Manumission & Abolition

During the American Revolution, many white Americans began questioning the institution of slavery. The ownership of human beings seemed incongruous with–possibly even dangerous to—a republican form of government. On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, two other factors were even more significant. Quakers had begun opposing slavery in the 1750’s, and as Methodism soon swept through the region, a significant number of slaveholders began to free their slaves on religious grounds. The changing economy of the region made manumission (freeing of individual enslaved people) practical, too, as farmers moved away from labor-intensive tobacco towards corn and wheat production. A small group of whites organized to press for the abolition of slavery altogether.
Knowledge of slaveholders who freed people they enslaved and those who debated abolishing slavery altogether is important to understand the Revolutionary era. Dismissing slaveholding as something whites simply did or found acceptable denies much of our history. The majority of white Marylanders never enslaved people. Many of those who did reconsidered the practice and freed some–if not all–of the people they held in bondage. Yet others supported legal abolition.
Members of the Washington College community were well-represented in both these endeavors—individual manumission and the broader goal of complete abolition of slavery.

Individual Manumissions

Between 1781 and 1857, forty-four College-related owners in Kent County manumitted nearly two hundred people they enslaved. The following is a list of slaveholders who manumitted one or more of the people they held in slavery, the names of those freed, and the dates. Unless otherwise indicated, the enslaved people mentioned were freed immediately.

TBF: to be freed; slaveholders often set a date for manumission in the future. This was particularly done when the enslaved person was a child, teenager, or young adult. Some slaveholders used the promise of future freedom to ensure good work and behavior from an enslaved person. This practice was sometimes referred to as term slavery and was common on the Eastern Shore. For women of childbearing age, reference was sometimes made that any children born while they finished out their term of slavery would be born free.

1781 Isaac Perkins, subscriber, Board member – Tom TBF 1792, George TBF 1782, Cuff TBF 1803.

James Claypoole, subscriber – Priss age 45.

Morgan Browne, subscriber – Dinah age 40, Jack age 17, Harsey age 14, Tom age 11, Pill age 8, Minta age 6, all TBF at age 27; Joe age 40, TBF 1782.

1782 Raisin Gale, subscriber – Isaack, Abraham, both under age 35, TBF 1783.

John Lorain, subscriber – George, Jane, Mint, all TBF 1786; Abraham TBF 1803.

John Moore, subscriber – Benjamin Senior and wife Dorcas TBF at the death of the grantor and his wife; Methys TBF 1797; Benjamin Junior 1799; Daniel 1802; Festus, 1804; Aaron, 1806; Hannah; 1802; Tom, 1804; Roxellanas, 1803; Sib, 1810. In the event of the death of the grantor, his wife and son George prior to the freedom of these slaves, they shall be free.

Emory Sudler, subscriber – Samuel Coger, age 55.

1783 Morgan Brown – subscriber – William Berry.

1785 James M. Anderson, subscriber, Board member – Cuff, Matt; Will/Bill TBF 1792; Suck TBF 1794; Beck TBF 1799; Henn, Dave and Tiney TBF 1804.

James M. Anderson, subscriber, Board member – Jim, London, Joe, Bett TBF 1786; Bristol 1787; Hazard 1788; Beck, Peg, 1801; Moses 1806.

Samuel Davis, subscriber – Moll TBF at death of grantor.

John Cadwalader, subscriber – Thomas and Henrietta Sampson.

William Slubey, subscriber – Jake, age 50.

1786 Simon Wickes, subscriber – Step, Jacob.

1787 St. Leger Everett, subscriber – Dorothea, Thomas, John.

James M. Anderson. subscriber, Board member – Hannah Howard; Jude Young TBF 1804; Dave TBF 1824.

1789 John Day, subscriber – Peg, age about 44, Margaret, age about 24, Sale, age about 2 (child of Margaret); Moses TBF 1796, Daniel TBF 1800; Jacob TBF 1804; George TBF 1808; Rachel TBF 1804; Mint TBF 1805; Jim TBF 1806.

John Day – moved delayed manumissions of above people forward: Moses, Daniel TBF 1791; Jacob TBF 1794; George 1799; Rachel 1801; Mint 1802; Jim, 1803.

Raisin Gale (subscriber) and others – Will TBF 1793; Sam TBF 1794; James 1796; Isaac 1797.

1790 William Maxwell, subscriber – Leah, 29, her daughter Mint, Joe, Peg; Jack, age 10 TBF at age 25.

1791 Robert Anderson (estate of), subscriber – Moses.

John Carvill Hynson, subscriber – Willander TBF 1795; Raney TBF 1796; Minty TBF 1800; Toney TBF 1808; Charles TBF 1809; Minta TBF 1813, Grace TBF 1816.

