Americanist History: George Bancroft’s, History of the United States
Chapter 10: COLONIZATION OF MARYLAND
VIRGINIA, by its second charter, extended two hundred miles north of Old Point Comfort, and therefore included the soil which forms the state of Maryland. It was not long before the country toward the head of the Chesapeake was explored; settlements in Accomack were extended; and commerce was begun with tribes which Smith had been the first to visit. In 1621, Pory, the secretary of the colony, “made a discovery into the great bay,” as far as the river Patuxent, which he ascended; but his voyage probably reached no farther to the north. An English settlement of a hundred men, on the eastern shore, was a consequence of his voyage. The hope “of a very good trade of furs” with the Indians animated the adventurers.
An attempt to obtain a monopoly of this intercourse was made by William Clayborne, whose resolute spirit was destined to exert a long-continued influence. His first appearance in America was as a surveyor, sent by the London company to make a map of the country. At the fall of the corporation, he had been appointed by King James a member of the council; and, on the accession of Charles, was continued in office, and, in repeated commissions, was nominated secretary of state. He further received authority from the governors of Virginia to discover the source of the bay of the Chesapeake, and explore any part of the province, from the thirty-fourth to the forty-first degree of latitude. Upon his favorable representation, a company was formed in England for trading with the natives; and, in May, 1631, through the agency of Sir William Alexander, the Scottish proprietary of Nova Scotia, a royal license was issued, sanctioning the commerce, and conferring on Clayborne powers of government over the companions of his voyages. Under this grant, the isle of Kent was occupied in the following August, and the right to the soil was soon after purchased of the Indians. An advanced post was established near the mouth of the Susquehanna. The settlers on Kent island were all members of the church of England; and in February, 1632, they were represented by a burgess in the grand assembly of Virginia. In March of that year, their license was confirmed by a commission from Sir John Harvey as governor of Virginia.
The United States were severally colonized by men, in origin, religious faith, and purposes, as various as their climes. Before Virginia could occupy the country north of the Potomac, a new government in that quarter was promised to Sir George Calvert. Born in Yorkshire, educated at Oxford, with a mind enlarged by extensive travel, on his entrance into life he was befriended by Sir Robert Cecil, advanced to the honors of knighthood, and at length employed as one of the two secretaries of state. In 1621, he stood with Wentworth to represent in parliament his native county, and escaped defeat, though not a resident in the shire. His capacity for business, his industry, and his fidelity to King James, are acknowledged by all historians. In the house of commons it was he who made an untimely speech for the supply of the king’s purse; and, when the commons claimed their liberties as their ancient and undoubted right and inheritance, it was to Calvert the king unbosomed his anger at their use of such “anti-monarchical words.” The negotiations for the marriage of the prince of Wales with a Spanish princess were conducted entirely by him. In an age of increasing divisions among Protestants, his mind sought relief from controversy in the bosom of the Roman Catholic church; and, professing his conversion without forfeiting the king’s favor, in 1624, he disposed advantageously of his place, which had been granted him for life, and obtained the title of Lord Baltimore in the Irish peerage.
He had, from early years, shared the enthusiasm of England in favor of American plantations; had been a member of the great company for Virginia; and, while secretary of state, had obtained a special patent for the southern promontory of Newfoundland, named Avalon, after the fabled isle from which King Arthur was to return alive. How zealous he was in selecting suitable emigrants, how earnest to promote order and industry, how lavishly he expended his estate in advancing the interests of his settlement—is related by those who have written of his life. He desired, as a founder of a colony, not present profit, but a reasonable expectation; and, avoiding the evils of a common stock, he left each one to enjoy the results of his own industry. Twice did he, in person, inspect his settlement. In 1629, on his second visit, with ships manned at his own charge he repelled the French, who were hovering round the coast to annoy English fishermen; and, having taken sixty of them prisoners, he secured temporary tranquillity to his countrymen and his colonists.
Notwithstanding this success, he wrote to the king from his province that the difficulties he had encountered in that place were no longer to be resisted; that from October to May both land and sea were frozen the greater part of the time; that he was forced to shift to some warmer climate of the New World; that, though his strength was much decayed, his inclination carried him naturally to “proceedings in plantations.” He therefore desired the grant of a precinct of land in Virginia, with the same privileges which King James had conceded to him in Newfoundland.
Despatching this petition to Charles I, he embarked for Virginia, and arrived there in October, the season in which the country on the Chesapeake arrays itself in its most attractive brightness. The governor and council forthwith ordered the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to be tendered him. It was in vain that he proposed a form which he was willing to subscribe; they insisted upon that which had been chosen by the English statutes, and which was purposely framed in such language as no Catholic could adopt. An explanatory letter was transmitted from the Virginia government to the privy council, with the prayer that no papists might be suffered to settle among them.
