Children Bound to Labor
The Pauper Apprentice System in Early America
Publication Year: 2009
The history of early America cannot be told without considering unfree labor. At the center of this history are African and Native American adults forced into slavery; the children born to these unfree persons usually inherited their parents' status. Immigrant indentured servants, many of whom were young people, are widely recognized as part of early American society. Less familiar is the idea of free children being taken from the homes where they were born and put into bondage.
As Children Bound to Labor makes clear, pauper apprenticeship was an important source of labor in early America. The economic, social, and political development of the colonies and then the states cannot be told properly without taking them into account. Binding out pauper apprentices was a widespread practice throughout the colonies from Massachusetts to South Carolina-poor, illegitimate, orphaned, abandoned, or abused children were raised to adulthood in a legal condition of indentured servitude. Most of these children were without resources and often without advocates. Local officials undertook the responsibility for putting such children in family situations where the child was expected to work, while the master provided education and basic living needs.
The authors of Children Bound to Labor show the various ways in which pauper apprentices were important to the economic, social, and political structure of early America, and how the practice shaped such key relations as master-servant, parent-child, and family-state in the young republic. In considering the practice in English, Dutch, and French communities in North America from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, Children Bound to Labor even suggests that this widespread practice was notable as a positive means of maintaining social stability and encouraging economic development.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This project began in 1998 with our fi rst discussion of the fate of illegitimate children in colonial America. Over the intervening decade, the project has ac-quired many friends and many debts, rich evidence that it takes a community Institutional support gave this project its initial impetus, help along the way, and the fi nal assist across the fi nish line. For a major grant we thank the Spencer ...
This book describes pauper apprenticeship, the system used widely in early America to redirect the lives of poor children who were illegitimate, orphaned, abandoned, abused, or otherwise considered by authorities to be at risk. Bound out to masters, these children were raised to adulthood in a legal condition of servitude. Most of these children were poor, without resources and often with-...
chapter one“A Proper and Instructive Education”
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Today, children born to unwed mothers, abandoned children, abused children, and orphans all move through government systems of care. How did early Americans deal with similarly vulnerable children? Orphans and “bastards” (as they were then called) constituted a signifi cant proportion of these unfor-tunate youngsters, because in those days adult mortality rates and social disap-...
chapter twoRecreating Proper Families in Englandand North America
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The American colonies did not invent the practice of binding out poor chil-dren; they inherited it. From the early 1600s until well into the 1800s, local authorities in both England and North America regarded pauper apprentice-ship as an acceptable, even a desirable, way to raise the children of the poor. Communities on both sides of the Atlantic shared similar assumptions about ...
PART IIBINDING OUT AS A MASTER/SERVANT RELATION
Binding out was a labor relation, for it put pauper apprentices in a legal con-dition of servitude. Both servant and master were obligated by an indenture that governed the exchange of labor ( by the child ) for daily maintenance and education ( by the master). Binding out was one more means of putting chil-dren to work. As the introductory essays show, binding out was also a parent/...
chapter three“Proper” Magistrates and Masters
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Records of binding out in eighteenth-century Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island show that magistrates and masters cooperatively worked out the terms under which the least powerful members of the community were put to work and prepared for adulthood. Although theoretically on opposite sides of a bargaining table, magistrates and masters shared common assumptions about the ...
chapter fourOrphans in City and Countrysidein Nineteenth-Century Maryland
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Orphan apprenticeship sprang into being in Maryland in the 1630s and sur-vived into the early twentieth century. It originated as an adaptive response to maintaining families in an immigrant society racked by high mortality. Colo-nists drew on English apprenticeship in husbandry, pauper apprenticeship, laws regulating orphans’ estates, and legal forms governing relations between em-...
chapter fiveBound Out from the Almshouse
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In 1804, four of Mary Derborough’s fi ve children were bound out by the Trust-ees of the Poor at different times after their ailing mother entered the Ches-ter County, Pennsylvania, almshouse; the youngest child temporarily remained with Mary. The fi ve children’s fates were decided separately by the trustees, who considered the children’s capabilities, the mother’s needs, and the potential ...
