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The futility of attempting to regulate the faith of men by legal enactments.
The purpose of Lord Baltimore that his government should be tolerant, prov. ed by an appeal to the history of the province of Maryland. The first settlement of Maryland made by about two hundred emigrants from England, mostly Catholics, many of them gentlemen of fortune, A. D. 1634.–The form of oath required by the lord proprietary of his governors.-Mr. M‘Mahon's History of Maryland referred to, and one of his opinions quoted with approbation. The preamble of an enactment of the provincial legislature of Maryland, 1649, admired.- Jealousies excited against the second lord proprietary under the reign of Charles II., and requests made for the establishment of the church of England in Maryland.-In 1692 the province submitted to the immediate gov. ernment of William III.-The consequences of this submission unhappy to religion.
Governors and other magistrates can compel those under their authority to conform their words and actions to the written law, or punish them, if disobedient to it: but how rarely has the exercise of so much power satisfied them ! How frequently and fruitlessly have they attempted to visit the hearts of others for the purpose of modelling their religious faith according to a pattern of their own fashioning! How strange it is, and how clearly it proves that man is a fallen being! It is the same mischievous principle which hurled Satan, like lightning, from heaven, and which not only lives but reigns in almost every natúral heart.
Do not misunderstand, however, my opinion in relation to religious tests. I am, upon that subject,
avowedly unfashionable, for there is a certain class of them which I admire. None was prescribed in Maryland whilst governed by Roman Catholics, nor has been since the adoption of the existing constitution of the State, which I do not entirely approve; and as it is “german to the matter," I will now give you a portion of their history.
The fixed purpose of the first lord proprietary, that his government should be “ one which tolerated all christian churches, and established none," is apparent from the history of the province from the time of its settlement. That settlement was made by emigrants from England, about two hundred in number, principally Roman Catholics, many of whom are said to have been gentlemen of family and fortune, who landed on the 27th day of March, 1634, at an Indian town, which their Governor, Leonard Calvert, had purchased of the natives, and which was situated in what is now St. Mary's county. From that time until 1649, we find nothing resembling a religious test, in the government or laws of the province, except what may be contained in the official oath prescribed by the lord proprietary to his governors, each of whom was required to swear: “ That he would not by himself, or another, directly or indirectly, trouble, molest, or discountenance, any person professing to believe in Jesus Christ, for, or in respect of religion; that he would make no difference of persons in conferring offices, favours or rewards, for or in respect of religion, but merely as they should be found faithful and well-deserving, and
endued with moral virtues and abilities; that his aim should be public unity, and that if any person, or officer, should molest any person professing to believe in Jesus Christ, on account of his religion, he would protect the person molested and punish the offender.” Is it not a beautiful compendium of the principles which should direct the march of all christian governments? Mr. M.Mahon, to whose History of Maryland I am indebted for much pleasure, and for many facts contained in this letter, calls it “a text book of official duty," and I subscribe to the truth of his remark. The governors of the province were appointed and removed at the pleasure of the lord proprietary. He must have been very jealous for religious liberty, or he would not have imposed such an obligation upon persons whose appointment to, and continuance in office, depended entirely upon his own will; and I confess, I cannot but feel astonished, that he should have prepared such a form of oath to be taken by the very first governor of the province, and that governor his own brother! In 1649, the provincial legislature enacted a law, which recognised and adopted precisely the same principles, and which continued in force, until the Protestant revolution hinted at in my last letter. I admire its preamble more than that to the act of assembly of Virginia upon a similar subject, which was drawn up by Mr. Jefferson, for that is long and swollen—the other consists of a single sentence ;-indeed the preamble to the Maryland law would not disparage the legislation of any country, at any time. It
is in these words: “Whereas the enforcing of the conscience in matters of religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous consequences in those commonwealths where it hath been practised; and for the more quiet and peaceable government of the province, and the better to preserve mutual love and unity amongst the inhabitants,” &c. How brief it is, and yet how ample! So much for religious tests in Maryland whilst governed by Roman Catholics.
I have nearly done boasting of the religious freedom of provincial Maryland, for we now approach the termination of the happiest period of her history.
Scarcely had Charles Calvert, the second lord proprietary succeeded to the government upon the death of his father, before he was annoyed, and his proprietary rights endangered by the jealousy of the government of the loathsome Charles II. Representations were made to the king, that Lord Baltimore in his appointments to office, was partial to Catholics; and earnest prayers were addressed to the proper authorities, that the church of England might be established here. Proof of the fact that a majority of the officers in the province were Protestants, was followed by no result but a royal command that none other than Protestants should be thereafter appointed. That royal jealousy of the government of Maryland continued throughout the reigns of the second Charles, and James, and in 1692 the province submitted to the immediate dominion of the then new government of William III. No revolution more entirely unaccountable ever occurred in
any country, than that one, which prostrated the proprietary government, and transferred all its powers to the British crown. No sufficient cause has ever been assigned for it. The people of England had just driven James II. from the throne, because he was a Catholic—the same spirit must have passed from the parent country to the province, where it effected a similar revolution. The unpleasant consequences of that revolution to all churches but one, will be partially detailed in my next letter.