Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Samuel Sprigg
MSA SC 3520-1448

Governor of Maryland, 1819-1822 (Democrat; Whig after 1820s)

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission), 79-80.

"SAMUEL SPRIGG, another wealthy landowner and a descendant of Thomas Sprigg, who had emigrated to Maryland in 1655, was the son of Joseph and his second wife Margaret (Weems) Sprigg He was in all probability born in Prince George’s County, but both the date and the place are unknown. Buchholz estimated that Sprigg was born about 1783.1 Almost nothing is known about his early life, his brothers and sisters, his education or his career before he became governor. After his father’s death in 1800, his uncle Osborn Sprigg adopted him, and when the latter died in 1815, he inherited 'Northampton,' the family estate of over 1,000 acres in Prince George’s County.

"Samuel Sprigg married Violetta Landsdale on January 1, 1811. They had two children.

"Sprigg was elected governor on December 13, 1819, succeeding the incumbent Federalist Charles Goldsborough. A virtual unknown when he took office, his election was preceded by 'one of the closest and most exciting contests ever held in the State.'2 For the first time since 1811, the Republicans captured control of the General Assembly, and as the result of Sprigg’s election, they turned their attention to internal improvements and unsuccessful attempts to secure reapportionment.

"Samuel Sprigg qualified as governor on December 20, 1819, and gave the State a vigorous and intelligent administration. He 'prefigured the later spoils era by a wholesale purge of Federalist officeholders.'3 Sprigg favored the increase in means of communication by the building of roads and canals. The movement for the chartering of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, although unsuccessful during his administration, grew out of his insistence upon internal improvement. The reform movement which had resulted in his election, failed again because of Federalist opposition. These obstructionist tactics only increased Republican agitation for later Victories.

[p. 80]  "In 1820, Sprigg was re-elected, again defeating Charles Goldsborough. In that year, the Federalists made a last-ditch effort to return to power, and almost succeeded in defeating Sprigg, but in this they were unsuccessful. Following their defeats in 1819 and 1820, they went into eclipse and never again emerged as an effective political party within Maryland. The Republicans, as the result, became firmly entrenched in office for many years.

"The national 'Era of Good Feeling' was reflected in Sprigg’s messages to the Legislature. On December 30, 1820. he congratulated it 'upon the general union of opinion and harmony of sentiment at home.' He went on to call such opinions and sentiments 'the highest reward, which our able and virtuous chief magistrate, and those associated with him in the management of our national concerns, can receive at the hands of a free and enlightened people, standing upon this high and exalted eminence in popular opinion, scarcely a speck of party has been visible in his re-election to office.'4

"Sprigg left the governorship on December 16, 1822, and returned to 'Northampton.' Not too much is known about his life after his retirement from office except his long affiliation with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, his presidency of the board, and his efforts to complete this waterway. Sprigg died at his home on April 21, 1855 and was buried at St. Barnabas' Church in Prince George’s County.5 Later his body was removed to Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, D.C. Sprigg left an estate valued at nearly $50,000, including sixty-one slaves.6

Notes on sources

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