Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Matthew Tilghman (1717/18-1790)
MSA SC 3520-1267


Matthew Tilghman was born on February 17, 1717/18 at the "Hermitage," in Queen Anne's County, Maryland.  He resided at "Rich Neck" near Claiborne in Talbot County, Maryland from 1733 when he went to live with his cousin Matthew Tilghman Ward (c. 1676-1741) until his death in 1790.  He was the youngest son of Richard Tilghman (1672/73-1738/39) and Anna Maria Lloyd Tilghman (1677-1748).  He was privately educated, possibly studying under the Reverend Hugh Jones, rector of St. Stephen's Parish, Cecil County, from about 1731 to about 1733.  On April 6, 1741 he married his first cousin Anne Lloyd (c. 1723-1794).  Their children were Margaret (1742-1817), who married Charles Carroll, the barrister (1723-1783); Matthew Ward (c. 1743-c.1753); Richard (1746/47-1805); Lloyd (1749-1811); and Anna Maria (1755-1843), who married Tench Tilghman (1744-1786).  Tilghman was an Anglican who attended St. Michael's Parish in Talbot County.

Tilghman was a planter, merchant, and officeholder.  He served as justice in Talbot County intermittently from 1741 to 1778.  He served in the Lower House representing Talbot County from 1751 to 1758 and from 1768 to 1771, and 1773 to 1774.  In 1760 and 1761 he represented Queen Anne's County in the Lower House.  Representing Talbot County, he was chair of the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth Provincial Conventions held between 1774 and 1776 (he did not attend the seventh Convention).  He was a delegate to the Continental Congress, 1774-1776 (elected in June 1774, December 1774, April 1775, August 1775, May 1776, July 1776, and November 1776; there is no evidence of his attendance after December 1776).  In 1775 he was a member of the First Council of Safety for the Eastern Shore.  He was a member of the Maryland Senate for the Eastern Shore from 1777 to 1783 when he resigned due to illness.  He was a member of the St. Michael's Parish Vestry in Talbot County, elected 1779, in office 1784, 1788-1790.  He was a trustee of the Charity Work School, St. Peter's Parish, Talbot County, in office 1750 and 1787.   In 1780 he was appointed to the Special Council for the Eastern Shore, serving as president in 1781.  In 1778 he was appointed justice of the Orphans' Court in Talbot County, and in 1786 he was appointed judge on the Court of Appeals for Tax Assessments.  He also served in the military as a captain, troop of horse, 1741.

At the death of his father Richard in 1739, Tilghman inherited 2,000 acres of land in Queen Anne's County and an Ogletown lot.  At the death of his cousin Matthew Tilghman Ward in 1741, he inherited the slaves, livestock, and equipment on Ward's plantations, plus one-third of his personal estate, including the goods in his store and cash on hand.  The inheritance included over one hundred slaves and 420 ounces of plate.  At the time of his first election to public office, Tilghman owned 7,150 acres of land in Talbot and Queen Anne's counties; his landholdings grew to approximately 7,900 acres at the time of his death.

Tilghman has been referred to as the "Father of the Revolution" in Maryland and is described by a modern historian as both an "aggressive organizer" and a "reasonable man."  As chairman of seven of the nine meetings of the Provincial Conventions, 1774-1776, including the last, the Constitutional Convention of 1776, Tilghman may be credited to a large extent or the order with which Maryland made the transition from province to state.  His obituary notes that he was "ever considered as one of the finest and most zealous advocates of civil and religious liberties."  He died of a stroke on May 4, 1790 at "Rich Neck" in Talbot County, and his body was interred at the family cemetery there.

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