Sunday, April 15, 2012

Secretary of State, "Revert" and Catholic Colonizer George Calvert

George Calvert, James I's Secretary of State, First Lord Baltimore, founder of Avalon and Maryland colonies, and pioneer in religious freedom, died on the 15th of April 1652. In Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation [(c) 2007, Stephanie Mann], I compare and contrast the Catholic and Anglican lives of Calvert and John Donne, Dean of Saint Paul's. Both were raised in Catholic households; both conformed to the establishment Church of England--but while John Donne remained an Anglican, Lord Baltimore reverted:

George Calvert’s family was harassed into conformity to the Church of England when he was a child. Although his father attended official services, his mother never did, so the Yorkshire authorities not only meddled with their Sunday worship but determined what books they could own and what servants they could hire. Additionally, their children’s Catholic education had to end, so George and his brother came under Protestant tutelage. When he was twelve years old, Calvert conformed to the Church of England.

He was a protégé of Sir Robert Cecil who was principal secretary to Elizabeth I and James I. Calvert attended Oxford and earned his B.A. in 1597 and M.A. in 1605. Becoming private secretary to Cecil, he went on to hold several government posts, each more important than the last: Clerk of the Crown, Clerk of the Privy Council, ambassador to the Court of France, and finally Secretary of State for James I.

After working to support the Spanish alliance James I desired, including the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Infanta of Spain, Calvert's professional life fell apart when those plans were scuttled. He left Court and in 1624 or 1625 declared himself a Catholic. Surprisingly, he still received honors from James I and Charles I:

Because of his loyal service to James I, however, his conversion did not necessarily leave him a ruined man. James was grateful to his erstwhile secretary, and made him a peer in Ireland as the First Baron Baltimore of Baltimore Manor in County Longford. Although James died a few weeks after this decision, the new king, Charles I, upheld Calvert’s peerage and role on the Privy Council.

As the first Baron Baltimore, Calvert still had influence and access to the court. He also could pursue economic ventures, especially his project to colonize the New World in the name of England and the cause of religious toleration. Although he died before that project could succeed, he left his son, Cecil Calvert, the vision and the means to accomplish it during the reign of Charles I . . .

The story of Lord Baltimore shows that Catholics could be loyal to faith and their country. But it was a complicated task. Before his conversion, Calvert had conformed to the official church. James I and Charles I both accepted him as a Catholic, honoring him and even exempting him from the harassment of searches and travel restrictions his parents had experienced, but that was because of his avowed and demonstrated willingness to serve them.

I then go on to show how Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore achieved his father's goals in Maryland after his father died, the difficulties the colony faced, and the final takeover by William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution. John G. Krugler's triple biography, English and Catholic: The Lords Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century was my main source for this story.

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