James Claypoole, subscriber – Samuel Williamson and sister Elizabeth; James Munk TBF 1792.

William Maxwell, subscriber – Charles, age 34; Tate, age 39, TBF 1796; Lane, age 12, TBF at age 25; Phillis, age 8, TBF at age 25; Fan, age 6, TBF at age 25.

1792 Emory Sudler, subscriber – Henry Mullen, age 48.

Raisin Gale, subscriber – Cesar, Hager, Sarah.

William Slubey, subscriber – Bett/Elizabeth, TBF in 12 years.

1793 Edward Scott, alum, Board member – James.

William Slubey, subscriber – Sall, age 16.

John Carvill Hynson, subscriber – Hager TBF in 18 years.

1794 William Bordley, subscriber, founder – Jack, age 3.

Edward Beck, lot renter – Prince William Henry

1795 Robert Buchanan, subscriber – Willy, age 14, TBF at age 28.

Joseph Brown, subscriber – Milcha, her two children Lydia and Harry, Lydia, age 30; Elizabeth, age 12, TBF at age 27, in 1810.

William Slubey, subscriber – Delia.

John Lorain, subscriber – Hannah/Henney, TBF in 6 years.

Benjamin Chambers, lot renter, subscriber, founder, Board member – Peter, age 6.

1796 John Kennard, subscriber and others – Abraham, TBF 1798; Richard TBF 1801; Grace, TBF 1804, issue of Grace TBF at age 30; Emory TBF 1822; Moses TBF 1824; Maria, TBF 1825.

Marmaduke Tilden, Jr., subscriber – Edd, Cate, Rachell TBF 1796; Frank TBF 1814; Pere, TBF 1815

Donaldson Yeates, subscriber – Joseph, age 14, TBF at age 30.

John Scott, alum – Tom/Tucker, age 35.

William Tilghman, subscriber – Phillis.

Elizabeth Hopkins, lot renter – James, Tom, both age 4, TBF at age 27.

Emory Sudler, subscriber – Charles, age 16, TBF at age 31.

John Lorain, subscriber – Rachael, TBF 1801.

1797 James Pearce, subscriber – Jacob, TBF 1798.

Joseph Williams, staff – Rebecca, Nathan.

Samuel Davis, subscriber – Stephen, age 21; Martha, age 19, TBF 1799; William, TBF 1802.

Thomas Bordley, alum Sam.

James M. Anderson, subscriber, Board member – Deborah.

William Slubey, subscriber – Rachel and her two children Hannah and Mila (freed immediately provided Rachel not reside or hire in Chestertown.)

1799 James M. Anderson – Deborah Guy; Bill and Charles TBF 1810.

John Moore, subscriber – Temperance.

Robert Dunn, subscriber – Tom, age 39, TBF 1803.

1800 Colin Ferguson, faculty, Board member – Hannah Mander, age 39 and daughter Ruth, age 3 months.

1801 Elizabeth Hopkins, lot renter – Daniel age 19; Henry, age 17, Rebecca, age 12, all TBF at age 27.

Isaac Cannell, lot renter – Clarissa, age 7, TBF at age 25.

Morgan Browne (Jr.), Board member – Charles TBF 1803; Dick TBF 1804; Ann TBF 1811.

James Pearce, subscriber – Lucy, age 5, TBF at age 28 in 1822.

Robert Anderson, subscriber – Henny, wife of Harry Graves.

1802 Benjamin Chambers, lot renter, subscriber, founder, Board member – Stephen, TBF in 8 years, Anna, TBF in 7 years, Rachel, TBF in 24 years.

William Tilghman, subscriber – Jeremiah/Benjamin Dunkin.

1803 Peter Snyder, lot renter – Clary, age 13, TBF at age 25, her female children TBF at age 21, male children at age 25.

George Washington Thomas, lot renter, Board member – Cuff, age about 25, TBF 1811.

Edward Scott, alum, Board member – Nathaniel/Nat, age 33, TBF 1804.

1805 John Carvill Hynson, subscriber – Charles, Zena.

1806 George Washington Thomas, lot renter, Board member – Joe, age 11 TBF at age 31.

1807 Joseph Brown, subscriber – Hannah, age 22.

1811 Edward Scott, alum, Board member – Jane, age 22; her son Henry, age 2, TBF in 1836, Cassandra, age 18, TBF in 1818, boys James and Stephen TBF in 1818, Aaron, age 22 TBF in 1817.

1816 Edward Scott, alum, Board member – Tempe.

1819 James M. Anderson, subscriber, Board member – David, age about 18, TBF 1830.

1821 Edward Worrell, subscriber – Henry/Harry, Harriet, Mary, Abraham, Charlotte.

Francis Waters, President – Phil, age about 25, TBF 1827, Dinah, age about 20, TBF 1827, Sally age four, TBF 1845, and Violet, age seven months, TBF 1848.

