The Calvert family played a prominent role in the establishment of an English colonial settlement that welcomed Catholics. Maryland was the center of Catholic life and culture in the 13 colonies at the time of the formation of the U.S.
George. First Lord Baltimore, founder of Maryland;b. Yorkshire, England, c. 1580; d. April 13, 1632. Leonard, a gentleman, and Alice (Crosland) Calvert, both Catholics, were his parents. During George's childhood, Leonard conformed to the Church of England under the pressure of penalties and the threatened arrest of his wife. At about the age of 12, George was placed under the instruction of an Anglican clergyman and was later graduated from Trinity College, Oxford, in 1597. Leonard won public office, thus opening the way for his son's subsequent career. George married Anne Mynne. After leaving college he became secretary to Sir (later Lord) Robert Cecil, then clerk of the privy council, to which office he soon succeeded. He served in Parliament from 1609 to 1624. In 1617 he was knighted and two years later became one of the principal secretaries of state, a sign of his friendship with the ruling House of Stuart. He was raised to peerage in 1625 and named Baron of Baltimore in the County of Longford in Ireland. His interests and services to the King included a commission for securing the religious pacification of Ireland through conformity; a Latin translation of the King's tract against a Dutch theologian; and support of the Spanish marriage for Prince Charles, to which some Catholic noblemen looked for relief from disabilities.
By 1620 Baltimore had become involved in colonizing activities with two Catholic families, the Arundells and the Howards. In 1628 he brought his family to his own chartered colony of Avalon in Newfoundland, and the following year visited Virginia. Baltimore's return to Catholicism had occurred not later than 1625 so his reception in Virginia was hostile. The king eased the ensuing hardships, acceding to Baltimore's desire for a colony free of religious oppression. The Maryland Charter reflected the flexibility of Baltimore in Church-State matters. He had earlier demonstrated this attitude when he signed a Catholic Remonstrance of Grievances stating that Catholics in England need not conform to what was purely disciplinary in the practices of Catholic states. The broad meaning of the charter did not require the application of discriminatory English statutes to the new colony.
Cecil. Eldest son of George, second Lord Baltimore, colonizer and proprietor of Maryland; b. London, 1606;d. London, Nov. 30, 1675. He was graduated from Oxford in 1621 and 8 years later, himself a Catholic, he married the Catholic Lady Anne Arundell of Wardour. Within a decade of his father's death, Cecil had successfully planted a colony of diverse faiths in Maryland. Before the departure for Maryland of the "Ark" and the "Dove" in 1633, he issued a memorable pamphlet, "Objections Answered," which justified his experiment with the principles of religious toleration and pluralism. Baltimore commissioned his brother, Leonard Calvert (1610–47), governor of the colony, enjoining him to enforce an "Instruction" designed to prevent religious disputes.
Baltimore did not succeed in providing the basic laws for Maryland. The colonists themselves had set about this work shortly after their arrival in America. John Lewger, secretary of the council, then tried to impose Baltimore's own code of laws. Like similar ones in England it made reference to penalties for blasphemy and to other religious matters. Thomas Cornwallis successfully led the assembly opposition, which was also defending its right to initiate legislation. The dominantly Catholic assembly adopted the toleration act of 1639, which contained none of the controversial religious references of Baltimore's code. Instead, emphasis was put on the rights of Englishmen, whether Christian or not, and the state relaxed its authority over religion, in keeping with the views of English Catholics unsympathetic to the confessional-state theory.
A controversy between Baltimore and the Jesuits arose over matters related to these Church-State considerations. The original core of contention was the Jesuit title to land grants from the Native Americans. When the Jesuit Thomas Copley made dubious applications of Church law and teaching to this question, Calvert invoked the principle of the Remonstrance of the first Lord Baltimore. Henry More, the major Jesuit superior, did not support Copley's contentions and Baltimore did nothing about the legitimate basis of grievance originally stated by the Jesuits.
Although Baltimore, as a Cavalier, inevitably became an opponent of Parliamentarians and Puritans, he was not bitterly partisan. Amid the discriminatory measures that came into law during Puritan control in England, he secured passage of the Toleration Act of 1649 in Maryland. Peace did not entirely return, however, until 1660 when Baltimore's half-brother, Philip Calvert, assumed the governorship.
Charles. The third Lord Baltimore, last Catholic proprietor; b. London, 1629; d. Epson, Surrey, Feb. 20, 1715. He was the eldest son of Cecil and Anne (Arundell) Calvert and married Jane Lowe, widow of Henry Sewall of Maryland. To them was born Benedict Leonard, fourth Lord Baltimore and first Protestant proprietor of Maryland. Charles served as governor from 1661 to 1684, became lord proprietor in 1675, and interpreted proprietary authority and privilege strictly. He required property holding for membership in the lower house of the assembly, which had challenged his aristocratic rule. The policy affected Catholic freemen, who nevertheless saw in a strong proprietary party a defense of their religious freedom.
A Protestant revolution in England in 1688 was all that was needed to induce anti-Catholic feeling to support the overthrow of the Calverts in Maryland. It was effected by Coode's Rebellion and a royal colony was created, the Church of England established, and in 1718 an estimated 10 per cent of the population were disfranchised for their Catholicism. Baltimore's son Benedict Leonard conformed to the Church of England and thereby qualified for the proprietorship in 1715. Neither father nor son seemed to possess the character of the first two Barons of Baltimore. But the third Lord Baltimore had brought Charles carroll to Maryland during these troubled times as his attorney general, thus ensuring the continuation of Catholic tradition in Maryland's public life. Benedict Leonard survived his father by only a few months and his son Charles assumed the proprietorship while still in his minority.
Bibliography: w. h. browne, George Calvert and Cecilius Calvert, Barons Baltimore of Baltimore (New York 1890). t. o. hanley, Their Rights and Liberties: The Beginnings ot Religious and Political Freedom in Maryland (Westminster, Md. 1959). j. m. ives, The Ark and the Dove (New York 1936). e
[t. o. hanley]