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 This effectively repealed the 50 acre per head promised settlers.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 2Under 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.