- 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
This early generosity was soon reduced, but until the end of the Baltimores’ regime similar terms were often made in special cases and at times when the proprietors wanted to encourage settlement in remote or sparsely populated regions or along disputed borders. Much of the large German population of Maryland today traces ancestry to the Germans who were attracted to western Maryland from Pennsylvania by these low rates and who later moved into Baltimore when it became a prosperous port. If the proprietor was of a mind to do so, he could elevate a grant of a thousand acres or more to the rank of a manor, giving the grantee the right to hold courts and keep all fines collected therein, and to name the holders of church benefices. Such manorial grants, however, were made only in the early years of the palatinate.
Throughout the long regime of the Calverts, their principal income from Maryland derived from sales of land, from quitrents collected annually after the land was sold, from “alienation fines” assessed when property changed hands, and from the resale of escheated land—land that had reverted to the proprietor for failure to pay quitrents or for other reasons. Toward the end of the proprietorship the income cleared annually by the proprietor was more than twelve thousand pounds sterling, an amount in today’s terms well over a quarter of a million dollars.
Aboard the Ark and the Dove there were probably more Protestants than Catholics; but the Catholics were largely men of wealth, the “adventurers” who went to take up grants of land, while the Protestants were mainly indentured servants for whom the status of freeman was still five or six years in the future. In a short time, however, the Protestant voting population of Maryland outnumbered the Catholic. Then a Protestant majority controlled the assembly, while the council and administrative offices remained in the hands of Catholics. Governor Leonard Calvert died in June, 1647, and Cecil Calvert named Thomas Greene, a Catholic, to succeed him; but when a clamor arose in the province, with echoes in England, that Maryland was a popish dominion, he removed Greene and appointed William Stone, a Protestant, in his place. At the same time, he revised the oath of office with a provision that the governor and the council would not mistreat any inhabitant professing to believe in Jesus Christ, and proposed an act of religious toleration for the assembly to consider.
By modern standards of religious tolerance, The famous Maryland Act Concerning Religion passed by the assembly in 1649 and ultimately approved by Cecil Calvert was only relatively speaking an act of tolerance. Rhode Island extended religious freedom to all men, non-Christian as well as Christian: other colonies were variously severe with nonbelievers up to the point of expulsion; but the Maryland Act Concerning Religion began by prescribing the death penalty and confiscation of property for anyone denying the divinity of Christ and disbelieving in the Trinity. It is true that neither the death penalty nor confiscation of property was ever invoked in the history of the colony, but one Dr. Jacob Lumbrozo. a Jew, had a close brush with the gallows because he refused to affirm belief in Christ and the Trinity. What is more, this narrow view of religious tolerance endured long after Maryland became a state in the Union, although the punishment for disbelievers was eliminated: on into the twentieth century the state’s oath retained the words “on the faith of a Christian,” with an exception for Jews who expressed belief in God and the hereafter.
The act of 1649 provided that disrespectful words regarding the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, or the Evangelists were punishable by a fine or by whipping and imprisonment. On the other hand, it required that anyone believing in Jesus Christ should in no way be “troubled, molested, or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof” or “compelled to the belief or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent"; anyone so wronging a believer in Jesus Christ had to pay triple damages to the party so wronged and a fine of twenty shillings. Wisely inserted into the act was a paragraph forbidding the use of the words “heretick, Schismatick, Idolater, puritan, Independant. Presbiterian, popish priest, jesuite, jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian. Barrowist, Roundhead, Sepatist, or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner.” All this was tolerance indeed, for the time.