Thursday, November 12, 2015

Marylander Ann Teresa Mathews 1732-1800 Founder of the 1st US Roman Catholic Convent


Marylander Ann Teresa Mathews (1732-1800), founder with Frances Dickinson (1755-1830), of the 1st Roman Catholic convent for women in the United States, was born in Charles County, Maryland, one of 3 children of Joseph & Susannah (Craycroft) Mathews. Her father, who was descended from a Catholic family prominent in 17C Maryland, died when she was 2, leaving the family a 345-acre farm, a sparsely furnished house, & 2 slaves. Her widowed mother kept a deeply religious household, for her daughter, Ann, her son Ignatius, & 3 of her son William’s children entered religious life.

Although Maryland was originally settled as a refuge for Roman Catholics, since the 18C in Maryland, Roman Catholics were not permitted to hold public mass, & those who wished to train for a life in the church necessarily went abroad. Thus in 1754, Ann Mathews sailed to Hoogstraeten, Belgium, to enter the English monastery of the Discalced Carmelites, a contemplative order springing from the works & influence of the mystic St. Teresa of Spain. Its severe rules included a ban on shoes, hence the name Discalced. On Sept. 30 of that year she took the habit of the order & the name Bernardina Teresa Xavier of St. Joseph, & on Nov. 24, 1755, at age 23, she made her profession. Staying on at the convent, she served as mistress of novices before being elected prioress in 1774.


The Original Residence at Carmel Monestary & Chapel in Charles County, Maryland

Mother Bernardina began to think of founding an American carmel, as the Revolution had removed the disabilities of Roman Catholics in Maryland. Encouraged by some of the prominent Catholics in her state, as well as by her brother Ignatius, a Jesuit priest, she made plans for such a move with a former Charles County neighbor, Mary Brent, who as Mother Mary Margaret of the Angels had become prioress of the English carmel at Antwerp. Unfortunately Mother Margaret died in 1784, but Mother Bernardina’s nieces, Ann Teresa & Susanna Mathews, arrived that year at Hoogstraeten to make their professions & to join in the venture. Indispensable support came from the Rev. Charles Neale, a relative of Mother Bernardina & confessor to the Antwerp carmel. It was 1790, however, before sufficient money & the necessary authorizations were gathered for the founding of an American carmel. On April 19, 1790, 4 nuns, accompanied by Father Neale, left Hoogstraeten for the Maryland. They included Mother Bernardina, now 58, her two nieces, & Frances Dickinson.

Frances Dickinson, born in London, had assumed the Carmelite habit at Antwerp on May 1, 1772, when only 16, & with it the name Clare Joseph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her letters & a diary show that she possessed self-awareness & a sense of humor. By July 20, 1790, the nuns were at Chandler’s Hope, Father Neale’s childhood home in Charles County, on a hill overlooking the Port Tobacco River. Here, resuming their religious habit & practices, they established the first convent within the United States. As Chandler’s Hope quickly proved too small for their purposes, Baker Brooke, a Maryland Catholic offered them 886 acres & a newly built house a little farther up the Port Tobacco Valley. On Oct. 15, 1790, the 4 nuns moved to their new quarters, which they dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph.

At the outset the nuns faced a critical decision, Maryland’s Bishop John Carroll had hoped that they would be willing to modify the rules of their order enough to allow them to teach. He gained a dispensation from Rome in 1793, but they asked not to make use of it & set themselves instead to the task of training newcomers to a life of prayer & contemplation. By 1794, a 2nd building was ready & four novices were admitted; by 1800 there were 14 nuns; & by 1818 the number had jumped to 23. The new arrivals brought family slaves & other property which, becoming part of the convent’s resources, made it nearly self-sufficient. In the Maryland countryside, there was less time for contemplation than in Belgium, but the nuns kept the Psalter before them, as they spun yarn from the wool of their own sheep to weave into cloth for their habits.

When Mother Bernardina died 1800, Bishop Carroll made Clare Joseph temporary prioress until her death 30 years later. For many years the little community flourished. In a letter to England in 1807, Mother Clare Joseph spoke of plentiful crops, of the pleasant & healthy situation, & of the advantages of its isolation “suitable to our eremitical Order.” In 1818, Archbishop Ambrose Marechal wrote with pride to Rome of the piety of the nuns.

A long & expensive lawsuit over their land (1818-29), however, brought financial difficulties; & the death in 1823, of Father Neale, was more than a spiritual loss, for the plantation began to be insufficient for the support of the convent. Mother Clare Joseph died there in 1830; & in 1831, the carmel moved to Baltimore.

Most of the later carmels in the United States have sprung from this convent or its branches, so that Ann Mathews & Frances Dickinson established the Carmelite order in the United States. Although in Baltimore the nuns were finally obliged for a time to teach in order to maintain themselves, Carmelite traditions & training in the contemplative life had been well established during previous 4 decades.

As they left in 1831, according to an almanac published by the nuns, there was a tradition in southern Maryland, that the faithful would pray for the return of the nuns. In 1933, the people of Charles County began to restore the original monastery residence, and the nuns did return in 1976. The monastery in Charles County, Maryland, is still the active home of the Carmelite Nuns of the Carmel of Port Tobacco, who do not teach or have contact with the public.

