American Government

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In 1635, Maryland settlers called for a representative assembly. The Calverts reluctantly agreed and formed the House of Delegates. Beginning in 1639, all free men became eligible to elect members to this body, which became the lower house of the legislature. The governor collected a group of advisors, which evolved into the colonial council or upper legislative house. Initially, wealthy Catholics and Protestants sat on the council, while less wealthy Protestants dominated the assembly.

Despite the toleration act, early Maryland experienced considerable religious tension. In 1688, while England was in revolution, the smaller planters seized the colony in the name of King William and Queen Mary. Maryland became a royal colony in 1691, and the Anglican Church became its official church in 1702. Catholics lost the right to vote and worship in public.

In 1715, the fourth Lord Baltimore joined the Anglican Church and regained the proprietorship of Maryland. During royal rule, the assembly had increased its power at the expense of the governor. Gradually, the proprietor and his governor reasserted their control over the colony, culminating in the fifth Lord Baltimore’s trip to Maryland in 1732. During this visit, the proprietor stripped the assembly of much of the legislative power it had assumed during the previous fifty years. Although this initially produced some grumbling, a rebound in the price of tobacco between 1740 and 1770 sparked the Maryland economy and quieted discontent.

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