The German Immigration into Pennsylvania though the Port of
The German Immigration into Pennsylvania though the Port of Philadelphia: 1700-1775
Bond Servants a Universal Custom of the Times.-Brought from Great Britain and Taken to All the Middle Colonies.-Synopsis of the Colonial Legislation on Indentured Servants. "Such were to take these lands by toil To till these generous breadths and fair, Turning this Pennsylvania soil To fruitful gardens everywhere." "Kommt zu uns frei von Groll und Trug Und est das Freundschafts mohl, Wir haben hier der Htten g'nug Und Lnder ohne Zahl."
There was not a little rivalry among the various English colonies planted along the Atlantic seaboard of America, in their race for wealth, progress and commercial supremacy. Into that competition, Pennsylvania, although the youngest of all the English settlements, entered with as much ambition and ardor as the people to the north and south of her. Penn was a Quaker, and a man of sincere convictions and unquestioned piety, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that he united a very liberal share of worldly shrewdness with his colonization schemes. In fact, the competition in material progress and advancement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was quite as sharp between what are to-day called the Thirteen Colonies as it is to-day. The older settlements had the advantage of age and experience, and this naturally compelled the newer ones to redouble their efforts to overtake them in the race for advancement and to surpass them if possible.
In some particulars they endeavored to work out their destinies along similar lines. They copied from each other when they thought such imitations would prove advantageous-not blindly, but always with an eye to the main chance. When Lord Baltimore found that his older neighbor Virginia was increasing her population and her wealth by the extensive importation of male and female servants from the mother country under indentures that meant years of servitude, and under conditions not wholly dissimilar to her negro slave traffic, he at once availed himself of the Virginia idea, and ship-loads of these people came from Ireland, Scotland and even England herself.
It can hardly be questioned that the authorities in Pennsylvania took the same view of the case, and early in the history of the Province introduced, or at least connived at the system. At all events the fact remains that Penn's government had hardly got under way, before indentured servants became a feature in the civil life of the community. Here, as elsewhere, labor was scarce, and here, perhaps more than anywhere else, extra labor was required to cut down the forests, clear the land and keep abreast of the march of civilization that was moving forward on all sides of the new settlement.
All this is to be inferred from the number of these sold and purchased servants that were brought into Pennsylvania, and from the legislation that was enacted in consequence. That legislation grew out of the necessities of the traffic in these people and consequently reflects its successive stages. It must be borne in mind, however, that while it had even in its earlier stages all the characteristics that marked it during its most flourishing period, from 1730 to 1770, it had not the same name. The men and women who were sent over here from Ireland and Scotland, or who came voluntarily under contracts to render personal service for their passage money, board and any other expenses that might be incurred, were always called "servants" or "indentured servants" by the laws of the Province. The word "redemptioner" belongs to a later period and was of more recent coinage, and this fact must not be lost sight of, although in reality there was no material difference recognized either by statutory enactments or by custom, between the two. The word "redemptioner" does not occur in the Pennsylvania Statutes at Large.
"We may with propriety," says Gordon, "notice here another class of the people who were not freemen. Many valuable individuals were imported into the province as servants, who in consideration of the payment of their pasages and other stipulations, contracted to serve for a definite period. This class was a favorite of the law. Provision was made by the laws agreed on in England for recording the names, times and wages of servants; masters were allowed to take up lands for their use, and the servants themselves, after the expiration of their service, were permitted to become land-holders on easy terms; they were provided with sufficient clothing and implements of labor; they could not be sold out of the Province without their consent, and, in case of marriage, husband and wife could not be parted. On the other hand, due care was taken to preserve the rights of the master. Many of the German and Irish settlers were of this class, from whom have sprung some of the most reputable and wealthy inhabitants of the Province." 87
In speaking of servants about the year 1740, Watson says: "The other kind were those who were free after a time. Many came from England, Germany and other countries who could not pay their passage, who were sold on their arrival for so many years, at about three to four pounds Pennsylvania currency per annum, as would pay their passage: generally fourteen pounds for four years' service would cover their passage money. Those who were too old to serve would sell their children in the same way. Some would sell themselves to get a knowledge of the country before starting in the world. The purchaser could resell them for the unexpired time. The purchaser also had to give them a suit of clothes at the expiration of the time." 88
I propose to offer a brief rsum of the various legislative enactments bearing on this class of immigrants to show the status held by them, and also the precautions that were from time to time taken by the law-making power for their protection.
While the condition of this large class was in innumerable cases to be commiserated, the fact nevertheless remains that the Legislature threw over them the gis of its protection, and in so far as it could, tried to deal fairly with them. Their rights were as scrupulously guarded as
Caption: An Old Map of Pennsylvania. Gabriel Thomas' Map of Pennsylvania, 1698 those of their masters. It deserves also to be remembered that no fault was found with the system of buying these servants and holding them to their service until their obligations were discharged. That was a recognized custom of the period, already in existence both north and south of Pennsylvania, and universally acquiesced in. Nobody thought it wrong. People entered into these obligations of their own free will. There was no compulsion. The great wrongs grew out of the practices under which it was carried on. As these developed and were brought to the attention of the Legislature, numerous laws were passed to better guard the rights of the deceived and defrauded immigrants. But the laws could not reach the infamous Newlander beyond the sea, and he took good care to keep the broad Atlantic between himself and his outraged victims.
