The Revoluntionary College Project
A View of Chestertown

ABOVE - a closeup of the painting "A View of Chestertown from White House Farm”  Measuring approximately 64” x 26”, painted on four yellow pine boards in the 1790s, the picture shows Simon Wilmer’s farm. Chestertown and the original college building, which burned in 1827, can be seen in the distance.  Long lost, the painting was traced by Art History Professor Robert Janson-La Palme to a Wilmer descendant, the Reverend Richard Hooker Wilmer, who donated it to the college in 1986.  The painting hangs in the reception area of the College President’s office in Bunting Hall.

Albin Kowalewski graduated from Washington College in 2007 with a  double major in History and American Studies.

Red SwirlAn Imperfect Institution: Slavery’s Legacy at Washington College

By Albin Kowalewski

“The year 2005 must be looked upon as a watershed period for institutional atonement,” wrote reparations scholar Roy L. Brooks .[1] As part of a national trend, many of the nation’s foremost educational and financial institutions are attempting to unveil the role slavery played in their histories. The same can now be said for the first college founded in the United States. This paper will attempt to demonstrate the close relationship Washington College had with slavery and how it permeated even the most intimate of daily activities—from student housing to gambling and drinking. Slave labor also built the fortunes of the initial donors to the College, many of whom assisted in the founding of the country as well. Without the collective work of roughly 4,000 enslaved black men and women, it is reasonable to assume that William Smith, D.D. would have failed to collect the necessary money to even build the College. Eastern Shore slaves also helped fire the kilns used to make the bricks that built Washington College from the ground up. At least a few of those buildings remain standing in the twenty-first century, an ironic monument as slaves were frequently denied an education of their own.

In their most recent book, Alfred Blumrosen and his late wife Ruth argue that the institution of slavery helped to unify the British colonies in America and catalyzed the Revolution. The Somerset decision in England outlawed slavery in England and encroached on the colonies’ notion of private property. Slaves were legal possessions in North America but Granville Sharp’s activities threatened the continued existence of slavery and the economic infrastructure in the colonies. The importance of slavery in south and the indirect reliance of northern industry functioned as a common ground for a people quickly developing an autonomous identity.[2]

If this is the case, it seems fitting that the first college founded in the United States touted the name of the slaveholding Revolutionary idol. But aside from the “guilt by association” phenomenon, Washington College directly benefited from bound human labor. The earliest indication of the College’s abetment came from William Smith’s pursuit for funding. According to Washington College historian L.W. Barroll, Smith used the home of Maryland Governor and Queen Anne’s Countian William Paca as his fundraising “headquarters.” Paca donated £50, and his connections as Governor granted Smith access to the wealthiest slaveowners on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.[3]    

As a career minister and Scotsman, it is difficult to determine whether Smith felt any remorse about his petitions to slaveowners. Before his involvement with Washington College, Smith worked with abolitionist Benjamin Franklin at the University of Pennsylvania. When partnership between Smith and Franklin dissolved, Smith may have looked to the slaveowning-south as a surefire way of procuring the means to establish a school regardless of its position on slavery. The University of Pennsylvania inevitably indirectly benefited from the institution of slavery. But with Franklin as the figurehead of the school and its geographic position in cosmopolitan Philadelphia, history may have subconsciously ignored its relationship to slavery. (That is, of course, until now.)

Recent works by the Blumrosens, Gary Nash, and Bruce Ackerman do much to shatter the rose-colored lens that students of history previously viewed the American Revolution.[4] Each work questions the motivations of the “patriots” and redefines the legacies of the Founding Fathers. As a friend of Benjamin Rush and contemporary of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, William Smith’s support of the War may categorize him with the other ambivalent icons. Although Smith is dwarfed by the hagiography that permeates the lives of the more popular Revolutionary leaders, their collaboration implicates Smith in the perpetuation of slavery.[5] If we take the Blumrosens’ thesis at face-value, then Thomas Paine’s words upon Smith’s death directly incriminate him in the continuation and protection of slavery. “His early and inflexible patriotism,” wrote Paine, “will endear his Memory to all the true friends of the American Revolution.”[6]

