My name is Elizabeth Cassibry and I am a rising junior at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. I am currently double majoring in history and German studies, with a concentration in European studies and a minor in computer science. While at school, I participate in club volleyball, student government, and am the vice president of academic development for Alpha Omicron Pi, Sigma Tau. I was born and raised in an active duty military family and I have moved around my entire life. Currently, I live in Key West, Florida. I am thrilled to be working with Owen and Natalie to further investigate the Maryland 400 and unearth new information of men whose stories have slowly disappeared throughout the past two centuries.
I’ve always felt a strong connection to colonial and early American history. My goal is to become a college professor and show students the role that our past plays in current times. I am so thankful for the opportunity to take an active role in the sharing of history, and I owe a great deal of thanks to the Starr Center at Washington College and the Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution for giving me the opportunity to help immortalize the Maryland 400 and their legacy.
Throughout the summer if you have any questions or comments regarding my work, don’t be shy, contact me through email or by commenting on my posts! I am always open to learning more and answering your questions. If you want to follow the work I am doing this summer, feel free to check out the Starr Center Facebook page where I give weekly updates on my research.
Congratulations Liz look forward to your future findings on such an important subject. Cheers Bill
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Welcome aboard. We thank you for joining to help this project along. It has a tremendous impact to the State of Maryland to learn more about its own history.
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Thank you for the warm welcome! I completely agree and look forward to expanding my knowledge on the Maryland 400.
Can’t wait to read your posts. The 400 richly deserve having their stories told.
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What a wonderful opportunity to play a major part in making the history of ordinary people fighting for a cause more accessible. I am researching the lives ood women transported to Maryland from England in the 1730s and 1740s. I wonder if any of the men you research were sons of transported women.
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For Jane Grenfell:
I have done some work on the women represented in the confiscated mailbags during the French and Indian War (Clementina Rind for one). The work we did with the Cheston Papers for a slightly later period (Ekirch;s book) contains a fair amount of data on Women transported a bit later, as do the Old Bailey records. Let me know who you are researching and perhaps I can be of assistance. If you have not already seen Randlolph Cock’s note on Elizabeth Sprigg of Baltimore County, you may find that helpful as well:
Elizabeth Sprigs — a bonded labourer, 1756
HCA 30/258/2 no. 106
The iniquities of slavery are universally acknowledged. But how many people realise that alongside the hundreds of thousands of Africans enslaved in the British colonies of North America and the Caribbean in the eighteenth century, many thousands of white English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish men, women and children worked in cotton fields and tobacco plantations on comparable terms of bondage?
Indentured servants, as they were euphemistically called, sold themselves into what was effectively slavery for a period of time (typically seven years) in exchange for their passage to America and the promise (frequently unfulfilled) that when they had served their time they would be given a plot of land, seed and tools, with which to build a new life in the New World. Other bonded labourers were convicts, guilty of sometimes quite petty crimes, transported to the colonies and sold to landowners to work their land. Still others were waifs and strays, London’s street-children and vagabonds, or simply unfortunates who fell victim to unscrupulous ships’ captains and crimps who kidnapped them and carried them off in chains across the Atlantic, to be knocked down to the highest bidder in Maryland, Virginia or Barbados.
Her being ‘forever banished’ and having ‘offended in the highest Degree’ through her ‘former bad Conduct’, might suggest Elizabeth Sprigs, writer of this letter, had been sentenced to transportation for some crime, but no record of a conviction has come to light and her shame and humility need not have stemmed from a criminal offence. There is not actually enough evidence in the letter to say whether she was a convict or an indentured labourer; the fact she was only asking her father for clothes and not to be bought out of her bondage, as some indentured labourers did in their letters home, perhaps indicates that that option was not open to her — but we can’t be sure.
Elizabeth, who is clearly in a desperate state, describes the conditions in which she lives and works, and the treatment she receives at the hands of her master and mistress, and begs her father for help. Tied up, whipped, abused, over-worked, under-fed, ill-housed and inadequately clothed — her characterisation of her treatment lends credence to her assertion (supported by other contemporary accounts) that ‘many neagroes are better used’.
This is the only known surviving trace of poor Elizabeth’s wretched existence. We can deduce from it nothing of her origins beyond her being the daughter of a London metal-worker. The letter does, however, contain the information that her master was Richard Cross, about whom something is known. Cross was one of four sons of a wealthy Maryland family, and Elizabeth would have lived and worked at one of the Cross’s plantations near Baltimore — probably either Cross’s Park or Cross’s Lot. ‘Mr Lux’, the Baltimore merchant (probably William Lux) is also a name to conjure with. The Lux family had long-established connections with the convict trade: from 1720 to 1737, first Darby Lux then Francis Lux had commanded a succession of ships bringing convicts from England, most notably the Patapsco Merchant, and in 1752, the Lux was plying the same trade out of Annapolis.
Like so much about her, we can only guess at Elizabeth’s level of literacy, but despite some vivid invective breaking through in places, surely straight from her own tongue, this letter has the hallmarks of one written for her by a third party — and there is some evidence who that might have been. The handwriting, layout, paper and several distinctive turns of phrase match two other letters from the mailbag of the same ship that carried Elizabeth’s letter. One is from a William Hodgeon, in which he asks his wife to send him a copy of The Whole Duty of Man. Anyone who could contemplate reading a stodgy High Church treatise like that would not have needed assistance with letter-writing, so it seems reasonable to guess that he may have been the one who penned all three letters.
Whoever actually put pen to paper, we do know that once written, along with three-hundred other items of mail for England, the letter was entrusted to the Enterprize, Thomas Jones master, a British ship which had brought to Annapolis, among other passengers, one indentured servant and four convicts, and was returning to England (with this letter) when captured on 8 December 1756 by the French privateer L’Aurore. But she was retaken on 17 December by the British privateer Blakeney, William Solby captain, and taken into Guernsey.
Whenever a ship was captured from the enemy (even if, as in this case, it was a British ship re-captured) there had to be a hearing in the High Court of Admiralty to determine the legality of the capture, and to decide who was entitled to the spoil. If it was found to be enemy property, the officers and men of the ship which made the capture were awarded the value of the ship and her cargo. The ship’s papers and any other documents found on board were often crucial evidence, and the contents of Enterprize’s mailbag, including Elizabeth’s letter, would have been examined for clues to the ownership of the ship and her cargo. Afterwards, the seized documents were stored in the Tower of London, eventually being transferred to the National Archives, where they are today.
The saddest thing about this affair is that Elizabeth would not have been aware that her appeal never reached her father. We cannot know whether there would have been a family reconciliation had it not been for the intercession of Chance, in the form of L’Aurore. Neither has it been possible to discover her ultimate fate, or how long she went on toiling in those atrocious conditions, every day hoping for the news from her family that she was, if not forgiven her trespasses (whatever they may have been), at least not entirely abandoned.
News that never came.
Ed Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired
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Welcome Elizabeth!!! ALAM and Good luck, you’re going to do amazing. Love, your sister and previous MD400 Intern.
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