The Provincial Government did not do all perhaps it should or even might
have done looking to the protection of these people. It is important that
we keep before us a clear idea of the spirit of those days. It was very
diferent from what we find to-day. Public sentiment leaned towards
severity rather than towards charity. The laws dealt more severely with
crime, and were often pushed to the verge of
inhumanity. Take for example, the laws against creditors. In 1705 the
first insolvent law in the Province was passed, and
it has justly been said that it "was formulated in sterner justice
than is consistent with human frailty." When the property of a debtor
was insufficient to discharge his debts, the law compelled him to make
good the deficiency by personal servitude in case his creditors demanded
it, and there were always those who did. Single
men not more than fifty-three years old could be sold for a period of not
more than seven years, but married men under forty-six could be held for a
period not exceeding five years. A milder law was enacted to supersede the
above one in 1730, but so many creditors abused its provisions, that
satisfaction by servitude was engrafted upon it in a supplemental clause.
There were, too, often quarrels and bickerings between the Governors and the members of the Assembly. The one tried to thwart the wishes and will of the other. When, for example, the Legislature in 1755 drew up a bill on this very subject of the better protection of German immigrants, especially to prevent the breaking open of their chests and the theft of their goods, Governor Thomas cut out this very matter and returned the rest with his approval. There seems to have been a reason for his action, and the Assembly in a sharp reply told him, in so many words, that some of his own political household were regularly engaged in these robberies, and that was no doubt why he refused to do this act of simple justice. No doubt they knew what they were talking about.
Many of the English and Welsh settlers who came to Pennsylvania within twenty years after it was founded brought indentured servants with them. To hold such people was evidently an old English custom, and at the very outset of his proprietary career, provision was made by Penn for the welfare of these people on regaining their freedom. No sooner had Penn obtained the royal charter to his province than he issued a long and tedious document for the enlightenment of "those of our own and other nations that are inclined to transport themselves or families beyond the seas." On July 11, 1682, while still in England he issued a series of "conditions or concessions," running to twenty separate paragraphs or articles, for the government of the relations between himself and his province and those who should purchase lands from him and settle here. The seventh of these conditions reads as follows: "That for every Fifty acres that shall be allotted to a servants, at the end of his service, his Quitrent shall be two shillings per annum, and the master or owner of the servant, when he shall take up the other Fifty acres, his Quit-rent shall be Four shillings by the year, or if the master of the servant (by reason in the Indentures he is so obliged to do) allot to the Servant Fifty acres in his own division, the said master shall have on demand allotted him from the Governor, the One hundred acres, at the chief rent of six shillings per annum." 90
"The more wealthy of the Scotch emigrants (to New Jersey) were noted for the accompaniment of a numerous retinue of servants and dependents, and, in some instances they incurred the expense of transporting whole families of poor laborers whom they established on their lands for a term of years, and endowed with a competent stock, receiving in return one half of the agricultural produce." 91
From the first, large numbers of these servants came to Pennsylvania. Claypole says, writing on Oct. 1, 1682, "above fifty servants belonging to the Society are going away in a great ship for Pennsylvania." 92
The foregoing establishes the existence of this species of servitude before the founding of Pennsylvania. It also shows that in order to give these people a fair start in life the terms on which they could secure lands from the Proprietary were more favorable than those accorded to their masters themselves.
Caption: German Immigration Into Pennsylvania. J F Bachse, Photo. Pennsylvania-German Enterprise. Carved Blocks Made at Ephrata Cloister for Printing Dress Goods. Specimens in Danner Collection. Manheim. Pa.
I find the word "servant," evidently used in the sense already indicated, in many acts of the General Assembly. It occurs in a law prohibiting work on the "First day of the week, called the Lord's Day," passed Nov. 27, 1700. 93 Also in another law passed on the same day and year, 94 and in still another passed at the same time with reference to "servants" assaulting their masters or mistresses. 95 A fourth law enacted on the same day of the aforementioned year provides that "if any `servant' or servants shall procure themselves to be married without consent of his or her master or mistress, (he or she) shall for such, their offense, each of them serve their respective masters or mistresses, one whole year after the time of their service (by indenture, law, or custom) is expired; and if any person being free shall marry with a servant as aforesaid, he or she so marrying shall pay to the master or mistress of the servant, if for a man twelve pounds; if a woman, six pounds or one year's service; and the servant so being married shall abide with his or her master or mistress according to indenture or custom, and one year after as aforesaid." 96 In still another law passed on the same day and same year, designed for raising county revenues, it is provided, "that no person that has been a bond servant by indenture or otherwise in this government, shall be rated the above four shillings per head until he has been free from his servitude the space of one year." 97
An excellent law concerning servants was passed by the General Assembly, met at Newcastle, in the Lower Counties, in May, 1700. It appears to be the model after which later legislation was largely formulated, and is therefore quoted:
"An Act for the Better Regulation of Servants in the Province and Territories.