Smith is described by one biographer “as a lover of established institutions and those who ruled them.”[7] Slavery following the Revolution fortified itself in the American economy. As a southern institution, Smith had no choice but to tap into the wealth of the slavery infused economy of the Eastern Shore. Smith, however, did not travel on foreign ground. He owned slaves and subscribed to the southern rhetoric used by slaveowners. His concepts of racial equality were not unlike his peers. While still working in Philadelphia, Smith occasionally invited local Native Americans to his classes. But, instead of appreciating their unique culture, he believed exposure to British society would unveil their Anglican potential.[8]

More importantly, Smith owned at the bare minimum two slaves. Like Washington, Smith owned a slave he became particularly intimate with and dependent upon. During Smith’s tenure at Washington College, he traveled frequently between Chestertown and Philadelphia, and likely accompanied by Primus, “a favorite slave” of the family. When the Smith’s moved back to Philadelphia, they fortuitously arrived in time for the outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1793. Smith’s wife was tended to on her death bed by her fourteen year old slave, but died nonetheless. [9]

One of Smith’s biographers makes the conjecture that Smith hired Primus’ services throughout the city nursing the sick and burying the dead.[10] A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, written by Thomas Jones, focuses on many relationships in Smith’s life but lacks discussion on his rapport to the vibrant black leader Richard Allen. Allen, in a sign of respect, attended the Spartan funeral for Smith’s wife; only four mourned the internment—Smith, his slave Primus, Allen, and the coffin maker. Allen’s ambivalent relationship with Smith may indicate a shift in Smith’s ideology regarding slavery. More research is required in order to determine the genuine nature of the relationship, but later in his life Smith continued to uphold the virtues (or lack thereof) of slavery.   

In an anecdotal account of one conversation shared between Smith and Primus as the two inspected the new family mausoleum, Smith tells Primus that “’I shall be buried there, but one like you cannot be.” With a response that Smith as a minister should have appreciated, Primus said, “’Alright Massah Smith, it won’t matter. The Devil will know where to find you wherever you are.’” In 1801, unlike Smith’s white servant Isabella was buried inside the mausoleum shortly after Primus himself died and buried on the periphery of the family plot.[11]

In 1783, the Devil was the least of Smith’s worries. He relentlessly scoured the Delmarva Peninsula looking for benefactors, hoping from one plantation to the next. When Smith concluded his mendicant tour he collected donations from roughly 358 white patrons, in addition to talking with countless others. The most striking aspect that emerges from his trip is neither his stamina nor his persistence; it is, instead, the roughly 4,000 slaves he would have seen working the fields owned by his benefactors.

The statistical figures I have computed for this paper are unfortunately not as accurate as I had originally desired because of variant and incomplete Census records. However, the existent numbers do provide a telling picture of the Shore economy and the overall reliance of Washington College on enslaved labor. Of the approximately 356 donors, only 14 did not own slaves.[12] Somerset County records are regrettably missing and Dorchester County statistics are horrifyingly incomplete, but the figures I did find make it painstakingly clear that Smith targeted the wealthy, who inevitably held slaves.

In 1790, out of the original 356 contributors, 168 definitively owned slaves.[13] Collectively, these 168 donors possessed a staggering 3,681 slaves. Of the 3,681 slaves 683 were owned by three men—Edward Lloyd of Talbot County, John Beal Bordley of Queen Anne’s County, and George Washington of Virginia. Lloyd held 305 slaves; Brodley, 128; and Washington, about 250.[14] Though they owed 18.5% of the total slave holding, their wealth in capital did not necessarily translate into excessively large donations.

As the largest slaveowner in the state of Maryland, Lloyd had the capacity to endow Washington College beyond Smith’s wildest dreams. In fact, Lloyd’s slaveholdings totaled more than the entirety of Allegany County.[15] However, he was one of four men to give Smith a £60 subscription—the others being Charles Troup of Queen Anne’s, William Ennalls of Dorchester County, and Daniel Charles Heath, of Cecil County.[16] Heath, in fact, entertained Washington and Governor Eden as they passed through Cecil County in 1773.[17] Likewise, Bordley was one of ten to donate £50. Of those ten, Governor William Paca owned the closest amount with 92 slaves.[18]

Of the three largest individual donors—Robert Goldsborough and Henry Ennalls of Dorchester County, and John Cadwalader of Kent County—only records of Goldsborough exist. A close friend of Washington’s from the War and acquainted with Smith, Cadawalader died before the Census was taken. Robert Goldsborough’s £100 donation seems exceedingly generous given his relatively average slave holding (41 slaves) for the lower Eastern Shore. The fifteen men who owned 41 or more slaves in 1790 donated on average £31.2. And of those fifteen, thirteen owned more than slaves than Robert Goldsborough.

