The renting of the enslaved

Col. John Tilghman (b. 1785 – d. 1866)
MSA SC 5496-37789
Property Owner, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland

Biography:

John Tilghman was born on March 8, 1785 to Judge James Tilghman and his wife Elizabeth Johns. He married Ann Tilghman, with whom he had three children: Matthew Ward (b. circa 1817), James, and Lloyd (b. circa 1823).1 His second wife, Anna Catherine Tilghman, was a cousin of his deceased first wife. Anna Catherine bore him another three children: John Henry, Mary Elizabeth, and Ann Catherine.2

In 1811, he bought over 450 acres of land from Peregrine Tilghman in Queen Anne’s County, including parts of the tracts called Cheshire and Tilghman’s Recovery. Tilghman lived in or near Poplar Grove, north of Corsica Creek. He owned property on the south side of the creek and later appeared on J.G. Stong’s 1866 map of Queen Anne’s County.3

The Poplar Grove Collection of papers includes many of John Tilghman’s papers, including receipts and letters. Several 1838 letters from the attorney and judge Ezekial Forman Chambers suggest that Tilghman not only conducted business with Chambers, but had also formed a friendship.4 Numerous other business correspondances in the collection reflect Tilghman’s experience as a slave holder. Series 13 contains lists of slaves’ names, receipts for related purchases, and sales of individuals within the region.

However, the most fascinating documents recount Tilghman’s ambitious experiment with renting slaves to plantations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Beginning as early as 1830, he began to send enslaved blacks from the Eastern Shore through his southern agent, Spencer M. Grayson, a resident of Natchez, MS.5 Grayson had extreme difficulty negotiating costs and provisions with the local plantation owners, Samuel Clement being the one most commonly referred to. Tilghman receives letters from both men, where they air their respective grievances about the other man, including Grayson labeling his rival ” a scoundrel”.6 For his part, Clement claimed that ” Jerry came to my plantation begging me to keep him … for he could not nor want not stay with Mr Grayson.”7 This was undoubtedly a stressful arrangement for John Tilghman, who could do little to settle these local squabbles from his Maryland residence. The last piece of correspondance with Grayson came in 1835, after which Tilghman only rented slaves to planters in adjacent communities.

Excerpts from correspondence between Spencer Grayson aand John Tilghman

February 7, 1833

Capt. Clement is a resident of the State of Louisiana, but has a plantation in this state, Mississippi also, one in Louisiana. Since the passage of the laws in Louisiana in inhibiting the introduction of slaves into that State. I have thought it hazardous to your interests to hire the negroes to Clement, when he ??? the intention of ??? them in Louisiana. He never had my permission at any time to take the slaves into Louisiana, but ??? to the legislation of Louisiana on the subject of slavery, I did not forbid them being taken out of this state, because then I apprehended no danger. Soon after the law prohibiting the further introduction of Negroes into Louisiana had passed, one year hire of the slaves to Clement ??? The negroes were then in Louisiana & upon the application of Clement to hire them again, I thought the law did not apply to negroes in the State at the time the law passed.  In this I was correct to a certain extent.  But upon a more full examination of the law, I find that no slaves but those actually owned by citizens of Louisiana and, there at the time the law passed are exempt from its operation.  More than one month previous to the expiration of the hire of the negroes for the last year [paper torn]I informed Capt Clement of my opinion[paper torn] & ??? him as soon as the time of hireshould end, to deliver the negroes to me.  This he has refused to do and now holds them on the other side of the river in Louisiana against my express order.  Capt Clement has informed me that he has written to you on the subject and expects daily an answer giving him permission to retain the slaves.  That you ??? be aware of the reasons why I have refused to hire the negroes to Clement, I have made the above statement to you.  The conduct of Clement I deem extremely reprehensible and disho[illegible] presuming from the character of the man & knowing him to be capable of any thing, that he may have communicated by letter to you some false and improper statements I beg that you will enclose to me a copy of any letter that he may have written to you on this subject.  His conduct in regard to this transaction is a matter of notoriety here & if any further information is ??? can be easily had.  I intend to take ?considerate? steps to force the delivery to me of the slaves, and, for the future will see that no such man as Clement gets the possession again.  Your early reply to [paper torn is respectfully requested

Respectfully

Sm Grayson

To Col John Tilghman Chestertown Md

I believe that the Captain Clement mention in the letter is Captain Samuel Clement of Mississippi and Louisiana.

http://sankofagen.pbworks.com/w/page/14230753/Ravenswood%20Plantation#Overview

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