"For the just Encouragements of Servants in the Discharge of their Duty, and the Prevention of their Deserting their masters or Owners Services, Be It Enacted by the Proprietary and Governor, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Freemen of this Province and Territories, in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that no Servant, bound to serve his or her Time in this Province or Counties annexed, shall be sold or disposed of to any person residing in any other Province or Government, without the Consent of the said Servant and two Justices of the Peace of the said County wherein he lives or is sold, under the Penalty of Ten Pounds, to be forfeited by the Seller.
"And Be it Further Enacted, That no
Servant shall be assigned over to another person by any in this Province
or Territories, but in the presence of one Justice of the Peace of the
County, under the Penalty of Ten Pounds; which Penalty, with all others
in the Act expressed, shall be levied by Distress and
Sale of Goods of the Party Offending.
"And Be It Enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every Servant that shall faithfully serve four years, or more, shall, at the expiration of their Servitude have a Discharge, and shall be duly Cloathed with two compleat suits of Apparel, whereof one shall be new, and shall also be furnished with one new Ax, one Grubbing-hoe, and one Weeding-hoe; at the Charge of their Master or Mistress.
"And for the Prevention of Servants quitting their Masters service, Be It Enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any Servant shall absent him or herself from the Service of their Master or Owner for the space of one Day or more, without Leave first obtained for the same, every such Servant shall for every such Days absence be obliged to serve five days after the Expiration of his or her Time, and shall further make such Satisfaction to his or her Master or Owner, for the Damages and charges sustained by such Absence, as the respective County Court shall see meet, who shall order as well the Time to be served, as other Recompence for Damages sustained.
"And whoever shall Apprehend or take up any runaway Servant and shall bring him or her to the Sheriff of the County, such Person shall for every such Servant, if taken up within ten miles of the Servants Abode, receive Ten Shillings Reward of the said Sheriff; who is hereby required to pay the same, and forthwith to send notice to the Master or Owner, of whom he shall receive Ten Shillings, Prison fees upon Delivery of the said Servant, together with all other Disbursements and reasonable Charges for and upon the same.
"And to prevent the clandestine employment of other Mens Servants, Be It Enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That whosoever shall conceal any Servant of this Province or Territories or entertain him or her twenty-four hours, without his or her Master's or Owners Knowledge and Consent, and shall not within the said time give an Account thereof to some Justice of the Peace of the County, every such Person shall forfeit Twenty Shillings for every Day's Concealment. And in case the said Justice of the Peace shall not, within twenty-four Hours after complaint made to him, issue his Warrant, directly to the next Constable, for apprehending and seizing the said Servant, and commit him or her to the Custody of the Sheriff of the County, such Justice shall for every such Offence forfeit Five Pounds. And the Sheriff shall by the first Opportunity after he has received the said Servant, send notice thereof to his or her Master or Owner: and the said
Caption: Peasants and Costumes of the Palatinate. Sheriff neglecting or omitting in any case to give Notice to the Master or Owner of the Servant being in his Custody as aforesaid, shall forfeit Five Shillings for every Day's neglect after an Opportunity has offered; to be proved against him before the County Court, and to be there adjudged.
"And for the more effectual Discouragement of Servants embezzling their Masters' or Owners goods, Be It Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, that whosoever shall clandestinely deal or traffick with any Servant white or black, for any Kind of goods or Merchandises, without Leave or Order from his or her Master or Owner, Plainly signified or appearing, shall forfeit treble the value of such goods to the Owner; and the Servant, if a white, shall make Satisfaction to his or her Master or Owner by Servitude, after the expiration of his or her Time, to double the Value of the said Goods; and if the Servant be a black, he or she shall be severely whipt in the most Publick Place of the Township where the Offence was comitted." 98
An act for the better regulation of servants in the Province and Territories, and for the just encouragement of servants in the discharge of their duties, also passed on November 27, 1700, throws so much light on this "servant" question that I give an abridgment of it. It provides that no servant bound to serve a certain time, shall be sold or disposed of to anyone residing in any other province or government, without his consent and that of two justices of the peace of the county where the servant resides, under a ten-pound penalty by the seller. No servant is to be sold or assigned to another person in the Province unless in the presence of a justice, under a ten-pound penalty.