Almost at the time when this report was written, the king at Whitehall, weighing that men of Lord Baltimore’s condition and breeding were unfit for the rugged and laborious beginnings of new plantations, advised him to desist from further prosecuting his designs, and to return to his native country. He came back; but it was “to extol Virginia to the skies,” and to persist in his entreaties. It was represented that on the north of the Potomac there lay a country inhabited only by native tribes. The French, the Dutch, and the Swedes were preparing to occupy it; and a grant seemed the readiest mode of securing it by an English settlement. The cancelling of the Virginia patents had restored to the monarch his prerogative over the soil; and it was not difficult for Calvert—a man of such moderation that all parties were taken with him, sincere in his character, disengaged from all interests, and a favorite with the royal family—to obtain a charter for uncultivated domains in that happy clime. The conditions of the grant conformed to the wishes, it may be to the suggestions, of the first Lord Baltimore himself, although it was finally issued for the benefit of his son.
The ocean, the fortieth parallel of latitude, the meridian of the western fountain of the Potomac, the river itself from its source to its mouth, and a line drawn due east from Watkin’s Point to the Atlantic—these were the limits of the province, which, by the king’s command, took the name of Maryland, from the queen, Henrietta Maria. The country thus described was given to Lord Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, as to its absolute lord and proprietary, to be holden by the tenure of fealty only, paying a yearly rent of two Indian arrows, and a fifth of all gold and silver ore which might be found. Yet authority was conceded to him rather with reference to the crown than the colonists. The charter, like the constitution of Virginia of July, 1621, provided for a resident council of state; and, like his patent, which, in April, 1623, had passed the great seal for Avalon, required for acts of legislation the advice and approbation of the majority of the freemen or their deputies. Authority was intrusted to the proprietary from time to time to constitute fit and wholesome ordinances, provided they were consonant to reason and the laws of England, and did not extend to the life, freehold, or estate of any emigrant. For the benefit of the colony, the English statutes restraining emigration were dispensed with; and all present and future liege people of the English king, except such as should be expressly forbidden, might transport themselves and their families to Maryland. Christianity, as professed by the church of England, was established; but the patronage and advowsons of churches were vested in the proprietary; and, as there was not an English statute on religion in which America was specially named, silence left room for the settlement of religious affairs by the colony. Nor was Baltimore obliged to obtain the royal assent to his appointments of officers, nor to the legislation of his province, nor even to make a communication of the one or the other. Moreover, the English monarch, by an express stipulation, covenanted that neither he, nor his heirs, nor his successors, should ever, at any time thereafter, set any imposition, custom, or tax whatsoever, upon the inhabitants of the province. To the proprietary was given the power of creating manors and courts baron, and of establishing a colonial aristocracy on the system of sub-infeudation. But feudal institutions could not be perpetuated in the lands of their origin, far less renew their youth in America. Sooner might the oldest oaks in Windsor forest be transplanted across the Atlantic than antiquated social forms. The seeds of popular liberty, contained in the charter, would find in the New World the soil best suited to quicken them.
Sir George Calvert deserves to be ranked among the wisest and most benevolent law-givers, for he connected his hopes of the aggrandizement of his family with the establishment of popular institutions; and, being a “papist, wanted not charity toward Protestants.”
On the fifteenth of April, 1632, before the patent could pass the great seal, he died, leaving a name in private life free from reproach. As a statesman, he was taunted with being “an Hispaniolized papist;” and the justice of history must avow that he misconceived the interests of his country and of his king, and took part in exposing to danger civil liberty and the rights of the parliament of England. For his son, Cecil Calvert, the heir of his father’s intentions not less than of his father’s fortunes, the charter of Maryland was, on the twentieth of the following June, published and confirmed; and he obtained the high distinction of successfully performing what colonial companies resident in England had hardly been able to achieve. He planted a colony, which for several generations descended as a lucrative patrimony to his heirs.
Virginia regarded the severing of her territory with apprehension; and, in 1633, before any colonists had embarked under the charter for Maryland, her commissioners in England remonstrated against the grant, as an invasion of her commercial rights, an infringement on her domains, and a discouragement to her planters. In all the business, Strafford, the friend of the father, “took upon himself a noble patronage of” Lord Baltimore; and the remonstrance was in vain. The privy council sustained the proprietary charter; they left the claimants of the isle of Kent to the course of law; at the same time they advised the parties to an amicable adjustment of all disputes, and commanded a free commerce and a good correspondence between the respective colonies.