1822 Isaac Cannell, lot renter – Fan, Easter.

1830   Isaac Spencer, Board member – Henny Trusty.

1836 George S. Hollyday, Board member – John.

1841 George S. Hollyday, Board member – Susan Anderson, age 17, Margaret Lively, age 13.

1842 Richard Ringgold, Board member, faculty, President – Kitty.

1850’s Richard Ringgold, Board member, faculty, President – unnamed girl age 13 and unnamed young man age 20.

1855 George W.T. Perkins, Board member – James H. Simons, age 30.

1857 James B. Ricaud (and wife and Cornelia), Board member – Thomas Jones.

Members of the Chestertown Abolition Society, 1792

Constitution of the Chestertown Abolition Society, 1792

Chestertown Abolition Society 

Many Americans think of abolition as a 19th-century northern phenomenon, but during the Revolutionary era, sentiment for abolishing slavery and organizations working to end it existed in every state as far south as North Carolina. Before the 1830’s, the Upper South had more abolition societies than the North. Maryland had several organizations, including one in Chestertown that was active in the 1790’s.

Early abolitionist organizations engaged in numerous activities: they pressed state and federal governments for laws to facilitate manumission, end the African slave trade, and abolish the institution of slavery altogether. They also devoted much time and effort in their local communities to educating free blacks and protecting them from illegal kidnapping into slavery. Beginning in 1794, local and state organizations met annually in Philadelphia to coordinate their efforts.

For at least two of the annual conventions, the Chestertown Abolition Society sent representatives. Both representatives who traveled to Philadelphia in 1795 had College affiliations. Edward Scott graduated from the College in 1788. James Houston served as President of the Board of Visitors and Governors. Other members of the Chestertown Abolition Society had Washington College connections. CAS President James M. Anderson also served as President of the Board of Visitors of Governors. Attorneys John Scott and Joseph H. Nicholson were both alums. Another local lawyer, Robert Wright (future Governor of Maryland) attended the College’s predecessor, the Kent Free School. Daniel M’Curtin was an early faculty member and Board Treasurer. Three other members–Peregrine Letherbury, John Lorain, and William Bordley–were all among the original donors. Bordley and Letherbury were among the founders of the College.

Many of the members of the Chestertown Abolition Society were part of either local Quaker or Methodist congregations and eschewed slaveholding. Surprisingly, though, some of those who joined the organization were in fact slaveholders, including several of the College community. How can we explain this discrepancy in the absence of surviving documents in the words of the people involved? Some owners did choose to eventually free the people they claimed as property, while others freed only some of those they enslaved.

State law limited who could be freed: people over the age of fifty (after 1796, reduced to 45), and people deemed unable to care for themselves. Whites, believing in black inferiority, claimed free blacks were likely to be a burden on the community, despite evidence of black industry. Some CAS members may have been interested only in assisting free black people, others in exploring the idea of ending slavery, discussing it with their fellow white men. The abolition of slavery–freedom for all black women and men–was a concept under debate, and white people struggled to determine the place of black people in the new nation.    

With research contributed by Jennifer Walls, Class of 2019

The Scott Family, Abolitionists and Slaveholders

The Scott family of Chestertown had a multi-generational history with Washington College, including representation among early donors, founders, alumni, and the Board of Visitors and Governors. The family is also illustrative of the early national era’s struggle to comprehend slavery, with members of the family engaging in slaveholding, manumission of individual enslaved people, and the larger goal of abolition.

John Scott the elder (1728-1790) was a Chestertown doctor and early supporter of Washington College. A donor to the College’s creation, Scott was also one of the seven College founders, and one of the first members of the Board of Visitors and Governors. He was also a slaveholder. In addition to his home in Chestertown, he owned two large farms on Upper Langford Bay outside town where he held 22 people in slavery.  John Scott and his wife Elizabeth Calder Scott had four sons who graduated from Washington College. (They also had two daughters.) Despite growing up in a home with enslaved people, three of the four Scott sons had ties to early abolitionism in Kent County.

John Scott the Younger (1768-1813) was a graduate of the first class of Washington College. At that commencement, he was the salutatorian and gave the Latin oration. In 1785, Scott was appointed Customs Collector for Chestertown by George Washington, but it was in his capacity as a lawyer that he served as Honorary Counsellor for the Chestertown Abolition Society in 1792. Lawyers for abolition societies assisted in drawing up manumission papers, monitoring local laws that applied to slavery, and bringing cases for people who had been illegally enslaved. In 1796, Scott manumitted a 35-year-old man named Tom, also known as Tucker.

