The Nineteenth Century
Whitman H. Ridgway
[The author covers the century with a wide range of insights into the intricate workings of the
politics, economics, and social context of Maryland in this transformative period. - Eds.]
Even today, nineteenth-century Maryland is never far from our consciousness. Francis
Scott Key's depiction of the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812 provides the words for
our national anthem. Our state song, adopted in 1939 and based on a poem by James Ryder
Randall, recounts the political turmoil of 1861 and laments that Maryland did not join the
southern states in secession. People who lived then, such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman,
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Isaac Freeman Raisin, and countless more are remembered today,
some more favorably than others. This essay will address the major political, economic, and
social themes of the century.
I: The Constitutional Structure of Politics
The Maryland Constitution of 1776 reflected tensions between the two influential
ideologies of the revolutionary era, republicanism and democracy, which would animate state
politics throughout the next century. The Declaration of Rights articulated the new social and
political contract between the people and their governors. More than a bill of rights, where
certain essential rights were reserved to the people, it stipulated that all power emanated from the
people and that the governors were accountable to them; indeed, they were their trustees.
Yet the structure of the new government kept the sovereign people at arm's length. Male
citizens who met a minimum property requirement voted directly for delegates to the general
assembly and indirectly for the Senate. Every five years voters elected Senatorial Electors who
would then meet together to elect a fifteen-member Senate. If there was a vacancy in the Senate
between elections, then the Senate itself selected a replacement. The people had no direct voice
in the election of the Governor, who was elected indirectly by the joint legislature, nor for the
selection of most local offices, which were appointed by the Governor, with the concurrence of
his Executive Council.
Republican theory did not require greater popular participation. Frequent elections for
the delegates to the lower house and the Governor tethered the trustees to their constituents. The
five-year term of the indirectly elected Senate gave it independence from undue influence from
the executive and the popularly based assembly and provided the whole system with stability.
Age and property qualifications for office-holders were designed to keep most power in the
hands of white, Christian men who had a greater stake in society than voters. The Revolutionary
generation attempted to craft a system of government that would balance direct and indirect
elections to keep the destabilizing power of the people in check, as well as assure that office-holders would remain true to their trust, by requiring them to be substantial citizens, who would
serve short terms in office.
Not all people enjoyed equal political rights or citizenship. Slaves and women did not
enjoy the franchise, nor did they have rights equal to men. Until the election laws were changed
in 1802 establishing white manhood suffrage, some Free Blacks who met the property
qualifications voted, at least in Baltimore City elections. Office-holding was also limited to
Christians. It was only in 1826 that legislation was adopted allowing Jews access to public
office-holding and equal rights and privileges as enjoyed by Christians.
The gap between the republican and democratic systems was evident in the notion of
representation. Rather than establish representation on population, as we do today, the
constitution perpetuated the colonial system based upon geographic units. Each country,
regardless of area or population, sent four delegates to the legislature. The cities of Annapolis
and Baltimore sent two each. The structure of the Senate reflected the additional influence of
regionalism. Nine members were to be elected from the Western Shore and six from the Eastern
Shore. The effect of this system was to give smaller counties greater influence in the legislature
and to empower the Eastern Shore in a century when population would gravitate to the Western
Shore in ever greater numbers.
Several external factors, notably demography and democratic ideology, undermined this
republican system of 1776 before the constitution was finally rewritten in 1851. Population
exploded on the Western Shore, due primarily to immigration from abroad and migration from
other areas, while counties in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore changed very little.
The demands for greater representation by residents of Baltimore City, whose population
increased from 26,514 people in 1800 to 80,620 in 1830, and the more populous counties were
rebuffed until the constitutional crisis of 1836. Reformers boycotted the scheduled meeting of
the Senatorial Electoral College in an attempt to force the election of a Senate sympathetic to
reform. Governor Thomas W. Veazey of Cecil County averted the potential chaos of not being
able to elect a government by re-calling the old Senate. This action, based upon dubious
constitutional authority, broke the will of the recalcitrant electors who joined the College to elect
a new Senate. True to republican principles, the legislature eventually gave the Western Shore
greater representation by creating two new counties, Carroll in 1837 and Howard in 1838, and
awarded Baltimore City equal representation to the largest county in 1838, without committing
the state to popular representation. Even the reformers from the more populous counties wanted
to limit Baltimore City's representation.
