Chronicles of America 

Democratic Stirrings in Maryland

Virginia, all this time, with Maryland a thorn in her side, was wrestling with an autocratic governor, John Harvey. This avaricious tyrant sowed the wind until in 1635 he was like to reap the whirlwind. Though he was the King's Governor and in good odor in England, where rested the overpower to which Virginia must bow, yet in this year Virginia blew upon her courage until it was glowing and laid rude hands upon him. We read: "An Assembly to be called to receive complaints against Sr. John Harvey, on the petition of many inhabitants, to meet 7th of May." But, before that month was come, the Council, seizing opportunity, acted for the whole. Immediately below the entry above quoted appears: "On the 28th of April, 1635, Sr. John Harvey thrust out of his government, and Capt. John West acts as Governor till the King's pleasure known." (Hening's Statutes vol. I p. 223.)

So Virginia began her course as rebel against political evils! It is of interest to note that Nicholas Martian, one of the men found active against the Governor, was an ancestor of George Washington.

Harvey, thrust out, took first ship for England, and there also sailed commissioners from the Virginia Assembly with a declaration of wrongs for the King's ear. But when they came to England, they found that the King's ear was for the Governor whom he had given to the Virginians and whom they, with audacious disobedience, had deposed. Back should go Sir John Harvey, still governing Virginia; back without audience the so-called commissioners, happy to escape a merited hanging! Again to Jamestown sailed Harvey. In silence Virginia received him, and while he remained Governor no Assembly sat.

But having asserted his authority, the King in a few years' time was willing to recall his unwelcome representative. So in 1639 Governor Harvey vanishes from the scene, and in comes the well-liked Sir Francis Wyatt as Governor for the second time. For two years he remains, and is then superseded by Sir William Berkeley, a notable figure in Virginia for many years to come. The population was now perhaps ten thousand, both English born and Virginians born of English parents. A few hundred negroes moved in the tobacco fields. More would be brought in and yet more. And now above a million pounds of tobacco were going annually to England.

The century was predominantly one of inner and outer religious conflict. What went on at home in England reechoed in Virginia. The new Governor was a dyed-in-the-wool Cavalier, utterly stubborn for King and Church. The Assemblies likewise leaned that way, as presumably did the mass of the people. It was ordered in 1631: "That there bee a uniformitie throughout this colony both in substance and circumstance to the cannons and constitutions of the church of England as neere as may bee, and that every person yeald readie obedience unto them uppon penaltie of the paynes and forfeitures in that case appoynted." And, indeed, the pains and forfeitures threatened were savage enough.

Official Virginia, loyal to the Established Church, was jealous and fearful of Papistry and looked askance at Puritanism. It frowned upon these and upon agnosticisms, atheisms, pantheisms, religious doubts, and alterations in judgment -- upon anything, in short, that seemed to push a finger against Church and Kingdom. Yet in this Virginia, governed by Sir William Berkeley, a gentleman more cavalier than the Cavaliers, more royalist than the King, more churchly than the Church, there lived not a few Puritans and Dissidents, going on as best they might with Established Church and fiery King's men. Certain parishes were predominantly Puritan; certain ministers were known to have leanings away from surplices and genuflections and to hold that Archbishop Laud was some kin to the Pope. In 1642, to reenforce these ministers, came three more from New England, actively averse to conformity. But Governor and Council and the majority of the Burgesses will have none of that. The Assembly of 1643 takes sharp action.

For the preservation of the puritie of doctrine and unitie of the church, IT IS ENACTED that all ministers whatsoever which shall reside in the collony are to be conformable to the orders and constitutions of the church of England, and the laws therein established, and not otherwise to be admitted to teach or preach publickly or privately. And that the Gov. and Counsel do take care that all nonconformists upon notice of them shall be compelled to depart the collony with all conveniencie. And so in consequence out of Virginia, to New England where Independents were welcome, or to Maryland where any Christian might dwell, went these tainted ministers. But there stayed behind Puritan and nonconforming minds in the bodies of many parishioners. They must hold their tongues, indeed, and outwardly conform -- but they watched lynx-eyed for their opportunity and a more favorable fortune.

