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Fellowship

English Empire, Catholic Marketing: Promoting Investment and Settlement in Seventeenth Century Maryland

“… I had procured a red bird and kept it a good while to have sent it to you but I had the ill fortune to loose it by the negligence of my servant who carelesly let it out of the cage… The Lyon I had for you is dead, if I can get an other I will and send it you…”(1)

Cecil Calvert and grandson, Gerard Soest (1670),  Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore MD.

Cecil Calvert and grandson, Gerard Soest (1670),
Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore MD.

On April 25th, 1638, the Governor of Maryland, Leonard Calvert, four years in post, sat down to write to his brother Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore and proprietor of Maryland. His letter contained news of the politics and administration of the colony: a military expedition against Kent and Palmer Islands, then disputed territory between Maryland and Virginia, and relations with the emperor of a local Native American tribe, the Piscataway.(2) Finally, almost post-scriptum, Leonard made the first of many excuses in a litany of correspondence as to why he had been unable to obtain a ‘red bird’ and a ‘lyon’ for his brother Cecil who remained, as he would all his life, in England. The exchange is often reminiscent of an Abbott and Costello sketch as Leonard attempts to ‘buy-time’ while searching for the elusive creatures. The correspondence reveals much about the power dynamic and familial affection between the brothers, but perhaps more importantly it reveals much about early modern English perceptions of colonization.

When Cecil Calvert founded Maryland in 1634, he was competing with other English colonization efforts that also required immigrants and investors to ensure their success. For the elite classes, colonization could bring prestige and riches. No doubt, Cecil’s desire to own the ‘lyon’ and ‘red bird’ was in part a desire to hold material evidence of his ability to access exotic cultures and more importantly demonstrate that he was capable of financing an element of England’s imperial ambitions. It is likely that Cecil believed that they would prove helpful to persuading wealthy aristocrats who visited his estate in Wiltshire to invest in the new colony.  But it also represented his commitment to a wider PR campaign for the colony, one which he had actively encouraged even before its founding. This campaign was literary, visual, and material but often misleading.

An illustration of Maryland's first colonists meeting with one of the many Native American tribes. "First Landing of Leonard Calvert in Maryland," Oil on Canvas, ca. 1865-70 by David Acheson Woodward (1823 - 1909), Museum Department, 1924.7.1, MdHS.

An illustration of Maryland’s first colonists meeting with one of the many Native American tribes. “First Landing of Leonard Calvert in Maryland,” Oil on Canvas, ca. 1865-70 by David Acheson Woodward (1823 – 1909), Museum Department, 1924.7.1, MdHS.

This was not, however, unusual. In his request it is likely that Cecil referred to Maryland’s native bob-cat (Lynx rufus) or the eastern mountain lion (Felis concolor) and one of Maryland’s many red-plumed birds, the most famous of course being the Oriole. However, had Cecil been hoping to obtain an African lion or a bird of paradise, then his own misinformation was likely the result of most early modern travel narratives ‘bear[ing] the marks of a “colonizing imagination” — [with their] tropes, fantasies, [and] rhetorical structures.’(3) Beginning with the great English propagandist Richard Hakluyt and his Divers Voyages (1582) and the Principall Navigations (1589-1600), the English had been able to access a wide variety of pamphlets and broadsides that described the New World, often by writers who had never actually traveled there. Hakluyt himself never traveled further than Paris where he was an ambassador to the French court.(4) This trend was wide reaching and not exclusive to the Americas. In fact, Asiatic narratives of the sixteenth century that described the opulent splendor of spices, silks, and precious stones and metals in the Far East had long been a source of motivation for imperial expansion globally.(5)

Narratives continued to circulate during the seventeenth century, but the long-distance travel that necessitated the transfer of knowledge could take months or even years to complete. Add the shipwrecks, conflicts, and outbreaks of disease that could hinder that process, and it is unsurprising that communication was often disrupted. This fostered a perfect environment for “epistemological slippage” which, for the most part, was simply the result of information having been removed from its original social context and transformed unintentionally and organically as it traversed oceans and continents. On other occasions, ‘the proliferation of new data produced by global travel also created new opportunities to fake authentic knowledge, to enact false performances of credibility, and to forge documents, artifacts, and indeed, entire personas.’ Perhaps the most striking example of this is that of George Psalmanazar who in 1704 convinced the Royal Society in London of the existence of an entirely fictional island, Formosa, in the Far East.(6)

Father Andrew White [baptizing the chief Chitomachon] Engraving by G.G. Heinsch, 1655, in Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu apostolorum imitatrix Prague: Typis Universitatis Carolo-Ferdinandeae, 1694. Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library.

