Colonial History - Continued
Captain John Smith was the first white man to explore the Chesapeake and its tributaries. After him, in 1621, William Clayborne, a resolute and daring English surveyor, was sent out by the London Company to make a map of the country about the head-waters of the bay. by the second charter of Virginia the territory of that province had been extended on the north to the forty-first parallel of latitude. All of the present State of Maryland was included in this enlargement, which also embraced the whole of Delaware and the greater part of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The ambition of Virginia was greatly excited by the possession of this vast domain; to explore and occupy it was an enterprise of the highest importance.
Clayborne was a member of the council of Virginia, and secretary of state in that colony. In May of 1631, he received a royal commission authorizing him to discover the sources of the Chesapeake Bay, to survey the country as far as the forty-first degree of latitude, to establish a trade with the Indians, and to exercise the right of government over the companions of his voyage. This commission was confirmed by Governor Harvey of Virginia, and in the spring of the following year Clayborne began his important and arduous work. The members of the London Company were already gathering imaginary riches from the immense fur-trade of the Potomac and the Susquehanna.
The enterprise of Clayborne was attended with success. A trading-post was established on Kent Island, and another at the head of the bay, in the vicinity of Harve de Grace. The many rivers that fall into the Chesapeake were again explored and a trade opened with the natives. The limits of Virginia were about to be extended to the borders of New Netherland. But in the meantime, a train of circumstances had been prepared in England by which the destiny of several American provinces was completely changed. As in many other instances, religious persecution again contributed to lay the foundation of a new State in the wilderness. And Sir George Calvert, of Yorkshire, was the man who was destined to become the founder. Born in 1580; educated at Oxford; a man of much travel and vast experience; an ardent and devoted Catholic; a friend of humanity; honored with knighthood, and afterward with an Irish peerage and the title of Lord Baltimore, -- he now in middle life turned aside from the dignities of rank and affluence to devote the energies of his life to the welfare of the oppressed. For the Catholics of England as well as the dissenting Protestants, were afflicted with many and bitter persecutions.
Lord Baltimore's first American enterprise was the planting of a Catholic colony in Newfoundland. King James, who was not unfriendly to the Roman Church, had granted him a patent for the southern promontory of the island; and here, in 1623, a refuge was established for distressed Catholics. But in such a place no colony could be successful. The district was narrow, cheerless, desolate. Profitable industry was impossible. French ships hovered around the coast and captured the English fishing-boats. It became evident that the settlement must be removed, and Lord Baltimore wisely turned his attention to the sunny country of the Chesapeake.
In 1629, he made a visit to Virginia. The general assembly offered him citizenship on condition that he would take an oath of allegiance; but the oath was of such a sort as no honest Catholic could subscribe to. In vain did Sir George plead for toleration; the assembly was inexorable. It was on the part of the Virginians a short-sighted and ruinous policy. For the London Company had already been dissolved; the king might therefore rightfully regrant that vast territory north of the Potomac which by the terms of the second charter had been given to Virginia. Lord Baltimore left the narrow-minded legislators, returned to London, himself drew up a charter for a new State on the Chesapeake, and easily induced his friend, King Charles I., to sign it. The Virginians had saved their religion and lost a province.
The territory embraced by the new patent was bounded by the ocean, by the fortieth parallel of latitude, by a line drawn due south from that parallel to the most western fountain of the Potomac, by the river itself from its source to the bay, and by a line running due east from the mouth of the river to the Atlantic. The domain included the whole of the present States of Maryland and Delaware and a large part of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Here it was the purpose of the magnanimous proprietor to establish an asylum for all the afflicted of his own faith, and to plant a State on the broad basis of religious toleration and popular liberty. The provisions of the charter were the most liberal and ample which had ever received the sanction of the English government. Christianity was declared to be the religion of the State, but no preference was given to any sect or creed. The lives and property of the colonists were carefully guarded. Free trade was declared to be the law of the province, and arbitrary taxation was forbidden. The rights of the proprietor extended only to the free appointment of the officers of his government. The power of making and amending the laws was conceded to the freemen of the colony or their representatives.
One calamity darkened the prospect. Before the liberal patent could receive the seal of State, Sir George Calvert died. His title and estates descended to his son Cecil; and to him, on the 20th of June, 1632, the charter which had been intended for his noble father was finally issued. In honor of Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV. of France and wife of Charles I., the name of Maryland was conferred on the new province. Independence of Virginia was guaranteed in the constitution of the colony, and no danger was to be anticipated from the feeble forces of New Netherland. It only remained for the younger Lord Baltimore to raise a company of emigrants and carry out his father's benevolent designs. The work went forward slowly, and it was not until November of 1633 that a colony numbering three hundred persons could be collected. Meanwhile, Cecil Calvert had abandoned the idea of coming in person to America, and had appointed his brother Leonard to accompany the colonists to their destination, and to act as deputy-governor of the new province.
