The Law on Indentures passed on May 21, 1806


Source: Acts Passed at the First Session of the First Legislature of the Territory of Orleans (New Orleans: Bradford & Anderson, 1807), chap. XI, pp. 44-56.
In 1806, in its first session, the legislature of the Territory of Orleans (roughly co-extensive with the present boundaries of Louisiana) passed an act regulating apprenticeship. The following is a complete transcription of the text of the law except for summary references to provisions in the margins.

AN ACT for the regulation of the rights and duties of apprentices and indentured servants.



WHEREAS great inconveniences do frequently result from losses sustained by masters and mistresses of apprentices and indented servants, for want of some uniform mode of binding them and regulating their conduct and behaviour during the term of time expressed in their respective indentures, and to prevent them from absenting themselves from the service of their master or mistress, and punish them for their improper behavior, as well as to make the covenants between them mutually obligatory; for remedy thereof,

Sec. 1. BE it enacted by the legislative council and house of representatives of the territory of Orleans, in general assembly convened, That all and every person or persons who may be bound to serve either as an apprentice in any art, mystery or occupation, or as a servant for the sole purpose of ordinary or hard labor, shall be bound to serve the term of time expressed in their indentures respectively: Provided always, That if the party bound as aforesaid be under the age of twenty-one years, he or she must be bound with the assent of his or her parent or guardian or curator, or in case there be no such person in the county where the apprentice or servant resides, then by and with the assent of the mayor of any city which now exists or may be erected hereafter in the territory of Orleans, or the judge of the proper county, with the approbation of one or more justices of the peace within the same: Provided nevertheless, if the party to be bound be a female, that the term of year of her apprenticeship shall expire at or before she arrives at the age of eighteen years, and if a male at the period in which he shall arrive at the age of twenty one years; and if the party either male or female be over the age of twenty-one years at the time of his or her entering into indenture either of apprenticeship or servitude, they shall be perfectly at liberty to bind him or herself (if they be of sound mind and memory) for a time not exceeding seven years, agreeable to the provisions of this act; any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That all indentures hereafter to be made and executed, shall be signed and delivered by the party so bound, in presence of at least two witnesses, (one of whom, if the party be under the age of twenty one years) shall be either the parent, guardian or curator, (if such exist) before the mayor of any city, or the judge of any county in this territory who shall certify the same; and the said mayor or judge, as the case may be, shall receive for either of their services in and about the same, the sum of five dollars; and the said judge or mayor shall order the parties applying for indentures of apprenticeship, to draw the same according to the following form, viz.

"This indenture, made the __________ day of __________ in the year of our Lord __________ Witnesseth, that for divers good causes and considerations, A. B. (if under the age of twenty one years, say with the consent of his or her parent, guardian or curator, or if none such exist, then with the consent and approbation of the mayor, judge or two justices of the peace in the proper county,) hath bound and put him or herself apprentice unto C. D. to learn the art, trade, mystery, or occupation of _________ which the said C. D. now useth, and to dwell and continue with the said C. D. his executors or administrators from the day of the date hereof, until the full end and term of _________ years; during all which period said apprentice shall faithfully serve his (or her) master or mistress, and obey his (or her) lawful commands, and not depart said service without their consent. And the said master or mistress, in consideration of the sum of _________ dollars, in hand paid by the said apprentice, in the said art, trade, mystery or occupation aforesaid, with all things thereunto belonging, shall and will teach or cause to be taught, and shall during the whole of said period find said apprentice with good and sufficient food, meat, drink, washing and lodging, (apparel, if the indentures express the same.) In witness whereof, the said A. B. hath hereunto set his hand and seal, the day and year first above written.

Signed, sealed and delivered in presence of

E.F.                A.B.             [SEAL]
G.H.

And the following form shall hereafter be observed for indentures of servitude, viz.

"This indenture, made the __________ day of __________ in the year of our Lord __________ Witnesseth, that for divers good causes and considerations, A. B. (if under the age of twenty one years, say with the consent, &c. as in the preceding form) of the county of ___________ in the territory of Orleans, for and in consideration of the sum of ____________ dollars to him (or her) paid by C.D. of the same place, as also for divers other good causes, hath bound and put himself servant to the said C. D. to serve him, his executors and assigns, from the day of the date hereof, for and during the term of ___________ years then next ensuing, during which term the said servant, his aid master, his executor and assigns, faithfully shall serve, and that honestly and obediently in all things as a good servant ought to do; and the said master, his or her executors and assigns, during the said term shall find and provide for the said A.B, sufficent meat, drink, apparel and lodging, In witness whereof the said A.B. hath &c. as in the foregoing precedent."

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That if any master or mistress shall abuse or cruelly or evilly treat or shall not discharge his or her duty toward his or her apprentice or servant, or if said apprentice or servant shall abscond or absent him or herself, from the service of his or her master or mistress, without leave, or shall not do or discharge his or her duty to his or her master or mistress, then said master of mistress, or apprentice, or servant, being aggrieved, shall or may apply to the judge of any county where the parties reside for redress, who, after giving due notice to the party against whom the complaint is lodged, and bring said parties, (by warrant or otherwise,) before him, and take such order and direction between the said master and mistress, apprentice or servant as the equity and justice of the case may require.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That when any master or mistress shall remove from this territory or die, before the term of an apprentice who has been bound for the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of any art, mystery, or occupation, hath expired, then the mayor of any city, or the judge of any county within this territory, where such decedent had resided, shall have power to assign over the remainder of the term of apprenticeship, to such other suitable person of the same trade, or calling, mentioned in the indenture; and the assigns shall have the same rights to the service of such apprentice as the master or mistress had at the time of his or her death or removal: Provided, That nothing in this section contained shall be so construed as to extend to servants whose indentures are assignable, and who have been bound for the sole purpose of ordinary and hard labor.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That whenever any apprentice or bound servant shall abscond or absent himself or herself from the service of his or her master without leave, that upon due proof being made to the satisfaction of any mayor or judge of any county court in this territory, the said mayor or judge shall have full power to compel the party thus absconding to serve his or her master or mistress, two days for every one that he or she has absented him or herself, or pay such damages as said mayor or judge may think equitable and just, to his or her said master or mistress.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That in every case where any person shall be bound in any place, where there shall be a school established, either as an apprentice or servant, who shall be under the age of twenty one years, there shall be as clause in their indentures binding the master or mistress, to teach or cause to be taught the said apprentice or servant to read and write, as also to instruct him in the fundamental principles of arithmetic.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That all laws, usages and customs on the subject of apprentices be abrogated and repealed, and this act be in full force from and after the passage thereof.

JOHN WATKINS,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.

JEAN NOEL DESTREHAN,
President of the Legislative Council.

Approved, May 21, 1806,

WILLIAM C. C. CLAIBORNE,
Governor of the Territory of Orleans.

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Created 8/11/98 pfl