Sec. III. of this law is so important that I quote it entire. "And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every Servant that shall faithfully serve four years or more, shall, at the expiration of their servitude, have a discharge, and shall be duly clothed with two complete suits of apparel, whereof one shall be new; and shall also be furnished with one new axe, one grubbing hoe and one weeding hoe at the charge of their master or mistress." Other sections provide that servants who absent themselves from their service for one day without permission, shall for every such day, serve five days longer at the expiration of their time, and besides make satisfaction for all damage the master may have sustained by such absence. Persons apprehending runaway servants and taking them to the sheriff shall receive ten shillings for the same or twenty shillings when the runaway is taken more than ten miles from his master's abode. Persons concealing servants without the master's knowledge, or entertaining them twenty-four hours and who shall not notify either the master or a justice of the peace, shall be fined twenty shillings for every day's concealment. The final clause in the act provided that whosoever should clandestinely deal or traffic with any servant for any kind of goods or merchandize, without leave or order from the master, shall forfeit treble the value of the goods to the master; and the servant, if white, shall make reparation to his or her master or owner, by servitude after the expiration of his or her time, to double the value of the said goods. 99
On October 18, 1701, the law of November 27, 1700, regulating the marriages of servants as already quoted, was renacted.
It seems that sometimes "Bought servants" left their masters, greatly to the damage of the latter, and enlisted in the Queen's service over in New Jersey. In consequence of this hardship, an act was passed by the Assembly on August 10, 1711, providing that "any master who shall prove that a servant belonging to him has enlisted in the Queen's service since a certain date without the approval of his master or mistress, shall receive for every month's unexpired service of such servant, the sum of ten shillings, and the full sum which the unexpired time of servitude shall at that rate amount to, the entire sum not to exceed twenty pounds however. The master or mistress shall deliver up the covenant or indenture of such servant and assign thereon their right to such servant's services."
In an act regulating fees to be charged by public officials, passed on
May 28, 1715, a shilling is allowed "for writing the assignment
of a servant and signing it."
100 On August 24, 1717,
an act for levying taxes passed the Assembly and
among its other provisions was one requiring the constables in the
several districts of the Province to carefully register the number of
bound servants that are held.
101 A similar law was
renacted on February 22, 1717-1718, but servants not out of their
servitude six months are exempted.
102 A licensing act
passed on the 26th day of August, 1721, prohibits the sale of rum,
brandy and other spirits to be drunk by
servants and others in companies near the
place of sale; nor shall such servants be trusted or entertained, if
warned by the master or mistress of the same; and
any one arresting a servant for a debt contracted in this way, such
actions shall abate, and the servant or his
master or mistress may plead the act in bar.
103 Under an act passed
May 5, 1722, a duty was imposed on persons convicted of heinous crimes
who should be imported into the Province. The law recites that many
persons trading here had, for purposes of gain, imported and
sold as servants for a term of years, persons convicted of crimes, who
soon ran away, leaving their masters' service, to the great loss of
persons thus buying them. The law inflicted a penalty of five pounds
on any shipmaster who should bring such a convict into the Province to
be paid before the servant was landed and be
in addition held bound in the sum of fifty pounds for the good
behavior of such convicted person, for the period of one year.
Examinations were to be made of suspected persons by justices of the
peace, and if any were brought and
disposed of without complying with the law, twenty pounds fine was to
be levied on the offender. All servants under the age of twelve years
were exempted from the provisions of the law.
This brings the legislation of the Province down to the period when the German immigration began to assume large proportions, and the importation and selling of the same appears to have taken its rise. During all that period the word "Servant" was used; that of "Redemptioner" never, nor at any time thereafter in legal enactments, so far as I am aware.
Under the law, all contracts between redemptioners and their purchasers were required to be registered by officials designated for that purpose. It would be of much interest if these complete records were still in existence, but as they have not been discovered thus far, this is hardly to be hoped for now. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has two volumes of such records. The title of the books is German Redemptioners, from 1785 to 1804. That period included three volumes, but the second one is missing. The books are in manuscript, folio in size, and the first one contains 409 pages. The third volume is smaller, only 130 pages, and the date runs from 1817 to 1831. Perhaps we have in this latter date the period when the traffic in these indentured people ceased. The smallness of the volume shows how few were recorded during the long period from 1817 to 1831. The books have a written index.
As a sample of the general character of this registry, the following entry from Volume I., page 57, is given:
"Maria Magdalina Shaffer assigned by John Fromberg, to serve Peter Muhlenberg, Esq. of Montgomery county State of Pennsylvania, the remainder of her indentures, recorded page 14. consideration £6."
"Maria Magdalena Shaffer bound herself to John Fromberg, of the city of Philadelphia, merchant, to serve him three years and six monchs: to have customary freedom suits."
All the other records follow the same general style.
The conditions under which British bond servants were brought to this country may be seen by the following indenture copied from the volume noted above. In this case, however, the document was in shape of a printed form, with names and dates filled in. It was the only one found in the book.
