Skip to main content

Maryland Toleration Act (April 2, 1649)

MARYLAND TOLERATION ACT (April 2, 1649)

This landmark in the protection of liberty of conscience was the most liberal in colonial America at the time of its passage by the Maryland Assembly under the title, "An Act Concerning Religion," and it was far more liberal than Parliament's toleration act of forty years later. Until 1776 only the Rhode Island Charter of 1663 and Pennsylvania's "Great Law" of 1682 guaranteed fuller religious liberty.

Maryland's statute, framed by its Roman Catholic proprietor, Lord Baltimore (Cecil Calvert), was the first public act to use the phrase "the free exercise" of religion, later embodied in the first amendment. More noteworthy still, the act symbolized the extraordinary fact that for most of the seventeenth century in Maryland, Roman Catholics and various Protestant sects openly worshiped as they chose and lived in peace, though not in amity. The act applied to all those who professed belief in Jesus Christ, except antitrinitarians, and guaranteed them immunity from being troubled in any way because of their religion and "the free exercise thereof." In other provisions more characteristic of the time, the act fixed the death penalty for blasphemers against God, Christ, or the Trinity, and it imposed lesser penalties for profaning the sabbath or for reproaching the Virgin Mary or the apostles. Another clause anticipated group libel laws by penalizing the reproachful use of any name or term such as heretic, puritan, popish priest, anabaptist, separatist, or antinomian.

At a time when intolerance was the law in Europe and most of America, Maryland established no church and tolerated all Trinitarian Christians, until Protestants, who had managed to suspend the toleration act between 1654 and 1658, gained political control of the colony in 1689.

Leonard W. Levy
(1986)

Bibliography

Hanley, Thomas O'B rien 1959 Their Rights and Liberties: The Beginnings of Religious and Political Freedom in Maryland. Westminister, Md.: Newman Press.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Maryland Toleration Act (April 2, 1649)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Maryland Toleration Act (April 2, 1649)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/maryland-toleration-act-april-2-1649

"Maryland Toleration Act (April 2, 1649)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . Retrieved November 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/maryland-toleration-act-april-2-1649

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.