Father Andrew White
[baptizing the chief Chitomachon]
Engraving by G.G. Heinsch, 1655, in Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu apostolorum imitatrix Prague: Typis Universitatis Carolo-Ferdinandeae, 1694. Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library.

Cecil’s PR campaign engaged with this tradition of travel narratives. Beginning with his commissioning of An Account of the Colony of the Lord Baron of Baltimore in 1633, penned by Father Andrew White one year before White had even landed in Maryland himself, Cecil was keen to relate the abundance that Maryland had to offer. White justifies his credibility by claiming his sources for the account are those of George Calvert, Cecil’s father and first Lord Baltimore, who had visited Virginia in 1628, and the account of Captain Smith, presumably his 1612 account Proceedings of the English Colony of Virginia, as well the corroboration of residents of London who had themselves resided in the Chesapeake and intended to return.(7)

White’s Account is interesting for its use of a range of established literary constructs found in travel narratives. These constructs include missionary zeal and, at least by contemporary standards, scientific description of the natural landscape and its inhabitants. White’s Account is exemplary of travel writing at the intersection of the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution but which was also commercially motivated to induce Englishmen to emigrate. As a result, White takes care to note fairly accurately the fauna and flora, climate, and wildlife of the Chesapeake, and potential fur-trading opportunities with the local Native American tribes, yet continues to perpetuate myth and fantasy in order to ‘paint a picture’ of a still largely under-explored and certainly under-exploited territory.(8) Likely drawing inspiration from the accounts of New Spain rather than the Chesapeake, Father White ends his account with the tempting yet misleading information that: ‘There is also hope of finding gold, for the neighbouring people wear bracelets of gold, which indeed is as yet unwrought, and long strings of pearls.’(9)

The limits between Virginia & Maryland from map by August Herman [sic]. 1672, E.S. Evitt, Large Map Collection, MdHS. In return for the creation of an accurate map that he could use in his suit against William Penn, Cecil Calvert agreed to naturalize August Hermann and presented him with land which Hermann named for his homeland, Bohemia Manor. This map became a working replacement of the map originally produced in 1635, and reproduced by John Ogilby in 1671

The limits between Virginia & Maryland from map by August Herman [sic]. 1672, E.S. Evitt, Large Map Collection, MdHS.
In return for the creation of an accurate map that he could use in his suit against William Penn, Cecil Calvert agreed to naturalize August Hermann and presented him with land which Hermann named for his homeland, Bohemia Manor. This map became a working replacement of the map originally produced in 1635, and reproduced by John Ogilby in 1671

Noua Terrae-Mariae Tabula. 1635, (1671),  John Ogilby, Maryland., Medium Map Collection, MdHS.

Noua Terrae-Mariae Tabula. 1635, (1671),
John Ogilby, Maryland., Medium Map Collection, MdHS.

George Alsop, ‘A land-Skip of the Province of Mary land, 1666’ in Gowan's Bibliotheca Americana, (1869), Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD. MSA SC 1213-1-43

George Alsop, ‘A land-Skip of the Province of Mary land, 1666’
in Gowan’s Bibliotheca Americana, (1869), Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD. MSA SC 1213-1-43

In addition to these literary depictions, the Lords Baltimore encouraged immigration and investment through visual material. The best examples of this were cartography and portraiture. The range of maps produced during the seventeenth century Baltimore proprietorship (1634-1689) is illustrative of a number of crises affecting the colony during this period, not least boundary disputes with Virginia and Pennsylvania. However, if the maps are telling of the value that Cecil and his son Charles placed on their colony, so too are they telling of the potential of the colony that they advertised to immigrants and investors. Just one of the many common characteristics of Maryland cartography is the depiction of game. Maps from the period feature a variety of wildlife, including sources of sustenance such as wild boar, rabbits, and birds; as well as foxes, beavers, and bears, the pelts of which were in high demand for the fur trade. Though tobacco was the cash crop enthusiastically cultivated by colonists, demand for pelts in England ensured that fur trading was an attractive alternative, testified to by Lord Baltimore’s numerous failed attempts to monopolize the trade.(10)

