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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 61   View pdf image (33K)
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                   MARYLAND MANORIAL COURTS



       To complete the cross section of the judicial system of Maryland in the
      seventeenth century it has been thought advisable to reprint the proceedings of
      the court baron and court leet of St. Clement's Manor, the only Maryland
      manorial court record which is known to have survived. This has been pre
      viously twice printed, but both the publications in which it appeared have long
      been out of print. The old manuscript, obviously an original, now reproduced,
      is doubtless only a fragment, as there are the minutes of but five court sessions
      to be found in the fourteen-year period, 1659-1672, over which it extends.
       St. Clement's Manor was granted to Thomas Gerard, November 3, 1639.
      It lay on the island of that name in St. Mary's County, and when first patented
      contained 1,030 acres. It was resurveyed for Gerard in 1642 and sufficient land
      added to bring the acreage up to 6,ooo; and it was resurveyed again in 1678,
      with additions increasing its size to 11,400 acres, for Justinian Gerard, who had
      inherited it under his father's will, and it was then possibly the largest non-
      proprietary manor in the Province. The patent contained the authority, usual
      at that time in such grants, for the lord of the manor to hold court leet and
      court baron. Thomas Gerard (1600-1673) was a Roman Catholic surgeon and
      planter of prominence, and a member of the Governor's Council and of the
      Assembly. He became involved, however, in the Fendall “rebellion” of 1660,
      and in November of that year was banished by Gov. Philip Calvert and his
      estates confiscated, but received a qualified pardon, February 28, 1660/1 (Arch.
      Md. iii, 396, 407-408; xli, 414, 427-429). His later years seem to have been
      spent in Virginia where he died.
       This old record presents the classical picture of that relic of feudalism trans
      planted to American soil, an English manorial court. We have mention of the
      lord of the manor and the steward, the bailiff, the constable, the freeholders,
      the leaseholders, and the jury, or “jury and homage” as it is here styled. The
      names of the resiants, apparently those persons who lived on the manor but
      were neither freeholders nor leaseholders, were also recorded, as were also the
      names of the “ essoines “, that is those who were excused for their absence
      from court. It is not possible here to discuss the functions of such a court as
      this, or its origin. The interested reader is referred to John (Hemsley) Joim
      son's Old Maryland Manors (Johns Hopkins University Studies, 1883), where
      this St. Clement's court record was first printed, for a brief review of such
      courts, and to a more thorough recent study of the manorial system as it existed
      on Maryland soil by Charles M. Andrews, which is to be found in his Colonial
      Period of American History (ii, pp. 292-298). The St. Clement's court rec
      ords have also been reprinted in the two editions of Thomas' Chronicles of Co
      lonial Maryland, (see 1900 edit. pp. 128-142).
      


 
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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 61   View pdf image (33K)
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