Letters to the editor

More Info Needed

In the Dialogue section of the summer issue, alum Kirk Gardner speculates that Johns Hopkins, known for a capitalist orientation, may have extended his business instincts into a personal preference that enslaved persons purchase their freedom from enslavement status in early 19th-century Maryland. If university researchers are successful in garnering evidence from Hopkins' grocery and other business investments in that period, then Gardner's speculation might advance our understanding of Hopkins' capitalist practices and his abolitionist sympathies. Until such evidence appears, however, there is no basis for the claim that Hopkins "traded" in capital assets that were enslaved persons. (This expression was used in a December 9, 2020, Washington Post article by history Professor Martha Jones, leader of the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project.)

It was certainly a shock to learn of the disclosure by archivist Edward Papenfuse that, on August 14, 1850, the census entries of an assistant census marshal in Baltimore County ascribed ownership of four unnamed adult males to Johns Hopkins. For myself, I need to learn if there is any corroborating of this record report before concluding that Hopkins owned slaves, whether in his Clifton household or elsewhere. Consider that in the more than 40 years of Hopkins' business life before retirement, there was no mention of activity that entailed capital assets that were enslaved persons. The census notation is disturbing, but much more investigation is needed, and until more evidence is found, we are not able to conclude, e.g., that Johns Hopkins believed that capital assets should include the category of enslaved persons or that he held such assets.

Harvey Leigh Noyes, A&S '64, '68 (MA) Towson, Maryland

From Twitter

A jaw-dropping reaction to this summer's story about the Chesapeake Bay Institute. [Just read] an article about the history of the Chesapeake Bay Institute, and all I have to say about this is, "Whaaaaat!" How did I not know about this earlier? Hopkins has a very rich history of oceanography, and I have so much to read!
Ali Hasan Siddiqui @bhop_ali

A reader takes a moment to applaud the prehistoric-looking creature described in the summer issue's "Blue Bloods."
I read this last night and now I'm in great admiration of horseshoe crabs.
Michael Papazian @MichaelBaruyr

Another Twitter user contemplates a new nickname for horseshoe crabs after reading "Blue Bloods." I learned a new word today while reading this article about "sea spiders" with blue blood. The word is "fecundity." Here is the story about horseshoe crabs ("the species is more closely related to spiders than crabs") and their blue blood.
Mark Griskey @mark_griskey

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The opinions in these letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine's editorial staff.