Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401 Phone: (410) 260-6400
by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
By 1800 the population of Maryland had grown ten fold from what it was in 1700, reaching 341,548, of whom over 1/3 were African Americans including nearly 106,000 slaves.
There were two legislative sessions in 1800, both of which strongly resisted the rising tide of sentiment in favor of universal white manhood suffrage. Governors were elected by joint ballot of the legislature at each session and new elections for delegates were held every fall. At the national level the most important issue centered on who would be elected the next President with Maryland and most of the Nation evenly divided between Federalists and the new party of Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
During the first session of 1800, the Nation was in mourning for President Washington and the Maryland Gazette for Thursday, January 2, 1800 bordered its columns in black and filled two pages of details of the funeral of the late president accompanied by eulogies and poems in his honor. The following day the Assembly adjourned having passed 92 acts in 68 days, since its opening day on Monday, November 3, 1799.
The General Assembly began the year 1800 with a Treasury flush with the largest surplus in its history, larger proportionally even than that with which greets the 414th. The assumption of war-time debts by the Federal Government and the investment of tax surpluses in stocks and bonds placed the State in a financially secure position.
The single most important issue before the first session of 1800 was the economic future of the State. All the acts save one were signed and impressed with the Great Seal on the last day of the session. Engrossed Bill Number 16, was singled out for special attention. On Saturday, December 7th, Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Nicholas Hammond, Esquires, from the Senate, acquainted the Speaker that the governor was waiting in the Senate to sign and seal the engrossed Bill No. 16, and requested the attendance of the House in the Senate Chamber. The journal reads that the Speaker left the chair, and attended by the members of the house, went to the Senate and there presented the engrossed Bill No. 16 to the governor, who signed the same, and affixed the great seal thereto, in the presence of both houses.
The bill given such special attention was the first of many more like it to come. Although it did not carry a commitment of public funding, others would, eventually straining the treasury to the limit, and bringing the State to near bankruptcy. Engrossed Bill No. 16 was An Act to Incorporate a Company for the purpose of cutting and making a canal between the River Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay.
By the time the second session of 1800 convened on November 6, 1800,
the Nation had erupted in political turmoil. Even sitting judges
had entered the political debate. Gabriel Duvall, Judge of the
General Court, published a very long essay over several issues of the
Gazette (beginning on June 26, 1800) defending Thomas Jefferson for
President of the United States, while the Chief Judge of his court, Jeremiah
Townley Chase published a scholarly defense of President John Adams (Maryland
Gazette, September 11, 1800). The second session of 1800,
while passing 89 bills and funding many internal improvements from the
the Treasury surplus, would be eclipsed by its successor in 1801, which
would in turn elect the State's first Democratic-Republican Governor, John
Francis Mercer, and enact a revolutionary change in the election laws by
removing all property restrictions for voting.
The Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale. This packet was prepared with the assistance of Lynne MacAdam, Kathy Beard, Greg Lepore, Nancy Bramucci, R. J. Rockefeller, and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC 2221-27. Publication no. 2078.
For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or 410-260-6401
© Copyright January 2000 Maryland State Archives.