This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971


From Freedom of the Press to Maryland's St Elizabeth Seaton - The complicated life of Elizabeth Becker Curson 1731-1787


1757 Thomas McIlworth (fl 1757-67). Elizabeth Becker (Mrs. Richard Curzon or Curson) 1731-1787. 



Elizabeth Rebecca Becker was born into a family of strong women, but she certainly was not born into elite colonial society. Elizabeth Becker was born in New York City in 1731, the daughter of Frederick Becker & his wife, Anna Catharina Zenger.  Elizabeth Becker's mother Anna Catharina Zenger had sailed to New York City from Germany with her family in 1710. The Zengers hailed from the Rhine section of Germany called the Palatinate, which had been impoverished by a succession of wars & extravagant local rulers.  In 1710, England's Queen Anne sent 3,000 Palatinate refugees to the colonies to establish naval stores in New York. In return for 7 years of labor, the emigrants were promised grants of land. Unfortunately 25 % died during the 2 month voyage. Among the dead was the father of Anna Catharina Zenger. She survived the voyage with her newly widowed mother, older brother 13-year-old John Peter; & her younger brother Johannes. Anna Catharina's 33-year-old mother Johannah arrived in the new world a widow with 3 children to shelter & feed.  Anna Catharina married Frederick Becker in 1727, & their baby Elizabeth Becker would live through turbulent events that seemed to swirl about her throughout her life from the moment she was born.

Elizabeth Becker's uncle John Peter Zenger & his wife fight for Freedom of Speech



In 1711, the widow Zenger apprenticed her 14 year-old son John Peter to New York's only printer, William Bradford (1663-1752).  Completing his indenture in 1718, young Zenger moved to Chestertown, Maryland, to make his living as a printer. Though he was named to print the session laws of the Maryland state legislature, he did not prosper there; & in 1722, he returned to New York. The industrious young Zenger entered into a partnership with his old master Bradford in 1725, leaving just the next year to start his own print shop, only the second in the city of New York.  For several years, Zenger was active printing mostly German religious tracts until, in 1733, he was approached by James Alexander with the opportunity to print America's first political party newspaper, the New York Weekly Journal. James Alexander, a native of Scotland, had emigrated to New York, where he practiced law & became a leading member of the popular party.

The same year that Elizabeth Becker was born, the English appointed William Cosby as Governor of New York after removing him from a similar post in the Leeward Islands amid serious controversies. New York was faction-ridden. A brief period of peace ended in 1732, with the arrival of the tainted new governor, who intended to use the post to enhance his own fortunes. Shortly after arriving in New York, the new English Governor fired the Chief Justice, Lewis Morris, for having the grit to decide against him in a lawsuit. After the new governor removed the Chief Justice, attempted to fix an election, & accepted questionable honorariums, John Peter Zenger agreed to print anonymously James Alexander's attacks on Cosby's administration.  These newspaper revelations so enraged the colonial governor, that he had Zenger imprisoned. Zenger was formally accused of libeling the Governor. Zenger endured nearly 9 harrowing months in New York City's jail refusing to identify Alexander or any of his sources for the offending articles.


Trial of John Zenger

Elizabeth Becker's aunt, Zenger's wife Anna, took over publishing the newspaper. With her husband in jail
 & young children underfoot, Anna Zenger somehow managed to keep the New York Weekly Journal publishing, missing only one issue.  Because of her stubborn determination, the uninterrupted publication of the newspaper helped build public support for Zenger's plight. In 1735, Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the newspaper articles could not be libelous, because the accusations against Governor Cosby were true. Zenger's attorney Hamilton challenged the constitutionality of the crimes for which his client was being prosecuted. It was one of the first times in American history in which a lawyer challenged the laws rather than the innocence of his clients.  The jury found Zenger not guilty, & the acquittal set an important precedent for American freedom of the press. Released from jail, Zenger immediately wrote A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger telling the story of the court case.

Elizabeth Becker's Marriage

When Zenger's neice, Elizabeth Becker turned 16, she met an exciting young Londoner Richard Curson (1726-1805) soon after he immigrated to New York City in 1747. Curson was 21; & after a whirlwind romance, they married in December of 1747. Newlyweds Richard & Elizabeth sailed back to England, so that the new bride could meet his family. His father, Samuel Curson III, was a successful London wine merchant with extensive business contacts in Italy & Spain. While young Elizabeth was in England with her new groom, she survived a vicious attack of smallpox leaving her severely permanently disfigured. Longing for the comfort of her family in the American colonies, Elizabeth & Richard returned to New York City in 1756, where Richard used his family's extensive contacts throughout England, Europe, the Atlantic region to became a prominent merchant & banker.

By 1763, when Elizabeth was 32, she had given birth to 4 children who lived to adulthood: Rebecca, Samuel, Anna Maria, & Richard. Her husband's mercantile career was flourishing by the early 1770s. One of his companies had offices in both New York City & St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies. He was trading silks, flour, corn, gunpowder, fish, wines, slaves, tobacco, & rice in ships he was having built as far away as India.  
But the war & the arrival of the British interrupted Elizabeth & Richard's success in New York City. The Curson's took their youngest son Richard Jr. & fled New York City in June of 1776, to avoid possible capture by the British; because of their open sympathy for the revolution. By June, 1777, they had settled in the safer port of Baltimore, Maryland, where Richard established a new mercantile firm operating from 1777-1803.  While importing goods & wines from the Caribbean, Italy, & Spain, Richard, Sr., also used 8 of his ships as privateers to run the British blockade & attack the enemy vessels during the American Revolution. Elizabeth Becker & Richard Curson thrived in Baltimore, becoming friends with Thomas Jefferson, Light Horse Harry Lee, General Horatio Gates, & Daniel Dulany.

Elizabeth Becker Curson's Children

Elizabeth Becker Curson did not fret about finances, she worried about her children -- with good reason.  Because of his sympathy for the revolution, the family's oldest son Samuel had moved to St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies by March, 1776, establishing a mercantile company there. When it was safe in 1780, the young Corson returned to New York City.  
In 1784, an uncle in England, left 3,000 pounds to his grandnephew Samuel Curson of New York City, who used his windfall inheritance to travel extensively throughout Europe & England. By July, 1785, Samuel had established his own business in New York. His American future looked bright; but in 1785, young Samuel Curson unexpectedly applied to the U.S. Congress for the position of U.S. Consul in London.

