Wages and compensation for domestic servants varied throughout the thirteen colonies. New York Metro Indentured servants were usually compensated only by their passage to New York, room and board for their term of service, and a small sum of money and suit of clothing after the completion of the contract. In some cases, an indentured servant might receive additional wages while serving out the contract, but this was rare. Wages for free laborers who worked as domestic servants were normally only basic subsistence, but they did receive room and board while employed. House slaves received no wages. Laws and Domestic Servants There were few laws in colonial Country that dealt specifically with domestic servants; rather, there were general laws dealing with servants of all types. Labor legislation existed in all thirteen colonies and had a twofold purpose.
On the one hand, laws protected the servant from cruelty by the master. For example, servants’ contracts that bound them in a particular colony could not be sold out of that colony without the servant’s consent. Masters were required to provide adequate food, clothing, and lodging for their servants and to care for their servants when they became ill. The law also protected servants from cruelty, especially bodily maiming (although servants could be disciplined). Servants could sue in court for violations of the law and, if victorious, could have their contracts terminated and thus become free.
On the other hand, laws protected the master’s capital investment in the servant. The law guaranteed a master’s right to retrieve servants if they ran away. In some cases, additional time was added to the original contract when the servant returned. There were stiff penalties (ranging from fines to beatings) for anyone harboring a runaway servant, and incentives (usually monetary) were given to individuals who assisted in the return of runaways. In addition, there were special laws for female servants. They were barred from marrying without the permission of the master, and those who became pregnant faced additional time added to their contracts.
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