- Loyal Protestants and Dangerous Papists: Maryland and the Politics of Religion in the English Atlantic, 1630-1690 by Antoinette Sutto
Virginia has long overshadowed Maryland in the historiography of the seventeenth-century English Chesapeake. Scholars of the 1970s and 1980s interested in Maryland’s social and economic structures depicted a colony not unlike the rest of the region. Yet its unique religious politics have always intrigued historians: chartered by a Protestant kingdom, ruled by Catholic lords, and inhabited by Protestant settlers, the colony’s atypical “confessional arrangement” of religious toleration would have seemed strange from an early modern perspective (2).
In Loyal Protestants and Dangerous Papists: Maryland and the Politics of Religion in the English Atlantic, 1630-1690, Antoinette Sutto analyzes the political controversies of early Maryland, controversies often described in the confessional terms of anti-popery. Sutto claims that conflicts over the status of Lord Baltimore’s proprietorship belonged to a longer “argument about religion and the state” in the English Atlantic (3). On one hand, debates over confessional difference, royal prerogative, loyalty, and law in Maryland mirrored those happening in England. On the other hand, such debates were shaped on the ground by “encounters with ‘others,’” including the Susquehannocks with whom colonists both consorted and clashed (6). [End Page 77]
Central to this study is the story of a Catholic proprietorship’s rise and fall. Maryland was carved out of Virginia in 1632, three years into Charles I’s personal rule. The king’s enmity toward anti-monarchical Puritans and emphasis on loyalty to the person of the king created opportunities for English Catholics such as Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, who defended his proprietary privileges by “lean[ing] heavily on his loyalty to the king and the power of the prerogative” (36). This argument became a liability during the English Civil War (1642-1651), which changed what it meant to be loyal, and the expansion of English colonial power after 1650, which raised questions about the relationship between colonial subjects and the English state. Marylanders increasingly resisted Baltimore’s authority with the view that “Protestant godliness,” not loyalty to the king, gave government legitimacy (67).
The author convincingly and creatively shows how debates in the colony over tobacco production and Anglo-Indian relations in the 1660s and 1670s formed part of a larger conversation about loyalty, public good, and Protestant interest. In England, the Popish Plot and Exclusion crisis (1678-1681) revived the old issue of confessional loyalty and raised new questions about religious uniformity. Meanwhile, local conflicts over proprietary power, legislative rights, and English liberties unfolded against a backdrop of growing crown efforts to systematize colonial rule. In Maryland, colonial, Atlantic, and imperial contexts converged.
Sutto’s book concludes with the proprietorship’s demise after the Glorious Revolution (1688). The aptly named Protestant Associators spread rumors of an “Indian-Catholic conspiracy,” then overthrew Baltimore when he failed to declare for King William and Queen Mary. Neither side won in the end; the Privy Council was less concerned about the proprietor’s Catholicism than the fact “that the authority of the crown was insufficiently recognized in Baltimore’s colony – interference with customs collection was more to the point than ill-substantiated stories of conspiracy with Jesuits” (173).
Situating anti-popery in Maryland within a longer debate about law, loyalty, politics, and order in the English Atlantic, this study resembles the recent scholarship on anti-popery in colonial political culture. Innovative for combining a case study of proprietary Maryland with a narrative of religious politics in the early modern Anglophone world, its sources range from London pamphlets to news and rumors on the ground. Sutto’s prose is clear but at times dense, which may slow down non-specialists. Nevertheless, this book should be recommended reading for any graduate student studying the English American colonies. Overall, Loyal Protestants and Dangerous Papists is an [End Page 78] important contribution to the growing body of literature compelling historians to acknowledge the role of...