Lord Baltimore was unwilling to take upon himself the sole risk of colonizing his province; others joined with him in the adventure; and, all difficulties being overcome, his two brothers, of whom Leonard Calvert was appointed his lieutenant, “with very near twenty other gentlemen of very good fashion, two or three hundred laboring men well provided in all things,” and Father White with one or two more Jesuit missionaries, embarked themselves for the voyage in the good ship Ark, of three hundred tons and upward, and a pinnace called the Dove, of about fifty tons. On the twenty-second of November, 1633, the ships, having been placed by the priests under the protection of God, the Virgin Mary, St. Ignatius, and all the other guardian angels of Maryland, weighed anchor from the isle of Wight. As they sailed by way of the Fortunate islands, Barbadoes, and St. Christopher’s, it was not until the last week in February of the following year that they arrived at Point Comfort, in Virginia, where, in obedience to the express letters of King Charles, they were welcomed with courtesy and humanity by Harvey. The governor offered them what Virginia had obtained so slowly, and at so much cost, from England: cattle and hogs and poultry; two or three hundred stocks already grafted with apples and pears, peaches and cherries; and promised that the new plantations should not want the open way to furnish themselves from the old. Clayborne, who had explored the Chesapeake bay, and had established a lucrative trade in furs from Kent and Palmer’s isles, predicted the hostility of the natives; and was told that he was now a member of Maryland, and must relinquish all other dependence.
After a week’s kind entertainment, the adventurers bent their course to the north and entered the Potomac. “A larger or more beautiful river,” writes Father White, “I have never seen; the Thames, compared with it, can scarce be considered a rivulet; no undergrowth chokes the beautiful groves on each of its solid banks, so that you might drive a four-horse chariot among the trees.” Sheltered by a small island, which can now hardly be identified, the Ark cast anchor, while Calvert, with the Dove and another pinnace, ascended the stream. At about forty-seven leagues above the mouth of the river, he came upon the village of Piscataqua, an Indian settlement nearly opposite Mount Vernon, where he found an Englishman who had lived many years among the Indians as a trader, and spoke their language well. With him for an interpreter, a parley was held. To the request for leave for the newcomers to sit down in his country, the chieftain of the tribe answered: “they might use their own discretion.” It did not seem safe to plant so far in the interior. Taking with him the trader, Calvert went down the river, examining the creeks and estuaries nearer the Chesapeake; he entered the branch which is now called St. Mary’s; and, about four leagues from its junction with the Potomac, he anchored at the Indian town of Yoacomoco. The native inhabitants, having suffered from the superior power of the Susquehannahs, who occupied the district between that river and the Delaware bay, had already resolved to remove into places of more security; and many of them had begun to migrate. It was easy, by presents of cloth and axes, of hoes and knives, to gain their good-will, and to purchase their rights to the soil which they were preparing to abandon. With mutual promises of friendship and peace, they readily gave consent that the English should immediately occupy one half of their town; and, after the harvest, the other.
On the twenty-fifth of March, the day of the Annunciation, in the island under which the Ark lay moored a Jesuit priest of the party offered the sacrifice of the mass, which in that region of the world had never been celebrated before. This being ended, he and his assistants took upon their shoulders the great cross which they had hewn from a tree; and, going in procession to the place that had been designated for it, the governor and other Catholics, Protestants as well participating in the ceremony, erected it as a trophy to Christ the Saviour, while the litany of the holy cross was chanted humbly on their bended knees.
Upon the twenty-seventh, the emigrants, of whom at least three parts of four were Protestants, took quiet possession of the land which the governor had bought. Before many days, Sir John Harvey arrived on a visit; the red chiefs came to welcome or to watch the emigrants, and were so well received that they resolved on mutual amity. The Indian women taught the wives of the new-comers to make bread of maize; the warriors of the tribe joined the huntsmen in the chase. The planters removed all jealousy out of the minds of the natives, and settled with them a very firm league of peace and friendship.
As they had come into possession of ground already subdued, they at once planted cornfields and gardens. No sufferings were endured; no fears of want arose; the foundation of Maryland was peacefully and happily laid; and in six months it advanced more than Virginia had done in as many years. The proprietary continued with great liberality to provide everything needed for its comfort and protection, expending twenty thousand pounds sterling, and his associates as many more. But far more memorable was the character of its institutions. One of the largest wigwams was consecrated for religious service by the Jesuits, who could therefore say that the first chapel in Maryland was built by the red men. Of the Dissenters, though they seem as yet to have been without a minister, the rights were not abridged. This enjoyment of liberty of conscience did not spring from any act of colonial legislation, nor from any formal and general edict of the governor, nor from any oath as yet imposed by instructions of the proprietary. English statutes were not held to bind the colonies, unless they especially named them; the clause which, in the charter for Virginia, excluded from that colony “all persons suspected to affect the superstitions of the church of Rome,” found no place in the charter for Maryland; and, while allegiance was held to be due, there was no requirement of the oath of supremacy. Toleration grew up in the province silently, as a custom of the land. Through the benignity of the administration, no person professing to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ was permitted to be molested on account of religion. Roman Catholics, who were oppressed by the laws of England, were sure to find an asylum on the north bank of the Potomac; and there, too, Dissenters were sheltered against Protestant intolerance. From the first, men of foreign birth enjoyed equal advantages with those of the English and Irish nations.
