Harford History

Henry Harford's quest for compensation

May 20, 2007

When Henry Harford (1758-1834) inherited the ownership of the Maryland colony in 1771, he gained control of the vast wealth of the Calvert family. Soon, however, he lost claim to his land, including 5,600 acres along the Gunpowder River, when the Maryland General Assembly ruled that British subjects could no longer own property.

A teenager at the time, Harford was not in a position to join the enthusiastic Colonial rebels in his namesake county, and his status as the illegitimate son of Frederick Calvert, the sixth Lord Baltimore, weakened his claim for compensation. In 1783, Harford arrived in Maryland to petition the legislature for payment.

The effort was unsuccessful. The account books of Harford's attorneys dated May 21, 1785, show that he "left agents ... to collect the few debts allowed him by the laws of Maryland, sums due prior to the Declaration of Independence in Maryland." Small payments continued until 1818.

Harford returned to Britain and worked for almost 30 years to recover his losses from the British government. He received about a quarter of the value he sought for the land in Maryland lost as a result of the American Revolution.

[Source: Henry Harford: Last Proprietor of Maryland by Vera F. Rollo; research by Harford County Public Library]

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