Speaker's Medallion and Mace of the Maryland House of Delegates, 3/22/1995, rev. 3/8/1998 

The Speaker's Medallion and Mace of the Maryland House of Delegates

It is an honor and a privilege for me to be back with you again today to provide the historical background for the new Speaker's Medallion and for the Mace of the House of Delegates.

My curiosity about the Mace was first peaked by an inquiry from Dee Orr, your Journal Clerk, who has an abiding interest in its history and provides it with loving care in order to preserve it for you and for those who come after you. What I discovered was that your mace is the oldest still in use by a representative body in the new world and the second oldest mace in continuous use anywhere, second only to the mace of the English House of Commons.

The use of medallions to celebrate historic occasions in Maryland dates back to the founding of the colony by the Calverts. Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore, to whom the charter was granted in 1632, commissioned a medal by a famous engraver to mark the successful beginnings at St. Mary's City in 1634. It bore his image on one side and a map of Maryland on the other which was inscribed, in Latin, "As the Sun Thou Shalt Enlighten America."

Today the Speaker unveils an equally appropriate medallion that depicts the House of Delegates mace, backed by the Maryland Flag on one side, and the 1794 Great Seal of Maryland on the other. The side with the Mace is inscribed simply with "Speaker's Medallion, Maryland House of Delegates." The other side is encircled with the motto "Industry the Means, and Plentythe Result."

The Mace is the symbol of the independence and authority of the House. It is used to bring order to the House and to summon witnesses before it.

The importance of the Mace to legislative proceedings dates back at least to the 1620s when the House of Commons employed it as a symbol of resistance to the arbitrary rule of King Charles the First, sending the Sergeant at Arms out with the Mace to free one of its members imprisoned by the King. Even George Calvert, when he was a minister of the King, felt the power of the House symbolized by the Mace. He had to answer for the King who was attempting to stifle free speech and the right of petition in the House. Calvert did his best to defend his master, but the Houseof Commons was not persuaded, observing on the record that the members could "scarce believe" George Calvert and "thinketh he equivocateth."

When it came time to grant a charter for Maryland, the King did not equivocate on the rights of the free-men of the Province. The Charter clearly stated that all free-men, or the greater part of them, or ... their delegates, or their deputies, were empowered to give their "advice, assent and approbation" to any laws passed in the colony. Nor did it take more than a few months for the legislature to insist that it not only had the right to agree to laws, but to initiate them as well, a concept not happily agreed to by Lord Baltimore. Indeed Maryland, not Virginia, not Plymouth Plantation, not Massachusetts Bay, was the first Colony to have representative government embedded in its charter as a fundamental principle, although it would take the collective action of all the colonies to establish and maintain an independent nation.

To have a representative body is one thing. For it to act independently for a sustained period of time is another.

It would not be until the move of the Capital to Annapolis 300 years ago in 1695 that the Lower House of the General Assembly would begin to firmly establish itself as an independent voice in the government of Maryland. The road was not an easy one. The Governor could be most persuasive. Indeed on opening day, March 10, 1698 he gave the Speaker a Gown to wear and presented the House with its first mace, the wooden staff of which, I believe, maybe the very one before you today.

Almost immediately the House began to take itself seriously. It appointed a Sergeant at Arms to whom the Mace was entrusted and whose duties included not only enforcing order in the House and summoning witnesses before it, but also entailed keeping the Town Gate, the town prison, and raising the flag over the State House. The job proved too much for the first incumbent, Daniel Cannon, who soon died, perhaps from overwork. The real unsung hero, however, probably was his widow Anne. Someone else was given the job of keeper of the Mace, but Anne Cannon continued to tend the town gate and raise the flag over the State House, billing the Lower House for her services. The record does not show whether or not she was ever paid.

The first use of the Mace in the House was in defiance of the Governor and Council. The Sergeant at Arms was sent out with the Mace to bring back members of the Governor's Council to the bar of the House. There they were to explain how they could have ever issued an order reducing the income of lawyers. Their response is not clear, but the issue seems to have been resolved in Committee.

Clearly the present of the Gown to the Speaker had as little effect as the gift of the Mace in keeping the House compliant with the wishes of the Executive. When the Governor persisted in his habit of sitting in on the deliberations of the House, the Speaker became conveniently ill, and the House adjourned with the Mace to his chambers (conveniently located in Rachel Proctor's Tavern near the foot of what is now Duke of Gloucester Street).

While there is considerable humor in the history of the deliberations of the House, the business of establishing itself as an independent deliberative body is a serious chapter in the evolution of American Democracy. The Mace, and especially your mace, is symbolic of that evolution. When the U.S. House of Representatives, perhaps on advice from Thomas Jefferson, chose a mace as the symbol of its authority, it apparently turned to Maryland for a model. The British burned the original House of Representative's mace with the Capitol in 1814, but it is described as a bundle of simple ebony rods wrapped by a silver band, from the center of which rose a single rod capped with a Silver Eagle.

Your mace is a single wooden rod, 24 1/2" long and 1 3/4" in diameter. It may be made of ebony, or possibly oak, stained to look like ebony. It is capped with silver on which is engraved  the 1794 GreatSeal, designed by Charles Willson Peale, a native Marylander and one of the foremost artists of his day. The motto, "Industry the Means,Plenty the Result," was the official state motto from 1794 until 1817. Although there is no surviving record to explain why  the House chose to have the 1794 great seal engraved on its Mace, we do know that Peale's Seal was executed on commission from the State at a time of great National and State Pride, a time when our sister state of Virginia sold its mace because it reminded them too much of a "badge of Kingly pomp." Presumably Virginia replaced theirs with one of simpler design, and greater republican virtue, such as the one you have before you.

So today, in an effort to create an award that has special meaning to this House, we turn to the oldest and most venerable object in its possession, the Mace, which has been present at every session of this body for 300 years. More than any other symbol it stands for the orderly, deliberative process of representative government of the people, by the people and for the people. May what it stands for not perish from this earth.

[Revised and extended remarks by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse on the occasion of the presentation of the Speaker's Medallion to Dr. William Richardson, 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 22, 1995; rev. 3/8/1998 ©Maryland StateArchives]


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