Description: This collection contains legal contracts between apprentice, or the parent or guardians, and master; as well as one contract between an indentured servant and master. The contracts identify the parties involved, municipalities, trade to be learned, and terms of contract.
In 1654 the Bristol City Council passed an ordinance requiring that a register of servants destined for the colonies be kept, the purpose being to prevent the practice of dumping innocent youths into servitude. The registers, covering the period 1654 to 1686, are the largest body of indenture records known, and they also are a unique record of English emigration to the American colonies.Of the total of 10,000 servants in these registers, almost all came from the West Country, the West Midlands, or from Wales. Most entries give the name of the servant, his place of origin (until 1661), length of service, destination (usually Virginia, Maryland, or the West Indies), name of master, and, after 1670, the name of the ship. Four indexes have been included, one each for servants, masters, places of origin, and ships. [from Ancestry.com]
This article discusses the practice of sending children from Britain to America to be indentured servants. It cites court records in the late 17th century that document the indenture process required of the persons who purchased the children in America. " It was a common practice to ship young children to America where servants were in demand. Overseers of orphanages and workhouses and poor parents were thus relieved of the expense of a child's maintenance. Some children were simply kidnapped....Procuring or stealing children to sell as servants seems Dickensian to us now, but it was an acceptable and prevalent practice for many centuries."
Summaries of three cases argued by Buchanan and ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvana:
1. Commonwealth v. Hambright in which a freed Negro named Tom was imprisoned in Pennsylvania until Tom agreed to go to New Jersey by Isaac Law, to whom he was indentured until age 28. Mr. Hopkins, representing Tom, argued that he could not be imprisoned by his master after age 21. Mr. Buchanan represented the master and argued that the master could take Tom to New Jersey. The Surpreme Court ruled in Tom’s favor.
2. Eckart v. Wilson (represented by Slaymaker and Hopkins), a case claiming slander. The defendant accused the plaintiff (represented by Frazer and Buchanan) of poisoning Bob Waters, even though Waters was alive in Western Pennsylvania. The Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the plaintiff since Waters was alive. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant and awarded a venire facias de novo.
3. Rohrer (represented by Buchanan and Rogers) v. Stehman (represented by Frazer and Hoplins), a case involving the will of Stehman, who dictated a will to John Hubley, a scrivener. After the will was dictated and written down Hubley read it back and Stehman approved. The case hung on the fact that the memorandum taken at the time was read to Stehman, but the formal will was not. The plaintiff argued that the will was invalid. The lower court ruled for the plaintiff and the Supreme Court agreed.
The James Buchanan Family Papers were collected by the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland. This collection was relocated from the Wheatland mansion to the LancasterHistory archives in the Spring of 2009. Digitization of the James Buchanan Family Papers was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, PHMC Appl ID # 201808013051, 2019-2020.
James Buchanan Papers, Penn State University Libraries,
Related Item Notes
James Buchanan Family Papers
MG-96 James Buchanan Collection
Historical Society of Pennsylvania microfilm
May 2020 PastPerfect Conversion
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A writ of habeas corpus is a procedure for obtaining a judicial determination of the legality of an individual's custody. This collection includes petitions for writs of habeas corpus and the writs themselves, showing the names of petitioners, persons to be brought to court, nature of dispute or alleged crime, dates of writs and accompanying documents, names of judges, and names of persons that the writs are filed against. Petitioners include indentured servants, runaway slaves, free African-Americans, convicted prisoners, those awaiting trial, relatives of prisoners, parties in child custody disputes, and relatives of army recruits and draftees. Arranged chronologically by date of filing. Handwritten, handwritten on printed forms, and a very few typewritten.