By 1850 the malapportionment of the state was no longer acceptable. Baltimore City now
numbered 169,054 souls and the Western Shore had 78 per cent of the state's population. Under
the modified system in the Constitution of 1851, citizens from each county and Baltimore City
were entitled to elect one Senator directly, and representation in the general assembly was
essentially based upon population, while still allowing for a minimum county representation of
Universal manhood suffrage proved more elusive. Notwithstanding the adoption of the
13th Amendment, which ended slavery, the state Constitutions of both 1864 and 1867 continued
to restrict the franchise to white males. This would not change until the ratification of the 15th
Amendment in 1870. Obtaining the vote for women would take longer.
II. Political Parties
Political parties proved to be an essential component in the evolution of democracy in
Maryland. Marylanders quickly divided into a two-party competition in the 1790s between
Federalists and Republicans. As in the past, both parties drew their leaders primarily from the
elite, but the Federalists represented the propertied interests and the Republicans appealed to the
lesser sorts in society for support. The Federalist party endured longer in the state than in most
others, due in no small measure to their opposition to President Madison's decision to enter the
War of 1812 and a bloody confrontation between Federalists and Republicans in the Baltimore
riot of that year. In the 1820s former Federalists and Republicans rallied to new political
standards as an evolving party competition between National Republicans and Jacksonians took
shape. The Whig party emerged from the ashes of the National Republicans in the 1830s to offer
battle to the Jacksonians. The Whigs, closely aligned with the interests of the propertied class,
advocated governmental support for internal improvements and commerce. The Jacksonians,
who evolved into the Democratic party, were far more democratic than the old Republicans both
in terms of ideology and leadership, and they opposed monopolies and public support for private
enterprises in general.
Maryland politics was influenced by several factors in the 1840s. The flood of
immigration, bringing Irish and Germans to the state in greater numbers, strengthened the
Democratic party, but the party itself was split between its democratic elements and those that
considered the protection of slavery as the party's central mission. Whig politicians favored
greater representation for the Western Shore in an effort to strengthen their power in the state
legislature, where they hoped to accomplish their economic agenda in the face of continuing
opposition from the smaller rural counties. The strains of the Mexican War and growing
sectionalism proved fatal to the Whig party; from its ruins rose the Know-Nothing party.
The emergence of the Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s was an important development.
Its primary appeal was nativism, blaming political corruption on immigrants and the Democratic
party, which heralded a period of violent partisan confrontation, especially in Baltimore City. To
some it represented the ultimate corruption of democracy--a people unhinged. Dominant in
state politics during the secession crisis, and absent any semblance of the Republican party which
was taking shape in other areas, the Know-Nothing, or American Party, proved to be a bridge for
unionism in the state.
The Civil War tore Maryland families apart and the state barely remained in the union in
1861. As the state song recounts, southern sympathizers challenged federal troops as they
marched from one railroad station to another in Baltimore City, resulting in a bloody riot, which
was followed by an effort to prevent further troop movement by burning railroad bridges leading
into the city. Governor Thomas Hicks was instrumental in keeping Maryland loyal to the union.
His efforts were successful due to the intervention of Federal forces, which maintained a highly
visible presence in the state, and especially on Federal Hill in Baltimore's inner harbor.
President Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, despite Chief Justice Roger B.
Taney's unsuccessful legal challenge, effectively silenced pro-secessionist voices and weakened
the Democratic party. The unionist triumph became complete with the adoption of the
Constitution of 1864 which outlawed slavery, disenfranchised southern sympathizers, and
reapportioned the legislature based upon white inhabitants. This provision further diminished the
power of the small counties where the majority of the former slave population lived.
The Civil War left its imprint on Maryland in various ways. Point Lookout in St. Mary's
county became as infamous a Confederate prison as Andersonville was for Union prisoners.
Several battles were fought on Maryland soil, notably Antietam in 1862, as Confederate troops
moved into Pennsylvania, raided commerce, and menaced the nation's capital. But President
Lincoln's emancipation program was blunted in Maryland because he feared losing the border
The domination of the newly-formed Republican party did not survive long after the
conclusion of the war. Although the courts upheld the constitutional provision disenfranchising
disloyal persons, popular support for it eroded with the peace, and the Constitution of 1867
restored the vote to white males. For the remainder of the century a resurgent Democratic party
would compete with a weakened Republican party for political domination of the state. Political
machines continued to run urban politics, and their colorful political bosses dispensed patronage
and power throughout the nineteenth century and well into the next. Progressive reformers rose
to displace them late in the century, but with only limited success.