Apparently during his travels in England in 1784, he had fathered an illegitimate son with Betsy Burling who soon after married Richard John Whittell of England, a 1st cousin of Samuel Curson. Betsy's new husband tried to blackmail the wealthy American Curson family from England. Betsy's brother (or possibly her new husband posing as her brother) Walter Burling determined that he needed to be much closer to the situation, & he actually moved to Baltimore.  
Walter Burling persistently continued to seek monetary satisfaction for the illegitimate child from young Samuel & from his parents.  He physically pursued Samuel Curson from the West Indies to London & finally back to America. In New York, on April 21, 1786, Burling challenged Curson to a duel, in which Samuel received a fatal wound dying 3 days later.


Elizabeth Becker's final living son, Richard Curson, Jr., was born on 1763 in New York, & fled to Baltimore, in 1777, with his parents. In 1784, he married Elizabeth Moale, had 3 children who lived to maturity, & lived at his parents' home until 1803. Elizabeth had worried about this son Richard for years. He was in ailing health & suffered from a spinal disease since early childhood.  In 1787, Elizabeth Becker Curson died & was buried at Old Saint Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Baltimore. In 1805, Richard Curson Sr. died & was buried next to his wife.

The following year, their son Richard was declared a lunatic by the Chancery Court of Maryland. The custody of his person & property were given to Samuel Vincent, who had administered the estate for the elder Curson & his wife, Elizabeth Becker Curson. Richard Jr. died on June 14, 1808, & was buried next to his parents in Baltimore.

Elizabeth Becker Curson's Granddaughter becomes a Saint

By 1786, Elizabeth Becker Curson had 13 grandchildren in America; one of her sons had been shot to death; one of her grown daughters died from childbearing; & the remaining daughter was married & raising both her own 7 children plus the 6 children of her deceased sister. Daughter Rebecca Curson had married William Seton (1746-1798) in 1767 in New York; & when she died in 1775, the newly widowed William Seton married her sister Anna Maria Curson in 1776.



St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

Elizabeth Becker's grandson, her deceased daughter Rebecca Courson Seton's firstborn son William Seton (1768-1803), married another strong, determined woman, Elizabeth Ann Baley (1774-1821). She converted to Roman Catholicism; founded the American Sisters of Charity (the first sisterhood native to the United States); & was a wife, mother, widow, single parent, & educator. Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first person born in the United States to become a canonized saint.



Wealthy Widow in a brown calico Elizabeth Peck Perkins 1736-1807 helps Boston Catholics



Elizabeth Peck Perkins (1736-1807), was a Boston widow, businesswoman, & philanthropist. She was the oldest child of English immigrants Elizabeth & Thomas Handasyd Peck. Her father became a successful fur trader & hatter; an outspoken Whig; & a friend of John Murray, the founder of Universalism in America.

When she was 18, Elizabeth married James Perkins (1733-1773), an employee of her father’s countinghouse who later became a general-store merchant. Unfortunately, after less than 20 years of marriage, Perkins died leaving his wife with 8 children to feed & clothe & educate, a 9th died as an infant.

Admired for her ability to support her large family after husband's death, established "grossary shop" business (1773), selling chinaware, glass, wine, and other imported goods; inherited real estate from parents' deaths (late 1770s). plus a wide variety of imported items. 

But the American Revolution interrupted both her family & her business. Shortly before the battle of Bunker Hill, she decided it would be safer for her children, if they all moved to Barnstable, Massachusettes, where the family lived temporarily with an old family friend.

Following the British evacuation the next spring, she returned to Boston to reopen her business. But the years of the Revolution brought personal tragedies as well war. Her father died in 1777, & her mother a little over a year later.

Now Elizabeth was alone with her children. She was the sole surviving child of her parents; however, and she came into a respectable inheritance in Boston real estate but continued to have only a modest income.  Elizabeth was shrewd with her father's property; and after his death, she increased the value of his estate a hundred fold. 

Elizabeth Peck Perkins moved her family into her father's Boston house stood in Merchants Row, about midway between State Street and Chatham Street.  In 1751, when Gillam Phillips conveyed this property to Thomas Handasyd Peck, the father of Elizabeth (Peck) Perkins, it had a frontage of forty feet on Merchants Row and of 23 & 1/2 feet on Butler's Row.

When she returned to Boston, she reopened her business and took over her husband’s partnerships with other merchants. She became part owner of the ship the “Beaver” and was soon receiving letters from Holland addressed to Mr. Elizabeth Perkins, or Captain Perkins.

By 1780, with her children growing toward adulthood, she began her civic involvement by donating $1,000 to support the Continental Army. Her 3 sons went to work at an early age and became leading maritime merchants in the 1790s. The two eldest, James (b 1761) & Thomas Handasyd (b 1764), formed the firm of J. & T.H. Perkins; the youngest, Samuel (b 1767), joined in business with his father-in-law, Stephen Higginson.

Her boys went into business. Jim began in business about 1782, at Cape François on the island of Santo Domingo (Haiti), and his brothers Tom and Sam joined him as soon as they came of age. Her daughters married well.  Elizabeth married Russell Sturgis, a fur merchant; Ann married Robert Cushing, Captain of the Beaver; Mary married Benjamin Abbot, headmaster of Exeter Academy; Esther married Thomas Doubleday, and after he died, Josiah Sturgis (Russell’s brother), and Margaret married Ralph Bennet Forbes who entered the Perkins family business.

Elizabeth invested in the ships her sons would use for trade which included slaves and opium. Following their mother's lead, all of her sons became well known for their philanthropy & civic interest. Thomas, perhaps the most famous of the great China trade merchants of the 19th century, was a benefactor of the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Boston Athenaeum, and the Perkins School for the Blind (which bears his name).

With her children financially independent, Elizabeth Perkins turned her energy to civic & philanthropic endeavors. As her father had taught her, she was sympathetic to Universalist doctrines, refusing to believe in damnation. She was accepting of a variety of religions including that of Jean de Cheverus, the first Roman Catholic bishop in Boston, to whom she offered a building she owned on School Street in which he could conduct services, as she contributed to his work among the poor.

