Skip to main content

       The English colony of Maryland was odd compared to the other twelve colonies:  its citizens mostly Puritans or Anglicans; the charter to noble Catholics.  Like the other colonies, Maryland was created while the Catholics and Protestants fought throughout Europe. Given these facts, Maryland’s religious wars, echoing the English civil wars between the commonwealth, the nobility, and their related church groups, are not surprising.

       Governor William Stone, a Protestant appointed by Catholic Lord Baltimore, is pictured welcoming the Puritans to Maryland. Later, these same folk had Stone exiled.

 In 1625, England's Secretary of State George Calvert, the Baron Baltimore, announced his Catholicism.  The crown fired him for it.  Seven years later, King Charles I granted Calvert’s son a royal charter for Terra Mariae Anglice.

   While the crown had granted a colonial charter to avowed Catholic English nobility, most of Maryland’s settlers were English Protestants, Anglicans or Puritans.  They were granted land under the “headcount” system: each immigrant got 50 acres.

     Baron Baltimore appointed his younger brother, Leonard Calvert, to govern the colony.  There was the issue of the natives living on the land. Leonard purchased land from the Yaocomico Indians and there established the town of St. Mary’s, designating it Maryland's capital.  

     Most of colonists already in place objected to the Calverts' grant. An earlier Mostly Forgotten History essay discusses reasons why English Protestants viscerally hate Latin.  Also, the name "Mariae" was then strongly linked to the Spanish Inquisition and its tortures and thefts, perhaps too the Queen known as Bloody Mary. While many Catholics viewed the Inquisition and Bloody Mary favorably, most non-Catholics were quite appalled. To appease these protests, the colony was renamed Maryland.  

     Besides absolute ownership, the Royal Charter conferred ecclesiastical and civil powers resembling those possessed by the Middle Age nobility on Lord Baltimore and his heirs.  This effectively repealed the 50 acre per head promised settlers.  Also, it gave the Calverts power--through implied divine right--both on how others should live and and how they should pray, as directed by the Catholic Church. The populace would have none of that.

      Discontent brewing, in 1635 Leonard called for an assembly. He thought once he explained himself, the populace would acquiesce to his rule. To the Calverts’ dismay, the Assembly took the right to enact legislation; chose Anglican as the official church of Maryland; and demanded the Calverts enforce only English common law, not the Roman based law used by the Catholic Church.

     Around this time also, the colony of Virginia declared the Anglican faith its lawful religion.  In 1642, one group of Virginian Puritans fled to Maryland.  With consent of Maryland’s Catholic Governor, they settled near present-day Annapolis. The named their town Providence.

     Another group of Puritans led by the Virginian Puritan William Claiborne established a colony on Kent Island.  This colony was established without consent and so trespassed on Maryland’s land grant.  One of Claiborne’s traders, perhaps named Tom Lehrer, was arrested for hunting in Maryland without a permit; he killed seven hunters, one game warden and a cow; no worse punishment man has ever endured. Claiborne protested; Calvert had Claiborne forcibly evicted.

     Claiborne returned to Virginia, raised men, then, combined with Puritans still living in
Maryland, first recaptured Kent Island and then the capital St. Mary's. Leonard Calvert's turn to flee Maryland for Virginia.

     During two years known as the Plundering Time, Claiborne’s man Ingle and his cohorts (Puritans, mind) roamed Maryland robbing at will.  They captured Jesuit priests, imprisoned them, then sent the priests back to England. This reign of terror ended in 1646.  Leonard Calvert returned from exile with troops, recaptured St. Mary's City, and restored order to the colony.

     Leonard Calvert died in 1647.  Baron Baltimore appointed  William Stone as Maryland’s governor.  William Stone was a Protestant.  The Calverts hoped to appease those who feared the Calverts were creating another Catholic popery.  

     Various scholars, philosophers and lawyers were now advocating that governments should enact rules requiring religious tolerance.  To settle the disputes between Catholics, Anglicans, Puritans, in 1649  Maryland's Assembly enacted The Maryland Toleration Act, which Governor Stone signed.  

"That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto helonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires."  The Maryland Toleration Act, paragraph 2
    Under the Act, tolerance extended only to defined Christian sects.  

     Further, the Act defines specific approved dogmas. For example, it was unlawful to deny the concept of Christ’s triple divinity.  Those who denied Christ’s supernatural divinity or the triple divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were to be fined, enjoy a lengthy time in jail, have all their property forfeited, or be put to death.  The punishment was at Lord Baltimore's pleasure. (There are reports that offenders would have their tongue pierced but that particular punishment is not in the Act.)