III. Internal Improvements
A lasting legacy of the nineteenth century may be seen in the internal improvements, the
system of roads, canals and railroads that are still visible throughout Maryland. Boosters
justified the expense of internal improvements in terms of access to remote agricultural
hinterlands within the state, ties to regional markets, and the fabled bounty of the Ohio Valley.
As the state would discover as it teetered on insolvency the early 1840s due to its
overenthusiastic investment in such projects, boosters underestimated the costs and difficulty of
these ventures and overestimated the profits.
Long before the state could impose a gas tax or access federal funds to pay for
transportation projects, the burden of transportation improvement was borne by the county
government or the private investor. One common device to keep local taxes low was for the state
to incorporate private groups to build toll roads. Many such toll roads were constructed
throughout the state to connect cities and to link the state to the National Road, whose eastern
terminus was Cumberland, which led into the Ohio Valley. These roads, however, had severe
limitations and proved too costly to transport bulk agricultural produce at a reasonable price.
The construction of canals, most often along side of rivers, appeared to be the ideal
solution. Among the numerous canal projects undertaken in the state, three stand out--the
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, and the Cross-Cut Canal.
Begun in 1828, the Chesapeake and Ohio canal promised easy access to the fabled wealth of the
Ohio Valley by following the Potomac River. This challenge proved too daunting and would
never be fully realized, but the canal was completed to Cumberland in 1850, and would continue
in operation, primarily hauling coal from Western Maryland, through 1924, when flood damage
proved too expensive to repair. The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was part of a bi-state
system which followed the shallow Susquehanna River to move agricultural produce from the
interior of Pennsylvania and Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. Built in the late
1830s, it also failed to generate the profits investors expected due in large part to unforeseen
legal problems and recurring damage from the river itself. The Maryland portion of the canal
continued to carry trade through the end of the century. The most successful of the three projects
was the Cross-Cut canal across the Delmarva Peninsula, which opened in 1829 to link the
Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River, creating new opportunities for regional trade. It
remains in operation today.
The greatest challenge to canals as a cost-effective means to transport bulk cargo came
from the introduction of a new technology--the railroad. This innovative and untried
transportation idea was embraced by Baltimore City boosters with the incorporation of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1827. They were desperate; completion of a Potomac river canal
would divert the grain trade from the hinterland to Georgetown or Alexandria and undermine the
source of Baltimore's remarkable prosperity and growth. Far from any navigable river, some
boosters envisioned a cross-cut canal to connect the city with the Potomac River and tap the trade
generated by the C&O Canal, but the more visionary boosters recognized the potential of the
railroad, which promised to be cheaper to construct and could be built in almost any direction by
not having to follow a river valley. It was no accident that the first terminus of the new railroad
in 1830 was Ellicott City, a highly successful mill town on the Patapsco River, where wheat and
other grains were ground into flour for export. From there it pushed into the rich Maryland
hinterland and ultimately into the Ohio Valley. The railroad proved to be the ideal nineteenth
century internal improvement and the success of the B&O would be replicated by other
companies created within Maryland and regionally.
The railroads left their imprint on many Maryland communities. The B&O constructed
large maintenance and repair shops in Baltimore City, creating economic opportunities for other
companies to build locomotives and rolling stock, and to fabricate metal parts. Smaller towns
with repair facilities, such as Brunswick and Perryville, became railroad towns in their own right.
Railroads also provided access to raw materials, such as coal and iron ore, in the western
counties of Maryland. Combined with the emergence of new technologies, such as the
fabrication of tin cans and ice harvesting from the Susquehanna River in the winter, railroads
moved a more diverse array of goods into far distant markets.
New technologies had a tremendous impact on transportation throughout the nineteenth
century. The massive and expensive stone structures used in canal building and early railroad
bridges, still evident along the C&O Canal where the Monocacy and Potomac rivers meet or the
Thomas Viaduct where the B&O crosses the Patapsco River, were supplemented with innovative
uses of iron and steel to build bridges, which were far easier and cheaper to construct. Steam
power was quickly harnessed to power railroad engines, which became more streamlined and
powerful over the century, and to propel boats on the Chesapeake Bay. Still, as in other areas
where older technologies competed with the new, sail continued to provide efficient power for
boats moving goods up and down the Chesapeake and along Maryland's extensive river system.