Having launched thunderbolts against schismatics of this sort, Berkeley, himself active and powerful, with the Council almost wholly of his party and the House of Burgesses dominantly so, turned his attention to "popish recusants." Of these there were few or none dwelling in Virginia. Let them then not attempt to come from Maryland! The rulers of the colony legislated with vigor: papists may not hold any public place; all statutes against them shall be duly executed; popish priests by chance or intent arriving within the bounds of Virginia shall be given five days' warning, and, if at the end of this time they are yet upon Virginian soil, action shall be brought against them. Berkeley sweeps with an impatient broom.

The Kingdom is cared for not less than the Church in Virginia. Any and all persons coming into the colony by land and by sea shall have administered to them the Oath of Supremacy and Allegiance. "Which if any shall refuse to take," the commander of the fort at Point Comfort shall "committ him or them to prison." Foreigners in birth and tongue, foreigners in thought, must have found the place and time narrow indeed.

On the eve of civil war there arose on the part of some in England a project to revive and restore the old Virginia Company by procuring from Charles, now deep in troubles of his own, a renewal of the old letters patent and the transference of the direct government of the colony into the hands of a reorganized and vast corporation. Virginia, which a score of years before had defended the Company, now protested vigorously, and, with regard to the long view of things, it may be thought wisely. The project died a natural death. The petition sent from Virginia shows plainly enough the pen of Berkeley. There are a multitude of reasons why Virginia should not pass from King to Company, among which these are worthy of note: "We may not admit of so unnatural a distance as a Company will interpose between his sacred majesty and us his subjects from whose immediate protection we have received so many royal favours and gracious blessings. For, by such admissions, we shall degenerate from the condition of our birth, being naturalized under a monarchical government and not a popular and tumultuary government depending upon the greatest number of votes of persons of several humours and dispositions."

When this paper reached England, it came to a country at civil war. The Long Parliament was in session. Stafford had been beheaded, the Star Chamber swept away, the Grand Remonstrance presented. On Edgehill bloomed flowers that would soon be trampled by Rupert's cavalry. In Virginia the Assembly took notice of these "unkind differences now in England," and provided by tithing for the Governor's pension and allowance, which were for the present suspended and endangered by the troubles at home. That the forces banded against the Lord's anointed would prove victorious must at this time have appeared preposterously unlikely to the fiery Governor and the ultra-loyal Virginia whom he led. The Puritans and Independents in Virginia -- estimated a little earlier at "a thousand strong" and now, for all the acts against them, probably stronger yet -- were to be found chiefly in the parishes of Isle of Wight and Nansemond, but had representatives from the Falls to the Eastern Shore. What these Virginians thought of the "unkind differences" does not appear in the record, but probably there was thought enough and secret hopes.

In 1644, the year of Marston Moor, Virginia, too, saw battle and sudden and bloody death. That Opechancanough who had succeeded Powhatan was now one hundred years old, hardly able to walk or to see, dwelling harmlessly in a village upon the upper Pamunkey. All the Indians were broken and dispersed; serious danger was not to be thought of. Then, of a sudden, the flame leaped again. There fell from the blue sky a massacre directed against the outlying plantations. Three hundred men, women, and children were killed by the Indians. With fury the white men attacked in return. They sent bodies of horse into the untouched western forests. They chased and slew without mercy. In 1646 Opechancanough, brought a prisoner to Jamestown, ended his long tale of years by a shot from one of his keepers. The Indians were beaten, and, lacking such another leader, made no more organized and general attacks. But for long years a kind of border warfare still went on.

Even Maryland, tolerant and just as was the Calvert policy, did not altogether escape Indian troubles. She had to contend with no such able chief as Opechancanough, and she suffered no sweeping massacres. But after the first idyllic year or so there set in a small, constant friction. So fast did the Maryland colonists arrive that soon there was pressure of population beyond those first purchased bounds. The more thoughtful among the Indians may well have taken alarm lest their villages and hunting-grounds might not endure these inroads. Ere long the English in Maryland were placing "centinells" over fields where men worked, and providing penalties for those who sold the savages firearms. But at no time did young Maryland suffer the Indian woes that had vexed young Virginia.

