Primary Resource

Law Prohibiting Indentured Servants from Hiring Themselves Out (1643)

In this law, passed in its March 1643 session, the General Assembly addressed the problem of indentured servants who ran away and hired themselves out to new, presumably more lenient, masters. The law was revised in the 1658 session. Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.

Transcription from Original

WHEREAS complaints are at every quarter court exhibitted against divers persons who entertain and enter into covenants with runaway servants and freemen who have formerly hired themselves to others to the great prejudice if not the utter undoeing of divers poor men, thereby also encourageing servants to runn from their masters and obscure themselves in some remote plantations, Upon consideration had for the future preventing of the like injurious and unjust dealings, Be it enacted and confirmed that what person or persons soever shall entertain any person as hireling, or sharer or upon any other conditions for one whole

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yeare without certificate from the commander or any one commissioner of the place, that he or she is free from any ingagement of service, The person so hireing without such certificate as aforesaid, shall for every night that he or she entertaineth any servant either as hireling or otherwise, fforfeit to the master or mistris of the said servant twenty pounds of tobacco, And for evrie freeman which he or she entertaineth (formerly hired by another) for a year as aforesaid, he or she shall forfeit to the party who had first hired him twenty pounds of tobacco for every night deteyned. And for everie freeman which he or she entertaineth (though he hath not formerly hired himselfe to another) without certificate as aforesaid, And in all these cases the party hired shall receive such censure and punishment as shall be thought fitt by the Governor and Counsell: Allways provided that if any such runnaway servants or hired freemen shall produce a certificate, wherein it appears that they are freed from their former masters service or from any such ingagement respectively, if afterwards it shall be proved that the said certificates are counterfeit then the retayner not to suffer according to the penalty of this act, But such punishment shall be inflicted upon the forger and procurer thereof as the Governor and Council shall think fitt.