Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The awesomeness that is history (mostly for John, but anyone else out there who likes a good history story)

This is why history is so interesting - as soon as we think we have a grasp on it, something new comes up that reorganizes how we think about the past (and the present).


1 comment:

Big Myk said...

I had to look up the word crypto-catholic. So, I find that crypto means "secret, hidden, or concealed." Cryptology, Alan Turing's specialty, is the science or study of the techniques of secret writing, especially code and cipher systems. Senator Joseph McCarthy was always looking for crypto-communists.

From what I can tell, if you wanted to be a Catholic in the Jamestown colony, you had better be crypto about it. At that time, Catholics in England could not hold municipal office, be employed as a civil or military officer, take a seat in Parliament or serve in any of the "learned" professions (medicine and law mostly).

In late September or October 1629, Sir George Calvert, a converted Catholic and the later founder of Maryland, arrived in Jamestown, where he received a cool welcome. Calvert refused to sign oaths of supremacy and allegiance, required even though he was a British lord, and the colonists ordered him to leave.

More alarming, however, was the case of Captain George Kendall, one of the original Jamestown council members. Kendall holds the distinction of being the first person executed in English America. A Catholic, he was convicted of spying for the Spanish on no more evidence than the say-so of the colony's blacksmith. The blacksmith himself was facing execution for striking the colony's president, but was able to escape the sentence by coming forward with the information against Kendall.

John, our man in Maryland, can you that religious toleration was not completely foreign in the colonies. In 1649, Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act, the first law expressly providing for religious tolerance in the British North America. It's most important language:

...no person or persons...professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be anyways troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province...

Unfortunately, the act applied only to trinitarian Christians, and did not apply to Unitarians or Jews. But, considering the fact that the thinking of the Enlightenment was still decades away, it was still an impressive step. It is believed that our First Amendment's reference to the "free exercise" of religion was taken from the Maryland act.