assigned servant

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assigned servant (plural assigned servants)

  1. (Britain, Australia, historical) A convict assigned to work as a servant for a free settler (either a male or female convict, and either a male or female settler).
    • 1831, British House of Commons, House of Commons Papers[1], volume 9, page 34:
      And be it further Enacted, by the authority and with the advice aforesaid, That the time during which every offender shall continue in or at any gaol, port, or place of confinement, penitentiary or factory, or as an assigned servant, shall be taken and reckoned in part discharge of the term of his or her transportation.
    • 1833, The Hobart Town Magazine, Volume 1, page 71,
      To be sure, the assigned servant is liable to be called upon, even in the middle of the night, “upon any necessary occasion or emergency;” but as this is an affliction, incident to every servant, bond or free, we must not consider it in any manner as a drawback upon his general advantages. [] In the first place, where is the master, who, upon receiving an assigned servant, applies himself with all his energy to reform him ?
    • 1949, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Sir John Franklin in Tasmania, 1837-1843[2], page 76:
      The assigned servant had the right to make a complaint of his master, but this was, in the nature of things, hardly more than a nominal limitation of the power of the master over the servant.
    • 2005, Jeff Atkinson, Mary Proctor: Convict, Pioneer and Settler[3], page 36:
      An assigned servant had greater freedom than those in the Female Factory, but was away from the company and society of other women convicts, and under much closer 24-hour surveillance by the master or mistress of the house.

Usage notes[edit]

The term convict was considered an insult in early colonial Australia (reference: Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, 1987, paperback →ISBN, page xi.). Assigned servant was one of several euphemisms; see convict for others.