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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
The restlessness spread into Maryland. The freemen of the lower house of the assembly revived the case of Major Truman, contending that he should have been rewarded for executing the five Susquehanna instead of being expelled; but the council continued to regard him as a murderer. Soon the cry of “popery” got mixed into the quarrel. A group of freemen drew up a “Complaint from Heaven with a Hue and Cry, and a petition out of Virginia and Maryland” and sent it to Charles II and Parliament. It defended Major Truman, accused Lord Baltimore of absolutism, and charged Catholic missionaries to the Indians with designing a “popish plot.” The authors of the document asked for a royal governor, and the reduction of the lord proprietary to the status of a mere landlord. They also asked that Protestant ministers and free schools be maintained by taxes and that a troop of Scottish Highlanders be sent to Maryland to serve as a militia. While the third Lord Baltimore had indeed filled many important positions in the province with relatives and friends, mostly Roman Catholics, there is also evidence that in general he had treated Protestants fairly. At any rate, the complaints went unheeded, and the Lord Proprietor’s forces put down a subsequent armed uprising.
But the tumultuous events in England that ended with the replacement of the Catholic James II by the Protestant William and Mary were reflected in Maryland by a successful Protestant insurrection, led by an adventurer named John Coode. Afterward, Coode went to England and was instrumental in convincing the British government that Maryland should become a royal province. The first royal governor, Sir Lionel Copley, was appointed in 1691. He moved the capital from St. Marys to Annapolis and established the Church of England as the colony’s official tax-supported religion. Maryland remained a crown colony for the next twenty-three years. Yet although the proprietorship was in abeyance during that period, Calvert regularly received his revenues as landlord.
Charles Calvert, who managed four wives and attained the great age (for that time) of seventy-seven, nearly got his full rights back but died just too soon, in February, 1715. Later that year, the proprietorship was restored. Charles’s son, Benedict Leonard, succeeded him but died within two months of his father and was himself succeeded by his son, another Charles, who became the fifth Lord Baltimore. Because Benedict Leonard had made a public renunciation of the Roman Catholic faith and because his son Charles was a Protestant, King George I made no delay in returning Maryland to the Baltimores.
The fifth Lord Baltimore fancied himself a scholar and, in his travels abroad, impressed the future Frederick the Great by his discourses upon philosophy, art, and science. In his treatment of the people of his province, however, Charles was vain and quick-tempered; he lacked the patience and good sense of the first two Lords Baltimore and had not even the modest ability of the third.
The most memorable event of his thirty-six years as proprietor is one that confers but dubious distinction upon this Charles Calvert. Throughout the proprietorship of his great-grandfather Cecil, there had been disputes with the Dutch over their occupancy of the eastern part of the peninsula between Delaware and Chesapeake bays. King Charles II had arbitrarily settled this argument by granting the tract in question, along with other territory, to his royal brother James, Duke of York. The fact that he had previously given the peninsula to the Baltimores seemed to offer no obstacle to this kingly decision. At once the Duke of York, as Lord High Admiral, sent his fleet to the Dutch settlements and subdued them. (Naturally the Duke stayed home.) For a while thereafter, the Delaware settlements were under the government of New York, not Maryland, but in time the Duke gave them into the open, eager hands of William Penn.
Cecil’s son Charles, the third Lord Baltimore, had never been able to come to terms with William Penn, who not only claimed Delaware but had cheekily built his city of Philadelphia below the fortieth parallel, within the original grant of the Maryland palatinate. The Baltimores' charter described their lands as falling “under” the fortieth parallel, and Penn, among his many other devious arguments, pointed out that it did not say how far “under.” Charles Calvert encouraged settlement in the disputed territory, and a result was sporadic border warfare, in which the famous frontiersman Thomas Cresap was one of the most determined supporters of Maryland’s rights. On one occasion, Penn’s adherents captured Cresap and paraded him through the streets of Philadelphia, which he defiantly described later as “the fairest place in the Province of Maryland.”