1637/8 Freeman's Assembly
Province of Maryland
by USGenNet Patrons
Rhoda Fone & Carole Hammett (2001)
In accordance with its Charter, the early laws governing the Province of Maryland, although often proposed by the Proprietor (Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore), usually through his Governor (or Lieutenant General) and brother, Leonard Calvert, required the assent of the freemen of the province.
The Freeman's Assembly of Jan-Feb 1637/8 is the first for which there is a record. The only earlier known assembly is known only by a solitary reference to an act passed on 26 Feb 1634/5 by a General Assemblie at St. Mary's.
The following is a sample of the invitations (notices) issued to attend the assembly:
The Generall Assembly Held at St. Maries, and began on the 25th Day of January 1637 [1637/8].
WARRT. TO CAPT: EVELIN
TOUCHING THE GENERALL ASSEMBLY.
After my hearty Commendacons &c whereas my deare
brother the Lord Proprietr of this Province, hath by his Commission
to me directed in that behalfe bearing date at London in the Realme of
England, the 15th day of Aprill 1637. appointed a grall assembly of all the freemen of this Province to be held at his town of St maries on the five and twentieth day of January next These are therefore in his Lops name
to will and require you (all excuses sett apart) to make your
psonall repaire to the ffort of St maries on the said five and
twentieth day of January, then and there to consult and advise
of the affaires of this Province. And further to will and require you at some convenient time when you shall thinke fitt
within 6 daies after the receipt hereof at the furthest, to assemble all the freemen inhabiting within any part of yor jurisdiction: and then and there to publish and proclaime the said
generall Assembly; and to endeavour to perswade such and
so many of the said freemen as you shall thinke fitt to repair
psonally to the said assembly at the time & place prefixed;
and to give free power & liberty to all the rest of the said
freemen either to be pnt at the said assembly if they so
please; or otherwise to elect and nominate such and so many
persons as they or the major part of them so assembled shall
agree vpon to be the deputies or burgesses for the said freemen, in their name and steed to advise and consult of such
things as shalbe brought into deliberation in the said assembly;
and to enter all the severall votes or suffrages vpon record;
and the record thereof and of whatsoever you shall doe in any
the premises to bring along with you; and exhibite it at the
day and place prefixed to the Secretary of the Province for the
time being. And for so doing this shalbe yor warrt Given at
St. maries this 30th. day of January 1637
Source: Proceedings of the Assembly, Province of Maryland, Liber Z, folio 4. Archives of Maryland, Vol. 1, p. 1,
The record of the proceedings, beginning with the first day, are as follows:
THE GENERALL ASSEMBLY HELD AT
ST. MARIES, AND BEGAN ON THE 25TH.
DAY OF JANUARY 1637
The Acts of the first day
The Leiutent. grall taking his place, came and appeared personally
Capt: Thomas Cornwaleys Esq, one of the Counsell of this Province
Capt: Robert wintour Esq: one of the Counsell of this Province
mr. John Lewger gent; Secretary, and one of the Counsell of this Province
Capt: Robert Evelin, gent, Commander of the Ile of Kent
mr Thomas Greene, gent
mr William Bretton, gent
Capt: Henry Fleete, gent
mr Robt Philpott, one of the Counsell of the Ile of Kent, gent
mr. william Brainthwaite, gent
mr. John Wyatt, gent
mr. Robt Clerke [Clarke], gent
Richard Garnett senior, of Mattapanient, planter
Justinian Snow of St. Maries hundred, planter
Marmaduke Snow of St. maries hundred planter
Francis Rabnett of the same hundred planter
Sergt Robt Vaughan, highe Constable of St George's hundred
James Baldridge Sheriff of St. maries county
Francis Gray of St. maries hundred, carpenter
James Cauther of St. maries hundred, planter
william Lewis of St. maries hundred, planter
Thomas Francklin [Franklin] of St maries hundred, planter
Thomas Nabbs of St. Georges hundred, planter.
Sergt. Thomas Baldridge, of St maries hundred, planter
Edward Fleete of St maries hundred planter
Robert Perry marshall
John Price of St. maries hundred planter.
Thomas Morrison of St Georges hundred, planter.
Thomas Stent of St. Georges hundred, planter
After, were summoned to appeare by vertue of writts to them directed;
mr. Thomas Copley Esq; of St. maries hundred. mr. Andrew white [and] mr. John Altham gent: Robert Clerke gent of the same hundred appeared for them & excused their absence by reason of sickness.
