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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

And their enemies in those internecine quarrels


Being more genuinely Protestant

they were more interested in the internecine quarrels of Protestants, and their enemies in those internecine quarrels, the Puritans, now become a formidable party, were naturally the fiercest enemies of the old religion. This fact probably led the two first Stuarts to look upon that religion with more indulgence. They dared not openly tolerate the Catholics, but they were not unwilling to show them such favour as they could afford to give. Therefore when a Catholic noble, Lord Baltimore, proposed to found a new plantation in America where his co-religionists could practise their faith in peace and security, the Stuart kings were willing enough to grant his request. James approved the project, his son confirmed it, and, under a Royal Charter from King Charles I., Lord Baltimore established his Catholic colony, which he called "Maryland." The early history of this colony is interesting because it affords probably the first example of full religious liberty. It would doubtless have been suicidal for the Catholics, situated as they were, to attempt anything like persecution, but Baltimore and the Catholics of Maryland for many generations deserve none the less honour for the consistency with which they pursued their tolerant policy. So long as the Catholics remained in control all sects were not only tolerated but placed on a footing of complete equality before the law, and as a fact both the Nonconformist persecuted in Virginia and the Episcopalian persecuted in New England frequently
found refuge and peace in Catholic Maryland. The English Revolution of 1689 produced a change. The new English Government was pledged against the toleration of a Catholicism anywhere. The representative of the Baltimore family was deposed from the Governorship and the control transferred to the Protestants, who at once repealed the edicts of toleration and forbade the practice of the Catholic religion. They did not, however, succeed in extirpating it, and to this day many of the old Maryland families are Catholic, as are also a considerable proportion of the Negroes. It may further be noted that, though the experiment in religious equality was suppressed by violence, the idea seems never to have been effaced, and Maryland was one of the first colonies to accompany its demand for freedom with a declaration in favour of universal toleration.

At about the same time that the persecuted Catholics found a refuge in Maryland, a similar refuge was sought by the persecuted Puritans. A number of these, who had found a temporary home in Holland, sailed thence for America in the celebrated _Mayflower_ and colonized New England on the Atlantic coast far to the north of the plantations of Raleigh and Baltimore. From this root sprang the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island, and later the States of New Hampshire and Maine. It would be putting it with ironical mildness to say that the Pilgrim Fathers did not imitate the tolerant example of the Catholic refugees. Religious persecution had indeed been practised by all parties in the quarrels of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; but for much of the early legislation of the Puritan colonies one can find no parallel in the history of European men. Calvinism, that strange fierce creed which Wesley so correctly described as one that gave God the exact functions and attributes of the devil, produced even in Europe a sufficiency of madness and horror; but here was Calvinism cut off from its European roots and from the reaction and influence of Christian civilization. Its records read like those of a madhouse where religious maniacs have broken loose and locked up their keepers. We hear of men stoned to death for kissing their wives on the Sabbath, of lovers pilloried or flogged at the cart's tail for kissing each other at all without licence from the deacons, the whole culminating in a mad panic of wholesale demonism and witchburning so vividly described in one of the most brilliant of Mrs. Gaskell's stories, "Lois the Witch." Of course, in time the fanaticism of the first New England settlers cooled into something like sanity. But a strong Puritan tradition remained and played a great part in American history. Indeed, if Lee, the Virginian, has about him something of the Cavalier, it is still more curious to note that nineteenth-century New England, with its atmosphere of quiet scholars and cultured tea parties, suddenly flung forth in John Brown a figure whose combination of soldierly skill with maniac fanaticism, of a martyr's fortitude with a murderer's cruelty, seems to have walked straight out of the seventeenth century and finds its nearest parallel in some of the warriors of the Covenant.


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