She was deeply concerned with the mental illness she saw about her. In 1800, she helped found the Boston Female Asylum, the 1st charitable institution in Boston established by women. She served the asylum as a director & supported it financially both during her lifetime & in her will. When she died, the officers of the Boston Female Asylum wore badges of mourning for seventy-one days, corresponding to the number of years she had lived.

Elizabeth Peck Perkins continued to own considerable real estate in the Boston business district throughout her life. Until her death in 1807, she lived with the simplicity she had adopted during the years she was a single mother raising 8 children. She did most of her own housework wearing plain dresses of brown calico in the morning & changing to brown silk in the afternoon, when civic leaders & visitors might call requesting her financial assistance with another charitable endeavor.

A granddaughter remembered her as a stern, reserved woman of impressive dignity & strength of character, honored & respected by her children & somewhat feared by her grandchildren.


1649 Maryland Act of Toleration


The Maryland Toleration Act (1649) An Act Concerning Religion.

The Maryland Toleration Act did not bring complete religious freedom. Nor did it come about because of a profound humanistic conviction on the part of Cecil (Cecilius) Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore (1605-1675) the Maryland proprietor, who remained in England instead of sailing to Maryland to live.

Proprietary colonies were territories granted by the English Crown to one or more proprietors who had full governing rights. A proprietor was a person granted governmental powers over a tract of land. Proprietary Colonies were run under a colonial charter agreement, which was reviewed by the ruling Monarch.


Lord Baltimore Cecilius Calvert

The act was a pragmatic solution to a serious problem. The Catholics in originally Catholic Maryland had become a minority of the population although still powerful politically. They were in great danger of being ill-treated by the Protestant majority.

The Toleration Act, it was believed, was a way of providing protection for Catholics while at the same time representing a nod in the direction of the English government, which in 1649, and for a dozen years thereafter was firmly under the control of the English Puritans.

Nonetheless, the document is important because it did provide modest although impermanent protection for Catholic Marylanders and set a precedent to which others could refer.

Despite Baltimore's Catholic background and his desire to use Maryland as a refuge for Catholics persecuted elsewhere, the Catholic Church never became the established church. In the eighteenth century this distinction was given to the Church of England.

Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Common Weath matters concerning Religion and the honor of God ought in the first place to bee taken, into serious consideracion and endeavoured to bee settled, Be it therefore ordered and enacted by the Right Honourable Cecilius Lord Baron of Baltemore absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province with the advise and consent of this Generall Assembly:

That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto helonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires.


And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid, That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the summe of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such person soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfyeing of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publiquely whipt and bee imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit tenne pound sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed as aforesaid, or in case such offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattells within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publiquely and severely whipt and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and bee for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.

And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth uppon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, traffiqueing, trading or comerceing within this Province or within any the Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian popish prest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and loose the somme of tenne shillings sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed on the goods and chattells of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachfull words are or shalbe spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province. But if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speake any such reproachfull words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattells sufficient and overt within this Province to bee taken to satisfie the penalty aforesaid or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed, that then the person or persons soe offending shalbe publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without baile or maineprise [bail] untill hee, shee or they respectively shall satisfy the party soe offended or greived by such reproachfull Language by asking him or her respectively forgivenes publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate of cheife Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shalbe given.

And be it further likewise Enacted by the Authority and consent aforesaid That every person and persons within this Province that shall at any time hereafter prophane the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday by frequent swearing, drunkennes or by any uncivill or disorderly recreacion, or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require it shall for every such first offence forfeit 2s 6d sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s sterling or the value thereof, and for the third offence and soe for every time he shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s sterling or the value thereof. And in case such offender and offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattells within this Province to satisfy any of the said Penalties respectively hereby imposed for prophaning the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday as aforesaid, That in Every such case the partie soe offending shall for the first and second offence in that kinde be imprisoned till hee or shee shall publickly in open Court before the cheife Commander Judge or Magistrate, of that County Towne or precinct where such offence shalbe committed acknowledg the Scandall and offence he hath in that respect given against God and the good and civill Governement of this Province, And for the third offence and for every time after shall also bee publickly whipt.

And whereas the inforceing of the conscience in matters of Religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous Consequence in those commonwealthes where it hath been practised, And for the more quiett and peaceable governement of this Province, and the better to preserve mutuall Love and amity amongst the Inhabitants thereof, Be it Therefore also by the Lord Proprietary with the advise and consent of this Assembly Ordeyned and enacted (except as in this present Act is before Declared and sett forth) that noe person or persons whatsoever within this Province, or the Islands, Ports, Harbors, Creekes, or havens thereunto belonging professing to beleive in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any waies troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging nor any way compelled to the beleife or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent, soe as they be not unfaithfull to the Lord Proprietary, or molest or conspire against the civill Governement established or to bee established in this Province under him or his heires. And that all and every person and persons that shall presume Contrary to this Act and the true intent and meaning thereof directly or indirectly either in person or estate willfully to wrong disturbe trouble or molest any person whatsoever within this Province professing to beleive in Jesus Christ for or in respect of his or her religion or the free exercise thereof within this Province other than is provided for in this Act that such person or persons soe offending, shalbe compelled to pay trebble damages to the party soe wronged or molested, and for every such offence shall also forfeit 20s sterling in money or the value thereof, half thereof for the use of the Lord Proprietary, and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, and the other half for the use of the party soe wronged or molested as aforesaid, Or if the partie soe offending as aforesaid shall refuse or bee unable to recompense the party soe wronged, or to satisfy such fyne or forfeiture, then such Offender shalbe severely punished by publick whipping and imprisonment during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary, or his Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the tyme being without baile or maineprise.