Joseph Edlow, Annum Benum, Nicholas Hervey, william Broughe, of Mattapanient, planters. the Leiutent grall exhibited his proxie for them severa(lly)
Randoll Revell, of St Georges hundred cooper. The Leiutent grall exhibited his proxie for him.
The freemen of the Ile of Kent. mr. Robt Philpott aforesaid, exhibited his proxie for them.
Roger Moy of St. Georges hundred, John Wortly; of St Georges hundred, Robt Nicholls; of St. maries hundred, Planters. Sergt Robert Vaughan aforesaid ; exhibited his proxie for them severally.
James Courtney, Davie wickliff, Ralphe Bean, Thomas Charington of St. George's hundred, planters. Captaine Robt Evelin, exhibited his proxie for them severally.
Henry Lee of St. Georges hundred, planter. John Norton of St. maries hundred,planter. John Lewger Secretary, exhibited his proxie for them severally.
John Halfe-head, of St maries hundred, brickmason Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for him.
Robert wiseman, Davie Odcroft, William Edwine, Henry James planter. John Smithson, of St marie's hundred, Planter. William Lewis exhibited his proxie for them severally.
John Hilliard, xpofer martin, Robert Smith of St. maries hundred planters. Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for them.
Thomas Pasmore, of St. Maries hundred, carpentr. James Cauther exhibited his proxie for him.
John Medley, of St. maries hundred, planter. Capt: Thomas Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him.
Henry Bishopp, John Bryant, Richard Lusthead, planters of Mattapanient,
Richard Garnett Senior exhibited his proxie for them severally.
Nathaniel Pope of St. maries hundred
Henry weed, of St. marie's hundred
John Medcalfe of St. Marie's hundred
John Courtis of St. George's hundred planters
John Davis of St. marie's hundred
John Richardson of St. George's hundred
Thomas Hebden of St. George's hundred
but they made not appearance nor proxies.
Then was proclaymed, that all freemen omitted in the writts of summons, that would clayme a voyce in this grall assembly, should come & make their clayme.
Wherevpon clayme was made by John Robinson, carpentr & was admitted.
Then were certaine orders established by generall consent, to be observed during the Assembly. viz
Orders. Imprmis, the Lieutentt. grall (as President of the
Assembly, shall appoint and direct all things that concerne
forme and decency to be observed in the same; and shall
command the observance thereof as he shall see cause vpon
paine of imprisonmt. or fine as the house shall adiudge.
Item every one that is to speake to any matter, shall stand
vp, and be vncovered and direct his speech to the Lieutent.
grall as President of the Assembly. And if two or more stand
vp to speake together, the Lieutent grall shall appoint who
Item no man shall stand vp to speake to any matter vntill
the partie that spake last before, have sate downe, nor shall
any one speake above once to one bill or matter at one read-
ing nor shall refute the speech of any other with any vncivill
or contentious termes, nor shall name him but by some circum-
loquution. And if any one offend to the contrary, the Lieutent
grall shall command him to silence
Item the house shall sitt every day at eight of the clock in
the morning, and at two of the clock in the afternoone.
Item the freemen assembled at any time to any number
above ten persons, at the houres aforesaid, or within one houre
after, shalbe a house to all purposes.
Item every one propounding any matter to the house shall
digest it first into writing and deliver it to the Secretary to be
read vnto the house
And it was ordered by the house that these Orders should
be sett vp in some publique place of the house, to the end all
men might take notice of them.
Act of the second day; being 26th. January
Betweene the houres of eight and nine in the morning
The Leiuetentt. grall||John Lewger|| Robert Philpott|
|Capt Tho: Cornwaleys|| Thomas Greene|| william Brainthwaite |
|John wyatt|| Richard Garnett|
|Capt: Robt. wintour|| Robert Clerke|| Justinian Snow|
|Capt: Geo: Evelin|| Thomas Francklin|| marmaduke Snow|
|Francis Rabnett|| James Baldridge|| Robert Perry |
|John Robinson|| Edward Fleete|| Sergt. vaughan|
Thomas Hebden. and Capt: Tho: Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him
John Richardson and Capt: Robt. Evelin exhibited his proxie for him
mr. Thomas Copley, mr. Andrew white, mr. John Altham and Robt. Clerke made answere for them that they desired to be excused from giving voices in this Assembly, and was admitted.