Slaves per subscription by county were highest in Talbot County. The nineteen slaveowners I was able to find from Talbot collectively owned 805 slaves. Queen Anne’s was second with 815 slaves between 33 slaveowners. Worchester County was third, tallying 508 slaves between 27 slaveowners; and Kent County, fourth, with 795 slaves between 58 slaveowners.[19] 

As evident in the slave holdings, the majority of the lower shore subscribers acquired their fortunes through their farming operations. Washington College’s native Chestertown provided its entrepreneurs with opportunities beyond the plantation. A thriving port before and during the Revolution, goods shipped from Chestertown traveled to all corners of the known world. Wheat, tobacco, and strong timber packed the holds of merchant schooners bound for Pennsylvania, New England, South Carolina, the British Isles, and the West Indies.[20] Not yet overshadowed by Baltimore on the Western Shore, Chestertown functioned as a major nexus between the industrial north and agricultural south.

Merchant-planters manipulated their dual identities to keep as much of their businesses “in house” as possible. Large slave holdings in pre-Revolution Kent County enabled merchant-planters to harvest and export their own products, effectively cutting-out the middle man where most of a profit could be lost. The founding of a college in their home town provided these gentleman-planter-merchants the possibility of educating their sons without having to send them abroad or to New England. The ever-talkative Smith doubtfully said much to convince wealthy Chestertownians to subscribe.

The life and business of Kent County merchant-planter Thomas Smyth provides the best example of the type of man buying stock in the College. Born in Western Kent County in 1729, Smyth descended from a powerful and wealthy family. Smyth rose to prominence within Chestertown and on the eve of the Revolution, he held the judgeship for the county and accepted a nomination to the Maryland Convention where he was elected chairman of a committee organized to help the blockaded citizens of Boston.[21]

His merchant business boomed in conjunction with the relative affluence of the county in the years preceding the Revolution. Smyth and his business partner brother-in-law Emory Sudler owned the 160-ton schooner Friendship, and frequently shipped upwards of 6,000 bushels of wheat to Spain and Portugal.[22] Smyth owned 35 slaves in 1790 making him the sixth largest slaveowner in the county and Sudler owned 11.[23] The majority of Smyth’s slaves worked the wheat fields in the southwestern quadrant of the county at his Trumpington plantation. Smyth’s operated his mercantile business from his home at the foot of High Street in Chestertown, just a few blocks from the site chosen as the home for Washington College. 

Luckily for William Smith, Thomas Smyth had yet to fully feel the fiscal toll the Revolution had taken. Smyth often dug deep into his own pocket to provision troops from the county—two of whom were his sons William and Thomas, Jr. Rarely did Smyth receive compensation for his troubles from the western shore treasurer and by the conclusion of the War, Smyth had to declare virtual bankruptcy.[24] But, in 1782, when Smith called, Smyth obliged with a generous donation of £30. Smyth’s son Thomas, Jr. and Sudler also contributed £18 apiece.

Smith accumulated £6,513 over the course of 1782 in subscriptions to the school. Approximately £4,000 of which was paid in silver—an impressive amount given the relative scarcity of hard specie during the Revolution and a testament to the earning power of slave labor.[25] The majority of the money Smith and the Board of Visitors and Governors put toward the construction of the main building, which some estimates claimed to be the largest building in the nation at the time. According to one college historian Smith hired Robert Allison of Philadelphia as the primary contractor. [26] Whether Allison tapped into the labor resources of the Eastern Shore remains to be seen and more research is required. Smith also hired Samuel Hadley, as the “official bricklayer.” Smith also seems to have contracted at least part of the construction out to a family of bricklayers named Foreman. In 1784, during the initial building process bricklayer Jacob Foreman lived on College owned property, and the following year Smith bought 501,769 bricks from Joseph Foreman for £815.[27]

The labor, however, remains a mystery. Did Allison, Hadley, and the Foremans use slaves to painstakingly piece the four-story edifice together? In 1790, Jacob Foreman did not own any slaves, and neither did Hadley.[28] A controversial painting from the 1930s depicting Governor Paca laying the first stone reveals a bare-backed black man performing the actual labor. It is likely slaves composed the main labor force given their prominence in the Shore economy. But, bricklaying required more “skill” than harvesting wheat.

