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Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1663-1666
Volume 49, Preface 7   View pdf image (33K)
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                          Letter of Transmittal.        xi

         sioners then in control may have felt the importance of keeping Provincial and
         local affairs in the same hands. Doubtless as a reaction against this too greatly
         centralized control over local county affairs we find the Burgesses of St. Mary's
         at the October, 1654, session of the Assembly securing the enactment of a
         law for the creation of a “County Commission to keep Court,” and also the
         request of the Assembly that these burgesses consider who are those best quali
         fled for that service and that these be nominated to the [Commonwealth] Com
         missioners of the Province, “the nominees to be present at the next General
         Provincial Council so that powers may be committed to them for keeping of
         the Courts of the said country” (Arch. Md. I, 347). Pursuant to this act the
         Provincial Court at a session held December 5, 1654, authorized the construc
         tion of a court house for the “County of St. Maries and Patuxent,” at the
         home of John Hammond, and incidentally gave permission to Hammond tQ
         cell wine and strong liquors there (Arch Md TV, 10 and at a session held
         April 24, 1655, appointed as members of the county court Captain John Sly,
         president, with six associate justices. The court was ordered to hear and deter
         mine all civil cases involving less than twenty pounds sterling, and criminal
         cases where the loss of life or member was not in question (ibid. 413)'. The
         increase in the number of justices from three to seven would seem to indicate
         greater powers and independence, and it is likely that the St. Mary's County
         Court had from this time the same authority as the other county courts.
          How long the justices commissioned in 1655 by the Commonwealth Commis
         sioners held office we do not know, as the records of the Council for this period
         are fragmentary. The next St. Mary's Court of which we have a record of the
         names of the justices was the bench appointed June 14, 1661, after the govern
         ment of the Province had been fully restored to the Calverts, and as would be
         expected, entirely new names now appear. We also have for the first time
         the specific appointment of a Clerk and Keeper of the Records of the County
         Court (Arch. Md. III, 422). There is no reason to believe, however, that
         these offices were now created for the first time.
          We have traced the history of the St. Mary's County Court to the period
         when its organization, powers, and relation to the Provincial Court were doubt
         less the same as those of the other county courts. By the year 1666, when this
         volume ends, local courts with clearly defined and limited powers, in addition
         to those of St. Mary's and Kent which have been described, had been estab
         lished as follows: Anne Arundel 1650, Calvert 1654, Charles 1658, Baltimore
         1659, Talbot 1661, and Somerset 1666.
          There are two possible explanations for the presence at the end of the old
         Provincial Court record book B B, of the St. Mary's County land entries printed
         here on pages 571-591. They may have been sent up by the clerk of the county
         court in a case appealed to the Provincial Court, or the blank leaves at the end
         of the book may have proved irresistible to a thrifty clerk eager to economize
         on paper. Both suppositions seem about equally probable. We have thus more
         or less accidentally preserved from oblivion interesting details in regard to
         Councillor Thomas Gerard and his manor of Saint Clement's, which would
         otherwise have been lost when the records of St. Mary's County were destroyed
         


 
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Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1663-1666
Volume 49, Preface 7   View pdf image (33K)
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