Group of 13 indentures binding poor children to masters who were citizens of Reading, Massachusetts
Group of 13 indentures binding poor children to masters who were citizens of Reading, Massachusetts
Group of 13 indentures binding poor children to masters who were citizens of Reading, Massachusetts

Group of 13 indentures binding poor children to masters who were citizens of Reading, Massachusetts

Reading, Massachusetts: 1769 – 1813. Unbound. Each of these two-page indentures measures approximately 8” x 13”. All were prepared under the authority of “Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Reading,” and all have official rhomboid seals attached. One indenture is dated 1769, one 1770, one 1786, one 1804, one 1805, three 1806, one 1811, one 1812, and three 1813. Despite protestations by left-leaning Snopes.com and other “fact checkers,” indentured servitude was a form of slavery, and it is today so recognized by the Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and Article 1(a) of the United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. David Galensen in Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas determined that between one-half and two-thirds of the early European immigrants to British North America were brought here to become indentured servants. In exchange a remission of debts or for the cost of passage, they agreed to be sold to masters upon arrival for a period of mandatory service; children until they reached the age of 24 and most adults for a period of three years. Many, like the debtors, were brought against their will; some were kidnapped. Once here, their lives (unless they possessed some valuable skill) were especially harsh, and Garret-Hatfield in “How Were Indentured Servants Treated by the English?” estimates that 40% died before their indenture was completed. Punishment for disobedience was at the discretion of masters and could be violent. The indentures in this lot, however, are somewhat different than those of immigrants. In Colonial America and the early United States, if children did not receive adequate parental care, “overseers of the poor” were empowered to seize them for indenture to local masters until they reached adulthood. In return, the masters were required to treat them as apprentices and teach them a trade so they could eventually support themselves. (See Mason’s Masters and Servants: The American Colonial Model of Child Custody and Control.) While these apprentices were required to obey their masters’ commands, not damage his masters property or allow others to do so, not to unlawfully lend his masters property, not to be absent from work, refrain from playing “cards or dice or any other illegal games, etc. Masters, in addition to teaching a trade, were required to provide room and board (although not necessarily equal to that of family members), clothing (usually two set per year, “one for Lord days and the other suitable for working days.” (See Wikipedia.) With one exception, the children named in these indentures were either orphans or came from parents too poor to provide for their support in the opinion of the overseers. The exception was a young “married man upwards of twenty years of age able of Body who had no visible means of support, lives idly and neither uses or exercises any lawful trade or ordinary calling.” All but two of these indentures required the masters to treat their indentured servants as apprentices and “induct them into a mystery” of a trade. The trades referenced in these documents include cordswain (shoemaker), farmer, cooper, taylor (tailor), husbandman, and in the case of the one indentured girl, needle spinning. One of the indentures required the master to teach his servant “to read and write . . . if capable to learn.”. Very good. Item #009169

Despite protestations by Snopes.com and other “fact checkers,” indentured servitude was a form of slavery, and it is today so recognized by the Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and Article 1(a) of the United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. David Galensen in Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas determined that between one-half and two-thirds of the early European immigrants to British North America were brought here to become indentured servants. In exchange a remission of debts or for the cost of passage, they agreed to be sold to masters upon arrival for a period of mandatory service; children until they reached the age of 24 and most adults for a period of three years. Many, like the debtors, were brought against their will; some were kidnapped. Once here, their lives (unless they possessed some valuable skill) were especially harsh, and Garret-Hatfield in “How Were Indentured Servants Treated by the English?” estimates that 40% died before their indenture was completed. Punishment for disobedience was at the discretion of masters and could be violent. The indentures in this lot, however, are somewhat different than those of immigrants. In Colonial America and the early United States, if children did not receive adequate parental care, “overseers of the poor” were empowered to seize them for indenture to local masters until they reached adulthood. In return, the masters were required to treat them as apprentices and teach them a trade so they could eventually support themselves. (See Mason’s Masters and Servants: The American Colonial Model of Child Custody and Control.) While these apprentices were required to obey their masters’ commands, not damage his masters property or allow others to do so, not to unlawfully lend his masters property, not to be absent from work, refrain from playing “cards or dice or any other illegal games, etc. Masters, in addition to teaching a trade, were required to provide room and board (although not necessarily equal to that of family members), clothing (usually two set per year, “one for Lord days and the other suitable for working days.” (See Wikipedia.) With one exception, the children named in these indentures were either orphans or came from parents too poor to provide for their support in the opinion of the overseers. The exception was a young “married man upwards of twenty years of age able of Body who had no visible means of support, lives idly and neither uses or exercises any lawful trade or ordinary calling.” All but two of these indentures required the masters to treat their indentured servants as apprentices and “induct them into a mystery” of a trade. The trades referenced in these documents include cordswain (shoemaker), farmer, cooper, taylor (tailor), husbandman, and in the case of the one indentured girl, needle spinning. One of the indentures required the master to teach his servant “to read and write . . . if capable to learn.”.

Price: $650.00

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