Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/637

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WHITE SLAVES IN THE PLANTATIONS.

slavery, and the reception met with by those who went to interview the Governor will give us some idea of the manner in which exiles were usually treated. In most cases, in the West Indies, they were herded with the negro slaves, insufficiently fed, ill-clad, compelled to sleep without beds on the earthen floors of the hovels that were provided for them, driven out to work daily under a tropical sun, and flogged for the most trivial offenses. Scores of them succumbed to this treatment, and it must be remembered that these men were not malefactors, nor indeed criminal at all, except in a political sense. Most of them were men of blameless lives, and, as says Macaulay, they were regarded by themselves, and by a large proportion of the people of England, not as wrongdoers, but as martyrs who sealed with their blood the truth of the Protestant religion.

So much for the white slaves; we now turn to the bond-servants—that is, persons who engaged themselves as servants in the colonies for a certain number of years, and whose condition was little better than that of the convict-slaves. It is true that the bond-servant came to the colonies voluntarily, in theory at least, for in fact he was often a poor wretch who had been kidnapped in some English seaport and hurried on board a vessel, while the convict was banished; but, once in the colonies, there was little distinction made between them. Indeed, their position in most of the colonies was such that it is incredible that any persons should knowingly have engaged themselves; and we are forced to conclude that they were not informed of the conditions of their servitude, and were misled by false representations made by the agents of the colonists in England.

Each colony appears to have had its own law on the subject of bond-servants. That of Jamaica provided that bond-servants might be of either sex, and those who had not entered into contracts or agreements in England were compelled, after arriving in the island, to serve seven years if they were under eighteen years of age, and four years if they were above that age. The clause of the act ran thus: "All servants shall have according to their contract and indenture; and where there is no contract and indenture servants under eighteen years of age, at their arrival in this island shall serve seven years, and above eighteen years, shall serve four years, and all convicted felons, for the time of their banishment; and at the expiration of the terms aforesaid, shall receive from their last master, mistress, or employer, forty shillings, and a certificate of freedom on demand; and whosoever shall refuse, without just cause, to give such certificate to servant, certifier, or labourer, whose time is expired, shall forfeit forty shillings for every such refusal." The words "certificate of freedom" smack rather of slavery, and the bracketing together of convicted felons