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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Annapolis: Its Colonial and Naval Story

Walter B. Norris

published by
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p26  Chapter III

The Revolution of 1688 Makes Annapolis
the Provincial Capital

During the forty years following the victory of the Puritans on the Severn, the country about that river made rapid strides in settlement and soon became the chief of all the parts of the province. The colonists, however, did not tend to settle in towns, and in 1683 the Assembly passed an Act to encourage their development. Certain towns were established and given rights and special prestige. Although some of these never became populous, the town at Proctor's, or Anne Arundel Town, from this time on grew in official importance. It was made the residence of the district collector, the naval officer, and of the deputies for the dispatch of shipping. The Act provided that only from such legally established ports should ships clear with their cargoes of tobacco, and to them all ships from outside the colony must  p27 come before discharging their goods and passengers.

The greatest impetus to its development that Annapolis received was, however, the events in England that resulted in deposing James II and setting on the throne the joint rulers, William of Orange, the Hollander, and Mary Stuart, the Protestant daughter of the Catholic James. Just as the execution of Charles I had indirectly resulted in bringing the Puritans to the Severn, so the fate of James II led to the establishment of a new party in Maryland and the removal of the capital from St. Mary's, Catholic and friendly to Lord Baltimore, to Annapolis, strongly in sympathy with Parliament and Protestantism. Its honor of being the capital Annapolis has ever since tenaciously retained, though in the last hundred years Baltimore has become the real center of commercial and political activity.

As early as 1674 we find the people of the town offering it as the site for a new capital, and promising to provide a State House, a prison, offices, and even a suitable house for the Governor, all to be paid for by the province  p28 when they had been finished. But it was not till the Revolution of 1688 that they had their opportunity.

By that time enough friction had arisen between the Proprietor and the Assembly for the religious issue to dominate the situation. The Protestants were in the majority in the colony, with their chief strength at the Severn; the principal officials, however, were appointed by the Proprietor and were naturally Catholic and antagonistic to the Assembly and its insistence upon popular government. In the thought of most of the settlers, James II and Lord Baltimore were linked as Catholics and tyrants, and the coming to the throne of a sovereign placed there by Parliament and a wave of Protestant feeling must mean, they felt, that a corresponding change should take place in the colony.

As, moreover, William of Orange was naturally anxious to strengthen his hold upon the government of the country and its colonies, for his crown was threatened by followers of James in every part of his domains, it was not difficult to secure his assistance. There were, of course,  p29 abuses in Lord Baltimore's administration, but these never seem to have been proved; rather what may justly be called a revolutionary movement took place which seized the control of the affairs of the colony under color of a grave danger of Indian attack — an attack which existed only in the imaginations of the agitators — and which found William so anxious for support that he was willing to abet them in their illegal methods for the benefits he would obtain.

Curiously enough, the people of Anne Arundel were not the leaders in the revolutionary proceeding, for they seem to have held aloof and allowed persons in the southern counties, where religious feeling was kept alive by the presence of many Catholics, to lead. The result, however, that the so‑called Associators led by a clergyman of the Established Church, John Coode, overturned the government of Lord Baltimore and offered the colony to King William. After slight and never conclusive investigation into the charges against Lord Baltimore, William appointed a royal Governor, Sir Lionel Copley, and Maryland became a royal province.

 p30  Three years later, in 1694, when Sir Lionel was succeeded by Sir Francis Nicholson, the latter called the Assembly to meet, not at St. Mary's but at Anne Arundel Town. The reasons were probably chiefly political in that it removed the members from the atmosphere of the section where Lord Baltimore was more favorably regarded and where William's action was not so popular. But a better reason was the geographical advantages of the new capital. Situated about half way up the Chesapeake, which separated the Eastern Shore and the Western Shore, as they were officially called, but which in a truer sense afforded easy means of communication between the various parts of the colony, it had a central location which justified its choice in days when travel by land was difficult and the rivers and bays the most natural routes.

The chief citizen of the town at this period would seem to have been Major Edward Dorsey. In his brick mansion — still standing on Prince George Street — the first session of the Assembly was held in February, 1695. It is recorded that at one time they gave great offense  p31 to the Governor by adjourning to an alehouse nearby, but in other respects they seem to have loyally assisted him in his efforts to make the town a worthy capital for the colony. A ferry was set up for crossing the Severn, a handsome pair of gates was erected at the town's western entrance, and two triangular sentry boxes constructed for the rangers who were to guard the gates.