As the costs of these internal improvements projects became prohibitive, and far beyond
the capacity of the private sector to finance, boosters turned to the local, state and national
governments for funding. While the national government proved reluctant to assume this
burden, the state of Maryland, like New York and Pennsylvania, invested heavily in internal
improvements projects within its borders.
IV: Commerce, Industry and Work
The nineteenth century reflected both continuity and change in how people earned their
living. For those on the farm, who continued to grow grain or tobacco for market, the work
remained hard, lessened perhaps by the selective introduction of machinery over the century, and
influenced by the eradication of slavery following the Civil War. Canal construction provided
labor for skilled stone masons and unskilled manual laborers, many of whom were Irish, who
worked in competing gangs. The greatest change, other than the end of slavery, would be
associated with the introduction of the market economy and the evolution of the industrial age.
The introduction of the market economy would forever alter commercial relations in
America in this period. This transformation is associated with the replacement of barter with
cash payment for work and the increased importance of commerce in local economic affairs.
That is, in many rural areas, a worker or producer would barter his labor or crops for non-cash
goods or credit, or a merchant would accept goods in exchange for others. Canal workers were
often paid in company scrip which could only be redeemed in company stores. When a farmer
took his grain to be milled, the miller often took his payment in flour. Naturally, some
transactions were in cash because it was required for the payment of taxes, among other things.
With the expansion of the market economy, barter was replaced by cash payments, and work
itself was valued on what the market would bear. This transformation occurred more quickly in
some areas than others; indeed, in isolated rural areas, the old ways died hard. The expansion of
commerce was also an essential component of this transformation.
These changes transformed the artisanal system of production which dominated the pre-industrial way in which goods were produced. For instance, enterprising merchants were now
able purchase goods, such as shoes, from distant manufacturers and sell them locally at a profit.
The local shoemakers, or cordwainers, would be forced to reduce their prices to be competitive
and to search for ways to cut their costs of production. Among the several options was to make
production more efficient, or to cut the wages of the journeymen cordwainers. Both of these
options struck at the heart of the artisanal system. Traditionally, a master artisan took on
apprentices, who lived in the master's household and learned the trade in exchange for their
labor, and who upon adulthood became independent journeymen, who worked for wages and
aspired to become masters themselves. Taken together, they formed the elements of an honorable
and respectable trade, one which promised a "competence," a living wage, to all who worked
hard and skillfully in their craft. One result of the rationalization of production was the "de-skilling" of work, which meant that instead of making a complete shoe the journeyman would
only perform the skilled work, such as cutting the leather, while unskilled workers would work
on more routine operations for less pay. While a journeyman expected to earn a fair living wage
for his labor, the new economy meant that wages would be determined by market forces, and that
he might never establish his own shop and become a master artisan. For those artisans whose
craft was caught up in the new commercial reality, life was far less certain than before, estranging
traditional personal relationships between masters and journeymen, and transforming masters
into employers rather than co-workers. One result in the early nineteenth century was that
journeymen formed associations to protect their status and tried to withhold their labor, in the
form of a strike, in an effort to maintain or improve their wages.
The emergence of "sweat shops" as part of Baltimore City's clothing manufacturing
system was symbolic of the fallen state of the artisanal system and the influence of immigration
as the century progressed. Tailoring had once been an honorable craft. But the increasing
demand for clothing encouraged employers to rationalize production and to cut costs. One way
to reduce production costs was to recruit immigrant women, who possessed essential sewing
skills, as unskilled workers, who could be paid low wages. Clothing was produced in ever larger
manufactories and in sweat shops which were often located in lofts in immigrant residential
The emergence of the industrial economy was a parallel development. A close study of
Maryland's economic development shows the complexity of this transformation in the nineteenth
century. The industrial revolution is often associated with the creation of factories, a new work
discipline, and the introduction of steam power. In reality, two different systems co-existed.