John Price and Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for him
Nathaniel Pope and John Lewger Secretary exhibited his proxie for him
John medcalfe and william Lewis exhibited his proxie for him
Thomas Morrison||mr. Bretton|
|Henry Weed||Capt: Fleete|
|John Courtis||James Cauther|
|Thomas Nabbs||Thomas Stente|
|John Davies||Thomas Baldridge |
|Francis Gray. |
amerced for not appearance
John Robinson desired in his behalfe that his proxie might be expected till the afternoone, and was admitted
Then came Edward Bateman of St. maries hundred, ship carpenter & claymed a voyce as freeman; and made Mr John Lewger Secretary his proxie.
Likewise claymed Roger Oliver mariner; & made mr william Brainthwaite gent his proxie.
Likewise claymed Zachary Mottershead gent; and was admitted to a voice in the house.
Came John Langford of the Ile of Kent gent, highe Constable of the said Iland, who had given a voice in the choice of Robert Philpott gent to be one of the Burgesses for the freemen of that Iland; and desired to revoke his voice and to be personally pnt in the Assembly; and was admitted.
Then it was ordered that any member of the house not appearing at the houres appointed, should be amerced 20l of tobacco for every such default.
But for this present meeting, such as did appeare thoughe tardie should be pardoned the amercemt but for the rest wch. appeared not it should stand.
Then was read out of the draught of Lawes transmitted by the Lord Proprietor, the twelve first Acts of the said draught: and were severally debated by the house.
Betweene the houres of two and three in the afternoone of the same day.
The Lieutent generall.||John Wyatt||Richard Gannett|
|Capt Tho: Cornwaleys||Robt Clerke||Robert Perry|
|Capt Robt. wintour||Justinian Snow||Sergt. Vaughan|
|Capt George Evelin||Marmaduke Snow||Zachary Mottershead|
|mr John Lewger Secretary||Francis Rabnett|
|Thomas Nabbs||william Lewis|
|mr. Thomas Greene||James Baldridge|
|mr. william Bretton||Edward Fleete|
John Robinson. and Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for for him.
William Brainthwaite, Roger Oliver, mariner and the Leiutent. grall exhibited his proxie for them severally.
John Davis, Thomas Stente and Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for them severally.
Thomas Francklin. and Edward Fleete exhibited his proxie for him.
Francis Gray. and Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for him.
Thomas Baldridge. and James Baldridge exhibited his proxie for him.
James Cauther. amerced for not appearance.
Thomas Boys of St. maries hundred mariner claymed a voice as freeman; and made his proxie Francis Rabnett, and was admitted.
Thomas Morrison, John Courtis, Capt: Fleete and it was answered for them, that they could not come for want of passage over St. Georges river & was admitted
Henry Weed. and it was answererd for him that he was absent out of the Province, in Virginia. and his amercemt. was remitted.
Likewise the amercemt. was remitted to william Bretton,
Thomas Nabbs, John Davis; for the same reason; as the first.
Likewise vpon petition made by Thomas Stente, and Thomas Baldridge, alledging the necessity of important businesse, the amercemt. was remitted for non appearance in the morning.
Then were the Acts read throughe, & severally debated in the reading. And the Lieutenant grall adiorned the house vntill Monday morning at 8 of the clock.
Acts of the third day; being 29th January 1637.
betweene the houres of 9 and 10 in the morning.
The President||Justinian Snow |
|Capt: Cornwaleys||Francis Rabnett||
|Capt: Geo: Evelin||James Baldridge|
|mr. Lewger Secretary||Edward Fleete|
|mr. Thomas Greene |
|Capt. Henry Fleete
Capt. Robt. wintour
Marmaduke Snow: and his brother essoyned for him & was admitted
mr. william Bretton, John Courtis, Thomas Nabbs and Capt. Fleete exhibited his pxies for them severally
mrr. John wyatt and mr. Clerke exhibited his pxie for him.
Zachary Mottershead and Capt: Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him.
Robert Perry and mrr. Lewger exhibited his proxie for him.
vpon occasion of some warrants granted out against some
freemen that had made proxies; a question was moved in the
house whether freemen having made proxies during the assembly
might be arrested before the Assembly were dissolved.
And Captaine Cornwaleys and James Baldridge were of
opinion that they might: but the rest of the house generally
concurred that after the writts issued for summoning the
Assembly, no man having right to repaire vnto the Assembly,
might be arrested, vntill a convenient space of time after the
dissolution of the said Assembly, for his repaire home.
