|[Robert Beverley], The History and Present State of Virginia, in Four Parts (1705).|
Book IV, Chapter 10, Of the Servants and Slaves in Virginia.
50. Their Servants, they distinguish by the Names of Slaves for Life, and Servants for a time.
Slaves are the Negroes, and their Posterity, following the condition of the Mother, according to the Maxim, partus sequitur ventrem. They are call’d Slaves, in respect of the time of their Servitude, because it is for Life.
Servants, are those which serve only for a few years, according to the time of their Indenture, or the Custom of the Country. The Custom of the Country takes place upon such as have no Indentures. The Law in this case is, that if such Servants be under Nineteen years of Age, they must be brought into Court, to have their Age adjudged; and from the Age they are judg’d to be of, they must serve until they reach four and twenty: But if they be adjudged upwards of Nineteen, they are then only to be Servants for the term of five Years.
51. The Male-Servants, and Slaves of both Sexes, are imployed together in Tilling and Manuring the Ground, in Sowing and Planting Tobacco, Corn, &c. Some Distinction is made between them in their Cloaths, and Food; but the Work of both, is no other than what the Overseers, the Freemen, and the Planters themselves do.
Sufficient Distinction is also made between the Female-Servants, and Slaves; for a White Woman is rarely or never put to work in the Ground, if she be good for any thing else: And to Discourage all Planters from using any Women so, their Law imposes the heaviest Taxes upon Female-Servants working in the Ground, while it suffers all other white Women to be absolutely exempted: Whereas on the other hand, it is a common thing to work a Woman Slave out of Doors; nor does the Law make any Distinction in her Taxes, whether her Work be Abroad, or at Home.
52. Because I have heard how strangely cruel, and severe, the Service of this Country is represented in some parts of England; I can’t forbear affirming, that the work of their Servants, and Slaves, is no other than what every common Freeman do’s. Neither is any Servant to do more in a Day, than his Overseer. And I can assure you with a great deal of Truth, that generally their Slaves are not worked near so hard, nor so many Hours in a Day, as the Husbandman, and Day-Labourers in England. An Overseer is a Man, that having served his time, has acquired the Skill and Character of an experienced Planter, and is therefore intrusted with the Direction of the Servants and Slaves.
But to compleat this account of Servants, I shall give you a short Relation of the care their Laws take, that they be used as tenderly as possible....