Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Calvert, George (1580?-1632)

CALVERT, GEORGE, first Lord Baltimore (1580?–1632), statesman, son of Leonard Calvert and Alice, daughter of John Crosland of Crosland, was born at Kipling in the chapelry of Bolton in Yorkshire about 1580. In the Oxford University register of matriculations, Calvert, who matriculated from Trinity College on 12 July 1594, is entered as ‘annos natus 14.’ He obtained the degree of B.A. on 23 Feb. 1597, and was created M.A. on 30 Aug. 1605, during the visit of King James to Oxford. After leaving Oxford he travelled for a time, and on his return became secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, ‘being then esteemed a forward and knowing person in matters relating to the state’ (Wood). On 10 July 1606 Calvert was granted the office of clerk of the crown in the province of Connaught and county of Clare (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1603–6, p. 565). In January 1608 he was appointed one of the clerks of the council (Lodge, Illustr. of English Hist. iii. 256), and entered parliament as M.P. for Bossiney in October 1609. In January 1612 he is mentioned as assisting the king in the composition of his discourse against Vorstius, and in June of the following year, during the vacancy of the secretary of state's place, the charge of answering the Spanish and Italian corespondence was entrusted to him (Court and Times of James I, i. 134–76). In 1613 Calvert was one of the committee sent to Ireland to examine into the grievance of the catholics and the complaints made against the lord deputy (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1611–14, Commission, p. 436, Report of Commissioners, pp. 426, 438). His different services were rewarded in 1617 by knighthood (29 Sept.), and in February 1619 he became secretary of state. ‘The night before he was sworn,’ writes Chamberlain to Carleton, ‘the lord of Buckingham told him the king's resolution; but he disabled himself various ways, but specially that he thought himself unworthy to sit in that place, so lately possessed by his noble lord and master’ (Court and Times of James I, i. 142). The trial of the Earl of Suffolk in the Star-chamber was the first business of importance on which Calvert was engaged, and his letters to Buckingham during that trial, particularly one in which he excuses himself for his ‘error in judgment’ in consenting to too light a sentence on the delinquent, show how much he depended on the favourite's influence (Fortescue Papers, p. 98; Howard, Collection of Letters, p. 57). On 2 May 1620 the king granted Calvert a yearly pension of 1,000l. on the customs (Camden, James I). In the parliament of 1621 he with Sir Thomas Wentworth represented Yorkshire; their election, which was obtained through an unscrupulous exertion of Wentworth's influence, though called in question, was voted good by the House of Commons. It was Calvert's duty as secretary to lay the king's necessities before the house and press for a supply for the defence of the Palatinate. He would not have our king, he said, ‘trust entirely to the king of Spain's affection. It is said our king's sword hath been too long sheathed; but they who shall speak to defer a supply seek to keep it longer in the scabbard’ (Proceedings and Debates, ii. 213; vide also i. 48). As intermediary between the king and the commons in the disputes which arose during the second session, the secretary had a very difficult part to play. To him James, on 16 Dec. 1621, addressed the remarkable letter in which he explained his answer to the remonstrance of the commons, but he could not succeed in preventing the drawing up of the protestation by which the commons replied (ib. ii. 339). The house did not trust him; he was suspected of communicating to the king intelligence of their proceedings, to the detriment of the leading members. Allusions to this were made in the debates, and the charge is directly brought against him by Wilson, with special reference to this remonstrance (Wilson, Life of James I, p. 71). A few days earlier, when he had attempted to explain the commitment of Sir E. Sandys, and asserted that he was not committed for anything said or done in parliament, a member moved that the statement should be entered in the journals, and the note-taker adds, ‘the house will scarce believe Mr. Secretary, but thinketh he equivocateth’ (Proceedings and Debates, ii. 200). At the same time Calvert possessed no great influence with the king. The French ambassador, Tillières, in a letter dated 25 Nov. 1621, describes the secretary as an honourable, sensible, well-intentioned man, courteous to strangers, full of respect towards ambassadors, zealously intent for the welfare of England, but by reason of these good qualities entirely