The prosperity and peace of Maryland seemed assured. But no sooner had the allegiance of Clayborne’s settlement been claimed than he inquired of the governor and council of Virginia how he should demean himself; and was answered that, as the question was undetermined in England, they knew no reason why they should render up the rights of the isle of Kent, which they were bound in duty to maintain. Fortified by this decision and by the tenor of letters from the king, he continued his traffic as before. On the other hand, Lord Baltimore, in September, gave orders to seize him, if he did not submit to his government; and the secretary of state “directed Sir John Harvey to continue his assistance against Clayborne’s malicious practices.”
In February, 1635, the colony was convened for legislation. Probably all the freemen were present, in a strictly popular assembly. The laws of this first legislative body of Maryland are no longer extant, nor do we know what part it took in vindicating the jurisdiction of the province. But in April of that year the pinnace, in which men employed by Clayborne had been trafficking, was seized by a party from St. Mary’s. Resenting the act, he sent a vessel into the Chesapeake to demand the restoration of his captured property. On the tenth of May, a skirmish took place on one of the rivers of the eastern shore, south of Kent island. The Marylanders, with the loss of but one man, slew the commander and two others of the Virginians, and took the rest prisoners.
Unable to continue the contest by force, Clayborne repaired to England to lay his case before the king. During his absence, and just before the end of 1637, the government of Maryland established itself on the isle of Kent. In the following January, an assembly, in which Kent island was represented, was convened; and an act of attainder was carried against Clayborne, as one who had been indicted for piracy and murder and had fled from justice. Thomas Smith, who had served as his officer, could not be tried by a jury, for there was no law that reached his case; he was therefore called to the bar of the house, arraigned upon an indictment for piracy, and, after his plea had been heard, was found guilty by all the members except one. Sentence was pronounced on him by the president, in the name of the freemen; all his property except the dower of his wife was forfeited, and he was condemned to be hanged. Then did the prisoner demand his clergy; but it was denied by the president, both for the nature “of his crime and that it was demanded after judgment.”
In England, Clayborne attempted to gain a hearing; and, partly by strong representations, still more by the influence of Sir William Alexander, succeeded, for a season, in winning the favorable disposition of Charles. But, when the whole affair came to be finally referred to the commissioners for the plantations, it was found that the right of the king to confer the soil and the jurisdiction of Maryland could not be controverted; that the earlier license to traffic did not vest in Clayborne any rights which were valid against the charter; and, therefore, that the isle of Kent belonged to Lord Baltimore, who alone could permit plantations to be established, or commerce with the Indians to be conducted, within his territory.
The people of Maryland were not content with vindicating the limits of their province; they were jealous of their liberties. Their legislature rejected the code which the proprietary, as if holding the exclusive privilege of proposing statutes, had prepared for their government; and, in their turn, enacted a body of laws, which they proposed for the assent of the proprietary. How discreetly they proceeded cannot now be known, for the laws which were then enacted were never ratified, and are not to be found in the provincial records.
In the early history of the United States, popular assemblies burst everywhere into life, with a consciousness of their importance, and an immediate efficiency. The first assembly of Maryland had vindicated the jurisdiction of the colony; the second had asserted its claims to original legislation; in 1639, the third examined its obligations, and, though its acts were not carried through the forms essential to their validity, it showed the spirit of the people and the times by framing a declaration of rights. Acknowledging allegiance to the English monarch and the prerogatives of Lord Baltimore, it confirmed to all Christian inhabitants of Maryland, slaves excepted, all the liberties which a Englishman enjoyed at home by virtue of the common or statute law, established a system of representative government, and asserted for their general assemblies all such powers as were exercised by the commons of England The exception of slaves implies that negro slavery had already intruded itself into the province. At this session, any freeman, who had not taken part in the election, might attend in person; thenceforward the governor might summon his friends by special writ, while the people were to choose as many delegates as “the freemen should think good.” As yet there was no jealousy of power, no strife for place. While these laws prepared a frame of government for future generations, we are reminded of the feebleness of the state, where the whole people contributed to “the setting up of a water-mill.”
In October, 1640, the legislative assembly of Maryland, in the grateful enjoyment of happiness, seasonably guarded the tranquillity of the province against the perplexities of all “interim” by providing for the security of the government in case of the death of the deputy governor. Commerce was fostered, and tobacco, the staple of the colony, subjected to inspection. The act which established church liberties declares that “holy church, within this province, shall have and enjoy all her rights, liberties, and franchises, wholly and without blemish.” This revival of a clause in Magna Charta, cited in the preceding century by some of the separatists as a guarantee of their religions liberty, was practically interpreted as in harmony with that toleration of all believers in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which was the recognised usage of the land.
Nor was it long before the inhabitants acknowledged Lord Baltimore’s great charge and solicitude in maintaining the government, and protecting them in their persons, rights, and liberties; and, therefore, so runs the statute of March, 1642,” out of desire to return some testimony of gratitude,” they granted “such a subsidy as the young and poor estate of the colony could bear.” Ever intent on advancing the interests of his colony, the proprietary invited the Puritans of Massachusetts to Maryland, offering them lands and privileges, and “free liberty of religion;” but Gibbons, to whom he had forwarded a commission, was “so wholly tutored in the New England discipline” that he would not advance the wishes of the Irish peer, and the people were not tempted to desert the bay of Massachusetts for the Chesapeake.
