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The writer's esteem for Mr. Jefferson, although he considers him erroneous in
matters of religion. The government of Maryland under the original proprie tary, the Catholie Lord Baltimore, was tolerant-So that south of the line which separated Maryland from Virginia, was Protestant persecution, and north of it, Catholic toleration. Even Lord Baltimore himself, when on his travels in Virginia, was on one occasion required to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy.- The early settlers of Maryland, as those of New England, were driven from Europe by persecution.-Maryland the first government in Christendom, which made religious toleration a corner-stone.-Remained tolerant until it passed from a Roman Catholic, to the Protestant Prince of Orange.- The Bishop of Salisbury is thought to have been favourable to intolerant enactments.
Because of the manner in which Mr. Jefferson is mentioned in my last letter, it may be necessary for me to say, that I have always regarded him as a very great man; but I believe he entertained many of those opinions which deluged“ unbaptized France" in blood; and that he was a bitter enemy to the religion of the Bible. I have no unkind feel. ing to any one of God's creatures; but no name, however distinguished, will induce me to suppress what I consider pertinent truth.
Two governments could not be more unlike, as to religious toleration, than were those of Virginia and Maryland during their colonial existence. The charter of Maryland, was granted by Charles I., on the 20th day of June, 1632, to Cæcilius, Lord Baron of Baltimore. He had just succeeded to the
title and estate of his father, George, the first Lord Baltimore, to whom the charter had been promised, but who died before it passed the seals of office. But it was, no doubt, fashioned, so far as it affected the rights of conscience, by the wishes of that amiable and tolerant nobleman. The first lord proprietary and his successors, carried out the purposes of their benevolent ancestor, and whilst their chartered rights were undisturbed, the inhabitants of Maryland were as carefully protected in worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience, as they are at this time. A man might live in peace, whether Jew, Mohammedan, or Pagan; whether atheist, deist, or polytheist; provided he neither molested his neighbour, nor endangered the public morals. Religious opinions wrought no civil disqualification; and no one could be vexed with religious tests, or legally taxed to support any church of any name. Never was any government more indulgent to persons of all religious persuasions, than was that of Maryland, whilst the Roman Catholic Lords Barons of Baltimore controlled it; and they had powers, more ample in fact, as to the matter under consideration, than could have been exercised by the first James or his successor, in the kingdom of Great Britain. Much is said, and no doubt with truth, about the persecutions by Roman Catholics, because of what they consider heresies. I am no Roman Catholic,- I doubt whether there be older Presbyterian blood in America, than flows in my veins at this moment ;but let us do justice.
You will now understand something of that peculiarity of condition of this peninsula in regard to religious liberty, for many years after its first settlement, which is referred to in my former letter. Con. sider the great difference between the charters of Maryland and Virginia in relation to religious freedom ; and the widely different tempers with which their governments were administered, and you will then see, that although the lines which separated their peninsular territory was “a right line,” neither more visible nor tangible than a parallel of latitude; yet on the north of that line, an individual could rely on all the mildness and tolerance of the charter of Maryland, and the government which it created ; whilst on the south of it he was confronted, not only by all the terrors to nonconformists, conjured up by every British statute at that time in force in England, but also by pains and penalties created by kindred laws of Virginia fabrication, equally or more cruel. On the one side of that line, a man might worship God according to the dictates of his conscience-on the other, he must rely upon the indemnity of the government to protect him at the judg. ment-seat of Christ, or be made to endure severe pains and pay heavy penalties. When Cæcilius, the second Lord Baltimore, visited the colony of Virginia, he was required, and without lawful authority, it is believed, to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; which, of course, he declined, and the matter was submitted to the king in council. This fact is mentioned for the purpose of showing to what ex
tremes the loyalty and christian charity of colonial Virginia would travel, to detect and punish opinions, heretical in the estimation of the government, but which could affect the eternal interests of none but the heretic himself.
The stinted charities of young Virginia were without excuse. Her first settlers did not fly from Europe for conscience sake; on the contrary, they migrated for the speedy acquisition of great wealth. Persecution under the statutes of Elizabeth for nonconformity to the articles of faith, and manner of worship, which they established, drove the Puritan pilgrims in their ship May-flower from Southampton to Plymouth; and causes similar to those propelled from their native land, the first settlers of Maryland.
You know that I am a native of Maryland. Let me then candidly confess, that after looking over so much of this letter as is already written, I feel unwilling to conclude it without boasting a little. You must be patient. Do you inquire of what I boast? You shall hear, or to speak perhaps more properly, you shall read.
The government of Maryland was one of the first organized in Christendom, which made religious toleration a corner-stone. From its institution until the expulsion of the unfortunate James II. from the British throne, indeed until his Protestant successor laid violent hands upon it, the principle was not only recognised, but carried out in practice, that "error of opinion [in religion) may be tolerated while rea
son is left free to combat it.” It is true, that during the Protectorate, prelacy and the papacy as to the provinces were interfered with by the legislation of the parent country; but I have seen no evidence, and believe that none exists, that the enactment referred to, was enforced in Maryland. It is also true, that the laws of the province prescribed punishments for offences against public morals, and so ought the criminal code of every christian commonwealth ; but until the sceptre of England passed from a Roman Catholic to the Protestant Prince of Orange, Maryland was as tolerant as to the creeds and religious observances of individuals, as is at this time any State in our Federal Union. The national debt of England, and her interference with the rights of conscience of her subjects residing in this then province, were commenced at the same time. It is said that the good Bishop of Salisbury, with a view to the security of the throne of King William, and of a Protestant succession, caused the imposition of the former burthen under which the nation still groans; and perhaps his anxiety for the permanent establishment of his own church throughout the British dominions, made him not unfriendly to the laying on of the other, from which we were at length freed by the revolutionary sword.