Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Samuel Stevens, Jr. (1778-1860)
MSA SC 3520-1449

Governor of Maryland, 1822-1826 (Democrat)

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 83-84.

"NEARLY everything that is known about Samuel Stevens, Jr., is derived from Oswald Tilghmanís History of Talbot County. Thought to have been born in Talbot County on July 13, 1778, he was the son of John and Elizabeth (Connoly) Stevens, and a descendant of the Quakers who had initially settled both Dorchester and Talbot Counties. When he was about sixteen, his father died, so he was raised by two aunts. 'He had no formal education, but attended a school maintained by the Reverend John Bowie, rector of St. Peterís Church,' say the Arensbergs.1 For a short time, he was in business in Philadelphia, but about 1800 he returned to Talbot County to make his home at 'Compton' which he had inherited upon his fatherís death. In 1804, he married Eliza May of Chester, Pennsylvania, and they had one son.

"Stevens began his long career of public service by being chosen to the House of Delegates from Talbot County in 1807. He served a number of terms until 1820, but these were not consecutive. This was to be the only office he held prior to his election as governor.

"Samuel Stevens, Jr., was elected on December 9, 1822, defeating James B. Robins. In his acceptance letter, he indicated that he preferred to have the word 'Junior' attached to his name.2 His three years in office were not especially notable ones, even though the legislature passed several acts of more than passing importance during his term. The most significant of these was the enfranchisement of the Jews who until that time had been deprived of the right to vote. By this act 'every Citizen of this State professing the Jewish Religion, and who shall hereafter be appointed to any office or public trust under the State of Maryland, shall in addition to the oaths required to be taken by the Constitution and Laws of the State, or of the United States, make and subscribe a declaration of his belief in a future state of Rewards and Punishments, in the stead of the declaration now required by the constitution and form of Government of this State.'3 This ended agitation which had begun so many years previously.

[p. 84] "The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, chartered in 1823, represented a visible manifestation of Stevensí encouragement of internal improvements. The old Potomac Company had become defunct, so the chartering of the successor company caused the State to expend millions of dollars on an ambitious plan which envisioned a 'waterway from the tidewater of the Potomac, in the District of Columbia, to Cumberland or the mouth of Savage Creek, and thence across the Alleghany Mountains to some convenient point of navigation on the waters of the Ohio or its tributary streams.'4 Even though in time the canal would be undone by the railroad, the State in the meantime would he threatened with the repudiation of debts incurred in the canalís construction.

"Another act extended to all Marylanders 'the same civil rights and religious privileges that are enjoyed under the Constitution of the United States.' The same act further provided that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust in the State of Maryland.'5

"Nearly at the end of Governor Stevensí term, the Marquis de Lafayette made his triumphal tour of the nation. The governor, according to Oswald Tilghman, road his mare all the way from 'Compton' around the head of the Bay to welcome the distinguished visitor as the guest of Maryland. Tilghman described him as wearing 'swallow-tailed blue jeans, homespun coat, with brass buttons. The marquis . . . was dressed in his full regimentals, covered with gold lace and foreign orders. The governor boasted in his old age that he had never worn any other than homespun clothing in his whole life.'6

"Stevens was re-elected in 1823 and 1824, on both occasions defeating a number of opponents. The Federalists again nominated Charles Goldsborough, but opposition to Stevens was only scattered.

"After he was succeeded as governor by Joseph Kent on January 9, 1826, he retired to his home on 'Dividing Creek.' He never again sought public office, but instead, was active as a member of the Agricultural Society for the Eastern Shore, serving several terms as its President. He died at 'Compton' on February 7, 1860, at the age of eighty-one years.

"The register of the Whitemarsh Parish, St. Paulís Church, Talbot County, notes only that he was buried in the family cemetery.7 If so, his grave has not been located, nor is it marked in any way.

"Governor Stevens left an estate valued at over $30,000. His will is not recorded in the office of the Register of Wills in Talbot County. When it was presented for probate, it was refused. Some time previous to his death, he had cancelled and revoked his will by mutilating it after he had taken it ďfrom his desk . . . and put into his coat pocket, where it was carefully guarded and kept to the time of his death . . ."8

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