Reply To: Indentured Servitude


Let me add that although elections to the House of Burgesses were always relatively democratic, from that body’s founding in 1619, no one who had been an indentured servant and no one whose ancestor had been an indentured servant was elected to the Burgesses in the 17th century. The way up from indentured servitude was difficult.

In fact, the Virginia Company lamented in Virginia’s earliest days that so many recruits to live in its colony returned to England as soon as they could. Life proved harsher than expected.

Besides that, Prof. McClanahan in his answer may inadvertently have given the impression that land awaited indentured servants at the end of their servitude. This is false, at least in regard to Virginia. There, the law required that they be given seed, farm implements, and a new suit of sex-appropriate clothes at the end of their servitude, but it seems that most never became landowners.

By the time of the Revolution, there were people in the Virginia political elite who descended from indentured servants, notably the eminent Edmund Pendleton, who was an uncle of John Taylor of Caroline and distant cousin of James Madison.