PART IIIBINDING OUT AS APARENT/CHILD RELATION
Binding out took children from their birth homes and placed them in other households. As Ruth Herndon and John Murray show in chapter 1, a child’s parents were replaced with overseers of the poor and then with a master. Be-cause binding out separated children from their parents and created new rela-tionships between children and substitute parents, it is a good prism to observe ...
chapter sixPreparing Children for Adulthoodin New Netherland
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In their daily lives, the children of seventeenth-century New Netherland were expected to contribute to the household economy at an early age, thereby emu-lating their counterparts in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands.1 Current opinion dictated that it was good for children to work (according to their strength) from their seventh year onward. Child labor ...
chapter sevenMothers and Children in and outof the Charleston Orphan House
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Destitute, abandoned, and orphaned children faced grim futures in early Amer-ica, as the essays in this volume testify. But not all poor children were equally vulnerable, and not all futures were equally grim. For poor white children in Charleston, South Carolina, the Orphan House provided some promise of a better life. The Orphan House’s walls were not an impermeable barrier that ...
chapter eightThe Extent and Limits of IndenturedChildren’s Literacy in New Orleans,1809–1843
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Literacy is a special dimension of the general topic of children bound to labor in early America. The studies in this book reveal that removing poor children from their natal home and placing them in another household or institution where they were expected to work was as variable a practice as it was ubiqui-tous. In some settings, it was little more than a means to supply employers with ...
chapter nine“To Train Them to Habitsof Industry and Usefulness”
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To suggest that the antebellum elite conceived of benevolence as a tool that would help to control the behavior of the poor no longer raises eyebrows among historians of antebellum reform movements. The debate sparked by the work of Clifford Griffi n in the 1950s and continued by historians such as Lois Banner and Lawrence Kohl seems to have run out of steam. Griffi n and others argued ...
PART IVBINDING OUT AS A FAMILY/STATE RELATION
As Steve Hindle and Ruth Herndon show in chapter 2, pauper apprenticeship descended from English poor law and gave local magistrates explicit authority to rearrange a family. The practice of binding out thus reveals the relationship between the family and the state as represented by local authorities in early America. Community magistrates intended that pauper apprentices should be ...
chapter tenResponsive Justices
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In November 1734, concern for James Taylor’s orphans prompted John Murray to petition the court of Somerset County, Maryland. Murray told the court that Taylor’s three sons “have been hitherto neglected as to learning and . . . he thinks it is his duty to inform your worships who are the father of orphans that care may be taken for their education.” The court responded by calling the masters ...
chapter elevenThe Stateless and the Orphaned amongMontreal’s Apprentices, 1791–1842
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In early Anglo-America, as other essays in this volume show, offi cial (“state”) responsibility for orphaned children rested in the hands of local magistrates such as overseers of the poor. In contrast, families in Quebec had offi cial (“state”) responsibility for those children of their relatives who had become orphaned or destitute, until at least the mid-nineteenth century. In that sense, the line be-...
chapter twelveApprenticeship Policy in Virginia
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In February 1751 the churchwardens of Frederick County, Virginia, bound Hester Ryan, a month-old infant, to the man her mother had declared to be her father—Joseph Roberts. Her mother of the same name was already indentured to Roberts. Hester was apprenticed to him in lieu of his providing a guarantee to the parish that he would reimburse them if they had to pay for her nursing ...
conclusionRefl ections on the Demand and Supplyof Child Labor in Early America
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Surely the fi rst observation to be made about child labor in early America is that children worked as a matter of course. The vast majority of parents needed their contribution for the household income, and all wanted their children to be active and productive. Society as well as parents worried that children who weren’t put to useful labor would get into trouble, go bad, and lose their souls if ...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2009