Social Classes in Maryland

There were several social classes of people in the early days of Maryland ranging from the gentlemen investors to the freeholders to the indentured servants and slaves. In the colony it was important for members of different social classes to work together to make the colony strong. This was something that would not have happened in England.

There was an indentured servant who was important in the beginnings of the colony of St. Mary's. He came from Barbados and was an indentured servants of the Jesuits.

Do you know who he was?

Unfortunately the fur trade was not as successful as Lord Baltimore's colony hoped it would be. The men at St. Mary's worked long and hard hours to plant tobacco and corn instead. Tobacco was the money crop of the Chesapeake region as the Virginians already knew. The colonists planted extra corn and shipped it to New England for sale.

To make a profit from their farming the planters had to use bound or unfree labor. These workers were call indentured servants. These servants could complete their service and receive freedom dues from their masters.

In the 1680's there was a depression of the tobacco market and prices fell. Small planters did not have the money to buy bound labor. By 1690 slaves began to replace bound workers but only wealthy planters could afford to buy slaves.

Can you imagine why?

A few Africans were in the colony and most of them came involuntarily. Thirteen Africans came to St. Mary's in 1642 and laws that would eventually affect the large number of slaves who came later were being worked out then. If a slave was baptized Christian he was given freedom. Because the planters didn't want to lose their slaves the Maryland Assembly passed a law in 1664 which said that baptism should not affect a slave's status.

In 1663 the Maryland Assembly ruled that all blacks that were brought into the colony should be slaves for life. The law even specified that the children of slaves should also serve as slaves for life.

This is by no means a complete description of the class system in Maryland. You are invited to select a subject within this topic and write about it for our pages. Please send your text to my address below.

Patricia A. Weeg
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