And bee it further alsoe Enacted by the authority and consent aforesaid That the Sheriff or other Officer or Officers from time to time to bee appointed and authorized for that purpose, of the County Towne or precinct where every particular offence in this present Act conteyned shall happen at any time to bee committed and whereupon there is hereby a forfeiture fyne or penalty imposed shall from time to time distraine and seise the goods and estate of every such person soe offending as aforesaid against this present Act or any part thereof, and sell the same or any part thereof for the full satisfaccion of such forfeiture, fine, or penalty as aforesaid, Restoring unto the partie soe offending the Remainder or overplus of the said goods or estate after such satisfaccion soe made as aforesaid. The freemen have assented.

America as a Religious Refuge - 1634 The Ark and the Dove Bring Men & Women to Settle Maryland


The Ark and the Dove Reach Maryland



England's Stuart rulers did not harbor hate toward the Roman Catholic Church, but most of their subjects did, causing Catholics to be persecuted in  17C Britain.  In 1625, Sir George Calvert (1580-1632) Baron Baltimore, one of King James' Secretaries of State & a Privy Councillor,  converted to Catholicism. Calvert wanted to establish a British colony as a refuge from persecution for Roman Catholics. He died in the months just before the grant of Maryland's charter (June 1632). The Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be harassed in the new British American colony & could live there in peace. 

On June 20, 1632, King Charles I of England granted Cecilius Calvert, Second Baron Baltimore, proprietorship and vice-regal powers for a new colony named Maryland. By mid-summer 1633, Baltimore had chartered a full-rigged ship, the Ark of London (a.k.a. Ark of Maryland) of about 350 tons to carry the first 130 to 150 settlers and supplies to the new colony. (Tons refers to tons burden, a measure of space available for cargo unless said to be weight). He also acquired a small vessel, the Dove "of the burthen of ffortie tons," to accompany the Ark as its pinnace (a tender and scout) and to carry some baggage and supplies.

Leaving England

In mid-October 1633 after fitting out at Blackwall, the Ark and the Dove dropped down the Thames to anchor off Gravesend where they were to take on stores and passengers. Soon after that, John Coke, the Secretary of State, sent an urgent dispatch to Admiral John Pennington: "The Ark of London, Richard Lowe, master, carrying men for Lord Baltimore to his new plantation sailed from Gravesend contrary to orders" and those aboard had "not taken the oath of allegiance to the Crown" as they were required to do by a warrant from Whitehall dated July 31. The Ark was intercepted and taken back under guard to Tilbury Hope across from Gravesend. The oath was administered by October 29 and the ships received permission to leave England on October 30, "Provided there be no other person or persons aboard the said shippe or pinnace but such as have or shall have taken the oath of allegiance as aforesaid." The ships then made their way to Cowes on the Isle of Wight where they awaited favorable weather. They received final instructions from Lord Baltimore on September 15.

On Saturday, November 22, 1633, the Ark and the Dove finally sailed for Maryland, heading west along the south coast of England with fair weather and following winds. On Monday morning the twenth-fourth, she passed the western capes of England. Then on evening of November 25, Father Andrew White, a passenger, wrote, "the wind changed.so violent, and tempestuous as the Draggon [a 600-ton English ship] was forced back to ffamouth [Falmouth] not able to keep the sea..Our master was a very sufficient seaman, and shipp as strong as could be made of oake and iron, 400 tonne kingbuilt; makinge fair weather in great storms. Now the master had his choise, whether he would return England as the Draggon did, or saile so close up to the winde, as if he should not hold it he must necessarily fall upon the Irish shore,.of these two, out of a certaine hardinesse and desire to trie the goodnesse of his shipp, in which he had never been at sea afore, he resolved to keep the sea, with great danger, wanting sea room."

The Dove was unable to keep at sea in this storm and ran northeast to the Scilly Isles, 30 miles north of the north coast of Cornwall. She was not to be seen again by the Ark until January at Barbados. Then on November 29 the Ark, now alone, encountered very violent weather, "before we could take in our maine Course [sail] wch we only carried, a furious.winde suddainely came, and split it from top to toae.and then the helme being bound up, and the ship left without saile or government floated at hull like a dish.[then] by little and little still more.we were with milder weather freed from all those horrours." With better weather the Ark turned southward and sailed past the coast of Spain to the Canary Islands where she turned west southwest for the West Indies.

On January 3, 1634, the Ark entered the fortified English port of Bridgetown, Barbados, after a fast passage of forty-three days from Cowes that covered 3,500 to 4,000 nautical miles. By mid-January she was ready to leave when the Dove unexpectedly arrived in company with the Dragon. The Ark and Dove departed northward on January 24, stopping at St. Christophers (now St. Kitts) for ten days and at Point Comfort at the mouth of the James River for eight or nine days. Then they sailed up the Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River where they reached their first landing place in Maryland on March 24, 1634. By March 27, Governor Leonard Calvert and his advisors had selected a site for their town. They named it St Mary's.



America as a Religious Refuge - Catholics from England to Maryland


Although the Stuart kings of England did not hate the Roman Catholic Church, most of their subjects did, causing Catholics to be harassed and persecuted in England throughout the seventeenth century.

Driven by "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren," George Calvert (1580-1632) obtained a charter from Charles I in 1632 for the territory between Pennsylvania and Virginia.


Sir George Calvert (1580-1632), c 1625.  by Daniel Mytens, the elder, court painter to both James I & Charles I.  George Calvert, Baron Baltimore, one of James' Secretaries of State & a Privy Councillor,  converted to Catholicism in about 1625.  He wanted to establish a colony as a refuge from persecution for Roman Catholics, & at first sponsored a small settlement in Newfoundland. Its harsh climate motivated him to obtain land further south. He died before the grant of Maryland's charter (June 1632).

This Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new colony. By 1634, two ships, the Ark and the Dove, brought the first settlers to Maryland. Aboard were approximately two hundred people.


