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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
Beneath a picture of dancing Negroes in a Maryland Schoolbook are the words of a song that slaves of the tidewater country sang at Christmas and on other feast days:
Husks, crusts, and skins may well be what Maryland’s school children are reminded of when they turn from this textbook to their geography lesson and study the map of their state. All but impossible to bound, it is a schoolboy’s nightmare, as shapeless as scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
But Maryland is not the assemblage of leftovers from other states that it appears to be; it is, rather, the surviving center of a once much larger area, reduced by a series of amputations and squeezes that began in the year of its founding and continued intermittently into the present century, when the Supreme Court fixed the northwest corner of the state in 1912. In all but the last of these territorial losses Maryland was a victim of the nature of its colonial government, a feudalistic absentee landlordism unique in American history and already archaic at its inception.
That early form of government accounts not only for the shape of Maryland today but also for the fact that much of its history was apart from the main current of American development. Largely because of its landlord’s protests, for example, the colony refused to participate in the French and Indian War; and because of the nature of its charter its road to the Revolution was quite separate from that taken by the other colonies. Until 1851, echoes of Maryland’s seventeenth-century conception of religious tolerance rang through a provision of the state constitution that read, “All persons professing the Christian religion are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty,” thus implying that all others were excluded from such protection. Today in Baltimore a system of “ground rents,” a relic of the original colonial charter, still permits a man to own the land on which another builds his home and to charge the home owner in perpetuity an annual fee therefor.
In colonial times there were indeed other proprietary governments—such as Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Carolina, and Pennsylvania. But those of Ferdinando Gorges in Maine and John Mason in New Hampshire failed soon after they were started; New Jersey and Carolina were the property of several men collectively; and William Penn’s theories of government gave Pennsylvania an early start toward democracy. Maryland alone remained a palatinate from its founding to the outbreak of the Revolution—a territory owned by a single landlord with hereditary rights and authority as absolute as that of any medieval prince. In exchange for his all-but-royal prerogatives, the lord proprietary of Maryland pledged to the Crown of England nothing more than his continued allegiance, one fifth of the colony’s nonexistent gold and silver, and two Indian arrows to be delivered yearly during Easter week at Windsor Castle.
The six men who consecutively owned Maryland for 144 years were—with the exception of the last one—the Lords Baltimore. They derived their title from an estate in County Longford in the north of Ireland, where George Calvert already owned a manor of 2,300 acres when he received the first barony in 1625. Milords pronounced the word Baltimoor , using a flat a, as in palatine, and speaking the last syllable in accordance with its original meaning. Calvert was their family name. There never was a “Lord Calvert,” the trade names of a whisky, a coffee, and a laundry in modern Baltimore notwithstanding.
George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, was born near Kiplin, Yorkshire, about 1580, probably of Flemish ancestry, but he knew Ireland well by the time he became an Irish peer. Early in his public life he was made clerk of the Crown in County Clare and served on two royal commissions to investigate religious discontent in Ireland. It was for these services among many others that James I of England gave him his barony, praising him for his “gravity of manners, singular gifts of mind, candour, integrity, and prudence,” and “benignity and urbanity toward all men.”
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.
George Calvert himself drew up most of the charter, writing it in Latin, but he died in mid-April, 1632, two months before his patent passed the Great Seal, that is, received final approval, and his eldest son, Cecil, became the first actual lord proprietor of Maryland. The royal charter describes the land as hac tenus inculta, “hitherto uncultivated,” and delineates the property as George Calvert had envisioned it. However, within the two months between his death and the graining of the charter to Cecil, it was discovered that Virginians already were cultivating the southern tip of the peninsula, and that area was stricken from the deed. Thus Maryland suffered its first loss of territory even before it became a colony. (Avalon in Newfoundland remained technically the property of the Calvert family, but with no relation to Maryland. After more than a century of litigation and neglect, the Avalon charter was annulled in 1754 on the grounds that the proprietary rights had lapsed from disuse.)
To this Maryland, its bays, rivers, harbors, and ports, including all the “fish, as well [as] whales, sturgeons, and other royal fish,” and to all mines “already found, or that shall be found,” King Charles gave Cecil Calvert and his heirs inalienable rights in perpetuity as “true and absolute lords and proprietaries,” with the liberties, immunities, and “royal rights” of a palatinate. The charter spelled out these rights in detail. The Lords Baltimore could lease any portion of their territory in their own name; they could create manors, with owners entitled to hold minor local courts; they could appoint judges, establish courts, pass and execute laws and ordinances, wage wars, give benefices, and consecrate churches; they could even confer titles of nobility, provided their nomenclature did not duplicate the titles of England. Furthermore, the English Crown promised to abstain forever from levying any taxes of its own upon the residents or inhabitants of the province. Finally, it any doubts or questions should ever arise over the true sense and meaning of the charter, the resulting interpretations were to be made in a manner “judged to be the more beneficial, profitable, and favourable to the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, his heirs and assigns.”
