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Definition of PEONAGE
a: the use of laborers bound in servitude because of debt
b: a system of convict labor by which convicts are leased to contractors
: the condition of a peon
First Known Use of PEONAGE
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.