White Servants Meet the Labor Demand
THE SECOND AND REALLY PRINCIPAL, reason for the importation of white servants is to be found in the demands of the labor market. The list of servants from Barbados is typical of any such group arriving in the early days. There were two sawyers, one carpenter, one tailor, two planters, one woman servant, and three without special designations.1 Such a distribution of skills might well have been the best possible selection to meet the needs of an infant colony.
As already noted, even Virginia, a colony of many years standing, had not in 1670 become convinced of the superiority of Negroes as field hands. Both white servants and Negro slaves were brought into the colony from the beginning. Later, when rice began to dominate as the great staple crop, the question was settled in favor of the cheaper and hardier labor. But rice did not monopolize the attention of the planters until the 1730's. Even after this period there was an opportunity for white field labor in the development. of indigo, which was introduced in the 1740's. "Patricola" in 1747 actually urged greater interest in the planting of indigo for this very reason. This crop, "Patricola" wrote, "can bear the Charge of a long Land-Carriage as well as Deer skins, and may be carried on with a great deal of Ease by white People only, without Blacks, which Rice cannot be, [therefore] it could not but invite Numbers of new Settlers amongst us, and greatly tend to the peopling and strengthening our Western Frontiers"2 . . . . It was only on the eve of the Revolution, during the last great colonial period of prosperity ( 1770-1773), that the economy matured and the need for field labor was met entirely, at least on the coast, by Negroes. It took one hundred years for such specialization to develop. (See Appendix III.) Meanwhile white indentured servants were continuously in demand although always in declining numbers.
As the colony developed there came about a division of labor, with the Negro slaves doing the field work and the white indentured