Why would a European man or woman sign an indenture that committed them to be a servant in America? 

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In fact, many indentured servants who came to America did so because they had no other choice. Although for many the prospect offered a new beginning (Benjamin Franklin's grandmother came as an Indentured Servant and married her master,) for others the choice was between servitude or prison for debt. Many did not come voluntarily; rather they were given the choice of prison or servitude. Of those given the choice, many chose prison, as tales of the horrors of the life of a servant in the colonies were rampant.

The promise, of course, was of land at the end of servitude; but many had never worked land and had no farming experience. So the reason for their coming to America was either desperation or fear of a worse alternative.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Of course, there were many different reasons for Europeans to sign up to become indentured servants.  However, the general reason was that they felt they would have a chance at a better life in America than was available to them in Europe.  A European who made it to America as an indentured servant could hope for a better future.  He or she would, after a period of years, be free in a place where there was more land and more economic opportunity to be had.  This made it, for many, worth the years of servitude.


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