the European immigrants who involved Virginia between 1620 and 1680 arrived together indentured servants. Yet the high fatality rate of brand-new European immigrants kept labor in short supply. Together the century progressed, under Europeans want to pertained to Virginia, and as the number of European servants can not satisfy the need for laborers, planters began to import africans to occupational in your tobacco fields. Avenues for white workers who had formerly been servants then were reduced. The finest land had currently been taken. Poor complimentary men were compelled to move to Virginia’s western frontier, just past the fall line, where they clashed through Indian teams who had been required off of your lands too. This growing course of poor, landless totally free men currently was deprived the the appropriate to vote, or hold government office. Society unrest caused Bacon’s Rebellion that 1676.


Billings, Warren. “The law of Servants and Slaves in Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” in Virginia newspaper of history and story 99 ( January 1991): 45-53.

Billings, Warren, ed. The Old preeminence in the ten Century. Chapel Hill: university of north Carolina Press, 1975.

Galenson, David. White Servitude in colonial America: An financial Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 1981.

Horn, James. Adapting to a new World: English society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill: college of phibìc Carolina Press, 1994.

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Smith, abduction Emerson. Homesteaders in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict labor in America, 1607-1776. Chapel Hill: college of phibìc Carolina Press, 1947.