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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 62   View pdf image (33K)
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            lxii         Maryland Manorial Courts.

              Although a large number of manors were granted to others, or set aside for
            himself, by the Lord Proprietary in the seventeenth and early eighteenth cen
            turies, the Land Office index showing seventy-four in the former century, it is
            the belief of the writer that very few functioned with court leet and court
            baron, and the other feudal trappings of a well organized English manor.
            Already the manorial system was showing signs of breaking up in England, and
            transplanted to American soil was even more of an anachronism here for politi
            cal and economic reasons. In Maryland, however, it was retained in a modified
            way by the Lord Proprietary as a form of land tenure, long after the manor
            itself had ceased to have any social, political or judicial significance.
              Kilty, in his Landholder's Assistant (Baltimore, i8o8, pp. 91-107), recog
            nized three types of manors as having existed in Maryland: (1) manors, such
            as St. Clements's, containing usually at least I,000 acres, granted to those
            persons of importance who had ventured into the province under the Condi
            tions of Plantation of 1636, with the privilege, generally stipulated, of holding
            court leet and court baron: (2) manors with special rights and privileges,
            although sometimes these rights are described in a general way as those belong
            ing to manors in England, which were erected by the Proprietary for the benefit
            of his heirs or other near relations; (3) manors set aside by the Proprietary
            for his own use, usually large tracts containing 6,000 or more acres each,
            scattered throughout the various counties of the Province. With this last group,
            as well as with many of the second group, we need not concern ourselves as
            these so-called manors appear to have been simply legal devices for holding
            lands to be later divided and either sold or leased. Of the seventy-four
            manors known to have been granted in the Province in the seventeenth century
            many were of the last two groups, for which anything in the nature of a
            manorial organization, with court leet and court baron, would have been use
            less. It is the first group of manors with manorial privileges, which were granted
            to various individuals, including some relations of the Lord Proprietary, which
            alone concern us.
              A careful search of the proceedings of the Council, of the Provincial Court,
            and of the county courts of Kent, Charles, Talbot and Somerset, which have
            been so far printed, reveals mention of the existence of only two manors which
            are stated to have had court leet and courts baron, although it is probable that
            there may have been a few others which functioned for a brief period with a
            feudal manorial organization. These two were the manors of St. Clement's
            and St. Gabriel's. The organization of a manor with a manorial court and
            other feudal trappings entailed considerable expense to the lord of the manor,
            and was only justified when the latter was willing to pay the price for the
            prestige which this gave him, or where the freeholders and leaseholders were
            sufficiently numerous and prosperous to make the fees and fines incident to
            the manorial organization of profit to the lord. Nor must it be thought that
            because an owner is styled “lord of the manor “ this necessarily indicates that
            a manorial court was maintained. It is also doubtless true that courts were
            sometimes established, and then soon allowed to lapse as unprofitable or useless.
            Three or four decades after the settlement the growth of white servitude and

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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 62   View pdf image (33K)
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