     Various Catholic leaning orders, including the colony's original charter, remained outstanding.  One required Maryland’s Assembly submit that Charles II was the "undoubted rightfull heire” to the English throne; the colony charter required all swear an oath of fidelity to Baltimore as "Lord Proprietor" and granted him final authority in matters of law.  Back in England, Baltimore’s grant came under legal attack. In Maryland, one of Baron Baltimore's supporters tried to enforce the oaths.

     Rather than submit, the Maryland Puritans revolted.  The same Puritans who had settled in Providence with Stone’s assistance now objected to the oath of fidelity to Baltimore, mainly because Baltimore was Catholic; partly because such an oath legally would mandate the special treatment sought by the nobles for themselves and their supporters; and partly because the colonists resented people in far off England making  decisions for them.  

     Stone, under threat of violence, was forced to resign as Governor.  The Puritans chose their own Commissioners to govern the colony. They quickly passed laws doing to Catholics what some Catholics had done to them: in 1654, Catholics and any other individuals who had borne arms against the Parliament were expelled from Maryland’s government, the Toleration Act was repealed, and the Puritan dominated Maryland government forbade Catholics from practicing their faith in the way they wished.

      Stone returned to England.  Then he came back to Maryland by way of Virginia.  Once back in the colonies, Stone received conflicting instructions from England.  One decree removed him as Governor and appointed his old foe Claiborne as Governor; a second letter from Oliver Cromwell--who in England had displaced the nobility and was now running things there--seemed to affirm Stone as Governor.  Relying on the latter, Stone raised a mostly Catholic army and moved against  the Puritans.  

     They fought near near Annapolis.  The Puritans numbered 175 men; the Catholics about 135; the Puritans won a resounding victory over Stone’s Roman Catholic army.  This was the Battle of Severn.  

     The Battle of Severn was no massacre. The Puritans had two men killed; the Catholic side about sixteen dead.  Forty or so Catholics were captured, among them Governor Stone.  He had fought and been wounded. They surrendered under a promise for clemency; nonetheless, four captured men were executed.

     Before more executions could ensue, the woman of Providence begged for the rest to be spared.  Stone and several other prisoners were released.  Exiled from Maryland, they returned to Virginia.

     After the battle, the Puritans retaliated against the Maryland Catholics with violence. Mobs burned down every Catholic church in Southern Maryland.  

     Lord Baltimore and the Catholics did not give up. About two years later, Stone returned to Maryland once more at the head of an army.  This time, Lord Baltimore used his money to equip the men and the Puritans were defeated.  

     Governor Stone, it seems, limited any further retaliations against the followers of the Puritan religious sect.  Instead, Stone had The Maryland Toleration Act re-enacted and proclaimed a general amnesty.

     The Maryland Wars were not quite done yet.  About thirty years later, there was another revolt in Maryland against the Catholic granted charter and those who held it: Coode's Rebellion.

     In 1688, England’s “Glorious Revolution”  succeeded and Protestant monarchs William and Mary replaced the Catholic King James II.  Glorious from the point of view of the Protestants, one should say, as the Catholics lost power. They call it the "Revolution Ignominious."

     The following year, 1689, years of peace between the sects and the Maryland Toleration Act notwithstanding, Coode led a revolt in Maryland.  Coode claimed the Calverts insisted on running a Catholic proprietary government; Coode and his followers demanded Catholicism be outlawed once more.  

     By this time, Puritans were a substantial majority in Maryland. Coode’s rebellion mostly succeeded.  The Lords Baltimore again lost control of Maryland. And for the next 25 years, Maryland was ruled directly by the British Crown.  Catholicism was outlawed once more; Roman Catholics were legally forbidden from holding public office.

     As England relaxed prohibitions against Catholics (Blackstone's famous 1851 Commentaries has chapters explaining laws regarding religion and Catholics), Maryland followed. Although not strictly enforced, the anti-Catholic laws remained in place.

     Thus ended colonial Maryland's experiments with religious tolerance. At least in enacted law.  Despite the anti-Catholic laws and a large anti-Catholic bias among the majority of its citizens, colonial Maryland elected Catholic leaders.  It seems the people of Maryland tried to practice religious tolerance no matter what intolerance the laws bid.  

     The wealthy Carrolls, descended from Irish nobility, were the most notable among Maryland’s elected Catholic leaders.  Wealthy slave owners of Irish descent, members of the Carroll clan’s nobility came to Maryland after their Irish lands were confiscated by the English crown.  Once Irish Kings, later Irish lords, the Carrolls cut a deal:  they agreed to support the Protestant crown (implicitly giving up claims to their Irish lands); in turn, they received a 10,000 acre Maryland land grant.  

