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John Coode (c. 1648-1708/9)

John Coode is best known for leading a rebellion that overthrew Marylandís colonial government in 1689. But Coode couldn't seem to get along with any government. He was actually involved in four rebellions, and only narrowly escaped being cruelly punished or even killed.

He was born in Cornwall, England in 1648, into a wealthy English family and attended school at Oxford University when he was 16 years old. In 1669, Coode became an Anglican priest. In 1672, he came to Maryland, probably hoping to become rich or powerful.

He served as a minister briefly in the colony, but Coode was too ambitious to remain a priest for long. He soon gave up the priesthood in order to marry a wealthy widow named Susannah Slye. Susannahís father, Thomas Gerrard, was an important man in the colony, but he really did not like the Calvert family who ruled Maryland. (Gerrard's dislike for Maryland's rulers probably helped to turn John Coode against the government.)

After his marriage to Susannah, John Coode became more respected in society. He was appointed a captain of the militia, a justice in St. Mary's County, and won election to Maryland's Assembly. But Coode was not satisfied. In 1681, he took part in his first rebellion against the government.

It is not known exactly what role he played in this plot. After the plot's failure, he was removed from office and viewed as an enemy of the Calverts. Coode's next rebellion was more successful. An increasing number of Protestants had been moving to Maryland, and they resented the fact that most political offices were held by Catholics or other close friends of the Calverts. Many Protestants were also upset because Maryland's government had not yet recognized the new Protestant king and queen of England, who had taken power from Catholic James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

In April 1689, John Coode helped lead "An association in arms, for the defence of the Protestant religion, and for asserting the right of King William and Queen Mary to the Province of Maryland and all the English dominions." Coode did not have much trouble raising an army to fight against Maryland's Catholic leaders, in part because he and the other rebel leaders started a rumor that the Catholics had invited the Indians to come and kill the Protestants.

One of the first steps taken by Coode and his followers was to attack the state house, a symbol of the proprietary government's authority and home to the colony's records. Coode's army of 700 men then marched into St. Mary's City and forced the council to surrender power to them. The rebels now controlled the colony.

Coode briefly served as governor of Maryland from 1689 to 1690, until a new royal governor was appointed. For a while, Coode participated in the new government, but he again became dissatisfied. He participated in two more uprisings against the government, and in 1699 it looked like Coode was finally going to be punished for his opposition.

He had said bad things about the Christian religion, and was put on trial for blasphemy. A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to pay a 20 pound sterling fine and to be bored through the tongue with a red hot iron. Luckily for him, Governor Blackiston pardoned him in respect for his past service in the rebellion of 1689.

Coode remained popular with some of his neighbors in Maryland who tried to elect him to the Assembly, but the council used the fact that he had once been a priest to keep him out of the government until his death in February or March of 1709.

  • Carr, Lois Green and David William Jordan, Maryland's Revolution of Government, 1689-1692. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974.

  • Papenfuse, Edward C., et al. A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, 2 vols. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.

  • Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Maryland from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, 1600-1765, 3 vols. Hatboro, PA: Tradition Press, 1967.
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