- Historic Sites
Maryland Their Maryland
For over a century the colony was the feudal property of the Lords Baltimore. It turned out to be a fee of troubles.
August 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 5
Possibly George Calvert’s parents were Roman Catholics, but he received a Protestant education and earned his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, Oxford, at the age of seventeen. At twenty-five he was honored with a master’s degree along with the Duke of Lennox, the Earls of Oxford and Northumberland, and Sir Robert Cecil. Sir Robert was George Calvert’s patron and political mentor, and soon after the Oxford ceremonies he made the young man his private secretary. In 1610, King James sent young Calvert on a special mission to France, and when he returned he assisted the King as a translator—probably translating royal edicts into Latin. He served several terms in Parliament; in 1617 he was knighted; and in 1619 he became the principal of two Secretaries of State.
In 1625 various political pressures made Calvert want to leave office: in January of that year, when he was commissioned to try “recusants"—persons who refused to attend services of the Church of England or recognize its authority—he took the occasion to announce his adherence to the Roman Catholic Church and resigned. This act failed to damage the King’s confidence in his servant, however; he accepted Calvert’s resignation but insisted upon his remaining in the Privy Council and, a month later, gave him the Irish title.
George Calvert’s interest in the New World had begun early. In 1609 he was a member of the Virginia Company and later served on the provisional council for management of the Virginia colony, but he made no journeys to America at that time. In 1622 he was one of the councilors of the New England Company, and again he remained in England. By that time he had been for two years the absentee landlord of a plantation, which he called Avalon, on the island of Newfoundland. In 1623 he obtained from King James a patent making him and his heirs proprietors of the whole southeastern peninsula of the island.
When King James died in 1625, Charles I asked the new Lord Baltimore to continue as a member of the Privy Council and would have allowed him to forgo taking the oath of supremacy, which acknowledged the king as ecclesiastical as well as political ruler; but Lord Baltimore remained firm in a resolution to withdraw from public life. That determination had been strengthened not only by the change of kings but also by his growing involvement in affairs of the New World. In 1627 he made his first journey to Newfoundland and spent the summer there. The next year he returned to the island for a longer stay, accompanied this time by his wife and all his children except the eldest, Cecil.
In the summer of 1629, Lord Baltimore was complaining to King Charles that from mid-October to mid-May the air of Newfoundland was “so intolerable cold as it is hardly to be endured.” Fifty of the hundred persons in his province were sick, including himself, and nine or ten had died. He had already sent his wife and children to Virginia, and he was determined “to commit this place to fishermen” and follow his family. He was himself in Virginia by October of that year.
In Virginia the unhappy peer encountered another kind of cold. The charter of the Virginia Company had been revoked in 1623, a provisional government was awaiting the arrival of a new governor, and none of its members were in a mood to be cordial to a man who had come to their shores in obvious quest of a new dominion. The secretary of the provisional council was William Claiborne, a Virginian who held trading rights in Chesapeake Bay and who, because of these interests, was destined to make trouble for Calverts for the next quarter of a century. If Lord Baltimore was to remain in Virginia, the council decreed, he must take the oath of allegiance and with it the oath of supremacy. Baltimore was willing to make the first gesture, although it was superfluous for a man who had been a Secretary of State in England, but he balked at the second requirement. The council then suggested that he return to England for a ruling on the matter and sent ahead of him a letter to the King giving their side of the dispute.
The cool atmosphere of Virginia was not limited to official circles. One plain citizen of Jamestown, Thomas Tindall, was pilloried “for giving my Lord Baltimore the lie and threatening to knock him down.” The situation could not have been very dangerous, however, for Baltimore left his wife and children temporarily behind him in Jamestown.
Back in England, Lord Baltimore obtained from King Charles a patent to certain lands south of Virginia; but when the clamor of the Claiborne forces grew too loud to ignore, the King and his subject agreed on land north of the colony, where they believed no Virginians had settled. This was Maryland. Named for the queen, Henrietta Maria, it was defined as all the peninsula east of Chesapeake Bay, and the land west of the bay from the fortieth degree of north latitude, which was then the southern boundary of New England, southward to the south bank of the Potomac and westward as far as the point of longitude at the source of the Potomac River. Thus the original boundaries of Maryland included all of today’s Maryland, all of what is now Delaware and the Delaware peninsula’s southern tip, now in Virginia, plus a strip about twenty miles wide that has since become a part of Pennsylvania, and two western chunks of land, subsequently lost to what is now West Virginia.