Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Sprigg Harwood
Treasurer, 1860-1864
Constitutional Convention, AA, 1864
Senate, AA, 1865
Senate, Special Session, AA, 1866
Anne Arundel County Court Clerk, 1865-1894
MSA SC 3520-1541

Biography:

On December 4, 1808 one of the most interesting and experienced Clerks was born - Sprigg Harwood.  He was the only son of Osborn Sprigg and Elizabeth Ann Harwood who were both from the large and well known Harwood family of Anne Arundel County.  Like his cousin Clerk Nicholas H. Green, Sprigg was related to Clerks Nicholas Harwood and William S. Green.1  The Clerkship indeed ran in this Harwood family.  Sprigg Harwood had four sisters:  Maria, Margaret, Rachel Ann, and Mary Elizabeth.2  He attended St. John's College, but did not graduate.3  In 1837 Harwood married Elizabeth Anne Mills and they lived on the family's Cherry Hill plantation where he worked as a farmer.4

Harwood was a well respected Annapolitan at a young age.  In 1834, at less than thirty years of age, he was chosen as a candidate for the "young men of the city."  These young men felt that they were being deprived of political benefits in the city and believed that  Harwood could represent their needs with a seat in the Legislature.  After a bitter campaign, fought mostly in the newspaper, Harwood (135 votes) and his ally Frederick L. Grammer (133) lost to both Nicholas Brewer (168) and George Wells (164), father of Dr. George Wells.  Some controversy surrounds this election, as it was charged that Brewer and Wells  were put up by the editor of the Washington Globe.5  At any rate, Harwood was unsuccessful in his first attempt at public office, but this did not discourage him.

In 1836 Harwood was elected as a member of the Maryland Electoral College of 40, 24 of which were needed for quorum. They were responsible for casting votes for the governorship.  In this year 21 Whigs and 19 Democrats were elected.  Harwood was a representative for Annapolis and one of the 19 Democrats, also called "The Glorious Nineteen."  The Whigs were trying to keep the political process in Maryland more of an elite and upper-class affair with which the Democrats disagreed.  The Democrats met in Baltimore and sent a letter to the Whig electors in Annapolis.  The Whigs, however,  refused to reply until the Democrats would allow business to be conducted with them in Annapolis since their 21 did not qualify as a quorum.  Eventually the Democrats agreed to meet, but only after their demands were met.  Harwood joked that during the session in Annapolis when  the Whigs would ask him to go up to the Senate, he would reply "No, you will lock me in."  The Whigs were persuaded to support a Governor who is elected by the people and the re-drawing the legislative districts to create a fair political distribution.  The Whigs were "excited" after this, but thanks to the leadership of Harwood and other members of his party,  the Democrats were able to get what they wanted, thus providing for a more fair and equal election process in Maryland.6

Harwood was then appointed State Treasurer by Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks in 1860, a position he held for two years.7  In 1863 Harwood was selected as a county delegate to the Congressional Convention, held to nominate a candidate to represent the Annapolis election district.  The early 1860s were a turbulent and divisive time in Maryland history as citizens of the state divided into pro- and anti- Union sects.  It was during this time that Harwood was accused of being "in favor of the dissolution of the Union and the recognition of the Southern Confederacy."8  Riley argues that this claim appeared in the Gazette only to overthrow the Democratic party in Annapolis, although other evidence does seem to support this idea of Confederate sympathies in Harwood.  For example, in 1860 when a Union military display occurred in Annapolis, Harwood and other political leaders petitioned Governor Hicks to convene the Legislature "'to consider ... the present momentous crisis,' -- the dissensions in the Union."9  Harwood was at least willing to consider or discuss leaving the Union with the support of this petition; and at most he wanted to convene to in fact secede from the Union.  Near the end of the war Maryland worked to re-write its Constitution in 1864 and Harwood was selected as a member to this Constitutional Convention.10  During this convention, he voted against abolishing slavery in the state, although the motion to abolish passed.11  Although Harwood's vote did not necessarily represent full support of the Confederacy, it at least meant that he supported its argument concerning the right to continue to hold slaves as property.