"This Indenture Made the 13th Day of May, in the year of our Lord, 1784, Alexr. Beard of Broughshane, in the Co. of Antrim, Tayler, by consent of his father on the one Part, and John Dickey of Callybarthey in the said county, Gentleman, of the other Part, Witnesseth that the said Alexander Beard, doth hereby covenant, promise and
Caption: The German Immigration into Pennsylvania. The London Coffee House. 105 grant to and with the said John Dickey his Executors, Administrators and Assigns, from the Day of the Date hereof, until the first and next arrival at Philadelphia, in America, and after for and during the Term of Three years to serve in such Service and Employment as the said John Dickey or his assigns shall there employ him according to the Custom of the Country in the like kind. In consideration whereof the said John Dickey doth hereby covenant and grant to and with the said Alexander Beard to pay for his Passage and to find and allow him Meat, Drink, Apparel and Lodging with other Necessaries, during the said Term and at the End of the said Term to pay unto him the usual Allowance, according to the Custom of the country in the like kind. In Witness whereof the Parties above Mentioned to these indentures have interchangeably put their Hands and Seals, the Day and Year first above written.
"Signed, Sealed and Delivered
"in the presence of
"Peter Dillon, Alexr. Beard,
"John Wier, John Dickey."
Just when this business came to a close I have not been able definitely to ascertain. 106 That it died out gradually is hardly to be doubted. A more enlightened sentiment among the American people, and the still more important fact that the migrating "fever" had about run its course among the poorer classes, for a time, were no doubt the most important factors towards bringing this about.
So far as I have been able to learn, no Redemptioners were brought into Lancaster county after 1811. In that year Mr. Abram Peters, a prominent farmer of the county, while hauling wheat to the mills on the Brandywine, near Wilmington, stopped at Chester to buy a small German girl, his wife needing the services of such a person. He secured an orphan girl named "Kitty," at the price of $25. The mother had died at sea, leaving Kitty and her sister to be disposed of as Redemptioners. The master of the ship desired to sell the sisters to one person, that they might not be separated, and offered the two for $40. Mr. Peters, having no use for two, declined to take them both, but he promised to find a purchaser for the other sister at $15, if possible. On his way home he met a Quaker gentleman and his wife. The latter wished to buy Kitty. Peters declined to part with her but told them of the other sister still at Chester. The old Quaker at once went to that place and bought her. The two purchasers had exchanged addresses and promised to keep the two sisters in correspondence with each other. Both girls found kind mistresses and good homes, corresponded and visited each other regularly. Kitty finally married a wealthy German, a baker named Kolb, of Philadelphia. 107
Caption: Early Pennsylvania Pottery. Earthen Pie-Plate.
The German Immigration into Pennsylvania though the Port of Philadelphia: 1700-1775
Origin and Meaning of the Term "Redemptioner."- Narrative of Gottleib Mittelberger, who after Residing in Pennsylvania four years Returned to the Fatherland and by Request wrote a full Account of the Voyage Across the Sea and the Redemptioner Traffic. "Amerika, O neues Heimath land! Du Land der Freiheit, Land voll Licht und Wonne! Sei uns gegrsst du gastlich holder Strand, Sei uns gegrsst du goldene Freiheits-Sonne." "They came, oft wronged beneath the mast, Or, when escaped the dreaded wave, How many wept their loved ones cast For burial, in an ocean grave."
The term Redemptioner had its origin in a peculiar system of voluntary servitude, recognized by law and by custom, under which a freedman entered into a contract with another person, to serve the latter for a stipulated time and at a stipulated price, for moneys paid to him or for his benefit, before the service was entered upon. Through the fulfillment of this contract apprenticeship or servitude, the servitor was said to redeem himself, hence the name of Redemptioner given to those who entered into such agreements.
