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‘Not a Single Christian Hand’
Jasper Dankaert’s Journal or Plantation Maryland, December 1779, pages 114-137

Jasper’s account of Maryland is among the briefest portions of his journal and begins on December 3, as he and his partner search for the storied Dutchman and cartographer and historian of early Maryland, Herman Augustine, who owned much of the coastal plain of northeastern Maryland where it joins Delaware, New Jersey [or did join] and Pennsylvania. This portion of Maryland was not taken down the corridor where I-95 and U.S. Route 1 connect Maryland to points north, which remained a wilderness, but regarded as the path to the principal four provinces of Maryland, being the low coastal plains with their easy rivers on the Delmarva Peninsula, which that far lesser part of Maryland now shares with the tiny state of Delaware.

Students of Plantation America, knowing that from the 1630s through the 1850s, that the plantation and then state of Maryland was unable to feed itself or even its horses, will be shocked to discover that Jasper declared Maryland the most fertile region of America, where tobacco could be planted for 30 straight years on virgin soil, where in Virginia the poor sandy soil was ruined by tobacco in three years. Despite this, Maryland starved, its only food being maize and wild game, and for the servant classes only maize.

Jasper takes note of how dastardly the English did the Indian population and the 1860s editor takes note that Jasper knew nothing of the sainted origins of Maryland—though his Dutch eyes could obviously see that barely an Indian remained alive in Maryland when they dominated elsewhere. Jasper came into Maryland 4 years after the noble Susquehannock, loyal allies of the Governor of Maryland, from whom they bought English slave boys to raise as warriors and returned runaways in return for guns, powder and shot, where betrayed by Maryland, their chiefs slain in parley, then defeated the combined Maryland and Virginia militias and moved on to make war on Virginia, who started this whole thing.

Jasper may have been referring in part to this, but does target the English for having defrauded the Indians from the 1630s. This was a complex situation in which the Susquehannock and Delaware and possibly northern Iroquois had been driving the lesser Algonquin tribes into the Delmarva Peninsula and south of the aptly named Gunpowder River since the 1500s, possibly with firearms had from French trade, and that these tribes begged the English Newcomers to buy their land and protect them. This is the English history. No other history survives. Perhaps Jasper spoke with a person who related another version of this history, a version which might have been identical to English cheating drunken Indians in Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and New England?

In any case, by the time jasper got to Maryland, its eastern shores were denuded of Indians, four tribes of which had previously survived here under threat from enemy tribes from north and west of the bay.

Jasper goes on to describe extreme rural poverty, in which every man has a wife, who is often unfriendly, usually alone, and that servants seem to outnumber negroes by a margin of 10 or 20 to 1, the lot referred to as the master’s “people.” The chief form of transportation is by dugout poplar canoe, being borrowed Indian technology. There are no proper paths. Rather a “road” is simply a wood marked by knife or hatched with scars placed in the bark of the innumerable trees and that it was normal for travelers to lose their way.

Jasper and his companion receive their passports from a lone official who rules his plantation “without a single Christian hand” meaning this grandee has surrounded himself entirely with negroes and had no Christian servants. Jasper gets over his shock of a world where the world is divided between white and negro and adopts the more general southern terminology of Christian and negro. Maryland received more servants than all points north combined, and Virginia more again, with the main depot of northern slavery, Pennsylvania, yet to be opened for business by William Penn.

One of the very few freemen they meet in Maryland was a Dutchman, a former POW and slave who worked his term and earned his freedom—unlike most in Maryland—and disliked the place so greatly that he was intent on gaining passage home to Holland. Through conversations with the savage, unfriendly, drunk, and scheming inhabitants of Maryland, the travelers are told that Virginia is more savage, less friendly, more drunk and more deeply scheming than even Godless Maryland. [Ironically, Labadist’s acting on this intelligence would go onto found slave plantations in Maryland and deal in human livestock, though presumably sober.]

Servant’s quarters are wet and drafty.

No home is without a wife.

No children—even of the wealthiest men—seem to have shoes or socks, as their fathers spend most of their profits on rum.

Servant boys are armed with small shotguns for killing waterfowl, just as was Jemmy Annesley kidnapped into Jersey some 60 years later.

The reader discovers a possible catalyst to the Civil War in Maryland and Indian War of 1675, as Jasper notes that the entire maize crop was destroyed by a weevil plague in 1674.

Jasper’s indictment of Maryland will be presented in the article below.

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