Nor did Maryland escape the clash of interests which beset the beginnings of representative assemblies in all proprietary provinces. The second, like the first, Lord Baltimore, was a believer in kings and aristocracies, in a natural division of human society into masters and men. His effort was to plant intact in Maryland a feudal order. He would be Palatine, the King his suzerain. In Maryland the great planters, in effect his barons, should live upon estates, manorial in size and with manorial rights. The laboring men --the impecunious adventurers whom these greater adventurers brought out --would form a tenantry, the Lord Proprietary's men's men. It is true that, according to charter, provision was made for an Assembly. Here were to sit "freemen of the province," that is to say, all white males who were not in the position of indentured servants. But with the Proprietary, and not with the Assembly, would rest primarily the lawmaking power. The Lord Proprietary would propose legislation, and the freemen of the country would debate, in a measure advise, represent, act as consultants, and finally confirm. Baltimore was prepared to be a benevolent lord, wise, fatherly.

In 1635 met the first Assembly, Leonard Calvert and his Council sitting with the burgesses, and this gathering of freemen proceeded to inaugurate legislation. There was passed a string of enactments which presumably dealt with immediate wants at St. Mary's, and which, the Assembly recognized, must have the Lord Proprietary's assent. A copy was therefore sent by the first ship to leave. So long were the voyages and so slow the procedure in England that it was 1637 before Baltimore's veto upon the Assembly's laws reached Maryland. It would seem that he did not disapprove so much of the laws themselves as of the bold initiative of the Assembly, for he at once sent over twelve bills of his own drafting. Leonard Calvert was instructed to bring all freemen together in Assembly and present for their acceptance the substituted legislation.

Early in 1638 this Maryland Assembly met. The Governor put before it for adoption the Proprietary's laws. The vote was taken. Governor and some others were for, the remainder of the Assembly unanimously against, the proposed legislation. There followed a year or two of struggle over this question, but in the end the Proprietary in effect acknowledged defeat. The colonists, through their Assembly, might thereafter propose laws to meet their exigencies, and Governor Calvert, acting for his brother, should approve or veto according to need.

When civil war between King and Parliament broke out in England, sentiment in Maryland as in Virginia inclined toward the King. But that Puritan, Non-conformist, and republican element that was in both colonies might be expected to gain if, at home in England, the Parliamentary party gained. A Royal Governor or a Lord Proprietary's Governor might alike be perplexed by the political turmoil in the mother country. Leonard Calvert felt the need of first-hand consultation with his brother. Leaving Giles Brent in his place, he sailed for England, talked there with Baltimore himself, perplexed and filled with foreboding, and returned to Maryland not greatly wiser than when he went.

Maryland was soon convulsed by disorders which in many ways reflected the unsettled conditions in England. A London ship, commanded by Richard Ingle, a Puritan and a staunch upholder of the cause of Parliament, arrived before St. Mary's, where he gave great offense by his blatant remarks about the King and Rupert, "that Prince Rogue." Though he was promptly arrested on the charge of treason, he managed to escape and soon left the loyal colony far astern.

In the meantime Leonard Calvert had come back to Maryland, where he found confusion and a growing heat and faction and side-taking of a bitter sort. To add to the turmoil, William Claiborne, among whose dominant traits was an inability to recognize defeat, was making attempts upon Kent Island. Calvert was not long at St. Mary's ere Ingle sailed in again with letters-of-marque from the Long Parliament. Ingle and his men landed and quickly found out the Protestant moiety of the colonists. There followed an actual insurrection, the Marylanders joining with Ingle and much aided by Claiborne, who now retook Kent Island. The insurgents then captured St. Mary's and forced the Governor to flee to Virginia. For two years Ingle ruled and plundered, sequestrating goods of the Proprietary's adherents, and deporting in irons Jesuit priests. At the end of this time Calvert reappeared, and behind him a troop gathered in Virginia. Now it was Ingle's turn to flee. Regaining his ship, he made sail for England, and Maryland settled down again to the ancient order. The Governor then reduced Kent Island. Claiborne, again defeated, retired to Virginia, whence he sailed for England.

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