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The history of slavery at Mount Clare is unusual in Maryland for several reasons. Charles Carroll and his wife’s family the Tilghmans, were among the few slaveholders in Maryland who owned large plantations with over one hundred enslaved persons.

Slavery at Mount Clare was also different because enslaved workers were involved not only in the typical agricultural and domestic work but also in industrial jobs at the Baltimore Iron Works. The Barrister’s record books indicate that the Georgia Plantation functioned as a working agricultural site, growing both tobacco and grain crops. At one point over two hundred enslaved individuals were used as labor on the plantation and the iron works at Mount Clare and their work supported the elegant lifestyle of the Carrolls in the mansion.

In addition, Mount Clare’s location just five miles from the city of Baltimore offered its enslaved workers the opportunity to take advantage of the possibilities of freedom that its proximity offered.
Painting showing Charles Carroll,
visitor and an enslaved individual
at Mount Clare

Maryland’s history as a slaveholding state was unique. Few land holdings in the state would have rated the name of “plantation” in the eyes of slaveholders from the Southern States, as the median number of enslaved persons owned by each slaveholder in Maryland was only three. In addition no other state approached Maryland in either the absolute or relative size of its free African American population. In 1790 enslaved persons accounted for nearly one third of Maryland’s population, by 1850 their proportion had fallen to less than one-sixth. In 1790 Maryland had the second largest free population in the country; by 1810 it was first and remained so until the end of slavery.

Why was the free African American population so great in Maryland? Several historians have suggested that a powerful combination of republican principals, religious persuasion, economic pressure and antislavery activity all played important roles in creating Maryland’s unique position.


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