Water power rather than steam provided the incentive for early industrial development in
Maryland. The abundance of fast flowing streams on the Western Shore had attracted millers in
the previous century who provided in turn an incentive for farmers to cultivate grain crops and
for Baltimore merchants to find new markets for flour. Baltimore entrepreneurs, recognizing the
potential of the many water sites in close proximity to the city, constructed numerous textile
factories, especially along the Patapsco River, Gwynn's Falls and Jones Falls. Small factory
villages soon clustered around these operations to house the work force. Water would continue
to be a cheap source of power well into the twentieth century. Even after factories converted to
alternative power sources, some of these textile villages, such as Daniels on the Patapsco River,
continued producing cotton duck until after World War II when competition from synthetic
fabrics undermined the market. Other small factory villages located along the streams that passed
through Baltimore would be incorporated into the city as it grew.
In the end, however, steam power ultimately triumphed over water power. Even if the
abundance of water power retarded the introduction of steam power early in the century, over
time its advantages, especially that of building factories where the potential labor force lived,
proved to be far more beneficial. With the advent of the railroad age, and the construction of the
locomotive shops in Baltimore, not to mention its demand for metal-making shops, the industrial
age arrived in the city. Steam-powered presses were used to print the Baltimore Sun, to produce
power for canneries in Canton, and for other industrial operations throughout the city.
The vicissitudes of the market economy affected the factory worker as much as the artisan
who toiled in the craft system. Employers sought to improve their market share by controlling
labor costs with the result that workers increasingly resorted to strikes to protect their livelihoods.
They also formed unions and the conflicts between labor and management became more
confrontational, especially towards the end of the century. There was an especially violent and
destructive strike of B&O workers in 1877.
V. The End of Slavery
The nineteenth century witnessed the end of slavery, but as in other Southern states, it
was a complicated process and not always a pretty tale. Maryland was different than most other
Southern States in that it had a large and expanding Free Black population, many of whom
gravitated to Baltimore City in search of work and greater opportunity. One historian
characterized Free Blacks as being "slaves without masters," a term which says more about white
attitudes towards "free" blacks than attitudes of African Americans towards freedom. Even after
emancipation, freedom for African Americans did not mean equality.
Following the Revolution and the establishment of the new national government in the
1790s, there was a general outcry that slavery was inconsistent with republican principles.
Several states north of the Mason-Dixon line enacted legislation ending slavery. Maryland and
Virginia, concerned that slavery and tobacco were unprofitable, made it easier for owners to
manumit their slaves. Increasingly farmers on the upper Eastern Shore and on the Western
Shore turned to the production of grain crops which did not require the intensive work associated
with tobacco. Added to this was the post-Revolutionary expansion of Methodism, which taught
that it was immoral for one man to own another. The result was that slave owners on the upper
Eastern Shore and the upper Western Shore increasingly manumitted, or freed, their slaves.
Those who continued to cultivate tobacco, especially in Southern Maryland, did not, with the
result that slavery became even more concentrated there before the Civil War. Maryland's Free
Black population was far more numerous than in other Southern States. Some chose to remain in
the rural areas to find agricultural work; others moved to Baltimore City or left the state. Most
retained ties to their families, both slave and free, throughout the state.
Manumission patterns demonstrate the difficulty of making easy generalizations about the
motives of masters in freeing their slaves. Some manumissions were immediate, suggesting an
ideological or moral motivation, while many stretched out the process over many years. Some
Maryland owners, like a number of state-sponsored schemes in the north, hit upon the idea that
slaves should bear the cost of emancipation by laboring for a specific term of years before
earning their freedom. Children born of slave mothers under these arrangements remained slaves
until reaching a specific age. In some instances, masters permitted slaves to purchase their
freedom; or they reached agreements with Free Blacks to the purchase of family members who
were still slaves.
Reformers attacked the "peculiar institution" in several ways. Abolitionists petitioned the
first Congress to eradicate slavery altogether. Failing that, they proselytized against it through
public talks, newspapers, and pamphlets. Frederick Douglass, a run-away slave from Talbot
County who wrote a powerful autobiography condemning slavery, was an especially attractive
and articulate spokesman for the abolitionist cause. The noted abolitionist crusaders Benjamin
Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison co-edited The Genius of Universal Emancipation in
Baltimore City in the 1820s. Misjudging Baltimore as a city of northern sympathies in a slave
state, they discovered that there was little support for abolitionism, and ultimately moved the
press to the north.