Came into the house Edmond Parrie of the Ile of Kent planter, and desired to revoke his proxie given to mr. Philpott; and was admitted to a place and voice personally.
John Fleete of St. Georges hundred planter claymed voice & place as a freeman: & was admitted. and made his proxie Capt Henry Fleete.
Then was proposed whether the Lawes formerly read should be read againe in the house ; or putt to the vote without further reading.
Capt. Cornwaleys gave his opinion that they should expect a more frequent house
Capt: Fleete gave his opinion, that they should he read againe.
with them concurred
Edmond Parrie [Parry, Perry]
being in all, 18 voices: wth. their proxies.
on the contrary, that they should be putt to the vote immediately, agreed by
mr. Greene||being in all 33 voices.|
Then were the Lawes putt to the question, whether they
should be received as Lawes or no
mr. Lewger being 14 voices.
denied by all the rest of the Assembly ; being 37 voices.
Then question being moved what Lawes the Province
should he governed by it was said by some that they might
doe well to agree vpon some lawes till we could heare from
England againe. The President denying any such power to
be in the house, Capt: Cornwalers propounded the lawes of
England. The President acknowledged that the Commission
gave him power in civill causes to proceed by the lawes of
England ; and in crimall causes likewise not extending to life
or member. but in those he was limited to the lawes of the
Province, there could be no punishmt. inflicted on any enor
mous offendors, by the refusall of these lawes.
wherevpon the Commission was produced and examined,
& vpon the reading of it it appeared that there was no
power in the province to punish any offence deserving losse of
life or member, for want of lawes. To this they answered,
that such enormous offences could hardly be committed with
out mutinie & then it might be punished by martiall law.
Betweene the houres of two and three in the afternoone of the
The President||Sergt. Vaughan||Edmond Parrie|
|Capt: Cornwallis||James Baldridge||Justinian Snow|
|Capt: Evelin||Capt: Fleete||mr. Clerke|
|mr. Lewger||Francis Rabnett||Edward Fleete|
|mr. Greene||mr. Philpott|
|Richard Garnett||mr. Langford|
Capta: Wintour and it was answered that he was sick &
could not pass the river; & was admitted
Marmaduke Snow essoyned by his brother, & admitted.
Thomas maurice excused himselfe that he could not gett passage, & desired to be remitted all the former amercements, & was admitted.
James Cauther and william Lewis amerced.
Then was propounded that the house would consider of
some lawes to be sent vp to the Lord Proprietr. And the
President advised that they would chuse some Committees to
prepare the draught of them, and then the house might meete
for confirming of them; & in the meane time every one might
follow their other occasions.
So being putt to the vote how many Committees should be
appointed for that purpose, they agreed that five should be
chosen. Then was it putt to every one to name his five. And
there were tenne in election.
|The President||38 |
|mr. Baldridge||08 |
So the 5 Committees were The President
And because Capt: wintour was absent and sick, it was agreed that if be could not assist at the Committee himselfe he should name any other in his place.
Then was it considered for how long to adjorne the house. And it was thought fitt to adiorne it till the 8th of February following at 8 of the clock in the morning:
And because the Court was to be held in the meane time that is to say, on the 3d. of February; that therefore the priviledge of parlamt should be void vntill the Court were past; & all freemen might be arrested as if no assembly were.
And so the house brake vp.
Source: Archives of Maryland, Vol. 1, p. 2 (proofed from gif files), Liber Z, folios 15-27
Many of the names appearing in the above records are also believed to have been passengers on The Ark and The Dove, the first two ships bearing settlers to St. Clement's Island and St. Mary's in 1633-4. A few are also from The Isle of Kent, the first settlement on land that became part of the Province of Maryland.
The authors would like to especially thank the Maryland State Archives for having published an online edition of the Archives of Maryland from which this work was proofed and formatted (using the gif files).
Archives of Maryland, Vol. I, page 23
These proceedings were transcribed using the old-style leading double-f (ff) to indicate a modern capital F. Because this is an electronic edition and the double-f tends to foil&30148; search engines, we have converted these to the modern F. See also USGenNet-hosted Old-Style Handwriting at Fred Smoot's America Writes Home site for more information about old-style letters.
Richard Garnett, Sr. may have been Richard Gardner, father of Luke, Richard, John, Elizabeth and Julian Gardner (married the above Richard Lusthead). See the will of Luke Gardner for additional details. (Calendar, Vol. I, pp. 82-95).