From his home in Annapolis, Md., Thomas Rutland carried on an extensive trade in produce and general merchandise with ports on the Atlantic seaboard, the West Indies and Britain. Disputatious with his neighbors and debtors, Rutland was under constant pressure in the late 1780s from aggressive creditors and delinquent debtors, and he often resorted to civil suits, or the threat of suits, to remain solvent.
Rutland was a relentless, even ruthless opponent. Typical of his belligerent manner was his retort to a neighbor, with whom he had been embroiled in a dispute over right of way across his property: "That I am the worst of Neighbours is difficult to prove; and on my Side, I can only say, that if there is a Degree, above the Superlative , you must be considered Superior" (p. 35). Not surprisingly, perhaps, Rutland suffered from the feeling that he was being besieged by his enemies, and he readily accepted the truth of the rumor that an order had been issued to take him, dead or alive.