Colonization was embraced by other reformers. The Maryland Colonization Society was
formed in 1817 to encourage Free Blacks to resettle in Liberia so that they could provide a
beacon of progress for other Africans. Like slave owners, a number of these reformers believed
in the innate racial inferiority of African Americans and that Free Blacks constituted an
unreliable work force, so their motives were less than enlightened. The accomplishments of
people like Benjamin Banneker and Frederick Douglass show the shallowness of that belief.
Nonetheless, some Free Blacks, such as Daniel Coker, left Maryland for Liberia in 1820, and
wrote home extolling Africa and encouraging others to follow. Other Free Blacks migrated to
Guiana, Haiti, and Trinidad in search of a better life. Overall, however, most Free Blacks
resisted the call for colonization. Some reformers suspected that its real purpose was to
strengthen the institution of slavery in Maryland by removing the Free Black population
Free Blacks proved to be a valued work force in both rural and urban Maryland.
Following the Nat Turner Rebellion in Virginia in 1831, the state legislatures of both Virginia
and Maryland adopted legislation that curtailed manumissions, mandated that all newly
manumitted slaves had to leave the state, and limited the freedom of Free Blacks. White farmers
and urban employers protested this legislation and refused to implement it because of their
dependence upon Free Black labor.
One of the most remarkable developments in antebellum Maryland was the creation of a
vital Free Black society in the face of such hostility. Increasing racial intolerance forced blacks
from a number of religious congregations in the late 1790s. African Americans in Baltimore City
established a black Methodist meetinghouse on Sharp Street in 1801, which was one of several
black and mixed race congregations in the city. Unhappy with uninspiring white visiting
ministers, these congregations called for black ministers. One of the first was Daniel Coker who
emerged as a dynamic religious figure in 1810 and as a force in the creation of an independent
black church in 1816. Ultimately, building on ties to the African American community in
Philadelphia, a new evangelical church, the AME church, was created. As black religious leaders
became involved with efforts to establish African American schools, they emerged as important
community leaders. Free Blacks found employment in the city in manual and semi-skilled jobs.
Considering the travails of community building, and white paternalism and resistance, it is no
wonder that Baltimore's African Americans preferred to celebrate Haitian Independence day
rather than the Fourth of July.
Not all whites were intolerant. Quakers continued to oppose the growing racism and
served as useful intermediaries between Free Blacks and a legal system that impeded their equal
access to courts of law. Baptists were also more inclusive than exclusive.
Nonetheless, as slavery became more of a divisive political issue nationally, and with the
expansion of the market economy, life for Free Blacks became increasingly difficult. The
Baltimore riot of 1812 had shown that when rioters rampaged against the emerging Free Black
community, racial tensions were never far below the surface. Such attacks on the Free Blacks
would continue with Know-Nothing mob violence in the 1850s. One reason, revealed in
Frederick Douglass's description of working as a Baltimore City shipyard in the early 1830s, was
that white laborers saw blacks as undercutting their wages. Indeed, even before the enactment of
restrictive legislation in the 1830s, Free Blacks were increasingly limited to unskilled jobs in the
city. Visitors to Baltimore observed that by the 1850s white immigrants dominated the docks
where Free Blacks had once provided the labor.
The end of slavery in Maryland was a complex affair. All along, slaves like Frederick
Douglass had tried to escape to the north on their own initiative, some successfully, others not.
Individuals such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth aided escaping slaves at considerable
risk to their own safety. The underground railroad, a system of transportation and safe-houses
conducted by Free Blacks and sympathetic whites, offered further assistance. Slave patrols, the
assurance of severe punishment for the escaping slave, and legal penalties for anyone offering
assistance, made such efforts especially dangerous. And then there was abolitionist John Brown
and his associates who set out from a rented farm in Frederick County in 1857 to foment a slave
revolt by capturing the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry.
The fact that Maryland was a border state, whose allegiance was essential for the
preservation of the Union, compromised any possibility that slavery would be eradicated early.
President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freed slaves whose masters were in
rebellion against the United States, leaving those unfortunate enough to be owned by "loyal"
Americans still slaves. As the inevitability of the defeat of the Confederacy became obvious,
slave-owners unsuccessfully advocated some sort of compensation scheme for their property.
