MARYLAND MANORIAL COURTS
To complete the cross section of the judicial system of Maryland in the
seventeenth century it has been thought advisable to reprint the proceedings of
the court baron and court leet of St. Clement's Manor, the only Maryland
manorial court record which is known to have survived. This has been pre
viously twice printed, but both the publications in which it appeared have long
been out of print. The old manuscript, obviously an original, now reproduced,
is doubtless only a fragment, as there are the minutes of but five court sessions
to be found in the fourteen-year period, 1659-1672, over which it extends.
St. Clement's Manor was granted to Thomas Gerard, November 3, 1639.
It lay on the island of that name in St. Mary's County, and when first patented
contained 1,030 acres. It was resurveyed for Gerard in 1642 and sufficient land
added to bring the acreage up to 6,ooo; and it was resurveyed again in 1678,
with additions increasing its size to 11,400 acres, for Justinian Gerard, who had
inherited it under his father's will, and it was then possibly the largest non-
proprietary manor in the Province. The patent contained the authority, usual
at that time in such grants, for the lord of the manor to hold court leet and
court baron. Thomas Gerard (1600-1673) was a Roman Catholic surgeon and
planter of prominence, and a member of the Governor's Council and of the
Assembly. He became involved, however, in the Fendall “rebellion” of 1660,
and in November of that year was banished by Gov. Philip Calvert and his
estates confiscated, but received a qualified pardon, February 28, 1660/1 (Arch.
Md. iii, 396, 407-408; xli, 414, 427-429). His later years seem to have been
spent in Virginia where he died.
This old record presents the classical picture of that relic of feudalism trans
planted to American soil, an English manorial court. We have mention of the
lord of the manor and the steward, the bailiff, the constable, the freeholders,
the leaseholders, and the jury, or “jury and homage” as it is here styled. The
names of the resiants, apparently those persons who lived on the manor but
were neither freeholders nor leaseholders, were also recorded, as were also the
names of the “ essoines “, that is those who were excused for their absence
from court. It is not possible here to discuss the functions of such a court as
this, or its origin. The interested reader is referred to John (Hemsley) Joim
son's Old Maryland Manors (Johns Hopkins University Studies, 1883), where
this St. Clement's court record was first printed, for a brief review of such
courts, and to a more thorough recent study of the manorial system as it existed
on Maryland soil by Charles M. Andrews, which is to be found in his Colonial
Period of American History (ii, pp. 292-298). The St. Clement's court rec
ords have also been reprinted in the two editions of Thomas' Chronicles of Co
lonial Maryland, (see 1900 edit. pp. 128-142).