Quakers in a slave sanctioned world:
The Business Practices of the
Hopkins and the Janneys
of the Baltimore Yearly Meetings
Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired
Brown, Levi K. (Levi Kirk). “Map of the Meetings Comprising Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends.”
Philadelphia?: T. E. Zell? 1875. Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.
This map indicated Hicksite meetings only. It is Annotated with the location of Orthodox meetings
circled in red. At times the two meetings met separately in the same building or the Orthodox
met in a member’s home or a building of their own, often the original meeting house
By 1830 there were two Baltimore Yearly meetings of Friends (Quakers), one labeled as Hicksite and the other Orthodox. The division was both over doctrine and business practices. The followers of Elias Hicks downplayed the divinity of Jesus Christ and advocated not purchasing any products of slave labor. It was said that on his deathbed in 1830, Elias Hicks insisted he not be covered by a cotton blanket for fear the cotton had been planted and harvested by slaves. The Orthodox Quakers, in later years often referred to as Gurneyites, were a minority of Friends who believed in the divinity of Christ and actively engaged in business with slave owners. Both yearly meetings were doctrinally opposed to slavery and were pacifists, but the Orthodox, especially those who made their fortunes as merchants, viewed slaves as chattel under the law which could be used as security for debt. The Orthodox believed with the Hicksites that slavery should not exist, and that it was an abomination, but to abolish slavery, it would be necessary to compensate masters, much like Quakers in England were successfully arguing before Parliament for the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies. Both Yearly meetings also disowned Friends who refused to manumit their slaves according to Quaker doctrine, although to allow for the loss of labor and in adherence to State law, manumissions usually kept able bodied slaves in bondage until their early 20s.
Quaker Merchants did business throughout the upper South where the density of slavery was high, although not as high in Loudoun County or what became West Virginia, as in the rest of Virginia and North Carolina.
In Loudoun County almost 29 out of 100 inhabitants were slaves.
By the 1830s no Friends in good standing in either Yearly meeting owned slaves but with the deep depression beginning in 1837 and extending into the 1840s, Quaker merchants found themselves burdened with planters who had great difficulty in paying their debts which in turn had been secured by able bodied slaves, who, if the debts were not paid, would become their property.
Baltimore harbor with Gerard T. Hopkins’s Light Street warehouse on the far left. Johns Hopkins went to work at that warehouse in 1813
and there Gerard’s sons continued in business as the firm of T.W. & G. Hopkins after Gerard’s death in 1834.
In 1823 Johns Hopkins joined with his brothers Samuel, Philip, and Mahlon in the grocery business
on their own with Gerard’s blessing and at Gerard’s death, Johns Hopkins was his executor.
Both firms had customers in Loudoun County.
Also by the 1830s the most prosperous of the Quaker merchants had gravitated to Baltimore, although some, such as Joseph Janney, Johns Hopkins’s maternal uncle, more reluctantly than others, preferring Alexandria until it became clear that Baltimore offered greater opportunity. While the Quaker merchants of Baltimore took their business to Northern Virginia among the Friends there who belonged to the Baltimore Yearly meetings, some Friends, such as Johns Hopkins’s Loudon County cousin, Amos Janney, ventured forth to Baltimore with not always successful buying trips. In November 1837 His wallet was picked at a popular Baltimore auction house, and its contents detailed in the press, demonstrating that he came armed with cash and credit from home to buy goods to ship back home. The auctioneer advertised that week what goods he had to offer.
