Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401 Phone: (410) 260-6400
by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
The Maryland General Assembly of 1700 met in April, avoiding any confusion on our part as to what year its proceedings actually belong. It was a short session of two weeks in which eight acts passed, two of which either continued or repealed laws from previous sessions. Much of what concerned this assembly would be familiar business to modern assemblies. The second act passed was for the "Speedy Tryall of Criminals," while the first attempted to define the religious rights and responsibilities of the nearly 30,000 inhabitants (3,200 slaves) of the colony. Called "An Act for the Service of Allmighty God and Establishment of Religion ...." it was a considerable step backwards from the "Act Concerning Religion" of 1649 and was the fourth or fifth attempt to establish the Anglican Church as the state Church of Maryland. It too would be disallowed by the King and it would not be until 1702 that a more tolerant act was permitted to stand. That act at least did not require the book of common prayer to be present in all religious services, prescribed toleration for all Protestant Dissenters, removed political disabilities previously placed on Quakers, and permitted Catholics to worship in the quiet of their own homes. Unfortunately for many, however, it also effectively removed the right of professed Catholics and Jews to hold office, restrictions that would not be lifted until 1776 and 1826 respectively.
Finances in 1700 were much simpler than they would be following independence. The primary burden on government in 1700, apart from the normal costs of running the courts and caring for the most indigent, was the defense of the colony from the threat of Indian attack. In 1700 Maryland had its own military force on the frontier called Rangers. Well over half the revenue raised by taxes was expended for their pay, and the third act passed by this assembly empowered the Governor and Council to conduct further negotiations with the Indian tribes in an effort to "suppress any violence which may be offered to this province by the Indians after the the breaking up of this Present Session of Assembly." The Lower House would have preferred to have removed the expense of the Rangers by disbanding them, given the Governor's optimistic message about the prospects of peace, but the Upper House cautioned against such a hasty disarmament in case negotiations failed.
Because it was the third year of an Assembly elected in 1698, this assembly was dissolved and new elections werethought prudent for the "general satisfaction of the country."
In 1700 there were no local newspapers to report on the activities of
the General Assembly. News was carried by word of mouth, by letter,
and through the printed proceedings of the legislature. If there
were news to be read at all it would be in the form of correspondence and
newspapers from abroad. Typical of the latter would be the issue
of the London Gazette included in this packet which rarely carried
any news of the colonies and seemed more concerned with parliamentary elections,
events on the Continent of Europe, and with what was stolen or lost in
The Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale. This packet was prepared with the assistance of Lynne MacAdam, Kathy Beard, Greg Lepore, Nancy Bramucci, R. J. Rockefeller, and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC 2221-27. Publication no. 2078.
For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or 410-260-6401
© Copyright January 2000 Maryland State Archives.