The headright system was a property
devised by colonial Virginia
in the United States
to encourage the importation of servant
workers, or bondsmen
. Under the terms of the system, whoever paid the passage of a laborer
gained the right to fifty acres of land. Masters drew benefits for importing more population under subservient
Landowners of modest means used investment in servants to greatly extend their estates, becoming rich merchant-planters lording it over vast estates of land. These early holdings helped in the development of the southern plantation system, replacing the English indentured servants with slaves at a later time. The Chesapeake area brought in some 100,000 indentured servents by 1700 under the headright system.