Imagine the date of March 25, 1634 when the first colonists set foot onto the first bit of soon-to-be Maryland soil and stared out onto vast wilderness, unfamiliar waters, and a foreign land of mystery that they would need to quickly transform into their new homes. The situation must have looked bleak, the goal far out of reach, and their obstacles impossible to overcome. To overcome these impossible obstacles, the colonists would need to speedily provide themselves with food, a defense from whatever might threaten them, shelter, and a wise leader to assist in immediately providing them with all of the needed essentials. This leader was revealed in the form of one man, Leonard Calvert.
The leader needed by future Marylanders was the second eldest son of George Calvert, the 1St Lord Baltimore, and his mother Anne. Leonard Calvert was born in the year 1606, although the exact date of his birth is not positively known, in England. He was born into a large family, made up of his five sisters--Anne, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Grace, and Helen-- and five brothers--Cecilius, George, Francis, Henry, and John. Little is currently known of Leonard Calvert’s pre-official life. The only information pertaining to his youth is that he received an exceptional education and would have been considered well-schooled in comparison to the accepted standard of the time, was raised in the Roman Catholic religion and followed it devotedly for his entire life, he was literate, and documentation shows that one of first exploits involved a journey to Newfoundland in 1628 with his father and most likely supplied needed experience that allowed him to endure the trip to Maryland. The only other information about Leonard Calvert that does not directly affect the identity of Maryland itself is that he is recognized to have been a family man. He married Anne Brent and fathered two children while in Maryland--William and Anne Calvert -- which are thought to be illegitimate by some historians. This basic background would act as a constant influence on the path that Calvert’s life took during his governorship.
Leonard Calvert left his home of England on November 22, 1633 and traveled with the other soon-to-be colonists aboard the Ark and the Dove and arrived at St. Clement’s Island in Maryland on March 25, 1634. Once in Maryland, Calvert acquired a large amount of land, 3,000 acres are documented under his control in 1634. Calvert’s family name, his title as governor, and his personal holdings immediately placed him as a member of the gentry class in society. Calvert possessed a well-furnished home in St. Mary’s City and quickly found sources of income by using the wealth supplied by the crops produced on his land, his set income as a placeman, and profit from trade with the local Indian groups. Leonard Calvert was so financially successful that historical records show his estate to consist of more than 9,000 acres of land at his death, but it was not his personal life which caused a monument to be constructed in 1890 to honor this great individual.
It is exceptionally clear that Leonard Calvert was more than able to provide for himself, but what he is most credited for is the providing for the newly forming colony of Maryland. Once the colonists had landed at St. Clement’s, Governor Calvert acted quickly and proved himself to be an admirable leader by setting the men to tasks of making small barges to travel the rivers and had the female colonists perform needed tasks, such as tending to the clothing. Governor Calvert then traveled along the James and Potomac Rivers to locate the possibly hostile Indian groups. The first group that Leonard Calvert and his men came upon were the Piscataway Indians, who welcomed the settlers, showed no signs of hostility, and agreed to terms of peace with the settlers. Maryland Day is a celebration originally performed by the Jesuits on March 27, 1634 (old calendar) to rejoice the agreed upon peace. During his travels, Governor Calvert came upon the Yaocomacoes, who also welcomed the settlers and showed no signs of hostility, and offered the colonists land in exchange for such items as axes, hoes, blankets, knives, cloth, etc. The land given to the colonist was located thirty miles below the Wicomico River and was the site that eventually became St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s original capital. St. Mary’s City went on to develop into a settlement consisting of ten houses, a storehouse, mill, Catholic chapel, and a blacksmith’s shop. The exact location of St. Mary’s City agreed upon by Governor Calvert and the Yaocomacoes Indians could be considered the very reason that the colony survived and later thrived because the area made for deep harbors, a portion perfect for the location of a needed fort, fresh water was available to the colonists, provided immediate shelter, and (unlike Jamestown) was not unhealthy swamp land. Not only were the colonists provided with land by Governor Calvert, but because of the peaceful orientation that he demonstrated towards the Indian groups, colonist were not constantly plagued by attacks by the native groups.
In 1645, well after the colony had established its basic foundation, another problem arose in the form of Ingle’s Rebellion. During a time period when Governor Calvert was visiting England on urgent business, a colonist by the name of Richard Ingle and his followers took control of Maryland’s government and enforced the Puritan Parliament, a form of government controlled by those who worshiped in the Puritan faith. During "The Time of Troubles," as it is known, estates were taken, livestock killed, property burned or stolen, other religions persecuted, and government records destroyed. Meanwhile, William Claiborne, a man once in control of the land area known as Kent Island and partially desiring to control most of Maryland’s government, ceased control of Kent Island after numerous failed attempts in the past. Governor Calvert had once subdued Claiborne’s forces in the first recorded naval battle in American history, but was now forced to travel to Virginia to seek refuge finally able to retake Maryland after gathering troops from Maryland and Virginia and acting to return order to the colony after so much chaos.
Leonard Calvert had first formed the needed foundation for the colony, then regained possession of the colony, but he had also faced major legal issues that occurred within the colony. Leonard Calvert used his administration and many roles in the colony to help govern the colony. His administration was made up of commissioners Jerome Hawley, Thomas Cornwallis, and John Lewger, who was also the provincial secretary. These men in turn, made up the entire executive branch of government at the time. (Governor Calvert had earlier decided to separate the law-making bodies of government into the executive and legislative branches.) Leonard Calvert and his council also made up the Upper House of the General Assembly and cooperated with the Lower House to deal with various legal matters. Leonard Calvert had formed the legal system that would serve Maryland until after the American Revolution, but was faced with the basic question of how laws were to be passed. The Assembly of freemen that had been formed, agreed that they should form basic laws that would then need approval of the proprietor, but the proprietor often refused approval or desired additional clauses. Leonard Calvert was often forced to form a compromise to keep the colony united. In total, Governor Calvert passed 42 "compromising" bills to end disagreements between the proprietor and colonists. Governor Calvert had also been given many additional powers by the proprietor and used his various positions and the power that came with them to better the colony. For the colony, Leonard Calvert acted as the chancellor and chief, commander-in-chief of all military by land or sea, entrusted judicial authority in court, could distribute grants and pardons, and create ports and public markets. In general, Leonard Calvert attempted to carry out all the various instructions he was given by the proprietor, lead by example, preserve peace between neighbors and different groups (such as between Protestants and Catholics), settle any domestic disputes brought before him, practice basic English common law, collect on needed debts and fees, and assist in any way possible so that the colony might be more successful.
At the end of Leonard Calvert’s life, on June 9, 1647, he had led a full life, established friendly relations with the local Indians, attained land for Maryland’s first capital, retaken the colony from both Richard Ingle and William Claiborne, and assisted in as many legal matters as possible. Because of the valiant efforts of Leonard Calvert, the land we now stand on was preserved and given its own identity and uniqueness. We are often told to learn from the past or the events of the past might occur once again, but hopefully we can learn from this great individual and see that the accomplishments of the past are preserved.
Chapelle, Suzanne Ellery Greene, Jean H. Baker, Dean R. Esslinger, Whitman H. Ridgway, Jean B. Russo, Constance B. Schulz, and Gregory A. Stiverson. Maryland. A History of its People. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
Papenfuse, Edward C. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature. Vol. I, A-H. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.
Rollo, Verra Foster. Your Maryland: A History. 5th rev. ed. Lanham: Maryland Historical Press, 1993.
Hall of Records Commission, Department of General Services. Maryland: A History. Annapolis: 1983.
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