Based on Voices of Freedom, how similar was the experience of an indentured servant in the Chesapeake region during the mid-seventeenth century to that of an enslaved person?  

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One thing that must be considered is that the question refers to the seventeenth century, while the source in question, a letter from Elizabeth Springs, an indentured servant in Maryland, was written in the mid-eighteenth century. This is an important point, as the relationship of indentured servants to the enslaved had changed considerably over this hundred-year long period. The letter, though, describes a harsh, brutal existence, one that was typical for indentured servants in the Chesapeake. According to Springs, who wrote to her father in England, her life involved "toiling almost day and night" in "horse's drudgery." Her overseers or masters abused her, calling her a "bitch" and telling her that she "did not [do] half enough" and whipping her. She specifically compares her plight to that of the enslaved, writing that "many Negroes are better used." Elizabeth's plight was typical of that of indentured servants in the Chesapeake. They were, for the length of their "indenture," or contract, the property of their masters, and they were often abused, mistreated, and literally worked to death. At the same time, by the eighteenth century, indentured servitude was declining as an institution in the Chesapeake and elsewhere. The reason for this was related to the key difference between the plight of Elizabeth and the enslaved people around her. At the end of their indentures, servants were free to leave their masters, and indeed gained "freedom dues" in the form of land, tools, and other compensation, depending on the contract. This made them a bad investment for Chesapeake planters, who turned to enslaved Africans instead. By the mid-eighteenth century, laws had been well-established ensuring that slavery was permanent, hereditary, and fundamentally based on race. The letter itself points to a key difference between Elizabeth's condition and that of enslaved men and women. She wrote her father, hoping he could do something to alleviate her misery (including, possibly, buying out her indenture.) Enslaved people had no such hope. They had to endure the horrific abuses described by Elizabeth with only a lifetime of enslavement to look forward to. Moreover, by Elizabeth's time, there were far more legal protections for the lives of indentured servants than for enslaved people.

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