The Lords Baltimore: Establishing Religious Freedom

Portrait of Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore

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Baron, or Lord, Baltimore is a now extinct title of nobility in the Peerage of Ireland. Baltimore is an Anglicization of the Irish phrase "baile an thí mhóir e," which means "town of the big house." 

The title was first created for Sir George Calvert in 1624. The title became extinct in 1771 after the death of the 6th Baron. Sir George and his son, Cecil Calvert, were British subjects rewarded with land in the new world. 

Cecil Calvert was the 2nd Lord Baltimore. It is after him that the Maryland city of Baltimore is named after. Thus, in American history, Lord Baltimore usually refers to Cecil Calvert.

George Calvert

George was an English politician who served as Secretary of State to King James I. In 1625, he was given the title Baron Baltimore when he resigned from his official position.​

George became invested in the colonization of the Americas. While initially for commercial incentives, George later realized colonies in the New World could become a refuge for English Catholics and a place for religious freedom in general. The Calvert family was Roman Catholic, a religion which most inhabitants of the New World and followers of the Church of England were prejudiced against. In 1625, Geroge publicly declared his Catholicism.

Involving himself with colonies in the Americas, he was at first rewarded with a title to land in Avalon, Newfoundland in present-day Canada. To expand on what he already had, George asked the son of James I, Charles I, for a royal charter to settle the land north of Virginia. This region would later become the state of ​Maryland.

This land was not signed over until 5-weeks after his death. Subsequently, the charter and land settlement was left to his son, Cecil Calvert.

Cecil Calvert

Cecil was born in 1605 and died in 1675. When Cecil, second Lord Baltimore, founded the colony of Maryland, he expanded on his father's ideas of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. In 1649, Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act, also known as the "Act Concerning Religion." This act mandated religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians only.

Once the act was passed, it became the first law establishing a religious tolerance in British North American colonies. Cecil wanted this law to also protect Catholic settlers and others who did not conform to the established state Church of England. Maryland, in fact, became known as a haven for Roman Catholics in the New World.

Cecil governed Maryland for 42 years. Other Maryland cities and counties honor Lord Baltimore by naming themselves after him. For instance, there is Calvert County, Cecil County, and Calvert Cliffs. 

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Kelly, Martin. "The Lords Baltimore: Establishing Religious Freedom." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Kelly, Martin. (2020, August 27). The Lords Baltimore: Establishing Religious Freedom. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "The Lords Baltimore: Establishing Religious Freedom." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).