/pee"euh nij/, n.1. the condition or service of a peon.2. the practice of holding persons in servitude or partial slavery, as to work off a debt or to serve a penal sentence.[1840-50, Amer.; PEON1 + -AGE]
* * *Form of involuntary servitude, the origins of which date to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when the conquerors forced the poor, especially Indians, to work for Spanish planters and mine operators.In the U.S., the word peon referred to workers compelled by contract to pay their creditors in labour. Though prohibited under U.S. federal law, peonage persisted in some southern states through state laws that made labour compulsory. Another form of peonage exists when prisoners sentenced to hard labour are farmed out to labour camps.
* * *form of involuntary servitude, the origins of which have been traced as far back as the Spanish conquest of Mexico, when the conquerors were able to force the poor, especially the Indians, to work for Spanish planters and mine operators. In both the English and Spanish languages, the word peon became synonymous with labourer but (labour law) was restricted in the United States to those workers compelled by contract to pay their creditors in labour. Although the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and congressional legislation after the American Civil War prohibited any such involuntary servitude in the United States, the former slaveholding states of the South devised certain legislation to make labour compulsory. Under these state laws, employers could induce or deceive men into signing contracts for labour to pay their debts or to avoid fines that might be imposed by the courts.Another form of peonage exists when prisoners sentenced to hard labour are farmed out to either private or governmental labour camps.
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