John Coode (ca. 1648-1708/9)
MSA SC 3520-269
written by Jennifer Copeland, Intern with Maryland State Archives, February 2003.
John Coode, an ambitious and disgruntled Protestant in a colony ruled largely by Catholics, is best known for his leadership of the 1689 Protestant rebellion in Maryland. This uprising, sometimes known as Coode’s Rebellion, successfully overthrew Maryland's proprietary government, but Coode spent most of his life in opposition to one thing or another, participating in three other uprisings and narrowly escaping death and other punishments. He was born in 1650 into a decent English family and became an ordained Anglican minister, but it seems his temperment and ambition destined him for other roles.
Coode was born in Penryn, Cornwall, in 1648, into a decent English family and went off to school at Exeter College, Oxford University when he was 16. In 1669 Coode became an Anglican priest , but he was "turned out" of the ministry within a few years.1 He came to Maryland as a gentleman in 1672, probably hoping to increase his social and political status while lining his pockets with America’s supposed riches. Coode served briefly as a minister in Maryland, but he was too ambitious to remain a priest for long. Instead, he took up planting and married a rich widow, Susannah Slye, daughter of Thomas Gerrard, a wealthy and influential colonist. Gerrard's political views clashed with those of the Calverts, the proprietors of Maryland, and his dislike for Maryland's rulers probably helped to eventually turn John Coode against the government. Through his father-in-law, Coode also developed ties to Kenholm Chesyldene and Nehemiah Blackiston, who would be his future conspirators in 1689.
After his marriage to Susannah, John Coode became more respected. He was appointed a captain of the militia and held a number of offices in Maryland – justice of the peace, coroner, appraiser, and sheriff. He won election to Maryland's Assembly in 1676, but he remained dissatisfied with the proprietary government. In 1681, he took part in his first rebellion against the government. We are not sure exactly what role he played in this plot, but after its failure, he was removed from office and viewed as an enemy of the Calverts. Coode's next rebellion was more successful. An increasing number of Protestants had been moving to Maryland, and they resented the fact that most political offices were held by Catholics or other close friends of the Calverts. During years of 1666-1689 at least 14 of the 27 men on the Maryland council were professed Roman Cathollics, and 15 were related by blood or marriage to the immediate proprietary family. These same men also controlled the courts, the militia and the land council.2 Many Protestants were also upset because Maryland's government had not yet recognized the new Protestant King and Queen of England, who had taken power from Catholic James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In April 1689, John Coode helped lead "An association in arms, for the defence of the Protestant religion, and for asserting the right of King William and Queen Mary to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions". He began to gather an army of colonists comprised of those disaffected with Catholic rule in Maryland. He did not have much trouble finding recruits to fight against the Maryland's Catholic leaders, in part because he and the other rebel leaders started a rumor that the Catholics had invited the Indians to come and kill the Protestants.3
One of the first steps taken by Coode and his followers was to attack the state house, a symbol of the proprietary government's authority and home to the colony's records. Coode's army of 700 men then marched to the Mattapany House, Lord Baltimore's plantation, and forced the Council, who was meeting there in the Governor's absence, to surrender.4 The rebels now controlled the colony. Coode briefly served as Governor of Maryland from 1689-1690 until a new royal Governor was appointed. For a while, Coode participated in the new government, but he again became dissatisfied. He participated in two more uprisings against the government, and in 1699 it looked like Coode was finally going to be punished for his opposition. Coode was charged with blasphemy and rebellion. A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to pay a 20 pound sterling fine and to be bored through the tongue with a red hot iron. Luckily for Coode, Governor Nathaniel Blackiston pardoned him and remitted his fines "upon Consideration of his Service done in the Revoltuion."5 Coode remained popular with some of his neighbors in Maryland who tried to elect him to the Assembly, but the Council used the fact that he had once been a priest to keep him out of the government until his death in February or March of 1709. Coode owned over 1000 acres and possessed a personal estate worth just over 259 pounds sterling.at his death in 1709, but he never seemed satisfied with his station in life.6
1 Lois Green Carr and David William Jordan, Maryland's
Revolution of Government, 1689-1692. (Ithaca, 1974), 245.
2 Ibid., 37.
3 J. Thomas Scharf, History of Maryland from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, vol. 1: 1600-1765. (Hatboro, PA, 1967), 309-310.
4 Ibid., 316.
5 Maryland Archives XXV, cited in Carr and Jordan, 247; St. Mary's Career Files, Maryland State Archives.
6 Edward C. Papenfuse, , Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan and Gregory A. Stiverson. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, vol. 1: A-H. (Baltimore and London, 1979), 233-234.
Carr, Lois Green and David William Jordan, Maryland's Revolution of Government, 1689-1692. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974.
Papenfuse, Edward C., Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan and Gregory A. Stiverson. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, vol. 1: A-H. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Maryland from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, vol. 1: 1600-1765. Hatboro, PA: Tradition Press, 1967.
St. Mary's Career Files, Maryland State Archives.
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