It is important to recognize the contributions African Americans made in the Civil War
effort. As soon as the union permitted black enlistments into the armed forces, Free Blacks
rallied to the cause. This proved to be controversial in that some abolitionists advocated
conscripting slaves and others argued that allowing Free Blacks to enlist actually strengthened
slavery in Maryland. Throughout the state, there were reports of Southern sympathizers
impeding Union efforts to enlist black soldiers.
Even after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, blacks were not
given full rights of citizenship. By the Constitutions of 1864 and 1867 the franchise was
restricted to white males. Black males obtained the franchise only with the ratification of the
Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. The adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment clarified civil rights
for African Americans that had been uncertain since Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's infamous
Dred Scott decision in 1857. The state adopted an apprenticeship law which allowed former
masters to indenture African American children. The assumption behind the law was that
parents would not leave their children and would remain in the area as "free" agricultural labor.
This blatant example of discrimination was stricken by the courts.
Freedom brought a harsh new reality to blacks. If Free Blacks had been "slaves without
masters" before the Civil War, the prevailing assumption among most whites after emancipation
was that all blacks had been slaves. Whatever accomplishments Free Blacks had made were all
but forgotten. Within the black community, however, there was a new emphasis on education,
assisted by the federal Freedman's Bureau, which, along with various black churches, established
formal and informal schools to teach the rudiments of reading and writing.
Maryland, like other Southern states, adopted laws which enforced racial separation and
segregation in the late nineteenth century. Long before the Supreme Court accepted the doctrine
of "separate but equal" as the standard for racial accommodations in Plessy v. Ferguson, the
norm in nineteenth-century Maryland was "separate and unequal."
VI. Baltimore City: "Mob-town" or "Monumental City"?
In many ways, the experience of Baltimore City embodies the major trends of the
nineteenth century. Established in 1752, but not incorporated until 1796, Baltimore City's
development paralleled Maryland's agricultural transformation from tobacco to grain and the
commerce associated with it. Strengthened by its proximity to mills, Baltimore merchants
shipped flour and other commodities on a fleet of sailing ships, including the famous Baltimore
Clippers. During the Revolution and again in the War of 1812, they outfitted privateers to prey
on the trade of the enemy, while they also aggressively sought to expand their trading
opportunities in the Caribbean. Many of these merchants were active in various internal
improvements projects which would guarantee Baltimore's commercial prosperity and
Following the revolution, Baltimore City supplanted Annapolis as Maryland's most
important city. While Annapolis remained the state capital, despite efforts to relocate it to
Baltimore, the state legislature incorporated numerous banks and insurance companies, which
added vitality to the new urban center. These institutions stimulated commercial expansion,
internal improvements, and forays into industrial development.
Baltimore City's sheer size reflected its new importance. A modest city by modern
standards of 26,514 in 1800, its population grew to 212, 418 in 1860, and 508, 957 in 1900.
Baltimore represented 8 percent of Maryland's total population in 1800, 31 percent in 1860, and
43 percent in 1900. Immigration contributed to this growth. Those who settled in Baltimore
included French refugees from Haiti arriving in the late 1790s, Irish and Germans in the
antebellum period, and other European groups after the Civil War. Their muted presence in the
modern city may be seen on street signs, historic structures, and churches.
Internal improvements and the new industrial technology left its imprint on this
nineteenth century city. The B&O railroad was everywhere in the city. The Mount Clare works
arose on its western periphery and tracks soon criss-crossed the city, linking commercial sites and
the new Camden street station. Other lines, yards, and stations developed in other sections of the
city. These railroads stimulated industrial development wherever they were. Soon immigrants
would arrive at the B&O's massive Locust Point facility and board trains directly to the mid-west. Now Fells Point, once a distant mile and a half from the central business district, was
incorporated into Baltimore City and continued as a major shipping center, and Canton, on Fells
Point's eastern border, emerged as an industrial center in its own right, specializing in canning,
among other activities.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor was revitalized in the nineteenth century. Commerce had
concentrated earlier in Fells Point because of its deeper harbor, but with the advent of steam
power the Inner Harbor teemed with activity. Light Street wharf, the present site of James
Rouse's Harborplace, was the main thoroughfare for passenger transportation on the Chesapeake
Bay via the Old Bay Line from 1840 well into the twentieth century.
