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Contract of Indenture

This website page was updated on 28 April 1999

The following is an example of the contract of indenture for Chinese immigrants in 1873.

1155 5713

1156 Ship Corona No. 402 5714

1157 5715

Agreement between Soo acheong native of China and THEOPHILUS SAMPSON, Esq., Acting as Agent for the Government of the Colony of British Guiana in the West Indies. Whereas the said T. Sampson has opened an Emigration Office at Canton for obtaining coolies for the Colony of British Guiana, I the said Soo a cheong agree to go on board ship and to go the British Guiana and there to work on the terms set forth below.

1.- I agree to work in British Guiana as I may be directed by the Government Immigration Agent or for any person to whom he may transfer this Contract.

2.- The period of service is five years commencing from the day I begin to work, or if on my arrival I be too ill to work then it shall commence eight days after my recovery.

3.- I agree to do any kind of work that I may be lawfully directed to do, whether in town or country, in fields, in fact-ories, in private houses &c.

4.- I shall not be required to work on Sundays unless I be employed as a domestic servant or to take care of cattle; in such case, and in all cases in which it is the local custom to do so, I must work on Sunday. In all other cases my time during Sunday shall be entirely at my own disposal.

5.- A day consists of 24 hours and I may not be required to work more than nine and a half hours in one day. If I work more than nine and a half hours one day, I may work an equal length of time less on another, or if not, then my employer shall compensate me.

6.- At the end of the five years service my master will give me $50 in lieu of a return passage to China. If at the expiration of the term of the contract I do not wish to return to China, and if the Authorities of the place still permit me to reside in Guiana, in that case my master shall give me the $50 stipulated in the Contract for my own use; but if I wish to enter into another agreement for five years, half of the above sum namely $25 will be given to me by my master as a bonus, and at the end of the second five years the original sum of $50 will be paid to me in lieu of a return passage to China.

7.- If after arrival I become incurably ill so as to be unable to work, my master shall at once pay me the fifty dollars to assist me to return to China, if my master does not do so I may petition the Authorities who shall on their part recover the money for me.

8.- Wherever I may work or in whatever family I may be employed, I must obey the lawful regulations there in force; on the other hand should I at any time feel aggrieved at the conduct of my master towards me, all reasonable facility shall be afforded me, for laying my complaint before the proper officers of the Colony.

9.- When the contract shall have been signed and I have embarked, I cannot again return to the shore; if urgent business requires me to do so, I must first obtain the consent of the said Theophilus Sampson and then I may do so.

10.- It is distinctly agreed that this contract binds the Coolie to go as a labourer to no other place than to British Guiana.

11.- During the five years beginning on the day agreed in the Contract the wages shall be four dollars a month or the equivalent in Gold, for which my master shall be responsible. The wages shall be paid every month and shall not be allowed to fall into arrear.

12.- Every day, food will be issued as follows; 8 oz. salt meat and 2½ lbs. of other articles, all of which shall be good and wholesome.

13.- In case of illness, medical attendance and medicines and proper food will be provided free of expenses till recovery; no matter what such medical expenses may amount to, the master may make no deduction on account of them from the coolie's wages.

14.- Each year there will be given me one suit of clothes and one blanket.

15.- Passage to British Guiana will be provided by the said Theophilus Sampson.

16.- The said Theophilus Sampson will provide to the Emigrant the sum of nil dollars or the equivalent in gold for the use of his family. This sum shall be repaid by the Emigrant in British Guiana to the holder of the Contract by deductions from his wages at the rate of one dollar a month till it all be repaid, but no further deductions from wages may be made. No debt that may be incurred by the coolie during the voyage, or in British Guiana, may be construed into a lien on his services, or availed of to prolong the period of service specified in this contract.

17.- On embarkation three suits of clothes and every thing necessary for the voyage will be provided for the emigrant free of expense to him. The clothes and articles thus provided to be considered a free gift. The coolie is to enjoy their use and is not to be called upon to return them.

18.- While he is working in British Guiana he shall enjoy the protection of the law of the place; on his return however to China, this protection will be abrogated.

19.- I the said coolie now agree that my wages shall be four dollars a month and I declare my willingness, before my departure, to go to British Guiana, it is therefore understood that hereafter if I hear or ascertain that the labourers in British Guiana receive more wages than myself, I must still be satisfied with the wages and other compensating advantages secured to me by this Contract.