Nevertheless, the charter provided that all laws and ordinances in Maryland were to be “consonant to reason, and be not repugnant … to the laws, statutes, customs, and rights of this our kingdom of England.” Although in his courts the lord proprietor was to have the power of life and death over his subjects, his laws were not to take away any person’s interest or right in his life, freehold, goods, or chattels. In other words, according to the charter, the people of Maryland were to enjoy “all the privileges, franchises, and liberties” that other English subjects enjoyed during the reign of the Stuarts. In some ways they would enjoy more: for instance, they were free to trade with any country without restriction.
Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, named for his father’s friend Sir Robert Cecil, was born in 1606 and was thus twenty-six when he became the first lord proprietor of Maryland. He had been baptized “Cecil” and confirmed “Cecilius” in the Church of England. Like his father, he was a student at Trinity College. Oxford, but there is no record that he received a degree. He became a Catholic at about the time of his marriage to Anne Arundell, daughter of a Roman Catholic peer. He was twenty-three; the marriage ended fourteen years later, when Lady Baltimore died at the age of thirty-four.
Cecil Calvert inherited his father s integrity, sense of justice, and tolerance; but he lacked George Calvert’s suppleness and acuity, and his flair for public life. He never visited the shores of Chesapeake May during the forty-three years of his proprietorship, but remained in England to fight his enemies at court. His letters, however, show a definite longing to visit Maryland, and in spite of the handicap of separation from his palatinate, he was an able administrator, a man of calm judgment, capable of foreseeing and forestalling many difficulties and of patiently solving, with time and compromise, those that did arise.
When he sent to Maryland the first contingent of about 200 settlers in November, 1633, on the Ark, a ship of 360 tons, and the Dove, a pinnace of about 60 tons, he put his brother Leonard in command, naming him governor of the new province. In Leonard’s hands he placed a letter of detailed instructions for the commissioners of the province that demonstrated a foresight and understanding of human nature well beyond his twenty-seven years.
First of all Lord Baltimore counselled the three commissioners, of whom Leonard was one, to be careful to avoid offense to Protestant settlers during the voyage. Leonard was to “cause all Acts of Romane Catholique Religion to be done as privately as may be” and was to instruct the Roman Catholics to remain silent whenever religion was discussed. Leonard’s second duty was to discover at the outset any disaffection among the seamen or passengers that had been created by enemies of the Calverts in England before they set out for the New World, and to send home all such intelligence.
Lord Baltimore further ordered that when the Ark and the Dove approached the coast of Virginia, they were not to go to Jamestown or come within the range of the cannons at Point Comfort. When they reached Maryland, the commissioners were to send a messenger at once to Jamestown (making sure that he was a communicant of the Church of England) to give Governor John Harvey notice of his new neighbors’ arrival. A similar messenger was to be sent to William Claiborne, who was established on Kent Island within the boundaries of Maryland, inviting Claiborne to come and confer about future arrangements for trading in the colony as a subject of Lord Baltimore. Thereafter, if Claiborne should fail to appear, the Marylanders should “lett him alone for the first yeare.” The letter closed with instructions for surveying and laying out a town, taking oaths of allegiance to the king, surveying the adjacent country, planting corn, and organizing a militia. There was a final admonition to be “very carefull to do justice to every man without partiality.”
From beginning to end, the history of colonial Maryland is a story of the shrinkage of its territory to the benefit of its neighbors, and a shrinkage of the proprietor’s authority, if not his perquisites, to the benefit of his subjects. The shrinkage of authority began with the first recorded meeting of the Maryland assembly after the arrival of the Ark and the Dove. At that session, in January of 1638, a body of laws drawn up by Lord Baltimore was presented to the new colony—and the assembly turned them down. The assembly then proceeded to draft its own laws, and these the proprietor in turn rejected. The quarrel was over the wording of the charter: whether the proprietor’s right to “enact” laws “with the advice, assent and approbation of the free men” gave him alone the right to initiate legislation. Within six months, recognizing the futility of operating his colony without laws, Cecil Calvert yielded some initiating authority to the assembly, at the same time reserving a share of it—as well as the right of veto—to himself.
In his early struggles with William Claiborne and with a number of Jesuits who had gone to Maryland on the Ark and the Dove, Cecil Calvert was more successful than he was with his assembly. Claiborne was driven out of Maryland after a brief naval encounter on the Pocomoke River, and the proprietor’s authority was established on Kent Island. Lord Baltimore himself, back in England, thwarted the Jesuits’ attempts to acquire land from the Indians independently and to hold it tax free. The Jesuits cited canon law to the effect that ecclesiastical property was exempt from civil jurisdiction, but Lord Baltimore appealed to Rome for their recall from the province, and won.
