Port Tobacco, MD – Many people living in Charles County only know of Thomas Stone from the Waldorf high school named after him.
This quiet 18th-century lawyer holds a special place in American History. Although shrouded in obscurity nationally, his accomplishments were many.
Stone’s is one of 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence.
He died of a broken heart.
“One of the unusual things about Thomas Stone National Historic Site in Port Tobacco, is that in a lot of the national parks, places like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, they get hundreds if not thousands of visitors every day,” explained Park Ranger David Lassman. “They push you in and they push you out.
“We get about 25 to 50 people a day,” he noted. “We are able to give personal tours of the house, which allows us to go into depth and people can learn about one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, unlike more crowded sites which give a bullet point version of events.”
The park is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There will be a special graveside ceremony at Thomas Stone National Historic Site Monday, July 4 at 10 a.m., followed at 11:30 a.m. with scenes from the play 1776 performed by members of The Port Tobacco Players.
If there was anyone who should remembered on Independence Day, it is Thomas Stone.
Lassman hinted that American History is often misrepresented, and that at the Thomas Stone National Historic Site, the “glaze” comes off.
“The truth doesn’t resemble history at all,” he asserted. “Here, people get an intimate, insightful look at the American Revolution.”
According to Lassman, most folks living in the colonies were glad to be British citizens.
“As far as taxes are concerned, taxes were lower here than anywhere in the British Empire,” he said. “A certain segment of the population wanted something for nothing. The British spent money on soldiers to keep the colonies safe and sailors to keep the seas safe. Great Britain was a bargain.”
Maryland was probably the most economically stable of the colonies.
“Thomas Stone was a moderate,” he pointed out. “He wasn’t a loyalist, but he felt Great Britain had some valid points. He looked at things from a moderate point of view. He tried his best to build consensus. Then Great Britain pushed things a smidge too far.”
When England brought in Scottish and German mercenary soldiers to the colonies, the abuses of these brigands against citizens turned Stone and others against the Mother Country and nudged them toward rebellion.
Thomas Stone was the son of David Stone, of Pointon Manor, Charles County.
“His great-great-grandfather was William Stone, the third governor of Maryland,” Lassman noted. “The Stone family has been in Maryland almost four centuries. They’re still here today.”
Much of Stone’s furniture and personal belongings were donated to the historic site for display by the family. It’s because of the family, he said, the site has as many of Stone’s belongings as they do.
“One important facet of this site is that the family was adamant that we tell the whole story,” he continued. “They told us to put things in historical perspective, right or wrong. The Stones owned slaves and were in fact, slave traders. Stone’s uncle, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer—his real name—owned the boat that brought Kunta Kinte to the colonies.”
Stone took his time in forming opinions, with no preconceived notions, he argued, then brought out his opinions strongly and clearly.
“As far as the Declaration of Independence is concerned, it was really considered a press release,” Lassman asserted.
When the Continental Congress first met in 1775, the 13 colonies were effectively at war with Great Britain. The following year, the decree of Independence from English rule was announced, effectively making Stone a traitor to the British crown. He likely would have been hunted down and hanged, had America not won the Revolutionary War.
When the new government adopted the Articles of Confederation, in essence, it created not only 13 different colonies, but 13 different countries.
“They were allied by an enemy,” Lassman stated. “It was a matter of convenience. The problem was, these 13 countries did not like each other that much.”
After the American Revolution, Virginia and Maryland went at it over ownership of the Potomac River, a dispute settled by George Washington, who gave Maryland rights to the river extending to the Virginia shoreline.
Stone was summoned to Annapolis for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to ratify a trade treaty between the 13 colonies when his wife, Margaret, was taken ill. His place at the convention was taken by Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer.
When Stone’s wife died, the Patriot stopped eating or drinking anything, his cheekbones became hollow.
“He died at the age of 44 from a broken heart,” Lassman said.
“Thomas Stone was a reliable workhorse as far as getting things done,” he added. “He wasn’t a bomb thrower like Samuel Adams or a Patrick Henry, who would manipulate situations. He was a consensus builder.”
Contact Joseph Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org