Comparing the Voyages of Slaves and Indentured Servants
There are several differences between slaves and indentured servants. Slaves had no choice about coming over to the America’s, and were often kidnapped to be sold as slaves in the America’s. An indentured servant was a person who agreed to work for another person without pay for a certain length of time. A planter or other business owner paid for the trip. The indentured servant agreed to work for two to seven years. Once the time was over, the servant was free.
Slaves were not set free after a set amount of time. They were to server with their lives. The voyages were kind of similar in the fact that many died due to disease and lack of rations and drinkable water. There was cramped spaces in both voyages with more people than space. The dead and often those to sick to continue the voyage were tossed overboard to a watery grave. The time at sea was different between slave ships and indentured servants ships.
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The slave ships were often at sea 60 to 90 days or even four months at times. The indentured servants ships were at sea 2 to 4 weeks to get from Old England to Holland then 8 to 12 weeks to get from Holland to Philadelphia. Then when the indentured servants would reach Philadelphia, they would have to stay on the ship till they could get someone to pay their way. Then they would work for them for a set amount of years to pay back the debt.
If a husband and wife started the voyage out together on the indentured servants ship and one were to die, or if the kids made it and the parents did not, then those left would not only have to pay the debt of their voyage but also the debt of those that had died. There was not a debt washed away just because someone died on the ship. This was not the same on the slave ships. The slaves were kidnapped from Africa. European sailors seeking riches brought rum, cloth, guns, and other goods to these posts and traded them for human beings.
This human cargo was transported across the Atlantic Ocean and sold to New World slave owners, who bought slaves to work their crops. The trips while very different were also somewhat the same. The cargo (slaves and indentured servants) were treated horribly and malnutrition, contracted diseases and often died. The trips were not cheap or short trips and both over the oceans. They were to help the rich and the poor often suffered the price. While the indentured servants time was served and then they were released, the slaves served their terms for life.