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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 63   View pdf image (33K)
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            Maryland Manorial Courts.   lxiii

      of negro slavery tended still further to make a manor run on feudal lines eco
      nomically unprofitable. Add to this the fact that the system, already more or
      less an anachronism in England, was even more so in the frontier atmosphere
      of the colonies.
       In addition to the St. Clement's court record itself, there are two refer
      ences to be found in the public records to the existence of a manorial court on
      this manor. (Arch. Md. xli, 464, 480). There is also to be found in the pro
      ceedings of the Provincial Court a reference to a court baron held on St. Ga
      briel's Manor, when, March 7, 1656, James Gaylard, the steward of Mrs. Mary
      Brent, “the Lady” of the manor, gave delivery “by the rod according to
      the custome of the sayd Mannor” of a messuage and thirty-seven and a half
      acres of land to one Martin Kirke (Arch. Md. xli, 94). St. Gabriel's Manor,
      containing nine hundred acres, had been granted, August 13, 1641, to Gov.
      Leonard Calvert (1606-1647), the younger brother of Cecilius Calvert, the
      Lord Proprietary, and Mary Brent, the lady of the manor in 1656, was prob
      ably a close relative of Leonard Calvert's wife, and may have been the guardian
      of his two children, who were minors at that date.
       Had manorial courts existed on many of these old manors more frequent
      mention of them would almost certainly have found its way into the public
      records of the Province in the form of “transfers “, or appeals, from the
      manorial courts to the Provincial or county courts, as in the case of St. Clement's
      and St. Gabriel's for wc icarn from the St. Clement's record that certain cases
      brought before manorial courts might be referred, or appealed, to the Pro
      vincial Court or to a county court, depending upon their importance. It is of
      course possible that the publication of later proceedings of the Provincial Court
      and of the county courts may show that manorial courts did exist on a few
      other manors than those just referred to, but that they could have been numer
      ous seems most improbable.
       A trivial breach of the peace “presented “, October 27, 1659, at the St. Clem
      ent's court, was ordered “transferred to the next County Cort according to
      Law” (p. 628). At the same session Robert Cole was fined for unlawfully
      marking one of the hogs of the lord of the manor (p. 628); Cole refused to
      pay the fine, and Gerard, the lord, appealed to the Provincial Court, where he
      lost his appeal. (Arch. Md. xli, 480). Eleven years later at the September
      166o court, Capt. [Luke] Gardiner was accused of “receiving” hogs not bear
      ing his mark, and this case also was “transferred” to the Provincial Court
      (p. 634), but the result has not been learned.
       To look upon seventeenth-century Maryland as a land in which some seventy
      or more large landowners lived in ample manor houses and held feudal sway
      over numerous freehold and leasehold tenants, is a romantic picture which is
      not justified either by the Provincial records or by the economic conditions of
      the time. As shown by these two volumes now published the county courts were
      the courts of the people in their daily difficulties, and the large amount of trivial
      litigation which found its way into them left little room for manorial courts to
      have played any but a very small part in the daily life of the community.

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Proceedings of the County Court of Charles County, 1658-1666
Volume 53, Preface 63   View pdf image (33K)
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