SLAVES BOUGHT AND SOLD: MANUSCRIPT ESTATE SALE OF MARYLAND TOBACCO FARMER, SAMUEL BRISCOE, LISTING AMONG THE “GOODS AND CHATTLES,” HIS 23 SLAVES, THEIR PURCHASERS AND PRICES PAID
(SLAVERY) (BRISCOE, Samuel J.) TURNER, John R., clerk. Account [of] Sales of the Goods and Chattles of the Personal Estate of Samuel J. Briscoe late of Charles County Deceased. Chaptico, Maryland, circa 1850. Small folio (8 by 12 inches), string-bound ledger, 12 leaves (four blank). Housed in custom chemise and slipcase. $2600.
Original manuscript ledger of the public estate sale of Samuel J. Briscoe, tobacco farmer of Charles County, Maryland, and owner of 23 slaves, seven of whom were court-ordered to be reunited with the Briscoe family— for a price.
Charles County, Maryland was tobacco country. Indians in the region had long grown tobacco, mostly for ceremonial purposes. “It was natural for the settlers to farm tobacco. The land was well suited to it and the Virginia colonies had for some time been growing tobacco and selling it to England at a nice profit… The biggest problem of the infant County was labor. To prosper, [a farmer] needed cheap or free labor to work the fields. The institution of slavery was legalized in Maryland in 1663… [and], as the large landowners prospered, the number of slaves entering the County increased… So important was cheap labor to plantation owners that at the end of the Civil War, with the abolition of slavery, Charles County suffered an agricultural depression from which it did not fully recover until the 1920s” (Charles County Bicentennial Committee). Tobacco farmer Samuel J. Briscoe, who in 1830 had joined in a cooperative that supplied Philadelphians with their tobacco, owned 23 slaves. Briscoe died around 1850. He apparently died either intestate or in great debt, requiring even his own family members to buy items from his estate at public sale. Chief among the “chattles” for sale were his slaves: five men, four women, seven boys and seven girls. Present at the sale were A.L. Briscoe (and his wife), Janett Eleanor Briscoe (“Miss Jeanette”), “Miss C. Briscoe,” Walter Hanson Briscoe (“H. Briscoe”), William D. Briscoe and “Miss Nannie Briscoe.” “By order of [the] Court,” the family was able to buy back four of the men, Jim, Plato, Dick Brown, and Ben, the woman Matilda, and girls Susan and Martha. The family’s remaining purchases were primarily household furnishings, bedding, and horse trappings, with the exception of the “Family Bible” bought by Miss Nannie for “12-1/2” cents. Bookplate of San Francisco collector Francis A. Martin, Jr.
Extremely good condition, with only a few ink smudges, minor patches of foxing, and shallow chipping to bottom corner. Scarce.