The aborigines, alarmed at the rapid increase of the Europeans, and vexed at being frequently overreached by their cupidity, began hostilities; for the Indians, ignorant of the remedy of redress, always planned retaliation. After a war of frontier aggressions, extending from 1642 to 1644, but marked by no decisive events, peace was re-established with them on the usual terms of submission and promises of friendship, and rendered durable by the prudent legislation of the assembly and the humanity of the government. Kidnapping them was made a capital offence, the sale of arms to them prohibited as a felony, and the pre-emption of the soil reserved to the proprietary.
To this right of pre-emption Lord Baltimore would suffer no exception. The Jesuits had obtained a grant of land from an Indian chief; the proprietary, “intent upon his own affairs, and not fearing to violate the immunities of the church,” would not allow that it was valid, and persisted in enforcing against Catholic priests the necessity of obtaining his consent before they could acquire real estate in his province in any wise, even by gift.
In the mixed population of Maryland, where the administration was in the hands of Catholics, and the very great majority of the people were Protestants, there was no unity of sentiment out of which a domestic constitution could have harmoniously risen. At a time when the commotions in England left every colony in America almost unheeded, and Virginia and New England were pursuing a course of nearly independent legislation, the power of the proprietary was almost as feeble as that of the king. The other colonies took advantage of the period to secure and advance their liberties; in Maryland the effect was rather to encourage insubordination; the government vibrated with every change in the political condition of England.
In this state of uncertainty, Leonard Calvert, the proprietary’s deputy, repaired to England to take counsel with his brother. During his absence, and toward the end of the year 1643, a London ship, commissioned by parliament, anchored in the harbor of St. Mary’s; and Brent, the acting governor, under a general authority from the king at Oxford, but with an indiscretion which was in contrast with the caution of the proprietary, seized the ship, and tendered to its crew an oath against the parliament. Richard Ingle, the commander, having escaped, in January, 1644, was summoned by proclamation to yield himself up, while witnesses were sought after to convict him of treason. The new commission to Governor Calvert plainly conceded to the representatives of the province the right of originating laws. It no longer required an oath of allegiance to the king, but it exacted from every grantee of land an oath of fidelity to the proprietary. This last measure proved a new entanglement.
In September, Calvert returned to St. Mary’s to find the colony rent by factions, and Clayborne still restless in asserting his claim to Kent island. Escaping by way of Jamestown to London, Ingle had obtained there a letter of marque, and, without any other authority, reappearing in Maryland, he raised the standard of parliament against the established authorities, made away with the records and the great seal, and, by the aid of Protestants, compelled the governor and secretary, with a few of their devoted friends, to fly to Virginia. Father White and the other Jesuit missionaries were seized and shipped to England; an oath of submission was tendered to the inhabitants, but it was not subscribed by even one Catholic. After his lawless proceedings, which wrought for the colony nothing but confusion and waste of property and insurrectionary misrule, Ingle returned to England.
A fugitive in Virginia, Calvert, in 1645, asked aid of that province. Its governor and council “could send him no help,” but they incited Clayborne “to cease for the present all intermeddling with the government of the isle of Kent.” Their offer to act as umpires was not accepted. Before the close of the year 1646, Calvert organized a force strong enough to make a descent upon St. Mary’s, and recover the province. In April, 1647, he, in person, reduced Kent island, and established Robert Vaughan, a Protestant, as its commander. Tranquillity returned with his resumption of power, and was confirmed by his wise clemency. On the ninth of the following June he died, and his death foreboded for the colony new disasters, for, during the troublous times which followed, no one of his successors had his prudence or his ability. His immediate successor was Thomas Greene, a Roman Catholic.
Meantime, the committee of plantations at London, acting on a petition, which stated truly that the government of Maryland, since the first settlement of that province, had been in the hands of recusants, and that under a commission from Oxford it had seized upon a ship which derived its commission from parliament, reported both Lord Baltimore and his deputy unfit to be continued in their charges, and recommended that parliament should settle the government of the plantation in the hands of Protestants.