In laying out the new capital modern principles of zoning and city planning were utilized. The section on the highest elevation was reserved for public buildings — the present site of the State House — and the land from there to the Severn was for the mansions of the gentlemen of the community. Trade was to be conducted largely to the west and south of these sections, and industries such as tanning, baking, brewing, and dyeing were assigned spots where the sights and odors would not be objectionable to the citizens.

Governor Nicholson was in many respects the real founder of the city. One of the buildings he erected still stands, — the small brick structure on the State House grounds built in the  p32 shape of a Greek cross and usually called the Old Treasury Building. It was built in his time but the exact date is unknown. First used primarily as a place for the meetings of the Governor's Council, it has served all sorts of uses. During periods when the State House could not be occupied it has served for the Assembly and probably housed the Annapolis Convention which led directly to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia which framed the Constitution of the United States.

The Governor also pushed ahead work on a brick State House, which was completed in 1697. When this was consumed by fire in 1704, another was erected on the same site and stood till the present building replaced it in 1772. For many years it was also used as the county court house, and is often so called. On a large plot of land lying between the State House and the harbor Governor Nicholson erected a house for himself with garden, vineyard, and summer house. It stood till about 1870, a wooden structure of one story and a half with a hip roof.

Governor Nicholson was also very much interested  p33 in founding a school, for there seem to have been none in the colony, although the few clergymen who had settled there often eked out their meager incomes by teaching boys. Now he proposed a free school furnished with a "school master, usher, and a writing master that can cast accounts," and he started the subscription toward defraying the necessary expenses. Members of the Council and the Assembly contributed various sums from 5,000 pounds of tobacco to one gold guinea, and a brick school building was completed in 1701 on a plot of ground situated just south of the State House and presented by the Governor. Its location is suggested by the name of School Street to‑day. In the building lived the school teacher and his family.

Education was placed on an even stronger foundation by an Act of the Assembly in the same year as the subscription just mentioned, 1694, by which money for the maintenance of schools was to be derived from taxes imposed on furs, beef, bacon, and exports from the province. To the school in Annapolis, which largely profited from these revenues, was given the  p34 name of King William's School, and trustees were to be appointed by the King and the Governor. The Chancellor was to be the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In religious matters Nicholson was equally vigorous. Because of the policy of religious toleration adopted by Lord Baltimore and consistently maintained since the foundation of the colony, the members of the established Church were probably in the minority, for Quakers, Anabaptists, Presbyterians, and Catholics had come in large numbers. In the vicinity of Annapolis the strong Puritan sentiment had died out but had been replaced by Quakerism. In 1672 George Fox, the Quaker leader, visited all parts of Maryland. In August he records in his "Autobiography" that he held "a great meeting at a place called Severn, where there was a meeting place, but not large enough to hold the people. Divers chief magistrates were at it, with many other considerable people, and it gave them generally great satisfaction."

But when the opportunity offered, the adherents of the English Church proceeded, with the support of the Governor, to organize religion  p35 in Maryland as it was arranged in the mother country. They repealed the act of Toleration of 1649, made the Church of England the Established Church of the colony, and laid a tax of forty pounds of tobacco on every taxable person for the support of the clergy. The whole province was divided into parishes, thirty-five in all, with the land between the South River and the Severn one parish, at first called Middle Neck, later St. Anne's.

In 1699 Governor Nicholson began erecting a church on the land which had been originally assigned for the purpose and corresponding roughly to the present location of the church now standing. In 1700 the foundations were already laid, and when it was finished it was the only brick church in the colony. Communion was ordered administered at least three times each year, and no minister was to be appointed by the Governor until recommended by the Bishop of London. Clergy were to receive five shillings extra for weddings. The original building stood till just before the Revolution. Then it had become so dilapidated that a new structure was projected and the old building  p36 pulled down. When the war prevented the work being done, the town existed without a place for Episcopal worship until 1792.