     Three Carrolls are considered among our Founding Fathers: Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his cousins Daniel and John Carroll.  John Carroll became America's first Catholic bishop.  These men, all Catholics, each supported freedom of religion and the right of individuals to choose what religion they would follow.

     This land grant still has important significance today.  Founding Father Charles Carroll donated the land which now is the District of Colombia.  Charles Carroll was a proud man.  He signed the Declaration of Independence “Charles Carroll of Carrollton.”  

      All the Declaration's signers knew they would be hanged if the revolution failed; Carroll apparently signed  with the addittur “of Carrollton” after another signor quipped there were so many Carrolls, Charles alone among them would be safe.  Another signor quipped it was lucky he was fat. Why? If he was hanged, he would die quicker than the rest of them.

     Governor Stone’s ancestors remained important in Maryland’s politics.  His great-great-grandson Thomas Stone was one of Maryland’s Continental Congress delegates and also a Declaration of Independence signer; Michael Stone represented Maryland in the First United States Congress; John Stone was Governor of Maryland from 1794–97; and William Stone was Episcopal Bishop of Baltimore.

     Maryland was among the first colonies to ratify the Constitution and its anti-establishment clause.  This officially restored religious toleration to the tacitly tolerant Maryland citizentry.  

Citations:  Wiki pages for Maryland, History of Maryland, Charles Carroll, Maryland Religious Toleration Act; Garry Wills, Inventing America:  Jefferson's Declaration of Independence; Tom Lehrer, funny singer of songs.  

Originally posted to MugWumpBlues on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 01:55 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets , History for Kossacks, Pink Clubhouse, Maryland Kos, and Shamrock American Kossacks.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  This is a part of history (16+ / 0-)

    that is often ignored, particularly in high school history books. The tension between Protestants and Catholics continued to play out in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    •  I remember studying about the (8+ / 0-)

      Cavaliers and the Roundheads in Virginia history, but I'm an old lady. Who knows what they're taught now?

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 03:04:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  An interesting topic... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane

        ... for those who like to argue over very early roots of the Civil War. The early settlers of the northern colonies were primarily Puritans, and the the early settlers of the southern colonies were primarily Anglican.

        •  The early settlers in some colonies (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lily O Lady

          but there were also the Protestant Dutch in New Amsterdam/New York, English Quakers in Pennsylvania, German Lutherans, Irish Catholics and Scots-Irish Protestants, and others who had nothing to do with either Puritans or Anglicans.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 08:53:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  In My Limited Experience ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ojibwa, jan4insight, Lujane, Bronx59

      it was ignored in Maryland high school history books. I suppose at that time it was considered unseemly to dwell on unpleasantness developing from religious conflicts.

      "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

      by midnight lurker on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 06:13:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's my experience... (6+ / 0-)

      And I went to high school and college in Maryland. I knew none of this. I certainly know of the Calverts and the association with the flag, but apparently not much more.

      It was also in a similar strait when it came to the Civil War. Its Northern border is along the Maxon-Dixon line, but it could not join the south (being occupied by Union armies at the outset of hostilities).

      And, of course, the Sage of Baltimore (Henry L. Mencken) famously described Baltimore as "A Southern City with Northern Charm", hence its somewhat facetious claim to the title "Charm City".

      •  The Actual Meaning of ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MugWumpBlues, eyesoars

        "Maryland, My Maryland" was also downplayed, and as I recall, it was described as merely as having been written during the Civil War. In fact, it was an strident call for Maryland to join the Confederacy.

        The despot's heel is on thy shore,
        Maryland!
        His torch is at thy temple door,
        Maryland!
        Avenge the patriotic gore
        That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
        And be the battle queen of yore,
        Maryland! My Maryland!
        ...

        Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
        Maryland!
        Virginia should not call in vain,
        Maryland!
        She meets her sisters on the plain-
        "Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
        That baffles minions back amain,
        Arise in majesty again,
        Maryland! My Maryland!
        ...

        I hear the distant thunder-hum,
        Maryland!
        The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
        Maryland!
        She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
        Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
        She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
        Maryland! My Maryland!

        The "tyrant" and "despot" is, of course, Lincoln.

        "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

        by midnight lurker on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 07:03:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  "tongue pierced and enjoy a lengthy time in jail" (12+ / 0-)

    Sounds like half the people in my local coffee shop.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 02:43:50 PM PST

    •  Lol. nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crashing Vor, 207wickedgood

      "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

      by Lily O Lady on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 03:04:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Takes all kinds (4+ / 0-)

      Lol.  Best to deny a masochist punishment.