This petition was read in the house of lords in the last week of the year 1645; but neither then nor in the two following years were definite measures adopted by parliament, and the politic Lord Baltimore had ample time to prepare his own remedies. To appease the parliament, he removed Greene, and in August, 1648, appointed in his place William Stone, a Protestant, of the church of England, formerly a sheriff in Virginia, who had promised to lead a large number of emigrants into Maryland. For his own security, he bound his Protestant lieutenant, or chief governor, by the most stringent oath to maintain his rights and dominion as absolute lord and proprietary of the province of Maryland; and the oath, which was devised in 1648, and not before, and is preserved in the archives of Maryland, went on in these words: “I do further swear I will not by myself, nor any other person, directly trouble, molest, or discountenance any person whatsoever in the said province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ; and, in particular, no Roman Catholic, for or in respect of his or her religion, nor his or her free exercise thereof within the said province, so as they be not unfaithful to his said lordship, or molest or conspire against the civil government established under him.” To quiet and unite the colony, all offences of the late rebellion were effaced by a general amnesty; and, at the instance of the Catholic proprietary, the Protestant governor, Stone, and his council of six, composed equally of Catholics and Protestants, and the representatives of the people of Maryland, of whom five were Catholics, at a general session of the assembly, held in April, 1649, placed upon their statute-book an act for the religious freedom which, by the unbroken usage of fifteen years, had become sacred on their soil. “And whereas the enforcing of the conscience in matters of religion,” such was the sublime tenor of a part of the statute, “hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous consequence in those commonwealths where it hath been practiced, and for the more quiet and peaceable government of this province, and the better to preserve mutual love and amity among the inhabitants, no person within this province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall be in any ways troubled, molested, or discountenanced, for his or her religion, or in the free exercise thereof.” Thus did the star of religious freedom harbinger the day; though, as it first gleamed above the horizon, its light was colored and obscured by the mists and exhalations of morning. The Independents of England, in a paper which they called “the agreement of the people,” expressed their desire to grant to all believers in Jesus Christ the free exercise of their religion; but the Long Parliament rejected their prayer, and in May, 1645, passed an ordinance, not to be paralleled among Protestants for its atrocity, imposing death as the penalty for holding any one of eight enumerated heresies. Not conforming wholly to the precedent, the clause for liberty in Maryland, which extended only to Christians, was introduced by the proviso that “whatsoever person shall blaspheme God, or shall deny or reproach the Holy Trinity, or any of the three persons thereof, shall be punished with death.”
The design of the law of Maryland was undoubtedly to protect freedom of conscience; and, some years after it had been confirmed, the apologist of Lord Baltimore could assert that his government, in conformity with his strict and repeated injunctions, had never given disturbance to any person in Maryland for matter of religion; that the colonists enjoyed freedom of conscience, not less than freedom of person and estate. The disfranchised friends of prelacy from Massachusetts, and the exiled Puritans from Virginia, were welcomed to equal liberty of conscience and political rights by the Roman Catholic proprietary of Maryland; and the usage of the province from its foundation was confirmed by its statutes. The attractive influence of this liberality for the province appeared immediately: a body of Puritans or Independents in Virginia, whom Sir William Berkeley had ordered to leave that province for their nonconformity, negotiated successfully with the proprietary for lands in Maryland; and, before the end of the year 1649, the greater part of the congregation planted themselves on the banks of the Severn. To their place of refuge, now known as Annapolis, they gave the name of Providence; there “they sat down joyfully, and cheerfully followed their vocations.”
An equal union prevailed between all branches of the government in explaining and confirming the civil liberties of the colony. In 1642, Robert Vaughan, in the name of the rest of the burgesses, had desired that the house might be separated, and thus a negative secured to the representatives of the people. Before 1649, this change had taken place; and, in 1650, it was established by an enactment constituting a legislature in two branches. The dangerous prerogative of employing martial law was limited to the precincts of the camp and the garrison; and a perpetual act declared that no tax should be levied upon the freemen of the province, except by the vote of their deputies in a general assembly. Well might the freemen of Maryland place upon their records an acknowledgment of gratitude to their proprietary, “as a memorial to all posterities,” and a pledge that succeeding generations would faithfully “remember” his care and industry in advancing “the peace and happiness of the colony.”
The revolutions in England could not but affect the destinies of the colonies; and, while New England and Virginia vigorously advanced their liberties under a salutary neglect, Maryland was involved in the miseries of a disputed administration. Doubts were raised as to the authority to which obedience was due; and the government of benevolence, good order, and toleration, was, by the force of circumstances, abandoned for the misrule of bigotry and the anarchy of a disputed sovereignty. When the throne and the peerage had been subverted in England, it might be questioned whether the mimic monarchy of Lord Baltimore should be permitted to continue; and scrupulous Puritans hesitated to tale an unqualified oath of fealty. Englishmen were no longer lieges of a sovereign, but members of a commonwealth; and, but for Baltimore, Maryland would equally enjoy republican liberty. Great as was the temptation to assert independence, it would not have prevailed, could the peace of the province have been maintained. But who, it might well be asked, was the sovereign of Maryland? “Beauty and extraordinary goodness” were her dowry; and she was claimed by four separate aspirants. Virginia, pushed on by Clayborne, was ready to revive its rights to jurisdiction beyond the Potomac; Charles II, incensed against Lord Baltimore for his adhesion to the rebels and his toleration of schismatics, had issued a commission as governor to Sir William Davenant; Stone was the active deputy of Lord Baltimore; and the Long Parliament prepared to intervene.
