Only Black Slavery Was Legal in Maryland
Maryland institutionalized the enslavement of Africans at the same time they were being shipped to this section of the Potomac Valley from St. Mary City, Port Tobacco, and Virginia. Indians and Whites had been held in servitude since 1531, but only Black people were presumed
to be slaves. The 1666 law stated: "All Negroes ? already within the Province shall serve as Durnate Vita
[sic]. And all children born of any Negro ? shall be slaves as their fathers were for the terme of their lives." It legalized slavery for life based upon skin color.
Fear of Tumultuous Meetings of Negroes
Tobacco growing fueled Prince George economy, and
slaveholders believed chattelizing humans to supply free labor was essential to the owner prosperity. Enslaved children may have been the system most affected victims. Enslaved people fought against their status and sought freedom at every opportunity. So frightening was this prospect for slaveholders that in 1723 the Colonial Assembly outlawed any meetings of Blacks. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, slaves joined the British who promised freedom. In August 1814, 36 slaves along the nearby Potomac fled to British frigates. Salubria owner, John Bayne, held from 4 to 19 Black people as slaves between 1826 and 1861. He had trouble maintaining his involuntary workforce and advertised for the return of runaways several times.
Struggling to Emancipation
At the start of the Civil War, Prince George County , Maryland wealthiest county, depended upon slavery. Yet, slaveholders like Bayne lost their bondspeople to an emancipated Washington [D.C.] with its stationed Union troops. Though some Potomac Valley farmers like Bayne remained loyal to the Union with assurances that slavery could be maintained, runaways returned or owners would be compensated , none of this came to pass. All but a few slaveholders would lose most of their wealth with the emancipation of enslaved Marylanders in 1864.
"Our Maryland" Slaves in Tobacco field. Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives
"Slaves at Corn Crib." Courtesy of the Library of Congress