In March of the following year the immigrants arrived at Old Point Comfort. Where the Potomac enters the Chesapeake Bay there was a small island, upon which was a half-deserted Indian village. Purchasing lands from the remaining natives, in exchange for axes, hoes, and cloth, they moved into the vacant huts. Here they planted the cross and gave to the settlement the name of St. Mary's.
Calvert treated the natives with great liberality. The consequence was that the settlers had peace and plenty. The Indian women taught the wives of the English how to make corn-break, and the friendly warriors instructed the colonists in the mysteries of hunting. Game was abundant. The lands adjacent to the village were already under cultivation. The settlers had little to do but to plant their gardens and fields and wait for the coming harvest. There was neither anxiety nor want. The dream of Sir George Calvert was realized. Within six months the colony of St. Mary's had grown into greater prosperity than this settlement at Jamestown had reached in as many years. Best of all, the pledge of civil liberty and religious toleration was redeemed to the letter.
Within less than a year after the founding of St. Mary's the freemen were convened in a general assembly. In February of 1635 the work of colonial legislation was first begun. Here democracy won its first battle in securing the right of the people to initiate legislation. But the province was involved in difficulty. For Clayborne still stood his ground on Kent Island, and openly resisted Lord Baltimore's authority. His settlement on the island was almost as strong as the colony at St. Mary's; and Clayborne, unscrupulous as to the right, and confident in his power, resolved to appeal to arms. In 1637 a bloody skirmish occurred on the banks of the river Wicomico, on the eastern shore of the bay. Several lives were lost, but the insurgents were defeated. Calvert's forces proceeded to Kent Island, overpowered the settlement, and executed one or two persons who had participated in the rebellion.
Clayborne, in the meantime, had escaped into Virginia. The assembly of Maryland demanded the fugitive; but the govenor refused, and Clayborne repaired to England to lay his case before the king. The cause was heard by a committee of Parliament, and it was decided that the commission of Clayborne, which was only a license to trade in the Chesapeake, had been annulled by the dissolution of the London Company, and that the charter of Lord Baltimore was valid against all opposing claimants. Clayborne, however, was allowed to go at large. He returned to Virginia, and for more than ten years longer was a source of disturbance to the colony of Maryland.
In 1639 a regular representative government was established in Maryland. Hitherto a system of popular democracy had prevailed in the province; each freeman had been allowed a vote in determining the laws. With the growth of the colony it was deemed expedient to substitute the more convenient method of representation. When the delegates came together, a declaration of rights was adopted, and the prerogative of the proprietor more clearly defined. All the broad and liberal principles of the colonial patent were reaffirmed. The powers of the assembly were made coextensive with those of the House of Commons in England. The rights of citizenship were declared to be identical with those of English subjects in the mother country.
Compared with some of the other colonies, Maryland had but little trouble with the Indians. In 1642 hostilities broke out and for more than two years gave the Marylanders more or less trouble. But a greater menace to the colony was the growing jealousy of the Virginians. Maryland had won in her right to plant a colony of what Virginia claimed to be her territory. Maryland was Catholic and Virginia Protestant. Maryland, too, enjoyed free-trade relations which were denied the older colony. These strained relations were largely brought about by Maryland's old enemy, William Clayborne.
The king was now at war with his subjects, and could give no aid to the proprietor of an American province. Clayborne saw his opportunity, hurried to Maryland, and raised the standard of rebellion. Early in 1645 an insurrection broke out. Companies of desperate men came together, and found in Clayborne a natural leader. The government of Leonard Calvert was overthrown, and the governor obliged to fly for his life. Escaping from the province, he found refuge and protection with Sir William Berkeley, of Virginia. Clayborne seized the colonial records of Maryland, and destroyed them. The government was usurped, and for more than a year the colony was under the dominion of the insurgents. Meanwhile, however, Governor Calvert collected his forces, returned to the province, defeated the rebels, and in August of 1646 succeeded in restoring his authority. It marks the milk and humane spirit of the Calverts that those engaged in this unjustifiable insurrection were pardoned by a general amnesty.
The acts of the provincial legislature in 1649 were of special importance. It was enacted in broad terms that no person believing in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity should, on account of his religious opinions or practices, be in any wise distressed within the borders of Maryland. It was declared a finable offense for citizens to apply to each other the opprobrious names used in religious controversy. Freedom of conscience was reiterated with a distinctness that could not be misunderstood. While Massachusetts was attempting by proscription to establish Puritanism as the faith of New England, and while the Episcopalians of Jamestown were endeavoring by exclusive legislation to make the Church of England the Church of Virginia, Maryland was joining with Rhode Island and Connecticut in proclaiming religious freedom. it sometimes happened in those days that Protestants escaping from Protestants found an asylum with the Catholic colonists of the Chesapeake.