Technology itself left an imprint on the nineteenth century city. Steel framing and iron
front buildings, promising ease of construction and greater protection against fire, revolutionized
construction techniques. The urban skyline was no longer dominated by church steeples or the
domes of the Merchant's Exchange and the Basilica; now modern buildings pushed higher than
earlier structures constructed of brick. Few of these new structures survived the Fire of 1904 or
revitalization efforts in the twentieth century, however.
Two labels have been associated with Baltimore City--"mob-town" and "the
monumental city"--which have special resonance with the nineteenth century. The first,
despised by city boosters, is important to understand. The "mob-town" moniker represents the
apprehension that democracy was debasing and corrupting the political system.
Beginning in the city election of 1798, where there were reports of physical intimidation,
Federalists argued that democracy was eroding the social structure resulting in mob rule, not
unlike that experienced in France during the French Revolution. The infamous Baltimore Riot of
1812 reinforced this fear. All of this seemed to come true in the 1850s when Know-Nothing
mobs terrorized city elections. Popular attacks on the Massachusetts troops as they marched
from the President Street Station to the Camden Station in 1861 was a factor in the decision to
billet federal troops in the city. One of the reasons that mobs controlled the streets was that the
popularly elected government refused to restrain its constituents.
If popular government was becoming more associated with violence, political bossism
was corrupting it. Baltimore City, like other urban centers with large immigrant populations, was
increasingly influenced by political bosses over the century. They won the electoral support of
immigrants by promising them jobs in city government or on public works projects. Private
contractors, hoping to win governmental contracts, were more than willing to hire workers
recommended by the bosses. There was a great deal of money to be made when the new city hall
was built between 1867 and 1876. Isaac Freeman Raisin, working behind the scenes, was able to
influence Baltimore City government after the 1870s by controlling the city council and working
with United States Senator Arthur Pue Gorman to dominate state politics. He would be
succeeded by John J. "Sonny" Mahon into the twentieth century. The Baltimore Reform League,
under the leadership of patrician Charles J. Bonaparte at the end of the century, was formed to
purge the bosses from politics and purify the political process.
Baltimore's reputation as the Monumental City was established in the nineteenth century.
The majestic Washington Monument (1829) dominated the skyline and became the core of an
affluent residential neighborhood as the wealthy sought refuge from work. Battle Monument
(1815), designed by Maximilian Godefroy with unusual Egyptian motifs, made a bold democratic
statement by listing everyone who died in the defense of Baltimore in 1814.
The architectural diversity of nineteenth century Baltimore City reflected trends found
elsewhere in Maryland. The century began with an emphasis on the Classical style. Benjamin
Henry Latrobe's monumental Basilica of the Assumption (1821), represents a statement of the
importance of the Catholic Church in Maryland's history, and can be seen in almost every
contemporary painting of the city. Less prominent, but no less interesting examples, are the
McKim Free School (1833), built to educate poor Irish boys, and the Lloyd Street Synagogue
(1845), both of which are in the poorer sections of east Baltimore. By mid-century the Gothic
style was gaining importance. Robert Cary Long, Jr., created Green Mount Cemetery (1845),
which offered a new way of contemplating the importance of death, and the brooding Franklin
Street Presbyterian Church (1847), which is close to the Basilica. Another example of this style is
the Baltimore City Jail (1859) which was designed to instill a respect for authority. By mid-century other city builders followed the highly ornate Italianate style, represented in the Camden
Street Station (1857). Perhaps the most interesting trend was the creation of Roland Park as the
century ended. Linked to the city by electric streetcars, it was a planned suburban residential
community of elegant English style houses which was built to take advantage the rolling contours
of the countryside, designed in part by the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted,
VII. The Past as Prologue
Maryland by 1900 was very different from what it had been in 1800. Although
agriculture was still an important part of the economy, the industrial revolution had become its
driving force, and the Bethlehem steel works taking shape on Sparrows Point would be an
indicator of the health of the new economy in the next century. Slavery had been eradicated; yet
African Americans had been relegated to a second class citizenship that would not be challenged
for decades to come. Railroads and steam ship lines dominated commerce. Only a few canals
were still in use; with the exception of the Cross-Cut Canal, they had failed to fulfill the promise
their boosters had foretold. One of the more significant changes was the centrality of Baltimore
City. It now reigned as the center of wealth, commerce and population, whose zenith had yet to
be reached. Significant too were the residential suburb of Roland Park and the impact of
electrified street car lines. With the advent of the automobile much more would change in the