There were two kinds of Redemptioners, and the distinction should be borne in mind. The first were the so-called "indentured servants" who made specific contracts before setting sail, to serve a term of years to masters; the second, known sometimes as "free willers," were without money, but anxious to emigrate, therefore agreed with the ship-masters to sell themselves and their families on their arrival, for the captain's advantage, and thus repay the cost of their transportation. 108
The historian Gordon very clearly and
fully sets forth the character of still another class of
immigrants. He says: "A part of the emigration to the
Colonies was composed of servants, who were of two classes. The
first and larger, poor and
oppressed in the land of their nativity, sometimes the victims of
political changes, or religious intolerance, submitted to a
temporary servitude, as the price of freedom, plenty and
peace. The second, vagrants and felons,
the dregs of the British populace, were cast by the mother country
upon her colonies, with the most selfish disregard of the feelings
she outraged. From this moral pestilence the first settlers shrunk
with horror. In 1682 the Pennsylvania Council proposed to prohibit
the introduction of convicts, but the evil was then prospective to
them only, and no law was enacted. But an
act was now passed (1722), which, though not prohibitory in terms,
was such in effect. A duty of five pounds was imposed upon every
convicted felon brought into the Province, and
the importer was required to give surety for the good behavior of
the convict for one year; and to render
these provisions effectual, the owner or master was bound under a
penalty of twenty pounds, to render, on oath, or affirmation,
within twenty-four hours after the arrival of the vessel, an
account to the collector of the names of the servants and
passengers. But such account was not required when bond was given
conditioned for the rexportation of such servants within six
109 The German Immigration into Pennsylvania though the Port
of Philadelphia: 1700-1775
The earliest direct reference to this traffic in German Redemptioners which I have found, appears in the work of Eickhoff 110 who cites a letter written in 1728 by several persons at that time, which fully bears out the existence of the trade in German Redemptioners at that period. The letter states that two persons, Oswald Siegfried and Peter Siegfried had informed them (the writers) for the second time from the city of Amsterdam, that there was a certain broker in that city, who would carry emigrants to Pennsylvania, even when they were unable to pay for their passage, if they could manage to scrape together only half the passage money; and those who had nothing at all, if they were in a condition to perform manual labor when they arrived. They would be obliged to labor upon their arrival until their passage money amounting to 7« pistoles (about $30) had been earned. 111
In my attempt to make this sketch as complete as possible, I have carefully examined all the sources of information that were accessible or of which I was cognizant. Many writers have touched upon the Redemptioners with more or less fullness but it was a German visitor to Pennsylvania to whom we are indebted for the fullest, and as I believe a most trustworthy account of the man-traffic which this is an attempt to describe. I refer to the little volume written by Gottlieb Mittelberger. 112 Without any attempt at fine writing he tells what he saw and had personal knowledge of. His narrative, in addition to bearing inherent evidences of reliability, is further fortified and supported by the concurrent testimony of numerous other writers. In fact, his veracity has never been questioned so far as I am aware, and the student of this period of our history will of necessity have to go to him when the era under review is discussed. He declares at the outset that he "carefully inquired into the condition of the country; and what I describe here, I have partly experienced myself, and partly heard from trustworthy people who were familiar with the circumstances."
Mittelberger was a native of Wurtemburg. He came to this country in 1750 and returned to Germany in 1754. He was an organist and came over in charge of an organ which was intended for Philadelphia. He served as the organist of the Augustus Church at the Trappe, and as a schoolmaster during his nearly four years' stay in Pennsylvania. His services in both capacities were so highly appreciated that, when he left, the church authorities gave him a most flattering testimonial. 113
The account which Gottlieb Mittelberger gives of his voyage to Pennsylvania and of his return to Germany four years later is the fullest known to me of a complete trip from the heart of the Fatherland to the sea, the voyage across the ocean, the trials and sufferings of that eventful period and the further events that waited on such as came penniless and dependent and who had already in Holland entered into contracts to serve some master until all their passage charges and the food they had consumed were paid for.
Mittelberger did not come as a Redemptioner; his was a business trip; he pursued his profession of organist for four years and then returned to Germany. But, as was most natural in a man of his kind and tender nature, he thoroughly sympathized with his poor countrymen in their time of adversity, and, being in daily touch with them and all that was going on in Philadelphia, no man was better acquainted with the wrongs put upon them and of the trials they were compelled to encounter. He was moved by all this, and by the appeals of his Philadelphia acquaintances, to tell the story of what he had seen and heard, upon his return to Germany, and out of the promise he then made we have his book.
It must always be borne in mind that Mittelberger's aim was to dissuade his countrymen from emigrating, and that he puts the worst construction on the evils to be met and encountered possible, as if it was necessary to make his statements even worse than the reality!
There are some few minor inaccuracies in it, and occasionally a statement he had from hearsay is exaggerated, but there are no intentional errors, and the general truthfulness of his narrative is unquestioned. He was not friendly to this immigration of his countrymen. It is true, he gives a most flattering account of the fertility and productiveness of the country and of the ease with which a living can be made there, but when he deals with the long voyage, the unpleasant events connected with it, its fatalities and losses, he is anxious that the people shall remain at home, and he says he believes they will after they have read what he has written, because such a journey with most involves a loss of property, liberty and peace; with some a loss of life and even of the salvation of their souls, this latter because of the lack of religious opportunities in the new home.
"This journey from the Palatinate to Pennsylvania," he says, "lasts from the beginning of May until the end of October, fully half a year, amid such hardships as no one is able to describe adequately. The cause is because the Rhine boats from Heilbronn to Holland have to pass by 36 custom houses, at all of which the ships are examined, which is done when it suits the convenience of the custom-house officials. In the meantime, the ships with the people are detained long, so that the passengers have to spend much money. The trip down the Rhine alone lasts four, five and even six weeks.
"When the ships and the people reach Holland, they are detained there likewise five or six weeks. Because things are very dear there, the poor people have to spend nearly all they have during that time. * * * Both in Rotterdam and Amsterdam the people are packed densely,
Caption: Castle in the Palatinate. like herrings, so to say, in the large sea vessels. One person receives a place scarcely two feet wide and six feet long in the beadstead, while many a ship carries four to six hundred souls; not to mention the innumerable implements, tools, provisions, water barrels and other things which likewise occupy much space.