John Farrer, A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye hills, and in it's latt. from 35 deg. & 1/2 neer Florida to 41 deg. bounds of New England, (1651),  Library of Congress, Washington DC. G3880 1667 .F3

John Farrer, A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye hills, and in it’s latt. from 35 deg. & 1/2 neer Florida to 41 deg. bounds of New England, (1651),
Library of Congress, Washington DC. G3880 1667 .F3

Of course, as with the travel narratives, the purpose, audience, and creator of these maps often resulted in conflicting information or misinformation. For example, though more closely connected with the Virginia Company rather than Lord Baltimore, John Farrer produced a map of the entire Chesapeake Bay in 1651, A mapp of Virginia discouered to ye Hills, which connected the James and Hudson Rivers directly to the Pacific Ocean. Farrer was heavily invested in the silk trade in Asia, a key promoter of the Chesapeake, and a firm believer in the existence of a North West passage. His map is therefore illustrative that the discovery and promotion of the English Americas is in part indebted to the desire to exploit known Asian treasures.(11)

Perhaps the most imperious attempt to demonstrate Maryland’s potential was Cecil Calvert’s portrait painted by Gerard Soest in 1670.(First image) In it, Cecil is dressed as a wealthy gentleman adventurer rather than a Lord. He and his grandson hold a map of the colony, a subtle reinforcement of Article I of the Maryland Charter (1632), which stated that the Calverts were ‘the true and absolute Lords and Proprietaries forever.’(12) The portrait is therefore a bold political statement by the Calvert family at a time of continued controversy concerning boundary disputes and their proprietary rights. However, the portrait is also a clear display of colonial success. Persian rugs, furs, and an African slave present Maryland as a profitable, key element of the English empire and her trade. It was, undoubtedly, a conscious marketing and recruitment tool and such tools should not be underestimated. The power of portraiture transcends even the seventeenth century and continues to define current popular culture understandings of colonization as a process driven by elite motivations of greed and exploitation of foreign lands and their inhabitants.

Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahanta, 1995. David Ogden Stiers perf., Chris Buck, Kevin Lima dir., Disney Inc. (1995) DVD

Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahantas
David Ogden Stiers perf., Chris Buck, Kevin Lima dir., Disney Inc. (1995) DVD

This is perhaps best demonstrated in Disney’s Pocahontas in which upon landing in Virginia the villain, Governor Ratcliffe, heralds his pursuit of gold and pierces a portrait of King James I with his own head, replacing the face of the king, during a scene accompanied by Alan Menken’s score ‘Mine, Mine, Mine.’(13) Though Disney’s depiction of the settlement of Jamestown is of course historically flawed and entirely reductive of the uses of portraiture and the motivations of colonists, elite or not, that such visual culture endures is illustrative of the influence of visual propaganda then and now.

Other accounts of Maryland intended to encourage immigration that reached England included works by George Alsop, A relation of the successfull beginnings of the Lord Baltimore’s plantation in Mary-land… (1635), distributed by Cecil’s brother in law William Peasley, as well as the publishing of Lord Baltimore’s Instructions to the first colonists which not only made clear the financial incentives to settlement, such as land grants both for servants and those transporting them, but also the (supposed) incentive of religious toleration.(14) Of course, while religious toleration may have proved an incentive for non-conformists and Catholics, it was perhaps at best considered of little consequence to adherents of the established church, at worst antithetical to their understanding of English religion and culture.