In the ordinance of 1650, for the reduction of the rebellious colonies, Maryland was not included. Charles II had been inconsiderately proclaimed by Greene, while acting as governor during an absence of Stone in Virginia, and assurances had been given of the fidelity of the proprietary to the commonwealth, but the proclamation was disavowed. Still the popish monarchical Baltimore had wakeful opponents. In the paper instructing the parliamentary commissioners of September, 1651, the name of Maryland twice found a place, and, at the proprietary’s representation, was twice struck out; yet, in the last draft of the following March, they were, by some unknown influence, empowered to reduce “all the plantations within the bay of the Chesapeake.” Bennett, then governor of Virginia, and Clayborne accordingly entered the province.
In the settlement with Virginia, the commissioners had aimed at reannexing the territory of Maryland; but they dared not of themselves enforce that agreement. The offer was therefore made, that the proprietary’s officers should remain in their places, if, without infringing his just rights, they would conform to the laws of the commonwealth of England in point of government; but they refused to issue forth writs in the name of the Keepers of the Liberty of England, saying “they could not do it without breach of their trust and oath.” Thereupon Bennett and his associate took possession of the commissions of Stone and his council, declared them to be null and void, and of their own authority appointed an executive council to direct the affairs of Maryland. For the following June an assembly was to be summoned, of which the burgesses were to be chosen only by freemen who had taken the engagement to the commonwealth of England, as established without house of lords or king.
The assembly of Virginia, which met at James City on the last day of April, did not give effect to the article restoring its ancient bounds, but awaited instructions from the parliament of England. After organizing its government, the commissioners, who had attended the session, returned to Maryland; and there, conforming to the manifest desire of the inhabitants, they reinstated Stone as governor, with a council of which three at least were the friends of Lord Baltimore, on no other condition than their acquiescence in what had been done. The government thus instituted “being to the liking of the people,” the calling of an assembly was postponed. The restoration of Kent island to Clayborne was aimed at indirectly, by a treaty with the Susquehannahs, from whom his original title was derived.
In England, Lord Baltimore was roused to the utmost efforts to preserve his province. He gave reasons of state to show the importance of not reuniting it to Virginia to the prejudice of his patent. He even sought to strengthen his case by dwelling on the monarchical tendencies of Virginia, and holding up Maryland and New England as “the only two provinces that did not declare against the parliament.” His argument was supported by a petition from himself and his associate adventurers, and from traders and planters in Maryland. The Long Parliament referred the question of bounds to their committee of the navy, who had power to send for persons and papers. On the last day of the year that committee made an elaborate and impartial report; but, before the controversy could be decided, the Long Parliament was turned out of doors.
The dissolution of the Long Parliament threatened a change in the political condition of Maryland. It was argued that the only authority under which Bennett and Clayborne had acted had expired with the body from which it was derived. In February, 1654, Stone required by proclamation an oath of fidelity to the proprietary, as the condition of grants of lands. The housekeepers of Anne Arundel county promptly objected to the oath; so did Francis Preston and sixty others, and they protested against the restoration of the old form of government. Bennett and Clayborne bade them stand fast by the form which the commissioners had established. About the middle of July—though Stone had in May proclaimed Cromwell as lord protector, fired salutes in his honor, and commemorated the solemnity by grants of pardon—Bennett and Clayborne, then governor and secretary of Virginia, came to Maryland, and raised as soldiers the inhabitants on the Patuxent river, with those of Anne Arundel and of the isle of Kent, to take the government out of his hands. The party which supported him, and which consisted in part of Protestants, prepared for defence. “But those few papists that were in Maryland, for indeed they were but few,” so writes one of their friends, “importunately persuaded Governor Stone not to fight, lest the cry against the papists, if any hurt were done, would be so great that many mischiefs would ensue, wholly referring themselves to the will of God and the lord protector’s determination.” Yielding to their advice against that of his Protestant friends, Stone surrendered his commission into their hands, and, under compulsion, pledged himself in writing to submit to such government as should be set over the province by the commissioners in the name of the lord protector. Two days after his resignation, Bennett and Clayborne appointed Captain William Fuller and nine others commissioners for governing Maryland. They were enjoined to summon an assembly for which all who had borne arms against the parliament or professed the Roman Catholic religion were disabled to vote or to be elected.
Parties became identified with religious sects, and Maryland itself was the prize for which they contended. The new assembly, representing a faction, not the whole people, coming together at Patuxent in October, acknowledged the authority of Cromwell, but it disfranchised the whole Romish party. Following the precedent established by an ordinance of the Long Parliament, it confirmed the liberty of religion, provided the liberty were not extended to “popery, prelacy, or licentiousness” of opinion. The cedar and the myrtle and the oil-tree might no longer be planted in the wilderness together.
