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George Calvert, First Lord Baltimore (c. 1580-1632)

George CalvertGeorge Calvert was the first person to dream of a colony in America where Catholics and Protestants could prosper together. He was born in Yorkshire, England and studied at Trinity College at Oxford. Sir Robert Cecil, who worked for King James I, hired George to be his secretary. George loved his work. Sir Robert trusted George as a good advisor. King James I then rewarded him with the title of “Knight” for good service in 1617. George became, Sir George Calvert, Secretary of State for King James I.

By the time that King James I died and his son Charles I ruled England, George had distinguished himself as a statesman and loyal subject. He served several terms as a Minister of Parliament. King James I, and later his son King Charles I, gave George lands in Ireland and grants of money. Yet George had a problem: he had become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics were not permitted to work in high offices for the King of England or to work as Ministers of Parliament.

In 1625, George announced to James I that he had become a Catholic, and so had to resign his job. But King James I liked George so much that he decided to give him another title. Sir George Calvert then became the First Baron of Baltimore, a town on the southern coast of Ireland. Now that George had both money and lands, he could support himself and his family. He was excited about exploration of the New World. He wanted to help create English colonies in America, so he invested money in both the New England and Virginia companies. He bought land on the coast of Newfoundland (now a part of eastern Canada) in 1620.

George sent Captain Edward Wynne to Newfoundland to lead a group of settlers and to serve as their Governor. George soon received permission from King James I to establish a larger colony called the Province of Avalon in Newfoundland. George himself voyaged to Avalon and lived there for two years, summer of 1627 to the winter of 1628/29. But Newfoundland’s climate was cold. The English settlers had a difficult time surviving there.

George then asked the King for a grant of land further south near the Chesapeake Bay. He drew a map for King Charles I, showing a territory that he wanted just north of the colony of Virginia. He hoped that this territory would have warmer weather and so be more suitable for an English colony. George died in 1632, before Charles I had time to approve the charter for George’s colony, named Maryland (“Terra Mariae”). George’s eldest son, Cecil, the Second Lord Baltimore helped to bring his father’s dream colony to life. Another son, Leonard, became Maryland’s First Governor.

  • Biography of George Calvert, from the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore.

  • See the official website for the Colony of Avalon Foundation for more information on George Calvert’s first colony, Avalon.
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