Maryland’s Senate President and a revolutionary leader, Matthew Tilghman is one of Maryland’s most accomplished political leaders that many have never heard of.
A friend of George Washington and one of the authors of Maryland’s first constitution, Tilghman held the most powerful offices in early Maryland and served as a leader who helped shape the forms of State and federal government that we have today.
Born near Centerville in 1718, Tilghman would spend his life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and take advantage of the privilege afforded to him. In 1739, he’d inherit a large amount of property from his father and that inheritance launched him into adulthood and created a notable sphere of personal and political influence for Matthew among his peers. He’d marry his first cousin (the former Anne Lloyd) in 1741 and his life and career would continue to thrive going forward.
Tilghman would hold political office throughout Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the subsequent years to follow (at this point in Maryland’s history, an individual could seek elected office in any county where they owned property). He’d be first elected as the Justice of the Peace in Talbot County in 1941, then to the Maryland House of Delegates representing Talbot County in 1951. He’d rise through the ranks of the House of Delegates and serve as its Speaker from 1773-1775. He’d be elected to the Maryland Senate in 1777 and serve until 1783 concurrently serving as the President of the Senate in 1780 and 1782 and 1783.
While in elected office, Tilghman would be an ardent supporter of American independence and was one of the original supporters of the Declaration of Independence when he served as a member of the Maryland Delegation to the Continental Congress. His efforts led many to call him the “Father of the Revolution” in Maryland and he is counted among the foremost proponents of freedom of the Revolutionary Era.
Tilghman passed away of a stroke in 1790, but left behind him a legacy that provided the freedoms that we hold dear today. The historian L.G. Shreve summed up the legacy of Tilghman in his work “Tench Tilghman” by paying the following compliment: “(Tilghman was) as ardent a patriot as ever graced the halls of any legislative body in pre-Revolutionary America.”