Our Democratic Government

The Maryland General Assembly dates back to the earliest days of the colony. It has evolved over the years from a single entity, the Governor and his Council, to the bicameral body that, in partnership with the governor, makes our laws today. The office of governor has also changed over time, and, until 1839, the governor was elected by the Legislature. 

An important aspect of our democratic government has been the the evolution of the electorate, from male landowners in the 17th century to universal suffrage in the 20th century. The first woman legislator, Mary Eliza Watters Risteau, took her seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1922, 274 years after Margaret Brent unsuccessfully asked the General Assembly for a seat and two votes. 

The judiciary is the vital third branch of our democracy. Records at the Archives relating to the courts also go right back to the beginning of the court system with the Provincial and the Chancery Courts established by Lord Baltimore in the 1630s. 

The Archives holds the records of all three branches of our government, including a number of governors' private papers, as well as those of many other elected and appointed officials. Many of these documents relating to the laws of Maryland are now on-line.