Another possibility may reside in the incipient free black community. As county farmers concentrated their production on wheat the demand for enslaved labor waned. Like the wheat harvest, the construction of the college building would have been a temporary job and free wage labor may have proved more profitable. County planters often hired slaves from neighboring plantations during the harvest and the indentures included reservations for room and board for the hired slave. Free blacks, on the other hand, were not necessarily promised a stipulation for termed residence. In his notes on the Commencement of 1788, Smith makes the provision to place the master carpenter and bricklayer at the head of the graduation procession.[29] His recognition of their labor is a testament to their importance but would they have been representative of the entire labor force? Not likely.

Although speculation surrounds the actual construction of the building, the presence of slaves in satellite tasks is virtually confirmed. In the summer and fall of 1785, Benjamin Chambers billed the Visitors and Governors of the college for bringing wood over the Chester River on multiple occasions and for carting scaffolding to the construction site. Chambers’ 18 slaves more than likely performed the grunt work.[30] In September, Cambers’ slaves brought one cord of wood to Mr. Hyland’s “to finish burning the brick kiln.” The previous year 1784, John Hyland leased Lott 24 from the College for £57. He lived directly next to bricklayer Jacob Foreman and in 1790 Hyland owned two slaves, sufficient to tend the kiln. The following fall, Chambers brought 3,300 bricks to Mr. Claypoole; James Claypoole owned five slaves in 1790. The next month, October 1786, Chambers delivered an additional 10,000 bricks to Claypoole by way of William Carter and his one slave. A few days later, Chambers took an order from Dr. Ferguson, not yet the second Principal of the College. By the time Ferguson accepted his presidential appointment when Smith returned to Philadelphia he possessed nine slaves.[31]

This web of connections spun between subscribers and builders of the college demonstrates the involvement of slave labor. As Clerk of the Court, Chambers’ attention focused on the legal proceedings of the county and would have relied on his slaves to complete his other transactions. Hyland’s meager slaveholding was probably appropriate given the type of work he did; it did not take many slaves to tend and feed the kiln. Likewise, another bricklayer Ephraim Vansant owned six slaves in 1790.[32] The number of slaves these men possessed distinguished them from their wealthier peers. The fortunes predicated on large plantations and their congruent slaveholdings paid for the college, while it seems small specialized slaveholdings built the school.

The college building was almost lost in a fire in 1817, was it not for the help of a local free black, Thomas Bowser. Early one December morning in 1817, the building that had been so meticulously constructed almost burned down. The official records of the Board of Visitors and Governors recognize Thomas Taylor and James Lynch “for their great exertions in extinguishing the late fire” and awarded Bowser a two dollar compensation for his assistance.[33] 

Two years later the Board established a committee to draw-up new regulations regarding student life. The resultant “Rules and Regulations of Student Boarders at Washington College,” clearly specified the nature of slave-student relationships as tolerated by the school. Three points in particular define the treatment of domestic slaves owned by the steward:

8. No student shall require any of his servants of the steward to perform any service for him not in the way of their ordinary business.

9. No student shall at any time offer the least insulting behavior to the steward nor abuse any of his domestics.

13. The students shall endeavor to keep every part of the college and especially their own rooms free from filth for which purpose they may require the servants of the steward to make up their beds and sweep their rooms and other parts of the college at least once a day, but no student shall require the servants to sweep out the dirt which he or a fellow student may have purposely made, or make up his bed more than once a day unless in case of sickness.[34]


It is interesting to note that the Board never used the term “slave” to denote the bound help of the college steward, choosing instead the less degrading term “servant.” The college’s desire to reform their code of conduct may indicate a lack of chivalry on the part of its students. The specific nature of the new rules may lend credence to the proliferation of rambunctious students and a genuine lack of respect. That slaves held active roles in the operations of the college is now obvious. It seems that students purposely antagonized the slaves whom they lived with in the home of the steward. Students and slaves interacted closely enough to warrant a level of protection for the “servants” of the steward.