Amos Janney, Johns Hopkins’s cousin traveled to Baltimore from Loudoun County Virginia in 1837
to buy goods at auction, only to have his pocket book stolen
No Quaker Merchant who left the Hicksites to join the Orthodox at their new meeting house on Courtland Street, and then contributed as he did heavily to the building of their second meeting house on Eutaw Street, prospered more than Johns Hopkins. In fact he prospered more than any merchant in Baltimore. His story is part of a much larger one, however, of the Merchant Community of Baltimore, including Quakers, with ties to Northern Virginia, as well as further westward into Ohio and Indiana and involves the growth of the railroad industry, particularly the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road Company Stock Certificate, 300 shares, owned by Enoch Pratt and signed by Johns Hopkins who was chairman of the Finance Committee from 1855 until his death in 1873, author’s collection
It is his family and business ties within the region served by the Baltimore Yearly Meetings and Quaker meetings beyond, where his story begins and where his struggle with the business consequences of marketing groceries to slave owners unfolds.
Indian Spring Meeting
Courtesy of the Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 4673-1-6
The Orthodox Friends business community of Baltimore had its roots in Indian Spring Friends Meeting in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, near the fork in the branches of the Patuxent River, within a 1600 acre grant of land acquired by the Hopkins family in the 17th century called White’s Hall after the original Patentee, Jerome White, Surveyor General for the the Calvert family, 1661-1671. It is here on a portion of that tract that Johns Hopkins (1795-1873) lived and attended the Indian Spring meeting until he moved at the age of 17 to Baltimore to learn the trade of being a wholesale grocer with his uncle, Gerard T. Hopkins, who also had attended the Indian Spring meeting, and had spent his youth at White’s Hall.
By the time Johns Hopkins reached the age of 10, White’s Hall was no longer a slave-based plantation. Johns’ grandfather (Johns Hopkins Sr, 1720-1784) had freed his slaves at White’s Hall according to his interpretation of Quaker doctrine, holding on to the labor of the field hands for a term of years until they reached a specified age which meant in their case no later than 1805. By then Samuel Hopkins had inherited White’s Hall, and his brother, Gerard T. Hopkins had moved to Baltimore.
From Helen Hopkins Thom. Johns Hopkins a Silhouette. 1929.
Note the building in the background
that may well be the Orthodox Indian Spring Meeting House
In 1792, Samuel Hopkins found a bride, Hannah Janney, at the Fairfax meeting in Waterford, Virginia, where they were married. Hannah returned with Samuel to White’s Hall where she remained until moving to Baltimore to live with her son Johns in 1840. Over the years at White’s Hall, she became a noted Quaker ‘minister’ at Indian Spring, and after her husband’s death in 1814, actively managed White’s Hall with her eldest son Joseph. While at White’s Hall Hannah encouraged her younger son, Johns, to learn the trade of grocer with her brother-in-law, and brought her mother from Waterford Virginia to spend her declining years. Hannah’s brother, Joseph Janney initially chose to find his fortune in business and banking in Alexandria. In tough economic times when tobacco prices were low, Hannah sought financial support from her brother as documented in one surviving letter she wrote to Joseph in 1826.
By 1833 Joseph Janney decided that Baltimore was the place to move his business where he continued to prosper until his death in 1842.
By the time of Joseph’s death the firm had a number of debtors in Loudoun County which they pursued in the county court at Leesburg providing insight into the nature of the business of the firm in the area. Among their debtors was cousin Amos Janney who probably was the same cousin who lost his pocketbook in Baltimore. Indeed Joseph left behind a number of uncollected debts of his own in Virginia which are detailed in his probate records filed in Baltimore as ‘desperate’ with no hope of recovery. These amounted to over $39,000 among which were many familiar Northern Virginia names, including family members such as Thomas Janney, whose debt of $1606.44 was for all intents and purposes, forgiven. Still Johns Hopkins’s uncle died wealthy by any measure with a collectable estate of $156,062.60 in 1842 dollars.
Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 3/24/1834
In 1834, when Gerard T. Hopkins died and his sons took over the business as T. W. & G. Hopkins, their customer base in Loudoun County was extensive. Because of the remarkable work of Lori Kimball, the details of T. W. and G. Hopkins efforts to collect their debts through the county court are now available. One such example is a suit against Richard W. Stonestreet and his assignee, John W. Lickey, for $65.04. In 1830 Stonestreet was in Loudoun County and is listed on the census as owning one slave. It is not yet known if a slave was security for the debt or how the debt was resolved.