Father Andrew White. Engraving by G.G. Heinsch, 1655, in Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu apostolorum imitatrix Prague: Typis Universitatis Carolo-Ferdinandeae, 1694.  The "Apostle to Maryland," Father Andrew White (1579-1656), described the celebration of the first mass upon the arrival of the Ark and the Dove, "We celebrated mass for the first time... This had never been done before in this part of the world. After we had completed the sacrifice, we took upon our shoulders a great cross that we had hewn out of a tree, and advancing in order to the appointed place... we erected a trophy to Christ the Savior, humbly reciting, on our bended knees, the Litanies of the sacred Cross, with great emotion." This is the only known 17th-century image of Father White.

Among the passengers were two Catholic priests who had been forced to board surreptitiously to escape the reach of English anti-Catholic laws. Upon landing in Maryland the Catholics, led spiritually by the Jesuits, were transported by a profound reverence, similar to that experienced by John Winthrop and the Puritans, when they set foot in New England.

Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the seventeenth century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. In 1649, Catholics in the Maryland Assembly passed the Maryland Act Concerning Religion. It stipulated that no Trinitarian Christian "shall from henceforth be any waies troubled, molested, or discountenanced, for, or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province."  Though this act was not as inclusive as similar ones in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, which brought theists within their purview, it was another in a series of progressive measures taken by early American colonists to emancipate themselves from the European belief in enforced religious uniformity.

After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, the Church of England was legally established in the colony and English penal laws, which deprived Catholics of the right to vote, hold office, or worship publicly, were enforced.

Until the American Revolution, Catholics in Maryland were dissenters in their own country, living at times under a state of siege, but keeping loyal to their convictions, a faithful remnant, awaiting better times.

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America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution of Jesuits by English Protestants


The Protestant Anglican Church was formed by The Act of Supremacy issued by King Henry VIII in 1534, declared the king to be "the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England" in place of the pope. Any act of allegiance to the latter was considered treasonous because the papacy claimed both spiritual & political power over its followers. 


Henry VIII (1491-1547) After Hans Holbein the Younger (1498–1543)

The Act of Supremacy (which asserted England's independence from papal authority) was repealed in 1554, by Henry's devoutly Catholic daughter Queen Mary I when she reinstituted Catholicism as England's state religion. She ordered many Protestants to be burned. 

Mary I Antonis Mor (1519–1575)

But Mary was reversed by a new Act of Supremacy passed in 1559, under Elizabeth I, along with an Act of Uniformity which made worship in Church of England compulsory. Anyone who took office in the English church or government was required to take the Oath of Supremacy; penalties for violating it included hanging & quartering. Attendance at Anglican services became obligatory—those who refused to attend Anglican services, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants (Puritans), were fined & physically punished as recusants.


Queen Elizabeth I Coronation Portrait

In the time of Elizabeth I, the persecution of the adherents of the Reformed religion, both Anglicans & Protestants alike, which had occurred during the reign of her elder half-sister Queen Mary I was used to fuel strong anti-Catholic propaganda in the hugely influential Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Those who had died in Mary's reign, under the Marian Persecutions, were effectively canonized by this work of hagiography. In 1571, the Convocation of the Church of England ordered that copies of the Book of Martyrs should be kept for public inspection in all cathedrals & in the houses of church dignitaries. The book was also displayed in many Anglican parish churches alongside the Holy Bible. The passionate intensity of its style & its vivid & picturesque dialogues made the book very popular among Puritan & Low Church families, Anglican & Protestant nonconformist, down to the 19C. In a period of extreme partisanship on all sides of the religious debate, the exaggeratedly partisan church history of the earlier portion of the book, with its grotesque stories of popes & monks, contributed to fuel anti-Catholic prejudices in England, as did the story of the sufferings of several hundred Reformers (both Anglican & Protestant) who had been burnt at the stake under Queen Mary & Bishop Bonner.

Anti-Catholicism among many of the English was grounded in the fear that the pope sought to reimpose not just religio-spiritual authority over England but also secular power of the country; this was seemingly confirmed by various actions by the Vatican. In 1570, Pope Pius V sought to depose Elizabeth with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared her a heretic & purported to dissolve the duty of all Elizabeth's subjects of their allegiance to her. This rendered Elizabeth's subjects who persisted in their allegiance to the Catholic Church politically suspect, & made the position of her Catholic subjects largely untenable if they tried to maintain both allegiances at once.  In 1588 one Elizabethian loyalist cited the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada as an attempt by Philip II of Spain to put into effect the Pope's decree. In truth, King Philip II was attempting to claim the throne of England he felt he had as a result of being the widower of Mary I of England.  Elizabeth's resultant persecution of Catholic Jesuit missionaries led to many executions at Tyburn. Those priests like Edmund Campion who suffered there are considered martyrs by the Catholic Church, & a number of them were canonized by the Catholic Church as the Forty Martyrs of England & Wales, though at the time, they were considered traitors to England.

In the image above is Brian Cansfield (1581-1643), a Jesuit priest seized while at prayer by English Protestant authorities in Yorkshire. Cansfield was beaten and imprisoned under harsh conditions. He died on August 3, 1643 from the effects of his ordeal.

The picture below another Jesuit priest, Ralph Corbington (Corby) (ca. 1599-1644), who was hanged by the English government in London, September 17, 1644, for professing his faith.



Images are from Die Societas Jesu in Europa, 1643-1644 from Mathias Tanner, Die Gesellshafft Jesu biss zur vergiessung ihres Blutes wider den Gotzendienst Unglauben und Laster...Prague: Carlo Ferdinandeischen Universitat Buchdruckeren, 1683. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution - Catholics by Huguenots


Frightful Outrages perpetrated by the Huguenots in France. Engraving from Richard Verstegen, Théâtre des Cruautez des Hérétiques de notre temps Antwerp: Adrien Hubert, 1607.

Persecution of Catholics by Huguenots

Huguenots became known for their harsh criticisms of doctrine and worship in the Catholic Church from which they had broken away. In particular they criticised the sacramental rituals of the Church and what they viewed as an obsession with death and the dead. They believed that the ritual, images, saints, pilgrimages, prayers, and hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not help anyone toward redemption. They saw Christian life as something to be expressed as a life of simple faith in God, relying upon God for salvation, and not upon the Church's sacraments or rituals, while obeying Biblical law.

