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The British colonists tried a few different tactics to fill their need for labor in the 17th century. They eventually settled mainly on African slavery.
There were three types of labor relations that the British colonists tried. These were free labor, indentured servitude, and slave labor. Free labor was tried with white people. Indentured servitude was tried mainly with whites, but also with Native Americans. Slavery was tried with Native Americans and with Africans imported for the purpose.
Free laborers were people who were free and who worked voluntarily for wages. Indentured servants were not free. They were, in essence, the property of an owner, but only for a set number of years. They typically worked something like seven years in exchange for having been brought to the Americas. Some of them were promised things like land and tools when they finished their term as well. Slaves, of course, were enslaved for life.
Over time, the British in the American South moved away from indentured servitude and, at least on plantations, from free labor. African slavery came to be the dominant form of labor on the plantations of the American South.
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