Loudoun County Court, Office Judgments, March 1847, Hopkins, T. W. & G vs. Stonestreet, Richard W. & Lickey, John W., courtesy of the court and Lori Kimball
It is rare to find Friends suing fellow Quakers in Court, but in 1836, T. W. & G. Hopkins did just that with a Mahlon Hopkins from Loudon County (not Johns Hopkins’s brother) who owed $336 with interest and damages.
Johns Hopkins was the executor of Gerard T. Hopkins estate and as such would have been well aware of the business affairs of his first cousins. Indeed Hopkins Brothers endorsed the other Mahlon Hopkins’s note and received notice that the branch Bank of the Valley in Leesburg refused to pay the note on Mahlon’s behalf for lack of funds. Which Mahlon Hopkins cousin this was (there were several contemporaries of the same name) it is difficult to say, He was bailed out of jail by apparently none other than Amos Hopkins of lost pocketbook fame who had his own legal tangles with the Quaker merchants. Clearly Mahlon and Amos were from a side of the family that did not live up to the Quaker standard of frugality and resolving debts quietly among themselves. As to Gerard T.Hopkins, Sr, from Indian Spring meeting, he died very wealthy, leaving an estate worth $74,337.44 that did not receive its final accounting until 1851, all that time under the management and control of Johns Hopkins.
Gerard’s sons had the good fortune to take into their business a young man, Francis T. King, 1835 graduate of Haverford College founded by the Orthodox Friends. He would become one of the most influential figures in persuading Johns Hopkins how to bequeath his wealth, while accumulating a sizable fortune for himself and being entrusted with overseeing the planning and building of the hospital Johns Hopkins envisioned, while at the sametime at King’s encouragement he left sizeable bequests to his family including his cousins and their heirs.
With the steep economic downturn that began in 1837, what one historian has labeled “The First Great Depression,” the firm of Hopkins Brothers that Johns Hopkins shared with his brothers Mahlon, Philip and Samuel, found itself confronting slavery in the debts planters owed the firm. Again thanks to the work of Lori Kimball and the diligent research of Sydney Van Morgan and her intern, the legal efforts of the Hopkins Brothers to retrieve what they were owed have begun to be analyzed. As yet there is no clear picture of how the debts were resolved including those that included slaves as security for payment, but there is no doubt that it produced considerable strain in the Orthodox community to which the brothers belonged. It lead to one brother being read out of meeting for not only refusing to give up slaves, but also for selling spirituous liquor, the same reason why Johns Hopkins had been expelled in the years before the Hicksite/Orthodox schism. Johns Hopkins attended and ultimately rejoined the Orthodox meeting, but Samuel never did, leaving his estate when he died in 1867 to be administered by his sole surviving brother, Johns.
The dilemma of Hopkins Brothers
It would appear that Hopkins Brothers was the only Quaker firm that overtly took slaves as security for debt. For debt collection they turned to lawyers such as John Janney in Virginia or William B. Stone in St. Mary’s County Maryland to collect the debt and take measures to be certain the security remained in place. In surviving correspondence, Johns Hopkins in his own hand makes it clear that measures needed to be taken to ensure that the slaves who were the security for a debt were prevented from running away before the debt was settled, but it is also clear that Hopkins Brothers wanted no part in the selling of the slaves. Rather they sought to have the debt settled without the slaves being sold.
Detail from a March 13, 1838 note to Lawyer William B. Stone from Hopkins Brothers in the hand of Johns Hopkins, requesting him to take steps to prevent slaves from being sold.
One large slave owning family in Virginia with whom they did extensive business were the Rusts. In 1832 before the B & O was completed to Harpers Ferry, Hopkins Brothers contracted with the Rusts to haul goods by wagon to Harpers Ferry.