without consideration or influence (Raumer, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ii. 263). As the most efficient of the two secretaries of state the conduct of foreign affairs was principally in Calvert's hands, and he shared at the time the unpopularity of his master's policy. He was accused of being sold to Spain, and of an undue devotion to the interests of catholicism, a charge to which his subsequent conversion gave some colour. Nevertheless, says Mr. Gardiner, ‘it is quite a mistake to suppose that because Calvert afterwards became a catholic he was ready to betray English interests into the hands of the Spaniards. Expressions in favour of a more decided policy in Germany than that adopted by the king are constantly occurring in his correspondence with Carleton’ (Spanish Marriage, iv. 411). But the failure of the Spanish marriage scheme was still a blow to him, both as a statesman and a catholic. A correspondent of Roe's describes him as never ‘looking merrily since the prince his coming out of Spain’ (Roe's Letters, p. 372). On 8 Jan. 1623–4 he became M.P. for Oxford University. In the council he was one of nine who opposed a breach with Spain (14 Jan. 1624) and in the following January he resigned his office and declared himself a catholic. Goodman, who describes him as having been converted by Count Gondomar and Count Arundel (whose daughter Calvert's son had married), states that for some time he had made no secret of his views. ‘As it was said, the secretary did usually catechise his own children, so as to ground them in his own religion; and in his best room having an altar set up, with chalice, candlesticks, and all other ornaments, he brought all strangers thither, never concealing anything, as if his whole joy and comfort had been to make open profession of his religion’ (Court of King James, p. 376). Calvert resigned on 12 Feb. 1625 (Cal. State Papers, Dom.), being allowed to sell his office to Sir Albert Morton for 6,000l., and obtaining also the title of Baron of Baltimore in the county of Longford in Ireland (16 Feb. 1625). Large estates in that district had before been granted to him; these were now confirmed to him by a fresh grant (12 Feb. 1625). On the accession of Charles I, Baltimore made objections to taking the oath offered to him as a privy councillor, and was consequently excluded from the council. He returned to Ireland bearing a letter to the lord deputy, in which the king recommended him as one who ‘parted from us with our princely approbation and in our good grace’ (29 May 1625). Except that he was summoned to court in February 1627 to consult on the terms of the proposed peace with Spain, he took henceforth no part in state affairs. For the rest of his life he devoted himself to what one of his biographers terms ‘that ancient, primitive, and heroic work of planting the world.’ As early as 1621 Calvert had despatched Captain Edward Wynne to Newfoundland, where he established a small settlement named Ferryland. In 1622 another ship, under Captain Daniel Powell, was sent to carry on the work (Letters of Wynne and Powell; Oldmixon, British Empire in America, i. 9). Finding their reports favourable, Calvert now obtained a charter for the colony under the name of the province of Avalon (Cal. State Papers, Colonial, 7 April 1623), so called, says Lloyd, ‘in imitation of old Avalon in Somersetshire, where Glastonbury stands, the first-fruits of christianity in Britain, as the other was in that part of America’ (Lloyd, State Worthies). ‘Mr. Secretary Calvert,’ wrote Sir William Alexander two years later, ‘hath planted a colony at Ferryland, who both for building and making trial of the ground have done more than was ever performed of any in so short a time, having on hand a brood of horses, cows, and other bestials, and by the industry of his people he is beginning to draw back yearly some benefits from thence already’ (An Encouragement to Colonies, p. 25). Nevertheless, in 1627 Baltimore found it necessary either to go over and settle the colony in better order, or to lose the fruit of all his exertions (Strafford Correspondence, i. 39). He arrived at Newfoundland in July 1627, but remained there merely a few weeks; in the following spring, however, he returned again with his family, and continued to reside there until the autumn of 1629. During this second visit Baltimore successfully repulsed the attacks of some French privateers, and took six prizes, but dissensions arose in the colony in consequence of the presence of the priests whom he brought with him, and a puritan denounced him to the home authorities for allowing the practice of catholicism and the saying of masses (Cal. State Papers, Col. 93, 94). A more serious difficulty was the climate, and on 19 Aug. 1629 Baltimore wrote to the