Like other religious reformers of the time, they felt that the Catholic Church needed radical cleansing of its impurities. They thought the Pope ruled the Church as if it was a worldly kingdom, and was ultimately doomed. Rhetoric like this became fiercer as events unfolded, and eventually stirred up a reaction in the Catholic establishment.

The Catholic Church in France and many of its members opposed the Huguenots. Some Huguenot preachers and congregants were attacked as they attempted to meet for worship. The height of this persecution was the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre when 5,000 to 30,000 were killed, although there were also underlying political reasons for this as well, as some of the Huguenots were nobles trying to establish separate centers of power in southern France. Retaliating against the French Catholics, the Huguenots had their own militia.

In the areas of France they controlled, Huguenots at least matched the harshness of the persecutions of their Catholic opponents. In the above image, Atrocities A, B, and C, depictions that are possibly exaggerated for use as propaganda, are located by the author in St. Macaire, Gascony. In scene A, a priest is disemboweled, his entrails wound up on a stick until they are torn out. In illustration B a priest is buried alive, and in C Catholic children are hacked to pieces. Scene D, alleged to have occurred in the village of Mans, was "too loathsome" for one 19C commentator to translate from the French. It shows a priest whose genitalia were cut off and grilled. Forced to eat his roasted private parts, the priest was then dissected by his torturers so they can observe him digesting his meal.


America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution - Jesuits from Europe


The Disemboweling of John Ogilvie (Ogilby), Societas Jesu, 1615
Engraving from Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem Militans...Prague: Typis Universitatis Carolo-Ferdinandeae, 1675  Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

A Jesuit Disemboweled

Jesuits like John Ogilvie (Ogilby) (1580-1615) were under constant surveillance and threat from the Protestant governments of England and Scotland. Ogilvie was sentenced to death by a Glasgow court and hanged and mutilated on March 10, 1615.  John Ogilvie
(c. 1580-1615), English Jesuit, was born in Scotland and educated mainly in Germany, where he entered the Society of Jesus, being ordained priest at Paris in 1613. As an emissary of the society he returned to Scotland disguised as a soldier, and in October 1614 he was arrested in Glasgow. He defended himself stoutly when he was tried in Edinburgh, but he was condemned to death and was hanged on the 28th of February 1615.

A True Relation of the Proceedings against John Ogilvie, a Jesuit (Edinburgh, 1615), is usually attributed to Archbishop Spottiswoode. See also James Forbes, L'Eglise catholique en Ecosse: martyre de Jean Ogilvie (Paris, 1885); and W. Forbes-Leith, Narratives of Scottish Catholics (1885).


Unknown artist, Fr John Ogilvie, of the Society of Jesus, Alumnus of the Scots College at Douai, Suffered [martyred] in Scotland, 10th March 1615

John Ogilvie, Jesuit, born about 1580, was the eldest son of Walter Ogilvie of Drum, near Keith. At the age of twelve he went to the continent, and was there converted to Catholicism. About 1596 he entered the Scots College at Louvain, and subsequently visited the Benedictines at Ratisbon, and the Jesuit College at Olmütz, where he was admitted a member of the Society of Jesus. He spent two years of novitiate at Brunn, and between 1602 and 1613 lived at Gratz, Vienna, Olmütz, Paris, and Rouen. At Paris he was ordained priest in 1613.

Towards the close of the year he and two other priests, Moffat and Campbell, were ordered by the superior of the Scottish mission of the Society of Jesus to repair to Scotland. Ogilvie landed in the disguise of a soldier, under the assumed name of Watson, and, having separated from his companions, proceeded to the north, probably to his native district.

In six weeks he returned to Edinburgh, where he remained throughout the winter of 1613-14, as the guest of William Sinclair, advocate. Shortly before Easter (30 March) 1614 he set out for London on some mvsterious business. It has been alleged that lie had then a private interview with King James, but the story is probably one of the many rumours of Romanist intrigue which troubled the public mind after the excitement of 1592, and which laid the blame of the "damnable powder-treason" of 1605 on the English Jesuits Garnet and Oldcome.

Ogilvie paid a hurried visit to Paris at this time; but his superior, Father Gordon, thought his action ill-advised, and ordered his immediate return (see letter printed in James Forbes's Life of Ogilvie, p. 12n.) He was back in Edinburgh in June 1614, where he continued his propaganda under the protection of his friend Sinclair, saying mass in private and holding intercourse with many, including the notorious Sir James Macdouald of Islay, then a prisoner in the castle of Edinburgh.

He went to Glasgow in August, where he was discovered and arrested by order of Archbishop Spotiswood (4 Oct. 1614). A few Romish books and garments, a chalice and an altar, some relics, including a tuft of the hair of St. Ignatias, and some incriminating letters, 'not fit at that time to be divulgate,' were found in his possession. He was examined by a committee, consisting of the archbishop, the Bishop of Argyll, Lords Fleming, Boyd, and KiUyth, the provost of the city of Glasgow. Sir Walter Stewart, and Sir George Elphinston. The narrative. of the proceedings appeared in the 'True Relation' ascribed to Archbishop Spotiswood.

Ogilvie refused to give information ("his busines,' he said, 'was to saue soules'), and was sent to a chamber in the castle, where he remained till 8 Dec., lacking nothing 'worthy of a man of his quality," and having the constant attention of sundry ministers of the Kirk, who could not, however, argue him into a confession. Spotiswood had meanwhile informed the council of the capture and of the examination of Ogilvie's Glasgow accomplices; and they had on 11 Nov. issued a commission to him and to the treasurer-depute, the clerk of register, and Sir William Livingston of Kilsyth, or any three of them, the archbishop being one, to proceed to Glasgow to try all suspected persons, and generally to clear up the whole conspiracy (Register of Privy Courtcil, x. 284-6).

