The Life of an Indentured Servant

Last Updated: 10 Feb 2023
Pages: 5 Views: 145

Today is the day the journey away from everything I am familiar with begins. Everyone in search of a better life boards the ship at 9:00 a.m. in preparation for the voyage to America. My mind is filled with many mixed emotions: excitement, fear and foremost, hope. My hope is that, after working for my sponsor, I will be skilled enough to start my own trade and create the life for myself that I have always dreamed of. For now though, a mixture of fear for the unknown and excitement to start my new life races through my mind as I prepare myself for the long journey ahead of me and my fellow people, all with the same dreams as I.

After only a week aboard the ship, already many of my initial fears have been confirmed. The conditions on this voyage are not ideal; there are many people aboard and we are all crowded into the same area below deck. All of the meat we are given is sharply salted and to say that the water is foul is an understatement. Some individuals have even begun to sicken, which lends little hope to the rest of us as we still have many more weeks at sea. I fear that I will become afflicted with the same sickness as the others as there is nowhere to escape from the contamination. I continue to pray for a safe and healthy journey, as do many of the other inhabitants of this ship, as we head into the many long weeks ahead of us.

As we continue our journey to America we regularly face more and more challenges. A storm has been raging for the past two nights and everyone consistently prays for the safety of the ship. I can feel the fear of adults and children alike and I am equally scared. On top of the dread caused by the gale, even more, people have become sick. Many people are battling with seasickness, dysentery, scurvy, mouth rot and many other diseases all caused by the old and heavily salted meat as well as the filthy water we are all forced to consume, or face starvation. So far I have been one of the lucky few that has not had a bout with sickness and I pray it stays that way.

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Today as I sat on this godforsaken ship, as I have for the past month, I came to realize that we are projected to arrive in a little over a week. No news has ever filled my heart with such joy as I feel now. I have survived the long journey across the Atlantic with minimal sickness, unlike the majority of other passengers, and my hopes have never been higher for my future. Once we reach the shore I will have to wait to be purchased in order to work off my debt which I do not see as ideal, however, the lining to the circumstance is that I will be able to learn a trade that I will be able to take with me once my servitude comes to a conclusion. I have nothing but hope for the coming years and what they hold for me.

Today we arrived on the shores of Philadelphia. No one was permitted to leave the ship unless they had paid for the trip on their own or had good credit. Everyone else, including myself, had to stay until they were purchased. I happened to be one of the healthier passengers so I was lucky enough to be purchased on the first day but I fear for the unhealthy and pray that they do not have to die on that boat like so many others already have.

After being purchased I had to sign an indenture contract with my master which listed of the many rules I must follow for the next seven years of my servitude. I personally find some of the rules in place to be a bit more restrictive than I would have liked, to list a few: I am not able to get married, gamble (even with my own money), and I cannot buy and sell things, even my own, without permission from my master. Despite the restrictions laid upon me by this contract, I am still optimistic for the future. I am going to do everything I can to be a reliable apprentice and to learn what I can about the craft of clockmaking in hopes of being able to start my own trade once my contract is through. We begin work tomorrow at 8 a.m. and I am eager to start learning.

It has been a month since I was purchased and put to work and I can say with full confidence that it has not been entirely what I expected it to be. I came in expecting to gain knowledge of clockmaking but thus far all I have been taught is small brass work. Day after day he keeps me trifling at pottering brass work, teaching me nothing of making wooden clocks. My master does not treat me poorly but he does not treat me well either. For weeks now I have been forced to eat the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and only have two pairs of clothes to wear. However, I am given a warm place to sleep, albeit I am not given a bed, for which I am grateful nonetheless. I still have hope that things.

It has been almost a month since I last wrote and not much of anything has changed. I am still given the same stew and a piece of bread for all my meals day after day. I still have learned nothing of making clocks and continue doing menial brass work in the shop. My master now keeps a close eye on me, which is why I have not been able to write, because I have made complaints to which he is not very fond of. Last week I asked if I may have something else other than stew and he, obviously aggravated, told me that I would be grateful for what I am given and if I did not like it I could starve. My optimism begins to dwindle by the day as I can see conditions have little chance of getting better. I am doing all I can to survive these less than ideal conditions but I am not sure how much longer I will be able to cope with these conditions.

With a heavy heart I have concluded that this will be my last writing. Conditions here only go downhill the longer I stay. I have been cut to two meals a day and am still being forced to do the same menial tasks in the shop. I have gained no knowledge of the trade I was supposed to be taught and therefore have no reason to stay other than the contract I signed. But why should I keep my end of said contract when my master makes no effort to uphold his end? I have made the decision that in three days time I will try to escape from this prison and that is why this will be my last entry, for if they catch me I will be as good as dead. For all those I hold dear to me, I hope to see you soon but if not I hope this journal may at least find its way to you so you may have an idea of the events from the past several months.

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The Life of an Indentured Servant. (2023, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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