The general trend of legislation in these years immediately following the English Revolution was to make Maryland a replica of England herself. As at home, Catholics were disfranchised but toleration extended to the Protestant dissenters and the Quakers. At first under the influence of the struggle with James II severe penalties were imposed on the activities of Catholic priests. They were forbidden to baptize, say mass, or exercise any other function of a priest. Even the education of children by them was forbidden. Later, however, they were allowed to officiate in private houses, which accounts for the private chapels found in such homes as that of the Carrolls in Annapolis. And in 1723 the Assembly finally adopted the same laws for religious matters as prevailed in England.

In connection with the establishment of regular parish churches in the colony occurred the visit of Dr. Thomas Bray, who was appointed in 1694 as the representative of the Bishop  p37 of London. He is probably responsible for the communion silver which was presented to St. Anne's in 1695 by William III, whose arms may still be observed on them. But Bray's chief interest for us lies in the fact that he established in Annapolis the first public library in the colonies. Before coming to the New World Dr. Bray visited the Princess Anne and persuaded her to contribute £400 for the purchase of books to be circulated among the Maryland clergy. These volumes were inscribed with the words "Annapolitan Library," and were for some years the largest collection of books in the colonies. Of the original 1095 volumes which were sent to Maryland and distributed among the various parishes, although the larger part remained in Annapolis, St. John's College still possesses 398, and some others also have survived.

Another noteworthy event was when Dr. Bray, who remained only six months in all in America, summoned all the clergy of the province to assemble in Annapolis on May 23, 1700. This was the first ecclesiastical convention in the Colonies and inaugurated Maryland's first  p38 missionary effort, — work among the Quakers of Pennsylvania!

Governor Sir Francis Nicholson, to whom Annapolis owes so much for its elevation to the dignity of being the provincial capital and for the very plan on which its streets and public buildings were constructed, — a plan which still is in force, — was probably connected with colonial administration more widely than any other official of his time. He began as Deputy-Governor of New York, and then served as Governor of Virginia, Maryland, Nova Scotia, and South Carolina. His admiration for a heroic deed wherever performed is strikingly displayed when he sends to Hannah Dustin, the woman settler of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who escaped from Indian captivity on the banks of the Merrimac in New Hampshire by seizing a tomahawk and scalping a whole party of Indians as they slept, a pewter tankard in recognition of her Jael-like heroism. This was in 1697, while he was in Annapolis as Maryland's chief magistrate.

In 1708 Annapolis achieved further distinction by being made a corporate city with a charter  p39 and a regularly organized municipal government. This was during the administration of Governor Seymour, to whom credit is due, and not to Queen Anne, as is often asserted. As early as 1704 he seems to have proposed to the Assembly that a charter be given the town, but, as no action had been taken after four years, the Governor himself granted the city a charter in the name of the Queen and by virtue of the general authority vested in him as a Royal governor. But as the charter granted the inhabitants the right to send two delegates to the Assembly and also seemed to make it possible for the city to levy tolls and taxes on goods brought within its boundaries, the Assembly that next met took great offense at the Governor's action. In the end a compromise was effected. The Assembly conceded the Governor's right to grant the charter without consulting them or receiving specific instructions from the Crown, but the charter was amended so that the authority of the Corporation was limited to the inhabitants of the town and could be used to tax only small amounts of goods brought in. Also in view of the fact that  p40 members of the Assembly elected by the city would be at slight expense in attending, it was provided that they should be paid only one half what was given others.

The city government was organized on ancient English models; it included the Mayor, a person learned in the law who was known as the Recorder, six Aldermen, and ten Common Councilmen. In connection with the two market days authorized weekly they were given power to hold a "Court of Pypowdry," an old English tribunal held on market days, where disputes were settled immediately in order not to detain persons who came to buy or sell, or as the original Latin phrase reads, "as speedily as dust can fall from the foot."

When in 1715 the rights of the family of Lord Baltimore were finally recognized by George I, and the province given back to the control of the fifth Lord Baltimore, who secured it chiefly because the family had now become Protestant, there was no danger of any change in the location of the capital. As stated in the charter of the city, it now excelled all other towns and ports in the province and had  p41 become the "chief mart of the whole country." From a description of about 1700 we read:

"There are about forty dwelling houses in it; seven or eight of which afford a good lodging and accommodations for strangers. There is also a State House and a Free School, built of brick, which make a great show among a parcel of wooden houses; and the foundation of a church is laid, the only brick church in Maryland."

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