"On account of contrary winds it sometimes takes the ships two, three and four weeks to make the trip from Holland to Cowes (on the isle of Weight, on the South coast of England). But when the wind is good they get
Caption: German Immigration Into Pennsylvania. (A) Pennsylvania-German Stove Plate. Marold Diffenderffer, Photo. (B) Family Bake-Over. J. F. Sachse, Photo. there in eight days or sooner. Every thing is examined at the custom house and the duties paid, and ships are sometimes detained eight, ten and fourteen days before their cargoes are completed. During this delay every one is compelled to spend his last money and to consume the little stock of provisions which had been reserved for the ocean voyage; so that most passengers, finding themselves on the ocean where they are in still greater need of them, suffer greatly from hunger and want.
"When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors at Cowes, the real misery begins, for from there the ships, unless they have good winds must often sail eight, nine, ten or twelve weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But with the best wind the voyage lasts seven weeks.
"During the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sicknesses, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer mouth-rot and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water so that many die miserably.
"Add to this, want of provisions, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other troubles such as lice which abound so plentifully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for two or three days and nights, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all the human beings on board. * * *
"Among the healthy, impatience sometimes grows so great and cruel that one curses the other or himself, and the day of his birth, and sometimes come near killing each other. Misery and malice join each other, so that they cheat and rob one another. One always reproaches the other for persuading him to undertake the journey. Frequently children cry out against their parents, husbands against their wives and wives against their husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances against each other. But most against the soul-traffickers,-(the Newlanders).
"Many sigh and cry: `Oh, that I were at home again, and if I had to lie in my pig sty!' Or they say: `O God, if I only had a piece of good bread, or a good fresh drop of water.' Many people whimper, and sigh and cry piteously for their homes; most of them get homesick. Many hundred people necessarily die and perish in such misery, and must be cast into the sea, which drives their relatives, or those who persuaded them to undertake the journey, to such despair that it is almost impossible to pacify and console them. In a word, the sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day, so as to cause the hearts even of the most hardened to bleed when they hear it. * * *
"Children from one to seven years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst and sickness, and then see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than thirty-two children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. * * *
The German Immigration into Pennsylvania though the Port
of Philadelphia: 1700-1775
"Often a father is separated by death from his wife and
children, or mothers from their little children, or even both
parents from their children; and
sometimes entire families die in quick succession; so that
often many dead persons lie in the berths besides the living
ones, especially when contagious diseases have broken out on
the ship. * * * That most of the people get sick is not
surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and
hardships, warm food is served only three times a week, the
rations being very poor and very
small. These meals can hardly be eaten on account of being so
unclean. The water which is served out on the ships is often
very black, thick and full of worms,
so that one cannot drink it without loathing, even with the
greatest thirst. O surely, one would often give much money at
sea for a piece of good bread, or a drink of good water, if it
could only be had. I myself experienced that sufficiently, I
am sorry to say. Toward the end we were compelled to eat the
ship's biscuit which had been spoiled long ago; though in a
whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar
that had not been full of red worms and
spiders nests. Great hunger and
thirst force us to eat and drink
everything; but many do so at the risk of their lives. * * *
"At length, when after a long and tedious voyage, the ships come in sight of land, so that the promontories can be seen, which the people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below to the deck to see the land from afar, and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising God. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, especially the sick and the half dead, alive again, so that their hearts leap within them; they shout and rejoice, and are content to bear their misery in patience, in the hope that they may soon reach the land in safety. But alas!
"When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others who cannot pay must remain on board the ships till they are purchased, and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick always fare the worst, for the healthy are naturally preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for two or three weeks, and frequently die, whereas many a one if he could pay his debt and was permitted to leave the ship immediately, might recover.
"Before I describe how this traffic in human flesh is conducted, I must mention how much the journey to Pennsylvania costs. A person over ten years pays for the passage from Rotterdam to Philadelphia, £10. Children from five to ten years pay half price, £5. All children under five years are free. For these prices the passengers are conveyed to Philadelphia, and as long as they are at sea provided with food, though with very poor food, as has been shown.
"But this is only the sea passage; the other costs on land, from home to Rotterdam, including the passage on the Rhine, are at least $35, no matter how economically one may live. No account is here made of extraordinary contingencies. I may safely assert that with the greatest economy, many passengers have spent $176 from home to Philadelphia.
"The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried on thus: Every day Englishmen, Dutchmen and high German people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places, some from a great distance, say sixty, ninety, and one hundred and twenty miles away, and go on board the newly arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons such as they deem suitable for their business, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their passage money, for which most of them are still in debt. When they have come to an agreement, it happens that adult persons bind themselves in writing to serve three, four, five or six years for the amount due by them, according to their age and strength. But very young people, from ten to fifteen years, must serve until they are twenty-one years old.