As we have already seen, free blacks also played an important role in the college’s history. By the 1820s, free black labor dominated the wheat market in the county. The economic viability of unskilled free black labor proved its worth and farmers relied on them heavily during the planting and harvesting seasons. With the increase in employment opportunities came a parallel growth in home ownership, inside and surrounding Chestertown. When the Board first accepted the State issued land grant on which to build the college, they hired a surveyor and divided the surplus land into plots for lease. Between 1784 and 1806, the Land Records of Kent County recorded the college as making 36 lease transactions, in the hopes of procuring more funding.[35] In 1827, “collorad man” Shadrick Brown lived on one of these lots rented he from Samuel Cloak, who purchased the land from the school. Cloak wrote to his friend Theodore Brown and requested that he compose a new lease for the property upon Shadrick Brown’s request. Shadrick and Samuel must have had a cordial relationship as Samuel’s terms appear quite generous.  

Washington College’s complicity in the system of slavery must have struck a strong cord in the hearts and minds of Chestertown’s abolitionist population. Ten years after the founding of the college, the First Annual American Anti-slavery Convention met in Philadelphia. Joseph Wilkinson, James Maslin, and Abraham Ridgley represented Chestertown’s Abolitionist Society in 1794, and Edward Scott and James Houston acted as its ambassadors the following year.[36]  None of the five antislavery supporters donated a single shilling in 1782. We may never know if the college’s direct connection to the largest slaveholders on the Eastern Shore averted their subscriptions. A few of the men, however, did not completely isolate themselves from the college. Edward Scott graduated from Washington College and James Houston sat on the Board of Visitors and Governors in the 1810s. 

Another Washington College graduate, Richard Tilghman Earle took a much different path. Upon his graduation in 1787 he took a position in the law office of Thomas Bedingfields Hands, the father-in-law of Thomas Smyth, in Chestertown. He was elected Chief Judge of the Second District Court in Maryland in 1809, and moved back home to Centreville, in Queen Anne’s County. His slaveholdings were some of the largest in the county, but in 1839 one of his slaves named Jacob Green ran away. Green eventually made it to Pennsylvania where he resided for roughly six months until his employer filed for bankruptcy. When the bank came to collect his boss’ debts, Green inadvertently revealed his true identity. Green was brought back into Maryland and Earle, in disgust, sold him to Kentucky. Green describes Earle as an abusive and often unrelenting master, whose wife juggled two affairs with local planters simultaneously.[37]   

One cannot help but wonder about the tensions that may have existed on Washington’s campus with such a dichotomized student body. The small classes engendered an intimate learning environment and it is likely the young students came to know one-another well. In this sense, Washington College was indeed microcosmic of the larger Maryland population. Historian Barbara Jean Fields termed Maryland “the Middle ground,” due to its geographic location and the oscillating attitudes between pro and antislavery beliefs.[38]  Washington College as an institution, however, supported and relied on slavery to provide an income and labor force.

The question remains: What should Washington College do about its tainted past? Only the powers that be in the administration can provide a complete answer, but if current trends are any indication, a formal introspection should be in order. The controversy and challenge of the issue make it especially poignant in a race-conscious 21st century. The issue should not, however, remain ignored. When Brown University concluded its trailblazing investigation schools across the southern and eastern seaboard rang the tocsin of their innocence without fully delving into the records. The difference between Brown University and Washington College lies in their respective involvement. More research is needed to determine whether Washington College officials engaged in the international slave trade, as the Brown family of Rhode Island had. The subscribers’ ownership and the builders’ ostensible reliance on slaves should provide enough indication to warrant a more thorough examination.[39] 

This initial investigation into Washington College’s relationship with slavery on the Eastern Shore, although rough and incomplete, provides insight into the type of institution William Smith envisioned when he first came to Chestertown. Smith had a potential blank-check in the form of sympathetic, Revolution inspired Eastern Shore plantation owners, and he need only to present the college as congruent to southern philosophies. As a slaveowner, himself, Smith could meet subscribers on equal footing. When it came time to build the first edifice, Smith, yet again, seemed to have hired builders who employed slave labor. The presence of slaves on campus continued well into the 19th century, as their relationships with the students became more intimate and occasionally hostile.