Lord Baltimore’s comment to his brother, the governor, is interesting: ”… If the greatest saint upon earth should intrude himself into my house against my will and in despite of me, with intention to save the souls of all my family, but withal give me just cause to suspect that he likewise designs my temporal destruction … although withal he do perhaps many spiritual goods, yet certainly I may and ought to preserve myself by the expulsion of such an enemy. …”
In the first years, the inducements to settle in Maryland were generous. Before the Ark and the Dove set sail from England, the proprietor offered a grant of two thousand acres to every “adventurer” who took with him five men between the ages of sixteen and sixty, and to those who transported less than this number he would give one hundred acres for each person within those ages and fifty acres for each child. For these grants the annual quitrent, the direct ancestor of the city of Baltimore’s surviving “ground rent,” was at first twelve pence for every fifty acres of small holdings and twenty shillings for a manorial estate, payable “in the commodities of the country.” Later the annual quitrent was ten pounds of good wheat for each fifty acres.
(In 1780 Maryland’s legislature passed an act declaring Marylanders no longer subject to the payments of quitrents to the lord proprietary, but retained the system in favor of Maryland landlords. For many years the city of Baltimore paid ground rents on properties under the City Hall, the Peale Museum, and the Memorial Plaza. For a while it even paid for the land submerged under one of the municipal reservoirs. Some ground rents can be removed at the end of five years, the owner being required to sell if the tenant is willing to buy, but others are irredeemable if the owner is unwilling to sell.)
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.
The Indians, who were plain old pagans, gave the white men no trouble in those years. When the Ark and the Dove reached the shores of Chesapeake Bay, the Piscataway were preparing to leave the region to escape a war with the Susquehanna to the north, and they were therefore glad to sell their land and houses to the new Marylanders and even took them into their homes while they were getting ready to depart, teaching them how to prepare pone and hominy. But Maryland’s first four decades under Cecil Calvert were not always peaceful. William Claiborne returned to Maryland soon after his expulsion and created continual disturbances. In the absence of Governor Leonard Calvert in England in 1644, Claiborne repossessed Kent Island, and a Captain Richard Ingle, a Puritan, commanding a ship called the Reformation, captured the Marylanders’ capital, St. Marys, and allowed a state of anarchy there for two years.
This was a time of religious civil war in England, and it deeply affected Maryland. When King Charles I was beheaded in 1649, the news unfortunately reached Maryland while Governor Stone was absent and Thomas Greene was acting as his deputy. Greene celebrated Charles II as the royal successor instead of proclaiming Cromwell’s Puritan regime. William Claiborne, having gone back to England, argued to the Puritan authorities that this was an act of disloyalty, and got himself appointed to a commission to “reduce” the colony and make it submit to the reign of Parliament. With Richard Bennett, a Puritan, he returned to Maryland, unseated the proprietor’s government by his authority and a show of superior force, and issued writs for elections that made Roman Catholics ineligible not only to serve in the assembly but even to vote. In 1654, the assembly passed a new Act Concerning Religion, withdrawing protection from both Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
To the great surprise of the colonists, Cromwell restored the proprietorship to Cecil Calvert in 1658. For a time Maryland’s Puritans resisted the change, but Lord Baltimore overcame them and made Josias Fendall governor. An attempt by Fendall to cut loose from proprietary control was frustrated by the Restoration: Charles II, too, supported the Calverts.
The remaining seventeen years of Cecil’s regime were comparatively quiet. Several new counties were created, among them Baltimore, although Baltimore Town would not be officially founded until 1729; a few highways were built, some of them from the “rolling roads” over which hogsheads of tobacco were rolled from plantations to the bay or tributaries; and treaties were made with the Indians as settlers moved into the frontiers. In 1661, Cecil appointed his only son, Charles, governor of Maryland; and so, when Cecil died in 1675 and Charles became the third Lord Baltimore, he was the first resident proprietor.
Charles Calvert was twenty-four years old when he assumed the office of governor, thirty-eight when he became lord proprietor. He held the title to Maryland for thirty-nine years, during the reigns of Charles II, James II, William and Mary, and Queen Anne, but mostly in absentia. He left the province within a year after he assumed the proprietorship, and thereafter Maryland was but one of many interests in his management of a great fortune in England. Inferences may be drawn regarding his attitude toward the property from his appointment of a son, Benedict Leonard, as titular governor of Maryland in 1684 when the boy was only five years old. While other colonies made progress in developing their resources and instituting a kind of autonomy, Maryland remained static.
