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1632 - Catholic Calvert Maryland

When George Calvert, afterwards the first Lord Baltimore, entered public life as secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, he found that the imagination of his associates was held captive by the fascinations of American exploration and colonization. He seems to have been burned deeply by the fire which many regarded justly as an ignis fatuus, for in 1609 his name appears in the list of adventurers in the Virginia Company; in 1620 he began his efforts for the colonization of Newfoundland; in 1621 he made plans for the settlement of his manor in County Longford, Ireland, and in 1622 he is named as one of the councillors of the ISTew England Company.

That his activities were not merely the result of the fashionable whim of the day, that he possessed in no small degree the qualifications of an empire builder is to be gathered from the persistence with which he continued his efforts at colonization when a weaker or a less earnest man would have given in under the ill fortune which beset him in several of his ventures. There is no evidence that Calvert's interest in colonial enterprises, with the exception of the Avalon plantation in Newfoundland in 1627, was based upon any motive different from the frankly mercantile and imperialistic one which animated his associates.

But from the moment of his change of creed it becomes apparent that in addition to his materialistic object he is filled with a sincere desire to aid his fellow Catholics by providing for their refuge an asylum where they should not be subject to the rigid penal laws which distressed them in England. It is difficult on this account to maintain a belief in the Calvert whom the history books have portrayed, a man whose single aim in the settlement of Maryland was to establish in that place a ' city of refuge' for the English Catholic. He seems always to have been decently keen for material profit; he presents himself to us as the finest type of the ' gentleman adventurer' of his age, a combination of merchant, explorer and imperialist, with an added incentive in his later years of altruistic service.

In 1632 the Catholic Calvert family obtained a charter for land north of the Potomac River from King Charles I in what became known as Maryland. As the charter did not expressly prohibit the establishment of non-Protestant churches, the colony became a haven for Catholics. Marylandís first town, St. Maryís, was established in 1634 near where the Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

While establishing a refuge for Catholics, who faced increasing persecution in Anglican England, the Calverts were also interested in creating profitable estates. To this end, and to avoid trouble with the British government, they also encouraged Protestant immigration.

Marylandís royal charter had a mixture of feudal and modern elements. On the one hand the Calvert family had the power to create manorial estates. On the other, they could only make laws with the consent of freemen (property holders). They found that in order to attract settlers ó and make a profit from their holdings ó they had to offer people farms, not just tenancy on manorial estates. The number of independent farms grew in consequence. Their owners demanded a voice in the affairs of the colony. Marylandís first legislature met in 1635.

Roman Catholic historians boast of Maryland as a Catholic colony where in the celebrated " Act Concerning Religion," toleration in religious worship was first formulated and proclaimed for the admiration and example of future generations. Certain Anglican writers scoff at this claim as presumptuous to a laughable degree. They assert most positively that Maryland was a Protestant settlement from the beginning, and by inference they attribute to its Protestant or Anglican character the wise and tolerant legislation in matters of religion which makes Lord Baltimore's colony remarkable for a display of enlightenment in an age of intellectual twilight.





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Page last modified: 04-09-2017 16:27:53 ZULU