      Looked up the Maryland Religious Toleration Act itself.  And it allows for death, imprisonment, public whipping, fines, at Lord Baltimore's pleasure.  But no tongue piercing.  Got that from one of the secondary sources. Somewhere.

      The Act itself in part:

      "That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto helonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires."

      “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers (Of course this also applies to me.)

      by MugWumpBlues on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 03:06:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this look into the past. (6+ / 0-)

    i grew up in Maryland and was taught very little about this part of its history.  

    I vaguely remember hearing mention of Maryland's early adoption of religious tolerance, but had no idea that was a policy that waxed and waned.

    I'd guess that the presence of the first Catholic cathedral in America in Baltimore led me to assume an uninterrupted Catholic dominance of the state during its early history.

    As an aside, that basilica - apparently initiated by the John Carroll, Bishop,  mentioned in the post - was recently restored  to its initial design.  I toured it the last time I visited Baltimore - they did a superb job.

  •  Baloney on the "religious tolerance" (7+ / 0-)

    I remember in elementary school in Baltimore learning about the Religious Toleration Act.  Every one of us 50 or so baby boomer children, except the two from an orphanage, were Jewish, and when our textbook said it guaranteed freedom of religion for all Christians we all looked at each other . The teacher added, "Oh there weren't any Jews in America back then."

    In point of fact Maryland Jews would be barred from holding any public office in Maryland until the legislature enacted "The Jew Act" in 1830 at the behest of Senator Thomas Kennedy of Frederick County.  That same year, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, which had been meeting semi-surreptitiously in people's homes since 1812, applied for a charter - they deliberately waited until after the Jew Bill had been enacted and we Jews had become legal, and rented what became the first synagogue in Maryland, on the corner of Bond and Fleet Street, on the second floor upstairs from a grocery store.  The building is still there, it's a vacant storefront now.  The synagogue room upstairs was restored and open to visitors with advance notice, but the building is up for sale so I am dubious the small museum will still be around.

    if you live in the area, I strongly recommend a visit to St. Mary's City - a fully restored 17th century town.

    "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 03:53:03 PM PST

    •  relatively tolerant (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, FG

      Well, Maryland's Act was relatively tolerant.  They still kept "Christian" and worship of the holy trinity, but it was a step forward anyway towards being charitable to one another's lunacies, as Mark Twain put it.  

      Forward 150 years.  In Massachusetts, John Adams's Constitution also declared Christianity the State's religion.  England had at the time a complicated set of rules with the Anglican church predominant.  People were still appalled by the Salem witch trials.  People who confessed to devil worship went free; people who denied it were imprisoned and killed.  In hindsight, many saw the trials as the dangers of laws and government force making decisions based on various superstitions.

      The Constitution adopted Jefferson's finesse, working from Spinosa's two Tractus and the follow up work of Hume and the  Scottish enlightenment scholars: take religion and its various superstitions out of public government completely; protect the rights of the religious to pray in their churches or in their private lives.  But quietly, so the superstitious won't lose the security they feel which comes with their connections to God or grow fearful that they've somehow offended God.

      In Holland, by the way, the rules evolved similarly.  When the Catholics first pulled out and left the Calvinists in charge of religious matters, one Catholic Bishop commented something like  "Now you'll learn we were the ones protecting you."  Part of why they pulled out was their thought the Calvinists would be so difficult people would beg the Catholic church to come back.  And after a short time, many people felt that way.  

      “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers (Of course this also applies to me.)

      by MugWumpBlues on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 04:23:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you for this history (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59

      I knew that Maryland had its origins as a safe place for English Catholics.  I had no idea of the rest of the story.  

      I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

      by DavidMS on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 04:27:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The first Jews in the colonies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp

      were Sephardim fleeing persecution in Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, allowed to settle in New York in 1655 and Newport, Rhode Island, in 1658, which was indeed after the Toleration Act.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 08:59:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this... (4+ / 0-)

    I'm a Maryland resident now, but grew up elsewhere, so my grasp of Maryland history is thin.

    Carroll family is responsible for construction of the first Catholic cathedral in the U.S., which is located in downtown Baltimore. Church recently completed a $30 million restoration/renovation of the structure, and is worth a visit.  

  •  Heretics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, MugWumpBlues

    . . .continue to be persecuted even today. Often the persecution is unspoken or whispered. And though the Constitution requires no religious test, just let an atheist or agnostic or anyone other than one who practices a Christian faith attempt to seek public office.

    And yet, it was heretics that formed this country early on. Because whatever their faith in their home land, most likely they were persecuted for it there and were considered heretics.

    I am proud of my heretic ancestor who arrived here in 1630 and proud to count myself a heretic today.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site