Rust Family Papers, the Library of Virginia,
image courtesy of Sydney Van Morgan
By 1843, the Rusts owed Hopkins Brothers nearly $2700 and they sued William and George Rust in Loudon County Court claiming damages that totaled $6300, for which 10 negroes, one wagon and 15 horses were security. The outcome is as yet unknown.
Judgments 1843-3, Loudoun County Court, image courtesy of the Court and Lori Kimball
Dorothy Hopkins, Joseph John Gurney, Johns Hopkins, and Francis T. King. The images of Dorothy and Johns Hopkins are taken from Helen Thom’s Johns Hopkins a Silhouette, 1929. The image of Joseph John Gurney is from the author’s collection. The image of Francis T. King is courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives
While Hannah Janney Hopkins was probably the most influential Quaker in Johns Hopkins’s life, credit is also due to his aunt Dorothy who was raised at Sandy Spring Meeting, an offshoot of Indian Spring Meeting, where she married Johns Hopkins’s uncle and mentor, and to Francis T. King. Both were attracted to the writings and words of Joseph John Gurney. Gurney was a wealthy Orthodox Quaker banker from Norwich England, author of several books, one of which was an outspoken attack on the institution of slavery, and a collaborator with his brother-in-law Thomas Buxton who introduced the legislation into Parliament that abolished slavery in the British West Indies. Gurney came to America in 1837 and stayed until 1840 (with a side trip to the British West Indies) in an effort to bring the followers of Elias Hicks back to Orthodoxy and to convince American politicians including Henry Clay to adopt the British approach of compensatory abolition of slavery. To do so he traveled extensively, staying with Orthodox Quakers, but lecturing often to large crowds of Hicksite Friends and the general public. He even spoke to Congress.
In Baltimore he stayed with the Orthodox family of the retired merchant Joseph King, and had a lasting influence on his son, Francis T. King who he invited to accompany him on his visit to meetings in Northern Virginia, after having tea with Dorothy Hopkins. At the time, Francis T. King was employed at Janney, Hopkins, and Hull and quite possibly visited with customers in Northern Virginia as well as attending meetings with Gurney. Both King and Gurney have left records of their visit to the meetings in Northern Virginia, journeying first by train to Harpers Ferry, followed by an arduous trek by horse to Waterford, and then visits to Goose Creek, Hopewell, and Winchester where the abuse of slaves appalled Gurney sufficiently to warrant a note in his journal.
The records have not survived, or as yet not found, to determine whether Hopkins Brothers ever had to accept the pledged security of slaves for debts owed. A member of the firm did consign one slave to jail in Baltimore County on behalf of Hopkins Brothers, but the outcome of that incarceration is not clear. What is clear is that one of the brothers, Samuel, was disowned by the Orthodox meeting in 1838 for owning slaves and that by 1846 the partnership of Hopkins Brothers was dissolved.
While the Orthodox Friends of the Courtland Street meeting disowned brother Samuel for selling liquor and owning slaves (the latter were probably brought to the marriage by his wife Lavinia), Johns was never disciplined by the meeting for owning slaves, although he had been sanctioned for selling liquor prior to the withdrawal of the Orthodox to form the Courtland Street meeting.
By 1860 there is no indication in the private or surviving public record that Johns Hopkins owned slaves, and the assertion that a decade earlier he ‘owned’ four slaves at his Country Estate Clifton, remains unsubstantiated. They could have been there as a result of a debt owed Hopkins Brothers, although a more likely explanation is that they were the employees of builders, or there as wage labor hired by the gardener. Even if they were undocumented as free, their presence could easily have been conditional, working off the debt owed to Hopkins Brothers followed by freedom. Sadly it is likely we will never know. What we do know is that by the time of his death his Orthodox Friend Francis T. King had convinced Johns Hopkins that after he had provided for his family, he should leave the rest of his substantial fortune to provide a 400 bed orphanage for Black children and a 400 bed hospital for the care of the community regardless of color. It was a gift announced in his lifetime that was universally praised by the Black community, a substantial number of whom had been former slaves.