William Scott (?-1822) served on the Board of Visitors and Governors from at least 1816 until his death in 1822, and was likely a graduate of the College. Although he rose to the level of Lt. Colonel in the Maryland Militia, William Scott was a lawyer by profession. It was in this capacity that he represented the Greens, a family in Queen Anne’s County who were held illegally in slavery. Although their case took five years, the Greens ultimately achieved their goal of freedom. Soon after, in 1816, William Scott was appointed Clerk of the Kent County Court, a position he held until his death in 1822.

Edward Scott (1772-1842) graduated from Washington College in 1788. He studied medicine in Philadelphia and trained under Chestertown physician James M. Anderson, for whom Scott later named his first child. Edward Scott settled in Galena (then called Georgetown Crossroads) and set up practice. Like his father, he held people in slavery, but like his siblings John and William he became interested in the cause of abolition. After joining the Chestertown Abolition Society, Edward was one of two men representing the organization at the American Convention, a national gathering of abolitionists, in 1795. The other was James Houston, who would later serve on the Board of Visitors and Governors with both Edward’s brother William and James M. Anderson. 

It was Edward Scott who, of all of the Scott family, most translated abolition sentiment into action. He registered his first manumission, that of James, in 1793, and between 1803 and 1816, he freed eight more people, some immediately, some at a future date. In 1803, freed Nat, (age 33) immediately. In 1811, he manumitted Jane, (age 22) immediately, her son Henry, (age 2) to be free in 1836, Cassandra, (age 18) to be free in 1818, boys James and Stephen (no age given) to be free in 1818, Aaron, (age 22) to be free in 1817. In 1816, he manumitted Tempe.

Despite their abolition work, the Scotts continued to enslave others. William appears in the 1820 census claiming eight enslaved people, while Edward enslaved three people as late as 1840, two years before his death.

With research contributed by Sara Underwood, Class of 2018, Caroline Draper, Class 2020, and Queen Cornish, Class of 2023

John Scott’s diploma from the first class of Washington College, 1783

Edward Scott made his first manumission, that of James, in 1793. Collection of the Maryland State Archives.

In a codicil to his will, Anderson added time to his enslaved man Dave’s manumission date.

Dr. James M. Anderson, Abolitionist, Slaveholder, Board President

James Mouat Anderson was a Chestertown physician who had a long association with the College. His father, also a doctor and also named James Anderson, was one of the early subscribers to the College’s creation, and one of its original Board members. The younger Anderson, who entered into practice with his father, also followed in his footsteps by donating to the College’s inception, and joining the Board. By 1819, he became its President. He died, however, not long after in 1820.

Previously, the younger James M. Anderson had distinguished himself as President of another organization, the Chestertown Abolition Society. In existence during the 1790’s, this group promoted the end of slavery, encouraged manumission, and boasted a number of College-related members. Likely, Anderson’s support for abolition was related to his Methodist religion. Anderson was a leader of the Methodist church and his medical partner, Abraham Ridgely, was a devout Methodist and abolitionist as well. But James M. Anderson also enslaved people and was not the only member of the Abolition Society to do so.

Beginning in March, 1785, Anderson issued his first set of manumissions, granting delayed freedom to eight enslaved people: Cuff, Matt, Will or Bill, Suck, Beck, Henn, Dave, and Tiney. Each of them would become free at a designated future date ranging from 1791 to 1806. Any children born to the women while they continued their terms of slavery would be born free. Anderson had perhaps inherited these enslaved people from his father, who died in 1783, and claimed eight slaves in the 1783 Tax Assessment. Anderson freed nine more people in 1785: Jim, London, Joe, Bett, Bristol, Hazard, Beck, Peg, and Moses–three immediately, the others at future dates. Several years later he manumitted Hannah Howard, Jude Young, Deborah Guy, and two boys Bill and Charles–the women immediately, the boys at a later date.

Despite leading the Abolition Society and freeing over twenty people, Anderson was still enslaving people at the time of his death. In his will, he provided for the freedom of his enslaved man David in 1826, and stated that whichever of his four children agreed to care for “his old woman mammy Grace” (also enslaved, described as about eighty years old) would gain David‘s service until he was freed. A codicil appended two years later, however, added five years to David‘s manumission date, making him thirty when he would be a free man. We don’t know why Anderson performed such a seemingly cruel act on the eve of his death. Had David done something to anger him? Or had Anderson acted paternalistically, deciding David was not yet ready to be a free man? Anderson’s act clearly shows the power whites had in 1820’s Maryland, even those willing to free the people they enslaved–they held the fate of the enslaved in their hands.    


With research contributed by Jennifer Walls, Class of 2019