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Compensated emancipation was a method of ending slavery, under which the enslaved person's owner received compensation in exchange for manumitting the slave. This could be monetary or it could be a period of labor, an indenture. Cash compensation rarely was equal to the slave's market value.
An indenture was seen as a compromise between slavery and outright emancipation, an intermediate step. However, no one was happy with compensated emancipation. Owners complained that their compensation was small compared with their loss; they were paid less, often much less, than what the slaveowner could have sold the enslaved person for (the market value). Governments and non-slaveholding citizens complained about the financial burden of compensating the owners, while for the formerly enslaved it seemed ludicrous that those who had all along benefited from slavery should now receive additional compensation, while its victims received no compensation whatsoever. Compensation of slaveholders was also akin to compensating a thief for returning stolen property, and therefore could not truly be considered compensation, but rather a reward for a crime that no law could legitimize.To be sure, the indentures system represented for the formerly enslaved an improvement over slavery itself; those indentured could not be forcibly relocated, children and other family members could not be taken away by force, and they could no longer be whipped or raped. However, they were still not free.

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