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1634

The settlement of Maryland

The first colonists to Maryland arrive at St. Clement’s Island on Maryland’s western shore and found the settlement of St. Mary’s.

In 1632, King Charles I of England granted a charter to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, yielding him proprietary rights to a region east of the Potomac River in exchange for a share of the income derived from the land. The territory was named Maryland in honor of Henrietta Maria, the queen consort of Charles I. Before settlement began, George Calvert died and was succeeded by his son Cecilius, who sought to establish Maryland as a haven for Roman Catholics persecuted in England. In March 1634, the first English settlers–a carefully selected group of Catholics and Protestants–arrived at St. Clement’s Island aboard the Ark and the Dove.

Religious conflict was strong in ensuing years as the American Puritans, growing more numerous in Maryland and supported by Puritans in England, set out to revoke the religious freedoms guaranteed in the founding of the colony. In 1649, Maryland Governor William Stone responded by passing an act ensuring religious liberty and justice to all who believed in Jesus Christ. In 1654, however, the so-called Toleration Act was repealed after Puritans seized control of the colony, leading to a brief civil war that ended with Lord Baltimore losing control of propriety rights over Maryland in March 1655.

Although the Calverts later regained control of Maryland, anti-Catholic activity persisted until the 19th century, when many Catholic immigrants to America chose Baltimore as their home and helped enact laws to protect their free practice of religion.

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