Whether or not he ever ‘owned’ slaves, Johns Hopkins ultimately did adhere to the tenets of the faith he learned at Indian Spring with his mother Hannah, and from the examples of his Aunt and Uncle, Gerard T. and Dorothy Hopkins. As you seek the inner light you must devote your life to the care of family, Friends, and demonstrate compassion for the larger community regardless of race or religion. In that regard Johns Hopkins excelled, and for that he is best remembered.
 Jacobsen Phebe R. Quaker Records in Maryland. Hall of Records Commission State of Maryland 1966.
 $1,800,603.46 today: https://www.measuringworth.
 The Snowden, Hopkins, Cowman, Tyson and Waters families, all Quakers, built the Indian Spring Meeting-house before 1792. John Snowden conveyed a lot to John Cowman and others, and William Anderson conveyed a small lot, also, for this purpose. The Anderson lot contained the Indian spring, a large Spring whose water was always clear and cold. The site of this spring is so sheltered that even in January green ferns are found around it. People came to the Quaker Meetinghouse from as far as Pennsylvania for the Annual Meetings. When the original families scattered and there was no more congregation the Quakers turned this property over to the colored people who used it for a Church and then for a school for many years. The original building was constructed of field stone with a shingle roof. It was finally razed when the colored people built a substantial new church nearby. The new church is called the Fork Church. The Trustees who took title on 16 April 1892 for the Zion A.M.E. Forks Church were Nathan Allen, John Fleets, Charles Matthews, Amos Bowie and Richard Toogood. Affairs were not moving very rapidly when the transfer was made and one of the Trustees told the Attorney who had charge of the matter: "You know, suh, any kind of machinery moves better when de wheels ls greased, so here is a 11ttle money to grease de wheels".
 Hannah’s letter to her brother is found buried in a folder of her letters in which only her letter to her son Philip is mentioned. See images at: ‘https://jscholarship.library.
 which in today’s dollars would range from $52 to $136 million depending on how wealth is measured. https://www.measuringworth.
 The surviving meeting minutes of Northern Virginia need to be scoured to see if Mahlon and Amos were disowned, or left a meeting on their own accord because of the legal battles over what Mahlon owed Gerard Hopkins’s sons. A. Glenn Crothers documents the ongoing efforts of the Quakers to encourage Friends to settle their debts outside of legal action. See: Crothers A. Glenn. Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth : The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia 1730-1865. University Press of Florida 2012.
Roberts Alasdair. America's First Great Depression : Economic Crisis and Political Disorder After the Panic of 1837. Cornell University Press 2013 and Lepler Jessica M. The Many Panics of 1837 : People Politics and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis. Cambridge University Press 2013.
 Through the first half of the 20th century, the Meeting was split due to religious and ideological differences. Sandy Spring Friends were known as Hicksites, influenced by Elias Hicks who in the 1820s called on Friends to seek God in experiential religious practice. The Ashton Meeting was Orthodox Friends who believed and practiced in keeping with a literal reading of the Bible. The two Meetings worshiped virtually right next door to each other. The two Meetings reunited in 1950. https://www.sandyspring.org/
 Not everyone appreciated his message or his oratorical style. William Lloyd Garrison has left a scathing assessment of his performance and his lack of any anti-slavery message.The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume II: a House Dividing Against Itself 1836-1840, pp. 116-117.
 see volume 13 of his manuscript journal on microfilm at Swarthmore, his published letters to Amelia Opie, Gurney Joseph John and Amelia Opie. A Journey in North America Described in Familiar Letters to Amelia Opie. Printed for Private Circulation by Josiah Fletcher 1841, and Francis T. King’s reminiscences as quoted in Mallonee Barbara C et al. Minute by Minute : A History of the Baltimore Monthly Meetings of Friends Homewood and Stony Run. Baltimore Monthly Meetings of Friends Stony Run and Homewood 1992, pp. 59-72.