網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

ESTABLISHMENT OF LEGISLATIVE LIBERTY.

267

.

province of Maryland started into being; its pros- CHAP. perity and its peace seemed assured; the interests of its people and its proprietary were united; and, for some years, its internal peace and harmony were undisturbed. Its history is the history of benevolence, gratitude and toleration. No domestic factions disturbed its harmony. Every thing breathed peace but Clayborne. Dangers could only grow out of external causes, and were eventually the sad consequences of the revolution in England.

Twelve months had not elapsed before the colony 1635. of Maryland was convened for legislation. Probably all the freemen of the province were present in a strictly popular assembly. The laws of the session are no longer extant; but we know, that the necessity of vindicating the jurisdiction of the province against the claims of Clayborne was deemed a subject, worthy of the general deliberation and of a decisive act. For he had been roused, by confidence in his power, to resolve on maintaining his possessions by force of arms. The earliest annals of Maryland are defaced by the accounts of a bloody skirmish on one of the rivers near the isle of Kent. Several lives were lost in the affray; but Clayborne's men were defeated and taken prisoners. Clayborne himself had fled to Virginia ; and when he was reclaimed by the government of Maryland, Harvey, though he seems himself to have favored Baltimore, sent the fugitive with the witnesses to England.”

Feb.

1 Chalmers, p. 210 and 232. Ba- 2 Bozman, p. 280—282; Burk, con, in his Laws at Large, makes v. ii. p. 40, 41; Chalmers, p. 209, no mention of this assembly. 210. 232; McMahon, p. 12.

CHAP
VII.

When a colonial assembly was next convened, it

passed an act of attainder against Clayborne ; for he 1638. had not only derided the powers of the proprietary,

but had scattered jealousies among the Indians, and infused a spirit of disobedience into the inhabitants of Kent island. Now that he had fled, his estates were seized, and were declared forfeited to the laws, which he had contemned as invalid. In England, Clayborne attempted to gain a hearing for his wrongs; and, partly by false representations, still more by the influence of Sir William Alexander, succeeded, for a season, in procuring the favorable disposition of Charles. But when the whole affair came to be

referred to the commissioners for the plantations, it 1639. was found, that, on received principles, the right of April. the king to confer the soil and the jurisdiction of

Maryland could not be controverted; that the earlier license to traffic did not vest in Clayborne any rights, which were valid against the charter; and therefore that the isle of Kent belonged absolutely to Lord Baltimore, who alone could permit plantations to be established, or commerce with the Indians to be conducted, within the limits of his territory.”

Yet the people of Maryland were not content with vindicating the limits of their province; they were jealous of their liberties. The charter had secured to them the right of advising and approving in legislation. Did Lord Baltimore alone possess the right of originating laws? The people of Maryland re

i Chalmers' Political Annals, p. 210.

2 Bozman, p. 330—344; Chalmers, p. 212. 232–235.

ESTABLISHMENT OF CIVIL LIBERTY.

269

VII.

1

jected the code, which the proprietary, as if holding CHAP. the exclusive privilege of proposing statutes, had prepared for their government; and, asserting their equal rights of legislation, they, in their turn, enacted a body of laws, which they proposed for the assent of the proprietary:

:- so uniformly active in America was the spirit of popular liberty. How discreetly it was exercised, cannct now be known; for the laws, which were then enacted, were never ratified, and are therefore not to be found in the provincial records.

In the early history of the United States, nothing 1639. is more remarkable, than the uniform attachment of each colony to its franchises; and popular assemblies burst every where into life with a consciousness of

a their importance, and an immediate capacity for efficient legislation. The first assembly of Maryland had vindicated the jurisdiction of the colony; the second had asserted its claims to original legislation; the third, which was now convened, examined its obligations, and, though not all its acts were carried through the forms essential to their validity, it yet displayed the spirit of the people and the times by framing a declaration of rights. Acknowledging the duty of allegiance to the English monarch, and securing to Lord Baltimore bis prerogatives, it likewise confirmed to the inhabitants of Maryland all the liberties, which an Englishman can enjoy at home; established a system of representative gov

1 Bacon, 1637; Chalmers' Po- p. 299–318, and 324–329; Mclitical Annals, p. 211; Božman, Mahon, p. 145.

VII.

CHAP. ernment; and asserted for the general assemblies in

the province all such powers, as may be exercised by 1639. the commons of England. Indeed, throughout the

whole colonial legislation of Maryland, the body representing the people, in its support of the interests and civil liberties of the province, was never guilty of timidity or treachery. It is strange, that religious bigotry could ever stain the statute-book of a colony, founded on the basis of the freedom of conscience. An apprehension of some remote danger of persecution seems even then to have hovered over the minds of the Roman Catholics; and, at this session, they secured to their church its rights and liberties. Those rights and those liberties, it is plain from the charter, could be no more than the tranquil exercise of the Romish worship. The constitution had not yet attained a fixed form ; thus far it had been a species of democracy under a hereditary patriarch. The act, constituting the assembly, marks the transition from a democracy to a representative government.

At this session, any freeman, who had taken no part in the election, might attend in person; henceforward, the governor might summon his friends by special writ; while the people were to choose as many delegates as “the freemen should think good.” As yet there was no jealousy of power, no strife for place. While these laws prepared

prepared a frame of government for future generations, we are reminded of the feebleness and

1 Bacon, 1638-9, c. i. ï. 2 McMahon, p. 149.

3 Bacon, 1638-9, c. i.; Griffith's Maryland, p. 7.

HAPPINESS OF MARYLAND.

271

VII.

poverty of the state, where the whole people were CHAP. obliged to contribute to “ the setting up of a watermill."

The restoration of the charter of the London 1640. company would have endangered the separate existence of Maryland; yet we have seen Virginia, which had ever been jealous of the division of its territory, defeat the attempt to revive the corporation. Meantime, the legislative assembly of Maryland, in the grateful enjoyment of happiness, seasonably guarded the tranquillity of the province against the perplexities of an “interim,” by providing for the security of the government in case of the death of the proprietary. Commerce also was fostered ; and tobacco, the staple of the colony, subjected to inspection.

Nor was it long before the inhabitants recognized 1642. Lord Baltimore's “great charge and solicitude in maintaining the government and protecting them in their persons, rights and liberties;” and therefore, “out of desire to return some testimony of gratitude,” they freely granted “such a subsidy, as the young and poor estate of the colony could bear. 792 Maryland, at that day, was unsurpassed for happiness and liberty. Conscience was without restraint; a mild and liberal proprietary conceded every measure which the welfare of the colony required; domestic union, a happy concert between all the branches of government, an increasing emigration, a productive

Mar. 21.

1 Bacon, 1638-9; Chalmers, p. Early History of Maryland, p. 8. 213, 214; Griffith's Sketches of the 2 Bacon, 1641-2, c. v.

« 上一頁繼續 »