Images de page

the same as those of the mother country. Such apprenticeship was more than merely a form of labor; it was also a method of educating the poor and of implanting good morals. The apprentice on the one hand was bound to serve his master faithfully and to avoid taverns, alehouses, playhouses, unlawful games, and illicit amours; and the master on the other hand was obliged to provide his apprentice with food and lodging and to teach him to read and write and in the case of a doctor “to dismiss said apprentice with good skill in arithmetic, Latin and also in the Greek through the Greek Grammer.”: A girl apprentice was to be taught "housewifery, knitting, spinning, sew

ing, and such like exercises as may be fitting and · becoming her sex.” At the end of the apprentice

ship, the master was expected to give his apprentice two suits of clothes as a perquisite; but in the case of one girl he gave a cow, and of another "two suits of wearing apparel, one for Sunday and one for weekly labor, with two pairs of hose and shoes,

Working one's passage to the medical profession was the only way in which a medical education could be obtained in America at this time. The first hospital, at Philadelphia, was not founded until 1751, and the first medical school, also at Philadelphia, not until 1765, and admission to that required a year's apprenticeship in a doctor's office.

two hoods or hats, or such headgear as may be comely and convenient, with all necessary linen." Sometimes an apprentice was scarcely to be distinguished from an indentured servant, as for instance when a minor bound himself to serve until a debt was paid off. Apprenticeship proved a useful sort of service in the colonies, for, though it was at times much abused and both masters and apprentices complained that the contracts were not carried out, it trained good workmen and satisfied a real need.

Though originally in quite a different position, the transported prisoner was in much the same condition as the servant and apprentice, for he too was a laborer bound to service without pay for la given number of years. Persons transported for religious or political reasons were few in number as compared with the convicts sent from Newgate and other British prisons and known as “transports," “seven year passengers," and "King's prisoners." Not less than forty thousand of these convicts were ( sent between the years 1717 and 1775 to the colonies, chiefly to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the West Indies. Some were transported for seven years, some for fourteen, and some for life, and though the colonies protested and those most

nearly concerned passed laws against the practice, the need of labor was so great that convicts continued to be received and were sometimes even smuggled across the borders of the colony. Determined to get rid of an undesirable social element, England hoped in this way to lessen the number of executions at home and to turn to good account the skill and physical strength of able-bodied men and women. When a certain Englishman argued in favor of transporting felons for the purpose of reforming them, Franklin is said to have retaliated by suggesting the reformation of American rattlesnakes by sending them to England.

As convicts were often transported for very slight offenses, it is stated that, at times when conditions were very bad in the mother country, the starving poor, rather than continue to suffer, would commit trifling thefts for which transportation was the penalty. Thus though there were many, who were confirmed criminals, those who had been merely petty offenders were distinctly advantageous to the colonies as artisans and laborers. Men and women alike were transported either in regular merchant ships or in vessels specially provided by contractors, who were paid by the Government from three to five pounds a head. Besides the

ordinary passengers, indentured servants and convicts were frequently on the same ship and would be advertised for sale at the same time. Before the voyage was over, however, exciting things some times happened: one case is on record where the convicts mutinied, killed captain and ship's company, and sailed away on a piratical cruise; and another mutiny was foiled by shooting the ringleaders. On arrival at port the convict's time was sold exactly as was that of the indentured servant, and on the plantations both worked side by side with the negro. At the expiration of his term of service the convict was free to acquire land or to work as a hired laborer. As a rule, however, he preferred to return to England, where he frequently fell again into evil ways and was transported a second time to America.

The story is told of a barrister who had been caught stealing books from college libraries in Cambridge and had been sentenced to transportation without the privilege of returning to England. Though it was customary for the commoner sort of prisoners to be conducted on foot, with a sufficient guard, from Newgate to Blackfriars Stairs, whence they were carried in a closed lighter to the ship at Blackwall, this barrister and four other prisoners,

including an attorney, a butcher, and a member

of a noble family, were allowed to ride in hackney i coaches with their keepers. Because the five were

able to pay for their passage, they were treated on : board ship with marks of respect and distinction. e While the felons of inferior note were immediately

put under hatches and confined in the hold of the e ship, the five privileged malefactors were conveyed

to the cabin which they were to have for the dura

tion of the voyage. “It is supposed,” says the 1 narrator, “that as soon as they land they will be 1 set at liberty, instead of being sold as felons usually e are, and that thus a criminal who has money may

blunt the edge of justice and make that his happiness which the law designs as his punishment.”

Though many convicts became useful laborers and farmers, others were a continual nuisance and even danger to the colonists. They ran away, com-1 mitted robberies, -"poor unhappy wretches who cannot leave off their old trade," they are called — turned highwaymen, set houses on fire, engaged in

counterfeiting, and were guilty even of murder. - In the West Indies they corrupted the negroes and Clured them off on piratical expeditions. Governor

Hunter wrote from Jamaica in 1731 that people who had been accustomed to sleep with their doors

« PrécédentContinuer »