Difference Between Slave and Servant

Slave vs Servant

Before the civil war broke out in America, it was common for people who were rich and for those who belonged to the upper classes of the society to keep slaves and servants. The terms were used almost interchangeably, and this class of people could be bought or sold like personal property. A man could inherit slaves like his other ancestral property. However, despite similarities in servants and slaves, there were also differences that will be highlighted in this article.


A slave is an individual who has been forced to work against his will. He is treated like a personal property of his master or owner and he could be bought and sold like any other item. The institution of slavery is very old, and it was rampant in America with blacks being treated as slaves till the outbreak of civil war. A slave had to work for his master, and he did not even receive any financial compensation for his labor. He had no rights and was never free. In fact, a son inherited the slaves of his father when his father died.

Slavery has been abolished in most parts of the world, but it continues unabated in many other different forms such as indentured servitude, domestic servants, debt bondage, and even in child marriage. There are millions of slaves still living a miserable life. Most of these are confined to South Asia where they serve as debt slaves. This happens when an individual takes a loan from a lender that he is not able to repay and even does not repay the interest part (interest in such loans is enormous). The result is that the amount to be repaid continues to grow, and the borrower has to accept bondage in lieu of the money he borrowed. In many cases, the borrower dies and his children continue to work as bonded labor to repay the loan taken by their father. This can continue for many generations. Human trafficking is another example of slavery in present day societies. Child labor is another instance where little children are forced to work like slaves in many industries, in poor countries, in different continents.

During colonial times, slaves were brought from the colonies into the country to work for their masters without pay in the hope to achieve freedom after 4-7 years. They were treated badly and had to work hard for long hours for their masters. Most of the slaves were captured in Africa and sold to whites who owned them as their property for lives. They did not understand English language and were often born into slavery.


The word servant in this article refers to domestic servants and the indentured servants that were very common in American colonies in the early years. Poor people in African countries were provided free travel to the American colonies, and they had to work for 4-7 years for the masters who bought them before they could get freedom. Such servants had to work hard for their masters for the duration of their contracts but were eventually free. This class of people consisted of the poor, the homeless, kidnapped, and orphaned children. They agreed to work for the master they were sold to for the duration of their contract and agreed to food, clothing, and shelter in return. They could be sold by their masters to another person. They received poor housing and food and many perished during servitude as they were given harsh penalties on transgression.

What is the difference between Slave and Servant?

• Many servants lived a life similar to that of slaves, but they were hopeful of freedom after the end of their contract.

• Obedience is the essence of slavery whereas service is the essence of servitude.

• Anyone offering his services is a servant whereas anyone offering obedience is a slave.

• A servant is free to work for the chosen master, whereas a slave is forced to work against his will.