The year 1650 witnessed another step in advance of the democracy in the colony. The legislature was made to be bicameral, the lower house being elected by the people. It was also enacted that no taxes should be levied without the consent of the assembly. But fresh trouble was in store for the colonists.
On the fall of Charles I., the Cromwell government appointed parliamentary commissioners, Clayborne was a member of the body thus appointed. When the commissioners arrived in Maryland, Stone, the deputy of Lord Baltimore, was deposed from office. A compromise was presently effected between the adherents of the proprietor and the opposing faction; and in June of the following year, Stone, with three members of his council, was permitted to resume the government. In April of 1653 the Long Parliament, by whose authority the commissioners had been appointed, was dissolved. Stone thereupon published a proclamation declaring that the recent interference of Clayborne and his associates had been a rebellious usurpation. Clayborne, enraged at this proclamation, collected a force in Virginia, returned into Maryland, again drove Stone out of office, and intrusted the government to ten commissioners appointed by himself.
The Puritan and republican party in Maryland had now grown sufficiently strong to defy the proprietor and the Catholics. A Protestant assembly was convened at Patuxent in October of 1654. The first act was to acknowledge the supremacy of Cromwell; the next to disfranchise the Catholics and to deprive them of the protection of the laws. The ungrateful representatives seemed to forget that if Lord Baltimore had been equally intolerant, not one of them would have had even a residence within the limits of Maryland. It would be difficult to find a more odious piece of legislation than that of the assembly at Patuxent. Of course the Catholic party would not submit to a code by which they were virtually banished from their own province.
Civil war ensued. Governor Stone organized and armed the militia, seized the records of the colony, and marched against the opposing forces. A decisive battle was fought just across the estuary from the present site of Annapolis. The Catholics were defeated, with a loss of fifty men in killed and wounded. Stone himself was taken prisoner, and was only saved from death by th personal friendship of some of the insurgents. Three of the Catholic leaders were tried by a court-martial and executed. Cromwell paid but little attention to these atrocities, and made no effort to sustain the government of Lord Baltimore.
In 1656 Josias Fendall, a weak and impetuous man, was sent out by the proprietor as governor of the province. There was now a Catholic insurrection with Fendall at the head. For two years the government was divided, the Catholics exercising authority at St. Mary's, and the Protestants at Leonardstown. At length, in March of 1658, a compromise was effected; Fendall was acknowledged as governor, and the acts of the recent Protestant assemblies were recognized as valid. A general amnesty was published, and the colony was again at peace.
When the death of Cromwell was announced in Maryland, the provincial authorities were much perplexed. One of four courses might be pursued: Richard Cromwell might be recognized as protector; Charles II. might be proclaimed as king; Lord Baltimore might be acknowledged as hereditary proprietor; colonial independence might be declared. The latter policy was adopted by the assembly. On the 12th of March, 1660, the rights of Lord Baltimore were formally set aside; the provincial council was dissolved, and the whole power of government was assumed by the House of Burgesses. The act of independence was adopted just one day before a similar resolution was passed by the general assembly in Virginia. The population of Maryland had now reached the thousand.
On the restoration of monarchy the rights of the Baltimores were again recognized, and Philip Calver was sent out as deputy-governor. In the meantime, Fendall had resigned his trust as agent of the proprietor, and had accepted an election by the people. He was now repaid for his double-dealing with an arrest, a trial, and a condemnation on a charge of treason. Nothing saved his life but the clemency of Lord Baltimore, who, with his customary magnanimity, proclaimed a general pardon.
Sir Cecil Calvert died in 1676, and his son Charles, a young man who had inherited the virtues of the illustrious family, succeeded to the estates and title of Baltimore. For sixteen years he exercised the rights of proprietary governor of Maryland. Only once during this period was the happiness of the colony disturbed. When the news arrived of the abdication of King James II., the deputy of Lord Baltimore hesitated to acknowledge the new sovereigns, William and Mary. An absurd rumor was spread abroad that the Catholics had leagued with the Indians for the purpose of destroying the Protestants of Maryland in a general massacre. An opposing force was organized; and in 1689 the Catholic party was compelled to surrender the government. For two years the Protestants held the province, and civil authority was exercised by a body called the Convention of Associates.
On the 1st day of June, 1691, the government of Maryland was revolutionized by the act of King William. The charter of Lord Baltimore was orbitrarily taken away, and a royal government appointed over the province. Every vestige of the old patent was swept away. the Episcopal Church was established by law and supported by the government administered on despotic principles. This condition of affairs continued until 1715, when Queen Anne was induced to restore the heir of Lord Baltimore to the rights of his ancestor. Maryland again became a proprietary government under the authority of the Calverts, and so remained until the Revolutionary war.
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