Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas Bladen (1698-1780)
MSA SC 3520-90  

Thomas Bladen (1698-1780), member of Parliament and colonial governor, was born in 1698 in Annapolis, Maryland, the eldest son of William Bladen (1670-1718), placeman and lawyer, and his second wife, Anne Van Swearingen, daughter of Garrett and Mary Van Swearingen. Bladen's father, from a prominent Yorkshire family, emigrated to Maryland in 1690; his mother was a native of the colony. Bladen had three younger brothers and two sisters.

Sent by his parents to England for schooling by 1712, Bladen remained in that country until 1742. Little is known of his early career other than his service in Parliament, where he was the member from Steyning between 1727 and 1734 and the member from Ashburton, Devonshire, from 1735 to 1741. On 14 July 1737, Bladen married Barbara Janssen, daughter of Sir Theodore Janssen (ca.1658-1748) and his wife Williamsa Henley (?-1731), daughter of Sir Robert Henley, M.P. Janssen immigrated from France in 1680, was naturalized in 1685, and became a baronet in 1714.

Bladen's sister-in-law, Mary Janssen, was the wife of Charles Calvert, 5th Lord Baltimore, and his brother-in-law, William, was the principal secretary of Maryland from Feb 1733 until his death ca. 1741. The Janssen tie was undoubtedly responsible for Bladen's appointment as governor of Calvert's colony. Commissioned in Apr 1742, Bladen was sworn in Aug 1742 and served until his dismissal by Oct 1746 on the basis of his "tactless and quarrelsome" performance in office (Biographical Dictionary, 1:135). In addition to the governorship, Bladen served as surveyor general of the western shore and chancellor during the same period.

Bladen took up his post with several advantages to his credit: he had been born in Maryland, he was the brother-in-law of the colony's proprietor, his sister Anne's marriage to Benjamin Tasker linked him to a powerful member of the colony's elite, and he replaced Samuel Ogle, whose relationship with the lower house had deteriorated so badly that Bladen could hardly fail to do better. Nevertheless, the impasse between proprietary interests and the anti-proprietary sentiments of the lower house that had made Ogle's tenure so contentious continued unabated under Bladen.

Although largely of symbolic significance, "Bladen's Folly" served for nearly fifty years as testament to the failure of Bladen's governorship. Charged by Lord Baltimore with construction of a suitable governor's residence, Bladen elicited an appropriation from the assembly of £4,000 currency for the project. By the time that Bladen's ambitious house plan exceeded the appropriation, with the second floor and roof still unfinished, the lower house had lost all interest in authorizing the £2,000 needed to complete the work. Instead, they left the unfinished building, soon named "Bladen's Folly" by the townspeople, as a memorial to the divisions between proprietor and subjects. The lower house might have balked at spending further funds at any time, but Bladen made his request as he and the delegates differed over the extent to which the house could determine the powers of emissaries to be sent to negotiate with the Iroquois. The governor's residence thus became a pawn in the ongoing struggle that pitted the governor as proprietary representative against delegates defending their own and their constituents' interests against the prerogative.

Dismissed from office in October 1746, Bladen remained in the colony until the arrival of his successor, the same Samuel Ogle whom he had replaced five years earlier. On 12 May 1747, Bladen and his family returned to London, where they lived, at least initially, in Westminster. Bladen's daughter Harriet (?-1821) married William Anne Capel (1732-1799), fourth earl of Essex, on 3 Mar 1767 and his daughter Barbara married Gen. Henry St. John (1738-1818) on 31 Aug 1773. Bladen died, probably in London, in 1780. During his lifetime, Bladen had acquired more than twenty thousand acres of Maryland land, either by inheritance or patent, but had sold most by the time of his death. The State of Maryland confiscated the remainder in 1782.

SUBJECT'S NAME: Bladen, Thomas 68455


1* E. C. Papenfuse, A. F. Day, D. W. Jordan, and G. A. Stiverson, eds., A biographical dictionary of the Maryland legislature, 1635-1789, vol. 1, A-H (1985)

2* A. C. Land, Colonial Maryland - a history (1981)

3* R. J. Brugger, Maryland: a middle temperament (1988)




Owned land in two Maryland counties; holdings in England are unknown.

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:136




Sex: Male

Birth: 1698, Annapolis, Maryland

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135

Baptism: unknown


Main name: Bladen, William

Titles: none

Birth date: 1670  Death date: 7 Aug 1718

Occupation: Placeman, lawyer, merchant


Maiden name: Van Swearingen, Anne

Birth date: unknown  Death date: unknown

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135-6


Dates, Institution:

?-?, educated in England

Source of data and comments: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135

R. Sedgwick, History of parliament, 1715-1754, 1:467, states that Bladen studied at Westminster, 1712.


1698-1780, Christian: Church of England

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135


Main name: Janssen, Barbara

Birth date: unknown  Death date: unknown

Relationship: married

Date started: 14 July 1737  Ended: unknown by death

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135


Date, Address:

1698-ca.1712, Annapolis, Maryland

ca.1712-1742, England

1742-1747, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, Maryland

1747-1780, England

Source of data and comments: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135

Deed executed in 1720 places Bladen in St. Anne's parish, Westminster; 1742 deed places him in St.James parish, Westminster.


By descent: England; London

By association: Maryland; Annapolis


Death: 1780 England

Cause of death: unknown

Burial: unknown

Source of data: Biographical Dictionary, 1:135

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