Monumentally Speaking . . .
Christopher T. George

Celebrating Lord Baltimore's City

A s Baltimore celebrates the Bicentennial of its incorporation as a city, we might remember the family which gave the city its name. The name "Baltimore" is derived from the County Longford, Ireland manor of the Calvert family, the Lords Ballimore, who founded Maryland in1634. Of course it is not the only place in the state to have received its name through various associations with the Calverts: Cecil, Calvert, Harford, Ann Arundel Counties, and Leonardtown are other examples. Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore (I606-1675) named the colony for Queen Henrietta Maria, consort of the then king of England, Charles l, who granted the charter for the colony in 1632.

Did you know, though, that the present site of Baltimore is not the first place in Maryland to bear the name "Baltimore"? Preceding the present Baltimore, there was one, for example, in what is now the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County. Back in 1683, "Old Baltimore," located near Chilbury Point on the east bank of the Bush River, was a significant enough settlement to boast a courthouse. The High Sheriff of Baltimore County, Miles Gibson, received authorization from Lord Baltimore to hire two carpenters "for repairing the Court House and likewise to take care for the setting up of the pillory and the stocks."

So, speaking of courthouses, it is perhaps not unfitting that in front of the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse on St. Paul Street in present day Baltimore City, stands the statue of the founder of Maryland, the second Baron of Baltimore, Cecil Calvert, resplendent in seventeenth century knee breeches and broad-brimmed hat, and exhibiting a surprisingly robust physique,. As it happens, a contemporary portrait shows that the real Cecil was a weaker looking individual with long aesthetic-looking fingers. The lantern jaw of the statue can be attributed to the model for the 1908 statue by Albert Weinert. That model is reputed to have been none other than local-born Francis X. Bushman, one of the first great lovers of the silver screen.

But let's backtrack a little. The colony of Maryland had its origins with Calvert's father, George, the first Lord Baltimore. George, a Secretary of State to James I, was rewarded by the king with title to land in Newfoundland for a colony the Yorkshire landowner dubbed "Avalon." After he and his colonists froze their butts off up in Newfoundland, George thought better of the venture and petitioned James I's son, Charles I, for title to land north of the existing English colony of Virginia.

In June 1632, two months after George Calvert's death, the king signed the final charter for Maryland, with title for the grant going to George's eldest son and heir, Cecil. The St. Paul Street statue, erected November 21, 1908 under the auspices of the Society of Colonial Wars of the State of Maryland, celebrates the fact that Cecil "established in ... Maryland for the first time in the English-speaking world freedom of religious worship ... [of] any Christian form and separation of church and state."

To us today, looking from the perspective of the democratic, freedom-loving country in which we live, these sound like appealing and noble words. In 1634, when Maryland was born, people lived in a very intolerant time. The Thirty Years War (I618 -1648) was raging in Europe between Catholic and Protestant forces. The Calverts entered on a perilous path in 1625 when George Calvert left public life and declared himself a Catholic. Thus, when the newly-created Baron of Baltimore visited Jamestown before his death, he was treated with suspicion by the leaders of Virginia because of his "Romish" religion and the fact that he would be taking lands the Virginians claimed to be theirs.

In 1631, three years before Cecil Calvert's band of settlers arrived at the Chesapeake, William Claiborne, Secretary of State of Virginia, had already established a trading post on Kent Island. Jesuit priest Andrew White, chronicler of the Maryland settlement, wrote that the Virginia council desired nothing more than the colonists' "ruine." He said that Claiborne had apparently stirred up the local Indians against the Maryland colonists. Indeed, he said, the settlers learned that the "Indians were all in armes to resist us," having been told that the Spanish were coming to destroy them all. White attributed this rumor to Claiborne, who was actively trying to undermine the new colony. Fortunately, relations with the Indians proved friendly in the vicinity of the new settlement of St. Mary's City, where Cecil's brother Philip Calvert established the strong point for the Maryland colony.

The same could not be said for Claiborne who, although first tolerated by the Calverts, was shortly to be declared an outlaw after his men fought a battle with the Marylanders at the Pocomoke River in 1635. The Marylanders seized Kent Island, displacing the Virginians.

Although the Calverts successfully established the Maryland colony, Calvert rule would continue to be rocky. This rockiness was partly the result of less than consistent rule by the Calverts themselves and also a result of the Maryland economy being solely based on tobacco. During the 1641 - 1645 English Civil War, Claiborne once more seized Kent Island for a brief period starting in fall 1644. Then Richard Ingle, a supporter of Parliament, captured and plundered St. Mary's City in February 1645. Philip Calvert retook St. Mary's late in 1646. In 1689, however, Protestant rebels overthrew the government of the third Lord Baltimore. A series of Royal governors held the reigns of state until 1715. One of them,Francis Nichlolson, moved the state's capital from St. Mary's City to Annapolis, in part to break the Catholic stranglehold on the colony.

After Lord Baltimore's reinstatement to rule, Governor Charles Calvert tried to assure the assembly in 1722 that Baltimore stood to them "as a bountyfull Indulgent Father toward a dutiful Deserving son." But Baltimore's veto of acts passed by the assembly, and attempts to reassert his rights such as taxing exports of tobacco, alienated the colonists. Baltimore tried to improve matters by changing governors but unhappiness with his policies persisted. In November, 1732, Charles, the fifth Lord Baltimore, arrived in Annapolis for a six-month visit. He consented to an act establishing paper money, backed by tobacco export, in an effort to improve the economy. But he persisted in reviving the system of collecting rents and in maintaining fees to office-holders. When Frederick, the sixth Lord Baltimore, died in 1771, his will proclaimed the new proprietor to be his illegitimate son, Henry Harford. Harford was proprietor when the last governor, Robert Eden, was overthrown in 1775 at the Start of the American Revolution. Ironically, it was a descendent of an other "wrong side of the blanket" Calvert who would have an influence into modern times, while Lord Baltimore's old feudal line petered out. Charles Benedict Calvert was a Congressman at the time of the Civil War and the owner of Riverdale mansion in Prince George's County. He was also a pioneer in modern agricultural practices. Congressman Calvert introduced legislation establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also provided the land for the Maryland Agricultural College, which is now the University of Maryland.

[Device] Christopher T. George is a local free-lance writer and poet and the author of the recent picture book on our city, Baltimore Close Up, from Arcadia Publishers, on sale at local bookstores.

Questions or comments about this article for Mr. George.

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