king complaining that the winter lasted from October to May, that half his company had been sick, and ten were dead, and begged for a grant of lands in a more genial country (ib. 100). Without waiting for the king's reply he set sail for Virginia, but directly he landed at Jamestown was met with the demand that he should take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and a refusal to allow him to establish himself there except on that condition (ib. 104). Baltimore returned to England and endeavoured to obtain a patent for a new colony. In February 1631 he was on the point of securing a grant for a district south of the James River, but the opposition of the members of the late Virginia Company obliged him to abandon it (Neill, p. 19). He now sought instead for a similar grant in the region north and east of the Potomac, but the same influences interposed to delay its completion, and he died on 15 April 1632, before the patent had passed the great seal. He was buried in the church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, in Fleet Street (Wood). The charter of Maryland was finally sealed on 20 June 1632 (Cal. State Papers, Col.), and Cecilius, second lord Baltimore, founded the colony which his father had projected. The name it received was given it by Charles I, in honour of his queen, and the provisions of the charter were copied from the charter of Carolana, granted to Sir Robert Heath in 1629 (Neill, pp. 20–24). The question whether Baltimore designed the colony to be a stronghold for persecuted Romanism, or intended to base it on the principle of toleration for all sects, has been much discussed. But the clause requiring that all churches and places of worship in Maryland should be dedicated and consecrated according to the ecclesiastical laws of the church of England refutes the former theory, and proves that the church of England was to be regarded as the sole established religion. Certainly Baltimore sought the free exercise of his own religion, and was prepared to practise the toleration he demanded, but no legal provision for toleration was made until the laws of 1649. The power of the proprietor and the composition of the colony were sufficient to secure it. Baltimore married Anne, daughter of George Mynne of Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire. He was succeeded by his son Cecil; a second son, Leonard [q. v.], was the first governor of Maryland.

Baltimore's works are: 1. ‘Carmen funebre in D. Hen. Untonum,’ in an Oxford collection of verses on Sir Henry Unton's death, 1596, 4to. 2. ‘The Answer to Tom Tell-Troth, the Practice of Princes, and the Lamentations of the Kirk,’ a quarto pamphlet printed in 1642, and said to be ‘written by Lord Baltimore, late secretary of state.’ This is a justification of the policy of King James in refusing to support the claim of the Elector Palatine to the crown of Bohemia, or to support by arms his restoration to his hereditary dominions. 3. ‘He hath also written something concerning Maryland, but whether printed or not I cannot tell’ (Wood). 4. Letters in various printed collections, viz. four letters in the ‘Strafford Papers,’ five in the ‘Clarendon State Papers,’ four in Leonard Howard's ‘Collection of Letters,’ 1753, eleven letters in the ‘Fortescue Papers’ (Camden Society, 1871), three in the ‘Relations between England and Germany in 1618–19’ (Camden Society, 1865), two letters in the ‘Court and Times of James I,’ and others in the ‘Calendar of Domestic State Papers.’ Manuscript letters are to be found, six in the ‘Tanner MSS.,’ fifteen among the ‘Harleian MSS.’ (1580), and in ‘MSS. Cotton. Julius,’ c. iii. fol. 126–30.

[Calendar of Domestic, Colonial, and Irish State Papers; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Lloyd's State Worthies; Goodman's Court of James I; Court and Times of James I and Charles I, 4 vols. 1848; Gardiner's History of England; Doyle's The English in America; Neill's Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, Baltimore, 1869; Kennedy's Discourse on the Life and Character of Sir G. Calvert, Baltimore, 1845; the Reply to Kennedy and the Review of Reply to Kennedy's Life of Sir George Calvert; the London Magazine for June 1768 contains an account of the Baltimore family.]

C. H. F.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.49
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
270 ii 4 f.e. Calvert, George, 1st Lord Baltimore: before In the insert On 8 Jan. 1623-4 he was elected M.P. for Oxford University
272 i 11 for Anne, daughter of George Wynne read in 1604-5 Anne (d. 1622), daughter of a Roman catholic, George Mynne
12 after Hertfordshire insert By her he had six sons and five daughters. There is some evidence of a second marriage
18 f.e. add A portrait by Mytens has been often engraved