headright system



A headright is a legal grant of land of settlers moving into an area uninhabited by settlers. Headrights are most notable for their role in the expansion of the thirteen British colonies in North America; the Virginia Company of London granted head to settlers, and the Plymouth Company followed suit. Most headrights were for 1 to of land, and were given to anyone willing to cross the Atlantic Ocean and help populate the colonies. These were granted to anyone who would pay for the transportation costs of a laborer or Indentured servant. By giving the land to the landowning masters the indentured servants had little or no chance to procure their own land. This kept many colonials poor and led to strife between the poor servants and wealthy land.

The Headright system

The headright system was used in Jamestown, Virginia, as an attempt to solve labor shortages due to the advent of the tobacco economy, which required large plots of land with many workers. It was also a way to attract immigrants. Virginian colonists were each given two headrights of 50 acres (200,000 m²); immigrant colonists who paid for their passage were given one headright, and individuals would receive one headright each time they paid for the passage of another individual. This last mechanism increased the division between the wealthy land-owners and the working poor. Many people came to the colonies in an attempt to gain land, but were denied headrights by kings. Kings wanted the land to produce more goods for their trading companies. The system enabled wealthy property owners to acquire more land by paying the passage of indentured servants.

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