University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Moore, Timothy D. (Historian); Lannér-Cusin, Johanna E.; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Reid, Jonathan M.; Flamingo, Margaret R.; Fields, David P. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Maryland (1)

Introduction,   pp. xxi-lvi

Page xxix

his brig in Annapolis on 15 October. Some contemporaries and histo-
rians even question whether Stewart had anticipated the violence, will-
ing to risk the loss of his ship, which had a hold full of tea and other
products from London, as a means of strengthening personal relations
with British officials. Regardless of Stewart's intentions, he would be
faced with a tremendous decision by the following week: burn the ship
and its contents or face violent repercussions.19
On 19 October, a crowd gathered to debate a proper course for
dealing with Stewart. The gathering had been publicized in handbills.
The debates were acrimonious. Some Marylanders wanted Stewart's ship
and its contents set ablaze. Others in the colony believed that burning
the tea alone would be warning enough against potential violators of
non-importation agreements. The debate mattered little. Before the
gathering decided on the latter course, Stewart had been taken on-
board the ship by Rezin Hammond, a Maryland planter who was active
in prewar radical politics, and Charles Ridgely, a Baltimore merchant
who had been active in colony politics since the 1760s. Hammond and
Ridgely gave Stewart little choice. He could immediately set the ship
and its contents alight or risk his family's safety. Even men like Samuel
Chase, who had become associated with radical politics, supposedly ad-
vocated a moderate course, attempting to stop a group of Annapolitans
who, on the way to the dock, had designed to burn the ship. For this
attempt Chase drew the ire of radical leaders. Some accused him of
cowardice for having lit a fire under the people only to smother it when
he perceived it necessary. Charles Carroll, Barrister, also suggested a
moderate response to Stewart's trespass. If those who had rallied against
Stewart were to commit arson, surely setting the tea alone alight would
demonstrate their anger. Carroll persuaded his audience. But the ship
still burned. Stewart had taken Hammond and Ridgely's threat seri-
The burning of the Peggy Stewart revealed a significant rift in popular
party politics in the years immediately preceding the Revolution. Some
Marylanders were clearly more comfortable with violence than others.
Early rabble-rousers, like Chase, were chastened by the event and mod-
erated accordingly. Merchants were justly fearful of recriminations by
mob leaders if their demands went unmet. A fate like Stewart's might
befall them, too. While the rift distanced some moderates from their
radical counterparts, the same rift also drew more moderates to the
popular fold, the country party. The proprietor's men were not a uni-
fied block. Rifts existed there, too, and families like the Carrolls, having
considerable wealth and prestige, were in a choice position to exploit

Go up to Top of Page