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The Calvert Family

George Calvert (1580?-1632), secretary of state under James I, resigned that post in 1625 when he became a Roman Catholic. Thereafter the king made him a baron and gave him large estates in Ireland. The baron spent most of his remaining years in colonial pursuits, first in trying to establish a colony in Newfoundland and later in seeking a grant farther south. The charter for Maryland was actually issued to his son Cecilius (1605-75) in 1632. He established the colony in 1634 with the double motive of providing a haven for the persecuted Catholics of England and carving out for himself a lucrative estate in the New World. Cecilius was not successful in attracting Catholics to his settlement, and from the beginning Protestants were in the majority. To prevent Catholic persecution he followed a liberal policy of religious freedom and in 1649 proposed the first toleration act in the New World, which quickly passed the Maryland assembly. Calvert's troubles with Puritans and his support by Cromwell do not warrant mention here. In 1692 the Crown set up a royal government in Maryland, and the Church of England was established, but the Calverts retained their territorial rights. When a Protestant Calvert (Benedict Leonard) became heir to the proprietorship in 1715, proprietary government was reestablished and continued until the Revolution, as did the Anglican establishment.