Charles was the first Lord Baltimore to have serious trouble with Indians. It began in 1673 when the Senecas drove the Susquehanna from their northern hunting grounds to the shores of the Potomac, and shortly afterward several murders along the Potomac were attributed to these normally peaceful and well-behaved Indians. A Maryland force led by Colonel John Washington, an ancestor of George Washington, and Major Thomas Truman, an ancestor of Harry Truman, captured five members of the tribe and put them to death without a trial. The Maryland assembly impeached Major Truman, but the upper and lower houses disagreed as to the seriousness of his crime: he was expelled from the assembly but not tried.
The Susquehanna, failing to appreciate the rather unusual fact that Maryland considered them entitled to the protection of the laws, went on the warpath into the region south of the Potomac and attacked Virginia plantations, murdering whites and burning crops and buildings. One plantation owner, Nathaniel Bacon, being refused a commission by the governor of Virginia to retaliate, raised a force of his own and defeated the Susquehanna, whereupon the governor declared him a rebel: Bacon’s Rebellion was the result.
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.”
It remained to Charles, fifth Lord Baltimore, to blunder irreparably in the continuing negotiations with William Penn’s sons, who were as wily as their father. Allowing himself to be hoodwinked by an inaccurate map, Charles, through ignorance of the geography of his own property, lost not only the disputed one and a quarter million acres of Delaware but also two and a half million acres more along his northern boundary. This happened in 1732. Charles discovered his error a few months later on a visit to his province and refused to carry out his agreement, but the Penns instituted proceedings against him in England and finally won approval of their claim from the English government in 1750, a year before Charles Calvert’s death. In 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, English surveyors, established the line dividing Pennsylvania and Delaware from Maryland and marked it with stones (see “Mason & Dixon: Their Line and Its Legend,” in the February, 1964, AMERICAN HERITAGE). Another small loss of territory may be attributed to the Baltimores’ regime in Maryland. Laying out a boundary on the Eastern Shore in 1668, Philip Calvert, a brother of the second Lord Baltimore, had failed to draw a line straight and had inadvertently given Virginia 15,000 acres. Then, after the Revolution, the north branch of the Potomac was mistakenly accepted as the source of that river, rather than the south branch, and Virginia and ultimately West Virginia held on to another 500,000 acres of Maryland.
The last of the Lords Baltimore was Frederick Calvert, who, as his father had been, was a minor when he succeeded to the title in 1751. While Charles, fifth Lord Baltimore, was weak, querulous, and something of a fool, son Frederick was all of these and vicious as well. His ownership of the Maryland palatinate, in the years 1751 to 1771, fell during the restless period that led up to the American Revolution. Yet his name can hardly be associated with Maryland’s history during that time, except as a symbol of the obsolete system of absentee landlordism. His sole concern with the proprietorship seems to have been the income he derived from it. During that score of years, Mason and Dixon ran their line, General Edward Braddock marched from Frederick Town to defeat and death in Pennsylvania in the French and Indian War, Maryland experienced for a while the terrors of border warfare, and in 1765 Marylanders refused to let a British stamp-tax collector land at Annapolis. But during these disturbances Frederick, sixth Lord Baltimore, thought mainly of getting preferment for his relatives in the colony, and quarrelled more often with his own appointed ministers than with the rebellious populace.
Frederick died in Naples at the age of forty, in 1771. His body was returned to London and buried there. Of this occasion the Gentlemen’s Magazine reported: “His Lordship had injured his character in his life, by seduction, so that the populace paid no regard to his memory when dead, but plundered the room where the body lay the moment it was removed.”
For all his amorous proclivities, Frederick had no legitimate offspring and hence bequeathed his proprietorship to a natural son, Henry Harford. But Henry was only nine years old, and his guardians had to go through proceedings against an aunt and possible heiress before the assembly of Maryland would recognize his rights. Eventually, after the Revolution, the British government gave him the sum of ninety thousand pounds sterling for the loss of his rents and other privileges in Maryland. To colonial Marylanders he had been little more than a name to christen a new county with.
In their 144 years of possession, the six owners of Maryland were progressively, generation by generation, men of decreasing vitality and intelligence. The first Lord Baltimore had exhibited unimpeachable public and private character, and had been a member of Parliament and a trusted Secretary of State under James I; the last of the family, the last owner, was a profligate’s bastard, who squabbled with an aunt over his inheritance while his subjects were staging their own version of the Boston Tea Party. In Annapolis Harbor they burnt the brig Peggy Stewart and her two thousand pounds of East India tea. Later they would provide regular troops of the line to the Revolutionary forces, giving the “Old Line State” its sobriquet. But the evil of the Calverts’ legacy to Maryland lay not so much in their moral and physical degeneration as in the blind tenacity with which they clung to their feudal prerogatives to the very end, leaving a stamp upon the government and the people of the state long after it became a free member of the federal Union.