Primary Resource

Law Regulating Marriage of Indentured Servants (1643)

In this law, passed in the session of March 2, 1642/43 (Old Style), the General Assembly addressed the problem of indentured servants having children and marrying. For masters, this resulted in a loss of the women servants' labor, for which the law attempted to provide compensation. The law was revised during the 1657/58 session.

Transcription from Original

— page 252 —

WHEREAS many great abuses & much detriment have been found to arise both against the law of God and likewise to the service of manye masters of families in the collony occasioned through secret marriages of servants, their masters and mistresses being not any ways made privy thereto, as also by committing

— page 253 —

of fornication, for preventing the like abuses hereafter, Be it enacted and confirmed by this Grand Assembly that what man servant soever hath since January 1640 or hereafter shall secretly marry with any mayd or woman servant without the consent of her master or mistres if she be a widow, he or they so offending shall in the first place serve out his or their tyme or tymes with his or their masters or mistresses, and after shall serve his or their master or mistress one compleat year more for such offence committed, And the mayd or woman servant so marrying without consent as aforesaid shall for such her offence double the tyme of service with her master and mistress, And a ffreeman so offending shall give satisfaction to the master or mistress by doubling the value of the service and pay a ffine of five hundred pounds of tobacco to the parish where such offence shal be comitted, And it is also further enacted and confirmed by the authority of this Grand Assembly that if any man servant shal comit the act of fornication with any mayd or woman servant, he shall for his offence, besides the punishment by the law appointed in like cases, give satisfaction for the losse of her service, by one whole year's service, when he shall be free from his master according to his indentures, And if it so fall out that a freeman offend, as formerly he shall be compelled to make satisfaction to the master or mistris of the said woman servant by his service for one compleat year, or otherwise give forthwith such valuable consideration as the comissioners in their discretion shall think fitt.