When the proprietary heard of these proceedings, he reproved his lieutenant for want of firmness. The pretended assembly was esteemed “illegal, mutinous, and usurped,” and his officers, under the powers which the charter conferred, prepared to vindicate his supremacy. Toward the end of January, 1655, on the receipt of news from London, it was noised abroad that his patent was upheld by the protector, and Stone, pleading that his written resignation to the ten commissioners was invalid, because extorted from him by force, began to issue orders for the restoration of his authority. Papists and friendly Protestants received authority to levy men, and the leaders of this new appeal to arms were able to surprise and get possession of the provincial records. In the last week in March, they moved from Patuxent toward Anne Arundel, the chief seat of the republicans. The inhabitants of Providence and their partisans gathered together with superior zeal and courage. Aided by the Golden Lyon, an English ship which happened then to be in the waters of the Severn, they attacked and discomfited the party of Stone. After the skirmish, the governor, upon quarter given him, yielded himself and his company as prisoners; but, two or three days after, the victors, by a council of war, condemned him, his councillors, and some others—in all, ten in number—to be shot. Eltonhead, one of the condemned, appealed to Cromwell, but in vain, and sentence was presently executed upon him and three others. Of the four, three were Roman Catholics. The remaining six, some on the way to execution, were saved “by the begging of good women and friends” who chanced to be there, or by the soldiers; it was to the intercession of the latter that Governor Stone owed his life. Rushing into the houses of the Jesuits, men demanded the impostors,” as they called them, but the fathers escaped to hiding-places in Virginia.
A friend to Lord Baltimore, then in the province, begged of the protector no other boon than that he would “condescend to settle the country by declaring his determinate will; “and yet the same causes which led Cromwell to neglect the internal concerns of Virginia compelled him to pay but little attention to the disturbances in Maryland. On the one hand, he respected the rights of property of Lord Baltimore; on the other, he “would not have a stop put to the proceedings of the commissioners who were authorized to settle the civil government.” The right to the jurisdiction of Maryland remained, therefore, a disputed question.
In July, 1656, Lord Baltimore commissioned Josiah Fendall as his lieutenant, and, before the end of the year, sent over his brother Philip as councillor and principal secretary of the province. The ten men none the less continued to exercise authority, and, “for his dangerousness,” they held Fendall under arrest, until, in the face of the whole court, he took an oath not to disturb their government, but to await a final decision from England. To England, therefore, he sailed the next year, that he might consult with Baltimore, leaving Barber, a former member of Cromwell’s household, as his deputy. Still the protector, by reason “of his great affairs,” had not leisure to consider the report of the commissioners for trade on the affairs of Maryland. At last, in November, 1657, Lord Baltimore, by “the friendly endeavors of Edward Digges,” negotiated with Bennett and Matthews, all being then in England, an agreement for the recovery of his province. The proprietary covenanted so far to waive his right of jurisdiction as to leave the settlement of past offences and differences to the disposal of the protector and his council; to grant the land claims of “the people in opposition,” without requiring of them an oath of fidelity, but only some engagement for his support; and, lastly, he promised for himself never to consent to a repeal “of the law whereby all persons professing to believe in Jesus Christ have freedom of conscience there.”
Returning to his government with instructions, Fendall, in the following March, held an interview with Fuller, Preston, and the other commissioners, at St. Leonards, when the agreement was carried into effect. The Puritans were further permitted to retain their arms, and were assured of indemnity. The proceedings of the assemblies and the courts of justice since the year 1652, in so far as they related to questions of property, were confirmed.
Wearied with the convulsions of ten years, a general assembly, on the death of Cromwell, saw no security but in asserting the power of the people, and constituting the government on the expression of their will. Accordingly, on the twelfth of March, 1660, just one day before that memorable session of Virginia, when the people of the Ancient Dominion adopted a similar system of independent legislation, the representatives of Maryland, meeting in the house of Robert Slye, voted themselves a lawful assembly, without dependence on any other power in the province. The burgesses of Virginia assumed to themselves the election of the council; the burgesses of Maryland refused to acknowledge the rights of the body claiming to be an upper house. In Virginia, Berkeley yielded to the popular will; in Maryland, Fendall permitted the power of the people to be proclaimed. The representatives of Maryland having settled the government, independent of their proprietary and of his governor and council, and hoping for tranquillity after years of storms, passed an act making it felony to disturb the order which they had established.
Maryland, like Virginia, at the epoch of the restoration, was in full possession of liberty, by the practical exercise of the sovereignty of the people. Like Virginia, it had so nearly completed its institutions that, till the epoch of its final separation from England, it hardly made any further advances toward freedom and independence.
Men love liberty, even if it be turbulent, and the colony had increased, and flourished, and grown rich, in spite of domestic dissensions. Its population, in 1660, is variously estimated at twelve thousand and at eight thousand; the latter number is probably nearer the truth. The country was dear to its inhabitants. There they desired to spend the remnant of their lives—there to make their graves.
Formatting, font, and spelling modernizations of this version of George Bancroft’s “History of the United States,” Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.The original copyright for George Bancroft’s History of the United States is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired.
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