Nonetheless, propaganda either produced or endorsed by a Catholic proprietor seemingly had the desired effect on the Protestants who constituted the majority of immigrants to the colony of whom between 75-80% arrived as indentured servants.(15) Yet despite the almost utopian depiction of Maryland in propaganda, the life of colonists was far more sober. Though many, particularly non-elite Catholics, had better prospects of land ownership compared to England few reached the lofty heights that enabled them to import Persian rugs, own African slaves, or profit substantially from the fur trade or even tobacco for that matter.(16) Unlike Hakluyt’s ‘unified ideal of a merchant-colonist — the heroic, “high-minded, practical trade-minded Englishman”… the historical subjects (the English and others) who emerge in these [travel] narratives speak in many voices, struggling to distinguish between identity and difference — in terms of religion, sexuality, nationality, among other factors.’(17) The motivations of colonists to emigrate extended beyond the commercial. They were complex, varied, and fluid. Yet for those who emigrated with hopes of obtaining great riches, one cannot but wonder whether they considered themselves ‘duped.’ (Helen Kilburn)

Helen Kilburn is a doctoral candidate at the University of Manchester, UK researching the political philosophy of English Catholic colonists in Maryland during the seventeenth-century Baltimore proprietorship. She was an MdHS Lord Baltimore Fellow in 2016.

Sources and further reading:

(1) Leonard Calvert, Governor to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, 25 April 1638, ‘The Calvert Papers’, Maryland Historical Society (MdHS), Baltimore MD, MF176.M37, item 1057.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ivo Kamps & Jyotsna Singh, Travel Knowledge: European “Discoveries” in the Early Modern Period, Palgrave (2001) p. 2.

(4) Lynne Dumenil (ed)., The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History, Oxford University Press (2012)  p. 361.

(5) Kamps & Singh, Travel Knowledge, pp. 3-5.

(6) Benjamin Breen, ‘No Man Is an Island: Early Modern Globalization, Knowledge Networks, and George Psalmanazar’s Formosa,’ Journal of Early Modern History, Vol.17, Issue 4, (2013) pp.391-417.

(7) Clayton Colman Hall, Narratives of Early Maryland 1633-1684, Barnes and Noble Inc. (1946) p. 6

(8) Ibid: pp. 5-10.

(9) Ibid: p. 10.

(10) James D. Rice, Nature and History in the Potomac Country: From Hunter Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson, JohnHopkinsUniversity Press (2009) p. 101.

(11) Gunther Barth, Fleeting Moments: Nature and Culture in American History, Oxford University Press (1990) p. 22; Gunnar Thompson, Commander Francis Drake and the West Coast Mysteries, New World Discovery Institute Press (2010) p. 86.

(12) The Charter of Maryland, June 20, 1632, reprinted by Maryland Hall of Records Commission, Dept. of General Services, Annapolis, MD., (c1982.), MdHS, PAM7179.

(13) ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’, Walt Disney Pictures presents Pocahontas , Wonderland Music Co./Walt Disney Music Co., 1 Sep 1995;  Pocahontas, Chris Buck, Kevin Lima dir., Disney Inc. (1995) DVD. For a clip of the scene discussed here see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSfYrPdTKVA and Appendix 6.

(14) George Alsop, ‘A Character of the Province of Maryland , By George Alsop’ (1666) in Hall, Early Narratives, pp. 337-371; Author unknown, ‘A relation of the successfull beginnings of the Lord Baltimore’s plantation in Mary-land. Being an extract of certaine letters written from thence, by some of the Adventurers, to their friends in England. To which is added, the conditions of plantation propounded by his Lordship for the second voyage intended this present yeere, 1634. Anno Dom. 1634’ (1635) in Hall, Early Narratives, pp. 63-112; Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, ‘Instructions to the first colonists,’ 13th November 1633, The Calvert Papers, MdHS, item. 186.

(15) Russell R Menard, ‘British Migration to the Chesapeake Colonies in the Seventeenth Century,’ pp. 99-132 in Lois Green Carr, Philip D. Morgan & Jean B. Russo (eds.); Colonial Chesapeake Society, North Carolina University Press (1988)  p. 101; James Horn, ‘Servant Emigration to the Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century,’ pp. 51-96 in Thad W. Tate & David L. Ammerman (eds.), The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society, University of North Carolina Press (1979) p. 54; David Galenson, ‘’Middling People’ or ‘Common Sort’? The Social Origins of Some Early Americans Reexamined,’ William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Serv. XXXV (1978), pp. 499-524.

(16) Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, ‘Inventories and the analysis of wealth and consumption patterns in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1658-1777,’  The Newberry Papers in Family and Community History, 77-4C, The Newberry Library (1977). MdHS, E178.6.N534.

(17) Kamps & Singh, Travel Knowledge, p. 3

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