Ogilvie was, however, taken to Edinburgh, and brought before five of the council. He refused to explain the contents of the letters which had been seized in Glasgow, and conducted himself as before, until, under the painful torture of denial of sleep and rest, his 'braines became lightiiome,' and he gave up the names of some of his accomplices. The proceedings were suspended for the Christmas recess, and the archbishop obtained permission to 'keep him in his company' till his return to Eainburgh.

Meanwhile the king sent down a commission to Spotiswood and others to make a special examination of Ogilvie's tenets on royal and papal prerogative. The king's questions were put to Ogilvie on 18 Jan., but to little purpose; for, despite the endeavours of the archbishop and the arguments of Robert Boyd, principal of the college, and Robert Scot, a Glasgow minister, he not only maintained his obstinate attitude, but aggravated his Sosition by the statement "that he condemned the oaths of supremacie and allegeance proponed to be swome in England."

The catholic writers maintain that Ogilvie was put to severe torture during this examination. Spotiswood himself admits that he suggested the infliction of it as the only means of overcoming the prisoner's obstinacy, but that the king 'would not have these forms used with men of his profession.' If they merely found that he was a Jesuit, they were to banish him ; if they proved that he had been stirring up rebeUion, the ordinary course of justice was to be pursued. This examination may have been confused with a subsequent commission on 11 June against the Jesuit Moffat and his friends, in which the power of torture was given to the judges (Register of Privy Council, p. 336). 

Ogilvie's answers were sent to the king, who ordered the trial to proceed. A commission was issued on 21 Feb., and the trial was fixed for the last day of the month. Mr. Struthers returned to his persuasive arguments, though to no purpose "if he stoode in neede of their comfort," replied Ogilvie, "he shoulde advertise." The trial took place in Glasgow before the provost and three bailies, who held commission from the privy council, and seven assessors, including the archbishop. In the indictment and prosecution Ogilvie was told that it was not for the saying of mass, but for declining the king's authority, that he was on trial. This was in keeping with the king's list of questions, which to the presbyterian Calderwood "seemed rather a hindrance to the execution of justice upon the persons presently guiltie then to menu in earnest the repressing of Papists." 

Ogilvie provoked his judges by saying: "If the king will be to me as my predecessors were to mine, I will obey . . ., but, if he doe otherwise, and play the runneagate from God, as he and you all doe, I will not acknowledge him more than this old hatte." The archbishop's account of his subsequent conduct during the trial, at the swearing of the jury, and in his speech after the prosecution was closed shows that Ogilvie maintained his stubbornness to the last.



He was found guilty and was sentenced to be hanged and quartered. Three hours later he was led to the scaffold, where he had the ministrations of William Struthers and Robert Scot, the latter reiterating that it was not for his religion but for his political offence that he had been condemned. The quartering was not carried out. 

See: Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900 Volume 42 by George Gregory Smith


America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution - Irish Protestants by Catholics



Massacre of the Protestant Martyrs at the Bridge over the River Bann in Ireland, 1641. Engraving from Matthew Taylor, England's Bloody Tribunal: Or, Popish Cruelty Displayed ...London: J. Cooke, 1772. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

Drowning of Irish Protestants by Catholics

This image is a depiction of the murder by Irish Catholics of approximately one hundred Protestants from Loughgall Parish, County Armagh, at the bridge over the River Bann near Portadown, Ulster. This atrocity occurred at the beginning of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Having held the Protestants as prisoners and tortured them, the Catholics drove them "like hogs" to the bridge, where they were stripped naked and forced into the water below at swordspoint. Survivors of the plunge were shot.

The first British involvement in Ireland began in 1169, when Anglo-Norman troops arrived at Bannow Bay in County Wexford. During the next half millenium, successive English rulers attempted to colonize the island, pitching battles to increase their holdings – moves that sparked periodic rebellions by the Irish.

As the English gradually expanded their reach over the island by the 16th century, religious persecution of Catholic Irish grew – in particular after the accession of Elizabeth I, a Protestant, to the throne in 1558. Oliver Cromwell's subsequent siege of Ireland in 1649 ended with massacres of Catholics at Drogheda and Wexford and forced the resettlement of thousands, many of whom lost their homes in the struggle. By 1691, with the victory of Protestant English King William III over the Catholic forces of James II, Protestant supremacy in Ireland had become complete.

Catholics in Ireland suffered greatly in the subsequent period of British occupation, enduring laws that prevented them from bearing arms, holding public office and restricting their rights to an education. While many of those rights were eventually restored, the animosity between Catholics and Protestants remained.



America as a Religious Refuge - Protestant John Rogers by England's Catholic Queen Mary


The Burning of Master John Rogers. Engraving from John Fox, The Third Volume of the Ecclesiastical History containing the Acts and Monuments of Martyrs...

Martyrdom of John Rogers

The execution in 1555 of John Rogers (1500-1555) is portrayed here in the 9th edition of the famous Protestant martyrology, Fox's Book of Martyrs. Rogers was a Catholic priest who converted to Protestantism in the 1530s under the influence of William Tyndale and assisted in the publication of Tyndale's English translations of the Bible. Burned alive at Smithfield on February 4, 1555, Rogers became the "first Protestant martyr" executed by England's Catholic Queen Mary. He was charged with heresy, including denial of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of communion.

Two centuries after John Rogers's execution, his ordeal, with depictions of his wife and ten children added to increase the pathos, became a staple of The New England Primer. The Primer supplemented the picture of Rogers' immolation with a long, versified speech, said to be the dying martyr's advice to his children, which urged them to "Keep always God before your Eyes" and to "Abhor the arrant Whore of Rome, and all her Blasphemies." This recommendation, read by generations of young New Englanders, doubtless helped to fuel the anti-Catholic prejudice that flourished in that region well into the nineteenth century.


Mr. John Rogers. Woodblock print from The New-England Primer Improved Boston: A. Ellison, 1773. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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