"Many persons must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle; for if their children take the
Caption: Straw Basket for Baking Bread, and Scraper. debt upon themselves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going, it often happens that such parents and children, after leaving the ship do not see each other again for years, perhaps no more in all their lives.
"When people arrive who cannot make themselves free, but have children under five years of age, they cannot free themselves by them; for such children must be given to somebody without compensation to be brought up, and they must serve for their bringing up till they are twenty-one years old. Children from five to ten years, who pay half price for their passage, must likewise serve for it until they are twenty-one years old; they cannot, therefore, redeem their parents by taking the debt of the latter upon themselves. But children above ten years can take part of their parents' debts upon themselves.
"A woman must stand for her husband if he arrives sick, and in like manner a man for his sick wife, and take the debt upon herself or himself, and thus serve five or six years not alone for his or her own debt, but also for that of the sick husband or wife. But if both are sick, such persons are sent from the ship to the hospital, but not until it appears probable that they will find no purchasers. As soon as they are well again they must serve for their passage, or pay if they have means.
"It often happens that whole families, husband, wife and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money.
"When a husband or wife has died at sea, after the ship
has completed more than half her trip, the survivor must pay
or serve not only for himself or herself, but also for the
"When both parents died after the voyage was more than half completed, their children, especially when they are young and have nothing to pawn or pay, must stand for their own and their parents' passage, and serve till they are twenty-one years old. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets in addition a horse and a woman a cow.
"When a servant has an opportunity to marry in this country, he or she must pay for each year he or she would still have to serve, £5 or £6. But many a one who has thus purchased and paid for his bride, has subsequently repented of his bargain, so that he would gladly have returned his dear ware and lost his money in addition.
"If a servant in this country runs away from his master who has treated him harshly, he cannot get far. Good provision has been made for such cases so that a runaway is soon recovered. He who detains or returns a deserter receives a good reward.
"If such a runaway has been away from his master a single day, he must serve an entire week for it; if absent a week, then a month, and for a month, half a year. But if the master does not care to keep the runaway when he gets him back, he may sell him for as many years as he has still to serve."
It must not be supposed that the scenes and events described in the foregoing quotations from Mittelberger were everyday occurrences, at least so far as the sufferings, sickness and deaths at sea are concerned. They did occur, but he takes especial pains to represent everything at its worst. Many a ship came over in good condition, with no unusual sickness on board, and under the charge of humane ship captains. But so far as the sale and disposal of the passengers upon their arrival was concerned, that was an unvarying affair. It was, however, just what many of these people were aware of, and may be said to have bargained for, before they stepped on shipboard to come here, and they had only themselves to blame for the after-misery it entailed. It is not to be doubted that by far the greater number of these people were misled and deceived by the Newlanders, and were ill prepared for the voyage besides, so that only disappointment, with many of the miseries rehearsed by Mittelberger, were realized by them on the voyage and when they arrived.
The following passage from Lher is interesting: "The Germans, who for so many years were hired out to pay costs of transportation, are called `Servants' (Knechte) or Redemptioners (Kuflinge). When they serve with English people, their language soon becomes one of mixed English and German. (A notable proof of this fact is supplied by Pastor Brunholtz, of the Lutheran Church, who recorded the following in his diary: "On March 25, 1745, a man called on me and requested me to go to Chester, and preach to the Germans there. * * * On the morning of June 30 I went to Chester, which is about 16 miles from Philadelphia. The Germans here, who for the most part are `servants,' as they are called, employed by English people, and so speaking a mixture of German and English." 115) In the country they are usually well treated and cared for, especially when good fortune so wills it that they become inmates of a German household. If one of the latter secures an entire family, the man is generally occupied in field labor, and also carries on his trade if he has one, sometimes on his own account and at others on that of his master. It was allowed him to have a few head of cattle. The wife was generally a housemaid and a caretaker of children, while her own little ones were assigned to all kinds of light work. The servitude finally came to an end when the boy reached the age of 21 and the girl that of 18 years. They might not get married without the consent of their masters. A runaway was compelled to serve an additional week for each day's absence and six months for each week's absence, and could, what was otherwise unlawful, be sold to another person for the period of his unexpired service.
"When the term of service was over, a thrifty servant had saved quite a sum and secured a home for himself, for land was cheap. 116 Perhaps more than one-third of the original German immigrants and their descendants who are so well-to-do now, began life in this humble way. Their sons were already notable persons at the time of the Revolution. An Act of Parliament passed in 1756, allowed servants, with the consent of their masters, to become soldiers. Many of these immigrants who brought considerable amounts of gold with them, hired themselves for a time until they should become acquainted with the country and people. The German and English-Irish Redemptioners came mostly to Pennsylvania; the English to Virginia, and the statistics of that State show that annually about 1,500 Redemptioners arrived there. In later times the service of these people became still more liberal. I have spoken to many householders and schoolmasters who were told by their fathers how they had been persuaded to come to America, but who, after serving half a year of their time, ran away. It was difficult to find a runaway from the settlements in the depths of the forest." 117