Indentured Servants

Karxan's picture
Karxan
August 12, 2012 - 8:31pm
I am working on an article for the StarFrontiersman about Indentured Servants. I am looking for feedback and ideas to add to what I have so far. Please feel free to make suggestions.

My research was done on Colonial American indentured servants.

An indentured servant is a person/ being who is bound by a labor contract for a certain number of years.

There are three type:

1) The freewillers, someone who has chosen to bind themselves for labor for a specific passage to somewhere.

2) Kidnapped persons for political/religious reasons, and the poor who are driven to this as a way out of their circumstances.

3) Convicts who are given the choiceof labor verses time in jail.

So my first question was why would anyone do this? Each catagorie answers that question. 

Next is, Which races would be more likely to enter into one of these types of contracts?
Humans of course, yazirians too. Vrusk society as I see it really would not have this, because they are already beholden to their house for everything. Maybe vrusk who have entermingled with human/yazirian society might though. Dralasite I don't see doing this unless they are in a bad place maybe.

Who would use these types of contracts?
Megacorps for sure. Government too. I can see both entities using this type of contract to establish a colony, whether it is farming, mining, or population building. Then you might have colonists on some planets who hire Indentured labor to work their farms/mines or whatever. It would be a way to get labor to whatever planet you are on.

What would the contract entail?
In our past, the indentured servant was given land, a gun and some grain to start out. I can see frontier IS being given the same. It says though in history that only about half on the indentured servants ever lived to reach the end of their contracts. Also, punishment was harsh for them, even harsher than slaves in some cases.

Term of service? It appears that it ranges from 5-10 years. I think in the frontier it should depend on the type of contract.
For criminals, it is easy to see the choice given. Go be labor for the length of your term or even have a shorter term due to the hazardous labor they must face.
The other types would depend on the type of labor needed. Farming may have longer contracts than mining. Colony building would entail long term contracts, but with a freedom clause at the end possibly. That way they are not beholden to the contractor after the colony has started up.

The Family of One would be an entity who might use kidnapping and creating an indentured class to create a new colony. Pirates also could do this. There is a fine line between slavery and indentured servitude. The big difference is there is an end to the time served.

Any thought or ideas?
 
Comments:

jedion357's picture
jedion357
August 12, 2012 - 8:55pm
A vrusk without a trade house would do this, I wrote one NPC background where a vrusk pirate ship was taken down by the Clarion Marines and all the adult vrusk died fighting leaving a vrusk larva. With no living relatives and no vrusk trade house willing to take in the child of criminals he ended up in the Clarion foster care system raised by humans. His fate could have been worse and a vrusk in dire straights like that could make the choice to indentutre himself- its not much more different then selling his soul to the trade house.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Karxan's picture
Karxan
August 12, 2012 - 9:37pm
In that situation Jedion I could see a vrusk taking that choice.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 12, 2012 - 10:14pm
On the Rocks has some ideas on this topic, per our discussion.

jedion357's picture
jedion357
August 13, 2012 - 4:26am
I actually see lots of vrusk falling through the crack, for instance the refugees from the Free World rebellion and in particular the history I wrote where the Naar conglomerate fragmented would find themselves in a tough situation- there is a bit of a bad stink attached to the failure of the house Naar and the latter scandal of Hatzk turning pirate. since the company failed surely the blame must be on the employees to a certain extent and why ever would be take in someone to our company that would negatively harm our business?

Any time a company fails there will be displaced vrusk. This is part of the drive for loyalty to one's trade house or conglomerate- if it fails you are screwed.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

jedion357's picture
jedion357
August 13, 2012 - 4:28am
yazirians that opt for indentured servatude are probably clanless or disinherited.

dralasites come cheaply as there is low demand for a joker of the worst order of corniness.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
August 13, 2012 - 6:08am
The other thing that is covered in the contract is usually transport to the place of service.  You should read (if you haven't) Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky.  It a juvenile he wrote for Boy's Life as a serial but it is a story of a family that signs on to colonize Ganymede.  The terms of their contract are much like an indentured service contract and I can see similar type contracts existing in the Frontier.  In fact, the style of colonization in that book might be very much what was used to colonize Lossend given the background jedion357 has written for the planet.
Ad Astra Per Ardua!
Webmaster - The Star Frontiers Network & this site
Founding Editor - The Frontier Explorer Magazine
Managing Editor - The Star Frontiersman Magazine

jedion357's picture
jedion357
August 13, 2012 - 6:35am
@ Terl Obar, i hadn't considered that but you are right its an excellent exqmple of organizing a colony. I've been critical of that book for its flat characters and egocentric youthful main character but knowing it was a serial for boys life lessons that judgement some.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

CleanCutRogue's picture
CleanCutRogue
August 16, 2012 - 1:39pm
I thoroughly enjoy this discussion.  I like it when a shadier side of the Frontier is developed in more detail.  Indentured servitude is a moral gray-area worth exploring, sounds like an excellent article. 

It would be a fun story hook for a Referee to use to launch a new campaign.  Have the players create their characters then suddenly ask them "Okay - now - tell me why you're currently contracted to servitude to Captain Rey-Nusak aboard the shabby merchant ship Aeon's Edge."  Let the players come up with backdrop stories to answer that question and they instantly become an interesting group of PCs with a commonality that helps get the story rolling.  Fun!
3. We wear sungoggles during the day. Not because the sun affects our vision, but when you're cool like us the sun shines all the time.