All the foregoing clauses were clearly understood and were read and explained before the Contract was signed; both parties being willing and fully understanding the terms, cannot hereafter complain that they were in ignorance thereof. This Contract is signed in English and a Chinese translation is annexed, as a proof, each party holding a copy.

Tung Cho 12 year 10 moon 22 day 11th December 187 3

[In Chinese characters] {Wife Yau She 38 sui} {Soo A-cheong} {Son Soo Sam-kuan 9 sui}

[Signed] Theo Sampson

 This done in duplicate, each of the parties aforesaid retaining one copy, at Canton, on the 11th day of December in the year of our Lord 1873, in the presence of the undersigned, who declares that this Contract has been signed willingly, and with full knowledge of the contents, by the emigrant labourer named herein.

[Signature of Emigration Officer] - Emigration Officer

To this contract is appended the 8th 9th 10th 14th and 22nd clauses of the convention of 22 articles agreed to in 1866 by the Tsung Li Yamun in reference to coolie Emigration, they run as follows -

Article VIII.- The contracts shall specify: 1st The place of destination and the length of the engagement. 2nd The right of the Emigrant to be conveyed back to his own country and the sum which shall be paid at the expiration of the contract to cover the expense of his voyage home and that of his family should they accompany him. 3rd The number of working days in the year and the length of each day's work. 4th The wages, rations, clothing and other advantages promised to the Emigrant. 5th Gratuitous medical attendance. 6th The sums which the Emigrant agrees to set aside out of his monthly wages for the benefit of persons to be named by him should he desire to appropriate any sum to such a purpose. 7th Copy of the 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th and 22nd. Articles of these regula-tions. Any clause which shall purport to render invalid any of the provisions of this regulation is null and void.

Art. IX.- The term of each emigrant's engagement shall not exceed five years, and at the expiration of which, the sum stipu-lated in the contract shall be paid to him to cover the expense of his return to his country. In the event of his obtaining permission to remain without an engagement in the colony, this sum will be paid into his own hands. It shall always be at the option of the emigrant to enter into a second engagement for five years, for which he shall be paid a premium equivalent to one half the cost of his return to China. In such a case the sum destined to cover the expense of his return home shall not be paid until the expira-tion his second engagement. Every emigrant who shall become invalided and incapable of working, shall be allowed, without waiting for the expiration of his contract, to claim before the legal Courts of the Colony, or territory where he may be, payment on his behalf of the sum destined to cover the expense of his return to China.

Art. X.- The Emigrant shall in no case be forced to work more than six days out of seven, nor more than nine hours and a half in the day. The Emigrant shall be free to arrange with his Employer the conditions of work by the piece or job, and all extra labour undertaken during days and hours set apart for rest. The obligation on holidays to attend to cattle or to do such service as the necessities of daily life may demand shall not be considered as labour.

Art. XIV.- Any sum handed over to the emigrant before his departure shall only be regarded in the light of a Premium upon his engagement. All advances upon his future wages are formally forbidden except in the case of their being appropriated to the use of his family, and the Consul will take special pains and provide against their being employed in any other way. Such advances shall not exceed six months wages and shall be covered by a stoppage of one dollar per month until the entire debt shall have been paid. It is absolutely forbidden whether on the voyage or during the emigrant's stay in the Colony or Territory in which he may be employed to make any advances to him in money or kind payable after the expiration of his engagement. Any agreement of this nature shall be null and void and shall give the creditor no power to oppose the return of the Emigrant to his country at the time fixed by the contract.

Art. XXII.- In the distribution of emigrants as labourers, the husband shall not be separated from his wife, nor shall parents be separated from their children under fifteen years of age. No labourer shall be bound to change his employer without his consent, except in the event of the factory or plantation upon which he is employed changing hands.

The above are such of the clauses of the Convention of 1866 that should enter into the Contract and should be considered as binding upon both parties.

* * * * * * * *

Received an advance of nil dollars on account of wages for the use of my family, and a bonus of ten dollars for myself, and a gratuity of twenty five dollars for my wife Yaushe and one child

[In Chinese characters] { Soo A-cheong }

* * * * * * * *

I agree to employ Soo-a-cheong upon the terms stated above.

[Signed] [Employer's representative]

I certify that the labourer whose name appears above has been allotted by His Excellency the Governor of British Guiana, to plantation La Grange , and that the signature was made acknowledged in my presence.

[Signed] James Crosby

Immigration Agent General of British Guiana


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