Washington College should not interpret these realizations as damning or incriminating. The name “Washington College” stands as a monument to a crimson past, but its history reflects that of most histories from the late 18th century on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Slavery constituted a major portion of the lives of Shore citizens during the early Republic and Washington College is no different.

Bibliography -

Washington College Archives

Miscellaneous Papers, Vertical File 1728-1832

Miscellaneous Papers, Vertical File, 1816-1871

The Wickes Family Papers

Kent County Court

Land Records

Chattel Records

Tax Assessment, 1782

Kent County Historical Society

B.B. Browne, unpublished biographical Sketch of the Smyth Family

Queen Anne’s County Historical Society

Unpublished biographical sketch of Richard Tilghman Earle

Books and Articles -

Ackerman, Bruce. The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall and the Rise of Presidential Democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.  

Bartlett, Thomas “After Brown U.’s Report on Slavery, Silence (So Far),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 November 2006, A32-A35.

Blumrosen, Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen. Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution. Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2005.

Brooks, Roy L. “Repairing the Past: Confronting the Legacies of Slavery, Genocide, & Caste” From the Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Gilder Lehrman Center

International Conference at Yale University, October 27-29, 2005. Online via

Browne, William Hand ed. Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7-December 31, 1776 Vol. XII. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1803.

Clemens, Paul G.E The Atlantic Economy and Colonial Maryland’s Eastern Shore: From Tobacco to Grain. Cornell University Press: London, 1980.

Daniels, Christine Marie “Alternative Workers in a Slave Economy: Kent County, Maryland, 1657-1810.” Dissertation John’s Hopkins University 1990. University

Microfilms International: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1991.

Fields, Barbara Jeanne. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Green, Jacob D. Narrative of the Life of J.D. Green, A Runaway Slave, from Kentucky Containing an Account of his Three escape In 1839, 1846, and 1849.

Huddersfield: Henry Fielding, 1864. Online via <>. 

Jones, Thomas Firth, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves: A Biography of William Smith (1727-1803). Philadelphia: Clinton Book Company, 1972.

Nash, Gary. The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America. New York: Viking, 2005.

Scharf, Col. J. Thomas. The Chronicles of Baltimore; Being a Complete History of “Baltimore Town” and Baltimore City from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1874.

[1] Roy L. Brooks, “Repairing the Past: Confronting the Legacies of Slavery, Genocide, & Caste,” pg. 4, from the Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Gilder Lehrman Center International Conference at Yale University, October 27-29, 2005. Online via <>.

[2] Alfred Blumrosen and Ruth Blumrosen, Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution. (Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2005), passim.

[3] L.W. Barroll, “Article,” 1910, unpublished, Vertical File (VF), 1728-1832. Washington College Archives, Miller Library (WCAML); Also see Barroll, “Washington College, 1783,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 6, (June, 1911), 164-179.

[4] Gary Nash, The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America, (New York: Viking, 2005), passim; Bruce Ackerman, The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall and the Rise of Presidential Democracy, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), passim.  

[5] For the purposes of this argument, I specifically implicate the Revolutionary leaders, many of whom owned slaves. This statement does not fully “hold water” if applied to the general population.

[6] Barroll, “Washington College, 1783,” 3. WCAML.

[7] Thomas Firth Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves: A Biography of William Smith (1727-1803). (Philadelphia: Clinton Book Company, 1972), 17.

[8] Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, 80.

[9] Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, 178.

[10] Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, 162, 178.

[11] Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, 192.

[12] All of the slave ownership records are derived from the First U.S. Census of 1790. Since Washington College was founded eight years prior the exact figures are inevitably different. Many of the original donors are not listed in the 1790 Census, and many names are repeated making it next to impossible to determine with any exactness the official number of slaves owned by the College’s benefactors. These statistics, therefore, are quite rough around the edges but serve their purpose in demonstrating how rampant slave ownership was on the Eastern Shore following the Revolution.

[13] This statistic fails, of course to include Somerset County, while others were not listed in the Census altogether; First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland, passim.

[14] The Salem Mercury reported in 1789 that George Washington owned 250 slaves, 140 horses, 112 cows, 235 oxen, and 500 sheep on approximately 10,000 acres. Salem Mercury, July 28, 1789. WCAML; First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland, passim.