Harwood served in the State Senate beginning in 1865.12  In that year he ran for Clerk of the Court of Anne Arundel County, after the death of his cousin Nicholas H. Green.  Harwood received the plurality of the votes, defeating George Gambrill and Benjamin E. Gantt.  Gambrill protested the election, however, and petitioned to have the election investigated arguing that Harwood was not a legally eligible candidate.  Any contested election case goes to the House of Delegates for a decision.  That body found Harwood to be ineligible for two main reasons:  firstly, he was not a registered voter of the county or the state, and secondly, he was a member of the Maryland Senate during a session that passed laws concerning the salary of the Court Clerk, which is a constitutional violation.13  The next question was how to determine who the official Clerk should be.  The House stated that Harwood was ineligible at the time of the election and the citizenry should have been aware of this violation when casting their votes.  Knowing this, the House argued, some citizens still chose to vote for an ineligible candidate whose votes would be voided.  Thus all of his votes were disqualified, and Gambrill was declared the official victor, so ending Harwood's brief first term as Clerk.14Harwood was not shaken by this at all, for he ran again in the 1867 election for Clerk of the Court.  He ran unopposed and was commissioned soon after the election.15  Harwood was re-elected in 1873, 1879, 1885, and 1891.  He was Clerk during the murder trial of Mrs. Wharton, accused of poisoning a former Confederate general.  Harwood served until his death in 1894, after which he was succeeded by John C. Bannon.

Sprigg Harwood died on December 17, 1894.  Wife Elizabeth Anne had died a few months earlier on July 30.16  They were both buried at St. Anne's Cemetery in Annapolis.  No children were ever mentioned in any documents regarding the couple.  He left his estate to sister-in-law Lavinia Benson Welsh.17

Endnotes

Biographical Profile-

Born -  December 4, 1808

Family - Only son of Osborn Sprigg and Elizabeth Ann (Harwood) Harwood of AA Co.; Sisters - Maria, Margaret, Rachel Ann, and Mary Elizabeth;

Education - St. John's College; did not graduate

Occupation - Farmer

Married - Elizabeth Anne Mills (1837)

Children - None that are known

Political Highlights -

1834, A Man of the Young People - chosen as candidate for the "young men of the city"; these young men felt that they were being deprived political benefits in the city; ran for seat in the Legislature along with Fred. L. Grammer; bitter newspaper battle;  election in October - Harwood, 135; Grammer, 133.  Nomination - Nicholas Brewer, 168; George Wells, 164 - thought to be put up by Washington Globe editors.

1836,  The Glorious Nineteen - Electoral College of 40, 24 needed for quorum; 21 Whigs elected, 19 Democrats; Harwood was the representative for Annapolis, Democrat; Whigs were trying to keep the political process in Maryland more of an elite and upperclass affair; Democrats met in Baltimore, sent letter to Whigs, but Whigs refused to reply until Democrats would allow business to be conducted; Harwood decided to go to meet with Whigs, but was weary - when asked to go up to meet with the Whigs in the Senate he said "No, you will lock me in."; eventually the Whigs agreed to have the Governor elected by the people and changed the legistlative districts to create a fair politcal distribution; Whigs "excited" after this, but thanks to Harwood's leadership the Democrats were able to get what they wanted.

1860 - 1861/2, State Treasurer- nominated by Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks (1858-1862)

1863, Congressional Convention - Harwood chosen as county delegate to this convention which was to nominate a candidate to represent the Annapolis election district; accused of being "in favor of the dissolution of the Union and the recognition of the Southern Confederacy" - in Gazette only to overthrow Dem. party.

1864, Constitutional Convention - 27 April; convention called by the people of Maryland - a questionnaire was used at the polls to discriminate against Confederate sympathizers, anyone who had ever helped or supported the CSA was not permitted to vote; Harwood overwhelmingly elected to the Convention; the main issues were to emancipate slaves and change voter qualifications; (Ancient); Harwood voted against the proposal to abolish slavery in Maryland (vote on 23 June), but motion passed; also changes to eduation system - unifying public school system for MD.

1865-1866,  Maryland Senator - Democrat

1865, Clerk of the Court for Anne Arundel County...or so he thought - after death of Nicholas Green, election held in November 1865; Harwood receives plurality of vote over Gambrill and Benjamin E. Gantt; Gambrill petitions to have the election investigated because he argued that Harwood was not a legally eligible candidate; Harwood was found to be inelegible for several reasons -1. not a registered voter of county or state, 2.memeber of legislature (MD Senate) which passed laws concerning the salary of the Clerk, which is a constitutional violation;  it was determined that Harwood was ineligible, all of his votes were diqualified, and Gambrill was declared the official victor, so ending Harwood's brief first term as Clerk.

1867, Clerk of the Court:  Take Two -  elected Clerk of the Court, and then elected again in 1873, '79, '85, and '91 - serving until his death in 1894.
 

Death - December 17, 1894; Elizabeth Anne died a few months earlier on July 30, 1894; both buried at St. Anne's Cemetary, Annapolis;  he left estate to sister-in-law Lavinia Benson Welsh.

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