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“The Infortunate”: Life of an Indentured Servant

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The Infortunate is an autobiography about the life of an indentured servant in the 1700’s. In his story, William Moraley talks about the jobs he once performed as a young man which included working as a clerk attorney, and then later learning the skill of watch making from Henry May by the age of seventeen. (Klepp and Smith, pg 8-9). About ten years later, Moraley’s family moved to Newcastle and soon after moving, his father passed. (Klepp and Smith, pg 12).

While his mother obtained most his father’s fortune, Moraley then decided to move to Pennsylvania. After realizing the trouble it would be for a poor man to move from England to Pennsylvania, he decided to sell himself for work as an indentured servant. (Klepp and Smith, pg 12-17).

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While still in his home country, Moraley met a man who introduced the idea of indentured servitude to him. This man convinced Moraley that his best bet for a successful life was in America so Moraley agreed to venture to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by ship.

Before he left for America, Moraley had to take an oath stating that he was not married, nor was he an apprentice by indenture which was paid for by this man. (Klepp and Smith, pg 14-16). According to the contract of servitude written for Moraley, the man that helped him so much was known under the name of Neal MacNeal. The contract also noted that Moraley’s destination was the Caribbean island of Antigua, which is where MacNeal sent the bulk of his recruits to. (Klepp and Smith, pg 14).

After arriving to Philadelphia in December of 1729, Moraley was the last of his companions to be sold off. During his time spent in Philadelphia, he was allowed to wander about the city which was not typical for servants. (Klepp and Smith, pg 26-28). Three weeks later, Moraley was then sold to
Isaac Pearson of Burlington, New Jersey. He was a “blacksmith, silversmith, goldsmith, button manufacturer, ironmaster, and master watchmaker and clockmaker.” (Klepp and Smith, pg 28). After four years of happily serving Pearson, Moraley was finally set free. (Klepp and Smith, pg 73-74). He worked for several different men and relied greatly on others for a while until he suffered from “bad luck” and decided to go back home to London. (Klepp and Smith, pg 74-75).

Throughout Moraley’s journey to America and as he worked as an indentured servant, he came across many different kinds of people. He tells us about the variety of race, religion, and classes of people he encounters and how they all contributed to his life. I think Moraley tried to sympathize with everyone he encountered no matter who they were. He did not necessarily judge someone because of their race, religion, or whether they were dirt poor or the wealthiest man on earth. When Moraley was conversing with white men, he would empathize with those men who encountered circumstances similar to his like some of the men aboard the ship headed for America. (Klepp and Smith, pg 23-26). While Moraley came across slaves, he learned the poor conditions that they had to live under, like the lack of laws that protected them. Moraley sympathized for the slaves unlike other men who did not value them. (Klepp and Smith, pg 58-59). Moraley also encountered “civiliz’d, handsome-limb’d people” known as Native Americans. (Klepp and Smith, pg 63). When he met these people, he learned about their land, their crops, and their way of living. Instead of scolding the Native Americans because of their religious beliefs, Moraley respected and valued the knowledge they had of their land. (Klepp and Smith, pg 63-66). Although Moraley treated others fairly respectably, he lacked this trait towards women.

Moraley exaggerated many times in his autobiography. I think some of his lies or exaggerations were done to entertain his audience. Some of the lies though, may have been an accident because the event could have happened years before he actually recorded the event. An example is when Moraley stated that the ship entered the port in Philadelphia at the end of December in 1729, but records or city newspapers proved that the ship actually arrived early in December, between the ninth and sixteenth of December. (Klepp and Smith, pg 26). That small error could have been a lie to gain more sympathy from his audience, or it could have simply been a mistake because of the amount of time that had passed since the event actually occurred, and the time the event was recorded in Moraley’s autobiography.

There are many things that prevented Moraley from succeeding in life. From the beginning though, Moraley did not take advantage of the opportunities he had to improve his talents. (Klepp and Smith, pg 7). Moraley did however fall under bad luck as he did not inherit his father’s fortune when he passed away because of his mother and her marriages that followed. (Klepp and Smith, pg 12-13). Another fault of Moraley’s was that after completing his servitude for Pearson, he relied on others too often. He did not seem as if he could settle with a steady profession and soon enough, the generosity of others began to fade. (Klepp and Smith, pg 87-90). There were some faults of Moraley’s that lead him to fail, but there were also some factors working against him that could have guided him towards his unsuccessful fate.

After reading William Moraley’s autobiography, I learned a lot about indentured slaves from the 1700’s. I also learned not only about the life of William Moraley himself, but also the lives of many different kinds of people such as slaves, Native Americans, and women of this time period.

Cite this “The Infortunate”: Life of an Indentured Servant

“The Infortunate”: Life of an Indentured Servant. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-infortunate/

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