[15] Compiled using the First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland.

[16] The 1790 Census lists Charles Troup as residing in Talbot County and owning six slaves and living with one free black. William Ennalls is not listed in the 1790 Census, but all the Ennalls living in Dorchester County owned slaves. Heath is also not listed in the 1790 Census. First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland, passim.

[17] E.A. Howard to Maynard White, August 19, 1962, V.F. 1728-1832, “Letters on Original Cecil County Subscribers,” WCAML.

[18] First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland, passim.

[19] These figures apply only for the men I was able to find in the Census. Two of Talbot’s donors did not own slaves; two of Queen Anne’s; potentially two of Worchester; and four in Kent. First U.S. Census, 1790, Maryland, passim.

[20] Christine Marie Daniels, “Alternative Workers in a Slave Economy: Kent County, Maryland , 1657-1810,” dissertation John’s Hopkins University 1990 (University Microfilms International: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1991), 6.

[21] B.B. Browne, unpublished Smyth family history, Kent County Historical Society; Maryland Gazette, June 21, 1774.

[22] Paul G.E Clemens, The Atlantic Economy and Colonial Maryland’s Eastern Shore: From Tobacco to Grain (Cornell University Press: London, 1980), 203.

[23] U.S. First Census, 1790, Kent County, Maryland, 83, 84.

[24] Council to Smyth, August 3, 1776, Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, July 7-December 31, 1776, William Hand Browne, ed. vol. XII (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1803), 165.

[25] Jones, A Pair of Lawn Sleeves, 144.

[26] Barroll, “Washington College, 1783,” 9.

[27] Indenture, “Visitors and Governors of Washington College to John Hyland,” 1784, Kent County Chattel Records, E.F. 6 pg. 294; Barroll, “Washington College, 1783,” 9.

[28] First U.S. Census, 1790, Kent County, Maryland, 81, Barroll, “Washington College, 1783,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 178.

[29] Rev. William Smith, Journal,“Dedication of Washington College, 1788,” VF 1728-1832, WCAML.

[30] First U.S. Census, 1790, Kent County, Maryland, 81.

[31] Account of  Visitors and Governors to Benjamin Chambers, 1785, VF 1728-1832. WCAML; Indenture, Visitors and Governors to John Hyland, Chattel Records, Kent County, Maryland, EF 6, p.294; First U.S. Census, 1790, Kent County, Maryland, passim.

[32] Indenture, Ephraim Vansant to George Vansant, January 28, 1784, Chattel Records, Kent County, Maryland, EF 6, p.409; First U.S. Census, 1790, Kent County, Maryland, 84.

[33] Minutes, December 8, 1817, Board of Visitors and Governors of Washington College, 1816-1848, VF 1816-1871, WCAML.

[34] Minutes, July 16, 1819, Board of Visitors and Governors of Washington College, 1816-1848, pg.23. VF 1816-1871, WCAML

[35] Indentures, Visitors and Governors of Washington College to John Ferguson, Samuel Armon, Joshua Sevey, Morgan Brown, Isaac Perkins, John Hyland, Joseph Bruff, Peter Charville, Samuel Keene, Benjamin Chambers, John Scott, Thomas Kemp, Richard Charmichael, William Paca, William Bordley, Griffin Faunt LeRoy, Colin Ferguson, Thomas Smyth, James Anderson, John Page, Robert Anderson, William Dunn, Samuel Wallis, Edward Beck, Elizabeth Hopkins, and Peter Snyder. Land Records, Kent County, Maryland.

[36] J. Thomas Scharf, The Chronicles of Baltimore; Being a Complete History of “Baltimore Town” and Baltimore City from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, (Baltimore: Turnbull Brother, 1874), 259.

[37] Jacob D. Green, Narrative of the Life of J.D. Green, A Runaway Slave, from Kentucky Containing an Account of his Three escape In 1839, 1846, and 1849. (Huddersfield: Henry Fielding, 1864), passim. Online via <>. 

[38] Barbara Jean Fields, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland in the Nineteenth Century, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), passim.

[39] Thomas Bartlett, “After Brown U.’s Report on Slavery, Silence (So Far),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 November 2006, A32-A35.





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