Maryland’s awkward geographic location south of the Mason-Dixon Line but North of the Confederacy earned it the moniker the “Middle Temperament.” Most of the state has a Northern tilt, but the Eastern Shore sometimes seems as Southern as any state in the old Confederacy.
In fact, the Eastern Shore was home to two of America’s most iconic figures during the era when America was torn apart by slavery: Harriet Tubman and slave trader Patty Cannon. Everyone knows Tubman but Cannon was just as big a figure her day and seems to have been swept under the carpet of American history.
Maryland did outlaw slavery eventually and remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. But it wasn’t a clear choice. President Lincoln had to impose martial law and General Robert E. Lee tried to incite rebellion, ordering his troops to chant “Maryland, My Maryland” on their march to Antietam.
Like most of the South, the Eastern Shore remains rural, conservative and reliably Republican. The Eastern Shore’s nine counties, from the Elk River in the north to Assateague Island in the south, gave George W. Bush nearly 40,000 more votes than John Kerry in 2004. That’s a 60-38% rout.
But those votes don’t have much of an impact statewide. The Eastern Shore has only eight percent of Maryland’s population even though it covers nearly one third of the state. “In the 160 years between 1790 and 1950, the Eastern Shore… only doubled in population,” according to the Almanac of American Politics.
Shore voters and politicians understand that they’re don’t fit Maryland’s blue state profile. In 1998, state Senators Richard Colburn and Lowell Stoltzfus submitted a bill titled “Eastern Shore – Secession From Maryland.”
The bill’s purpose was to “to determine the sense of the voters of those counties on the issue of whether the nine counties of the Eastern Shore should secede from the State of Maryland.”
The bill never left committee, and the Eastern Shore isn’t going to secede form Maryland anytime soon. But the Shore will remain a distinctively Republican pocket of a reliably Democratic state, and at the same time, it’s crabs, ducks and rockfish will continue to be the symbol of what is Maryland.
The Eastern Shore in the Mid-1800’s
Then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) vs. then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) in 2006