-top 11 reasons to be a Yazirian, ShadowShack


Inigo Montoya's picture
Inigo Montoya
August 24, 2012 - 10:13am

There is another aspect of indentured servitude to consider. It is a little less dark but still worth considering, especially for background material for PCs and NPCs. In colonial times apprenticeships were considered as indentured servitude. Many young boys would sign on to learn a skilled trade such as clock making to blacksmithing. They would agree to serve their master for a specific time, as Kraxan mentioned. The master would train, house and feed them.  As they progress in skill, they take on projects for hire and their master would receive a healthy percentage of their earnings. At the end of the contract, the master would release his charge onto the world with a new set of clothes and a set of tools for his trade.  Of course, human nature being how it is, many loopholes where found and exploited to lengthen the duration of the contract. And the servant had to perform tasks not directly related to his training. Many felt like young Ralph Macchio early on in the film and ran away from their obligations. Literally.

This sort of apprenticeship servitude would easily be found in the frontier where there is a lack of universities or other training facilities.  It could include all tech fields and even some lower level medical fields. I imagine if you have tramp freighters in your universe you will find some unhappy knuckle buster in the bowels just dreaming of jumping ship.  



jedion357's picture
jedion357
August 25, 2012 - 3:47am
@ Inigo: yeah early on there would be few schools and when a new university opened it would create a stir.

The apprenticeship format sounds exactly like Knights and squires.

I'm reminded of a Romanian I knew that defected from his ship while it was in Greece. Prior two sailors had defected and sent a post card back to the ship from Nuremberg and as he was about to go ashore on a pass in Greece the First Mate stopped him and said, "Where are you going?" He joked, "Nuremberg." and the first mate laughed and sent him on his way. That's how he came to America and I got to work with him one summer about two years before the Iron Curtain fell.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

Karxan's picture
Karxan
August 25, 2012 - 7:17pm
Thaks everyone for the great ideas.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 25, 2012 - 9:07pm
Karxan, this topic will not help you get out of your contract.  You have 2 years of SFman left and by the Great Galaxy you're going to work it off!  
Yell

Don't make me go all Ulysses 31 on you. Kiss
http://youtu.be/G6NBAZrdjQw
(He has the coolest lightsaber/gun, maybe I'll submit something to SFman)



Karxan's picture
Karxan
August 27, 2012 - 2:17am
You will have to catch this runaway indentured servant. I will head out west and live among the natives. You will never find me. unless of course you use a tracking bot, Hmmmm. I must remember to disable all bots on my escape.

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
August 27, 2012 - 5:42am
Come west young man.  We'll hide you in the mountains. Smile No robots here.
Ad Astra Per Ardua!
Webmaster - The Star Frontiers Network & this site
Founding Editor - The Frontier Explorer Magazine
Managing Editor - The Star Frontiersman Magazine

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 27, 2012 - 9:10am
TerlObar wrote:
Come west young man.  We'll hide you in the mountains. Smile No robots here.
We are everywhere! Kiss

Karxan's picture
Karxan
August 27, 2012 - 10:14pm
The only problem with me going west is I am about a 2min walk from the Pacific Ocean. Going west means Japan. Ha, I just realized, w00t, you will rust if you try to follow me across the ocean. Salt water, the bane of all metal constructs.Foot in mouth I really am free now. You will never catch me.

Inigo Montoya's picture
Inigo Montoya
August 28, 2012 - 8:08am
Heck, I think he was assembled in Japan. Don't go west. He is sure to still have contacts there.

iggy's picture
iggy
August 28, 2012 - 10:30pm
Inigo Montoya wrote:
Heck, I think he was assembled in Japan. Don't go west. He is sure to still have contacts there.

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto!
With parts made in Japan!
He's Kilroy!

w00t your secret is out
-iggy

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 29, 2012 - 4:03pm
I'm am not a machine, I AM the machine. 
[insert mechanic laugh]

I'm actually human. The perfect human. A robot that looks like a human. Foot in mouth

iggy's picture
iggy
August 29, 2012 - 9:05pm
Skin Job?

Watch out Officer Deckard is out and about.
-iggy

jedion357's picture
jedion357
December 17, 2018 - 8:39am
Necro posting here but I just discovered that I am the 10th generation descended from the first Verreau in America and that he came as an indentured servant in the mid 1600 and worked for 2 years before buying a farm and settling down. he as a skilled laborer: fine tool maker and that is the reason a Boucher paid his passage. Irony: my new doctor is a Boucher but i do not believe that is her maiden name. he renounced Calvinism and became a catholic once in the new colony largely so that he could marry. Irony: today I'm more of a Calvinist than anything else theologically and I may be the first in my line since Bathelemy Verreau to renounce Catholicism. 

Barhelemy live a quiet life on a farm and became the progenitor of tens of thousands of Verreaults in America and Canada (more so Canada) and died at 68 which may have been unusual for the 1600s but could be attributed to healthy farm living.

Another tidbit: it seems that during the time of his indenture he briefly joined the militia and we know the names of the other members of his squad and it may be that they were mounted. I'm guessing that by having Barthelemy join the militia Mr Boucher was absolved of his obligation.

So having discovered this I've been thinking about the movie Passengers and about the colonization fo the Frontier. Not hard to see a return to indentured servitude in a sci fi setting. Contract for labor given to skilled workers in exchange for passage to new world. Once there a need for militia could cause the contract holder to renegotiate contract with the indentured in order to avoid militia service him or her self.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!