St. Mary’s City was the first capital of Maryland and the fourth permanent North American English settlement. In 1632 King Charles I (1625-49) granted George Calvert, the first lord Baltimore, land from the original Virginia grant to create a colony. Calvert died soon thereafter, and his sons, Cecelius Calvert (the second lord Baltimore) and Leonard Calvert (Maryland’s first governor) recruited both Catholic and Protestant settlers from various social classes.
Founded in 1634 when Leonard Calvert and 140 English settlers arrived on the pinnaces Ark and Dove, St. Mary’s City was established as the nucleus of lord
Baltimore’s colony in the New World. St. Mary’s City was a small village located on an inlet where the St. Mary’s River flows into the Potomac River. Baltimore envisioned a hierarchical manorial system of landlords and tenants, which was common in England, and servants outnumbered gentlemen in St. Mary’s City. Laborers composed a greater percentage of the workforce than did skilled workers.
A Catholic refuge promoting religious toleration, St. Mary’s City served as the base for Roman Catholics in the English colonies. Because of the city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, shipbuilders settled in St. Mary’s City. The Woodland Indians, primarily the Piscataway, coexisted with the settlers of St. Mary’s City, teaching them to plant tobacco. The Natives, however, eventually emigrated from their land due to strife with colonists.
Tobacco growers farmed land surrounding St. Mary’s City, and their plantations contained vast acreage worked by slaves. Both slavery and indentured servitude were common in St. Mary’s City, with servants helping in homes as well as tending livestock and gardens. A Dutch ship brought 20 Africans to Maryland in 1619. Within four decades almost 400 Africans lived in the area. Because the Maryland colony thrived on its tobacco economy, a state-house was built at St. Mary’s City to serve as a court. Inns and taverns were erected, and such businesses as a printing shop were opened. Men outnumbered women six to one; unmarried women enjoyed rights to land, which was not common in England.
From 1645 to 1646 St. Mary’s City was embroiled in Ingle’s Rebellion. During the English Civil War this Protestant uprising occurred in Maryland in an attempt to remove the colony’s Catholic government. The rebellious forces seized and looted property in St. Mary’s City, took prisoners, and caused Leonard Calvert and several hundred residents to flee. Calvert hired mercenary soldiers from Virginia to end the conflict. Some Protestants, such as
William Claiborne, continued to wage attacks on St. Mary’s City, but unsuccessfully. After the rebellion yeoman planters dominated St. Mary’s City’s economy. Some servants became landowners, and earlier unequal land and wealth distribution became more balanced.
In 1689 John Coode paralyzed the government in Maryland by seizing government records and preventing ships from departing St. Mary’s City to England. Believing Coode’s false accusations that Roman Catholics planned to massacre Protestants, England’s rulers, William and Mary, appointed Lionel Copley the first royal governor in 1691. His successor, Francis Nicholson relocated the capital to Annapolis in 1695, and St. Mary’s City was abandoned by many of its residents.
See also Brent, Margaret Reed.
Further reading: Gloria L. Main, Tobacco Colony: Life in Early Maryland, 1650-1720 (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1982).
—Elizabeth D. Schafer
Sandys, George (1578-1644) writer, government official
George Sandys was an important figure in the early Virginia colony, and he became a renowned poet. The son of Edwin Sandys (archbishop of York) and his second wife, Cecily Wilford, he was educated at St. Peter’s School, York, and Corpus Christi, Oxford, before entering the Middle Temple for legal training. By family arrangement he married Elizabeth Norton, his father’s ward before 1603, but by 1606 the marriage had collapsed. To avoid this unhappy situation, Sandys embarked on a grand tour of the Near East. He wrote the popular Relations of a Journey Begun Anno Dom. 1610 about his travels in the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Jerusalem, and Italy, concentrating on the history, government, and religions of those areas and approaching them in a humanistic and scholarly way. Upon his return he became involved with the Virginia and Bermuda Companies through his elder brother, Sir Edwin Sandys, who named him to committees on the colony’s government and tobacco production.
In 1621 he was elected resident treasurer of Virginia and embarked with the new governor, Sir Francis Wyatt, aboard the George. Sandys’s four plantations sustained heavy losses as part of the 1622 attack by the Powhatan; in retaliation Sandys personally led a counterattack against the Tappanhannock. Sandys wrote promotional letters for the colony to attract settlers, sponsored small industries like silk, glass and iron production, and insisted that fOOD crops had to be grown along with tobacco to feed the colony’s inhabitants. Returning to England in 1625, after the dissolution of the Virginia Company Of London, Sandys won renown for his translations of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, which contained many references to North America, and for his court poetry. He served on a Privy Council subcommittee for plantations and acted as the Virginia colony’s legal agent during Wyatt’s second term as governor. A firm exponent of the Virginia assembly and of self-government, Sandys continued to promote diversified agriculture and settlement until his death on his estates in Kent.