Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Maryland!

Today is the anniversary of Maryland! On March 25, 1634 the Maryland Colony was founded officially.

Early Spanish mariners were probably the first white people to visit the Maryland area. The first European to record an entrance into Chesapeake Bay appears to have been Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524.

It was not until the early years of the 17th century that English explorers arrived, Bartholomew Gilbert in 1603 and John Smith in 1608.
In 1631, the Virginian William Claiborne became the first European settler in Maryland when he opened a fur trading post on Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay.
In 1632, George Calvert, first Baron Baltimore and a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, obtained a charter from King Charles I that granted feudal rights in the land north of the Potomac River. The colony was to be named in honor of the king's consort, Henrietta Maria. Charles I was deeply concerned about the presence of the Dutch in North America and decided to establish Maryland as a buffer between Virginia and the New Netherland.
The exact boundaries were not accurately described, which led to a dispute with Virginia that would not be settled for 300 years. Before colonization began, the first Lord Baltimore died and left the grant to his son, Cecilius, the second Lord Baltimore. Since the charter did not expressly prohibit the establishment of non-Protestant churches, Cecilius Calvert encouraged fellow Catholics to settle there.

While establishing a refuge for Catholics who were facing increasing persecution in Anglican England, the Calverts also were interested in creating profitable estates. To this end, and to avoid trouble with the British government, they also encouraged Protestant immigration.
Maryland's first town, St. Mary's, was established by both Protestants and Catholics in 1634. Arriving in the Ark and the Dove, they carefully chose a location high on a bluff near the point where the Potomac River flows into Chesapeake Bay.

The royal charter granted to the Calvert family embodied a mixture of feudal and modern elements. They were given the power to create manorial estates, but were limited to making laws only with the consent of the freemen (property holders). To attract and hold settlers, and to make the venture profitable, the family offered a limited form of land ownership. The number of independent farms grew and the farmers demanded a voice in the affairs of the colony. Maryland's first legislature, the House of Delegates, met in 1635.

The colony never experienced protracted Indian warfare or a "starving time" like its neighbor Virginia. Indeed, proximity to an established settlement allowed Maryland to trade for needed items. The colony also benefited from the largess of the proprietor, who personally supported the settlers' early financial needs. Like Virginia, Maryland suffered from a labor shortage and in 1640 introduced a headright system intended to stimulate immigration.

Protestants quickly outnumbered Catholics, a development that led to the passage of the Toleration Act in 1649. This interesting statement of religious toleration provided freedom of worship to all who believed in the divinity of Jesus, but decreed the death penalty for those denying the Trinity. The growing number of Protestants, especially Puritans, led to friction culminating in a brief civil war in 1655. For a number of years, William Claiborne, the original settler and frequent thorn in the Calvert family's side, ran the colony in defiance of the proprietors.

Annapolis became the capital in 1694, supplanting St. Mary's. Baltimore was founded in 1730, Frederick in 1745, and Georgetown in 1751. The boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania was settled according to the survey done by Mason and Dixon in 1763-67.

The Maryland flag is made up of the Calvert (Lord Baltimore) and Crossland (his wife or mother's family-reports differ) Coats of Arms. During the Civil War, the Crossland Cross (or Botony cross) became a symbol of support for the Southern Cause since Maryland was occupied by Federal troops before and during the War. Maryland was the only state in the nation (including all Northern states) in which it was illegal to fly confederate colors, and civilians were jailed (including women) for any support of the Southern states, as well speaking out against the war, even if they were Union supporters and simply against the war. The Maryland flag was not adopted until 1904.
(Now, further Maryland history from another article's perspective) The Roman Catholics were among those who suffered persecution in England, and Maryland was founded as a place of refuge for them. Among the most prominent of the English Catholics was Sir George Calvert, known as Lord Baltimore. His first attempt to found a colony was in Newfoundland, but the rigorous climate compelled him to give it up. (I'm smiling at my husband's Newfie ancestors!) He decided that the most favorable place was that portion of Virginia lying east of the Potomac. Virginia had its eye already upon the section, and was preparing to settle it, when Charles I, without consulting her, granted the territory to Lord Baltimore. Before he could use the patent, he died, and the charter was made to his son, Cecil Calvert, in 1632. He named it Maryland in compliment to the queen, Henrietta Maria.
Leonard Calvert, a brother of Lord Baltimore, began the settlement of Maryland at St. Mary's, near the mouth of the Potomac. He took with him 200 immigrants and made friends with the Indians, whom he treated with justice and kindness. Annapolis was founded in 1683 and Baltimore in 1729.

Despite the wisdom and liberality of Calvert's rule, the colony met with much trouble, because of Virginia's claim to the territory occupied by the newcomers. William Clayborne of Virginia had established a trading post in Maryland and refused to leave, but he was driven out, whereupon he appealed to the king, insisting that the Catholics were intruders upon domain to which they had no right. The king decided in favor of Lord Baltimore. Clayborne however, would not assent, and, returning to Maryland in 1645, he incited a rebellion which was pressed so vigorously that Calvert was forced to flee. He gathered enough followers to drive Clayborne out in turn. The Catholics then established a liberal government and passed the famous "Toleration Act," which allowed everybody to worship God as he saw fit. Many persons in the other colonies, who were suffering persecution, made their homes in Maryland.

After a time, the Protestants gained a majority in the assembly and made laws which were very oppressive to the Catholics.. The strife degenerated into civil war, which lasted for a number of years. The proprietor in 1691 was a supporter of James II, because of which the new king, William, took away his colony and appointed the governors himself. The proprietor's rights were restored in 1716 to the fourth Lord Baltimore. The Calverts became extinct in 1771, and the people of Maryland assumed proprietorship five years later. Comparative tranquillity reigned until the breaking out of the Revolution.

An interesting occurrence during this tranquil period was the arrival from England of George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends or Quakers. In the assemblage which gathered on the shores of the Chesapeake to listen to his preaching were members of the Legislature, the leading men of the province, Indian sachems and their families, with their great chief at their head.
The disputed boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania was fixed in 1767, by two surveyors named Mason and Dixon. This boundary became famous in after years as the dividing line between the free and slave States. (Though, at the start of the Civil War, the state of Maryland had the largest population of FREE Blacks, north or south!)

No comments: