This book had a very personal origin, but I hope its interest may
be more than personal. Although Maryland was not my home,
I have felt I had my roots there. Under King William the first
of my people commanded rangers on Potomac, and the province
had become a state before they left it moving west. Wanting to
know them better, I found I could do so only by rediscovering the
society wherein they lived.
The present work is not, however, a description of colonial
society in Maryland, nor am I now apt to write one, for that task
is large, and life is short. Forced to choose some aspect of it, I
asked what element was most dynamic and creative. Probably,
in this particular scene, the gentry, for it was they who converted
a frontier settlement into a mature social organism. If so, then a
rather significant question, which we may ask the existing records,
is how this vital class happened to arise. What produced it on
these shores? And how did it maintain itself?
Now gentility is no more than the evidence of wealth well used:
without material possessions it cannot arise, nor can it long survive
their loss. Our problem thus becomes an economic one, and
we must ask whence came these fortunes and how they were
The answer, like most answers, is a multiple one. Some capital
was brought in by the settlers. Land was had on easy terms.
Servants and slaves were brought to work the land. The bay
and ocean offered opportunities of trade. The native iron was
unearthed and smelted. The law became a lucrative profession.
And office holding revealed its profits to the holder. Indeed the
answer in a word was diversification. " Planting, " as Dr. Charles
Carroll remarked in 1751, "will not do without some other
Business or Professions.... "
The present essay is an inquiry into one such source of private
wealth, the profits of office. However I had first to single out the
more lucrative offices themselves and trace their often complicated
histories. It seemed also well to learn who held such places and
how these persons were related, so that the social meaning of the
profits might be surmised. For the offices were less important