Quakers in Maryland


Benjamin Hallowell.  Courtesy of the Sandy Spring MuseumThe first Quaker to visit Maryland was a traveling Friend as Quaker missionaries were called.    Her name was Elizabeth Harris and it is thought that she visited around 1655.  By 1700, it is estimated that there were approximately three thousand Quakers in Maryland, enough to support two yearly meetings. Along with Catholics, this made Quakers a significant minority in the Colony.  In 1649, the freeman of Maryland enacted an Act Concerning Religion which is more familiarly called the Toleration Act.  The usual explanation for this Act is that the current Lord Baltimore was trying to protect the Catholics in the province who had become a minority in the province established as a haven for them.  Usually, the Quakers are mentioned as the second beneficiary to the Act; however, theirs is a much more complicated case.  In fact, the history of Quakers in Maryland seems to be one of those threads which parallels and reflect the development of Maryland society in General.

While the condition of Quakers in Maryland as a minority is far better than it is for them in almost every other colony, it is no cake walk.  While it is true that the Toleration Act of 1649 allowed dissenters to practice their religion, it does not always protect them fully from discrimination and acrimony.  It is true that the Toleration Act made Maryland appear to be more welcoming but it is also true that Lord Baltimore needed to solidify his hold on the Eastern shore over which he was in dispute with Virginia.  The Act encouraged Quakers to escape Virginian persecution by moving to territory claimed by Maryland on the Eastern Shore.  Those immigrants then became loyal to the proprietor.  Once Maryland’s jurisdiction over the territory solidified, there was a shift in attitude from viewing Quakers as model citizens to viewing them as obstinate shirkers.  Of course, by that time immigrants from England reflected the more orthodox religious views from that island.  While the atmosphere in Maryland will never reach the extremes of discrimination and persecution that Quakers experienced in other colonies, it was far from idyllic.  One constant theme during this period of time seems to be perseverance. While they will chafe under the requirement to support the Anglican church through forced tithing as well as their ouster from public office because of their refusal to swear oaths, they do not give up but develop new methods  to influence the political process.

Hidden behind the story reflected in the written records of the provincial government, is a history of a group who were struggling to define the basic tenets of their faith as well as solidifying a supporting consensus.  Today, we associate Quakers with non-violence and conscientious objectors.  We also portray them as ardent abolitionists and activists for women’s suffrage.  At one point, they were leaders in education.  Their efforts to purchase land from Native Americans, rather than just appropriate fits very well with modern day attitudes.  However, these characteristics that we associate with Quakers today were not fully developed in colonial Maryland.  Just as colonial society was developing and maturing, so was that of the Quakers. While in most cases their course has been the proven course, it was not always a straightforward move ahead – it sometimes required dissent from within.  In this way, their struggles can be seen as a more universal struggle.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 2:  Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)

Standard 1: Why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean.

Standard 1AThe student understands how diverse immigrants affected the formation of European colonies.
5-12:  Analyze the religious, political, and economic motives of free immigrants from different parts of Europe who came to North America and the Caribbean. [Consider multiple causation] 

Standard 1B: The student understands the European struggle for control of North America.
7-12:   Analyze relationships between Native Americans and Spanish, English, French, and Dutch settlers. [Compare and contrast different sets of ideas]
5-12:   Compare how English settlers interacted with Native Americans in New England, mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and lower South colonies. [Consider multiple perspectives]

Standard 2: How political, religious, and social institutions emerged in the English colonies

Standard 2A: The student understands the roots of representative government and how political rights were defined.
5-12: Compare how early colonies were established and governed. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
9-12: Analyze how gender, property ownership, religion, and legal status affected political rights. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 2BThe student understands religious diversity in the colonies and how ideas about religious freedom evolved
9-12:   Describe religious groups in colonial America and the role of religion in their communities. [Consider multiple perspectives]
7-12:   Trace and explain the evolution of religious freedom in the English colonies. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration]

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Introduction to the Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1666-1670
    SOURCE:   Proceedings of the Provincial Court, 1666-1670, Volume 57, Preface 56
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  2. DESCRIPTION: THE DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, Agreed to by the Delegates of Maryland in free and full Convention assembled, November 3d, Anno Domini 1776, No. 36: The manner of administering an oath.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   3 November 1776
    SOURCE:   William Kilty et. al., (eds).The Laws of Maryland from the End of the Year 1799,... Volume 192, Page 8
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  3. DESCRIPTION:.A series of statutes illustrating the intersection of  church and state.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:    Annotated volumes published in 1840
    NOTES:  This section starts a series of statues that cover religious objection to oath swearing. The first statute is labeled 1794, ch 49 and allows those individuals elected office to affirm rather than swear an oath of office for religious reasons.  The next statue states which religions fall under this exemption. The next section says that the courts must be satisfied  In 1817, chapter 17, section I, allowing affirmation rather than swearing is continued, as long as the courts are satisfied.
    SOURCE:  Clement Dorsey. The general public statutory law and public local law of the state of Maryland: from the year 1692 to 1839 inclusive, with annotations thereto, and a copious index
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  4. DESCRIPTION: For preventing Bribery and Corruption in the Elections of Citizens or Delegates to serve in Assembly for the City of Annapolis
    NOTES: An example of the accommodations made because Quakers could not swear oaths for religious reasons.
    SOURCE:   Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, May, 1730-August, 1732, Volume 37, Page 516
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  5. DESCRIPTION: A debate on who may officiate at a wedding with special emphasis on Quakers and Jews.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   27 April 1864
    SOURCE:   Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention, Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 975 
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  6. DESCRIPTION: An Act concerning nonjurors
    SOURCE:   Hanson's Laws of Maryland 1763-1784, Volume 203, Page 214
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  7. DESCRIPTION: Repeal of part of An Act concerning nonjurors
    SOURCE:   Hanson's Laws of Maryland 1763-1784, Volume 203, Page 295
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  8. DESCRIPTION: Reference to a case concerning the validity of a Quaker marriage
    SOURCE:   MSA C 1774-12:  Somerset Judicial Records 1692-96, Abstracts with Selected Transcriptions Volume 535, Page 129  
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  9. DESCRIPTION: Portion of the debate of 1864 concerning administering an oath based on religious denomination
    SOURCE:   Proceedings and Debates of the 1864 Constitutional Convention, Volume 102, Volume 1, Debates 386
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  10. DESCRIPTION: Quaker Meetinghouse, Harford County MD
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   October 1936
    SOURCE:   Historic American Buildings Survey E. H. Pickering, Photographer HABS MD,13-FAL,1-1
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  11. DESCRIPTION: Quaker Meetinghouse, Cecil County MD
    NOTES: Stone part of house dates to 1735 and brick to 1701
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   December 1936
    SOURCE:   Historic American Buildings Survey E.H. Pickering, Photographer HABS MD,8-CALV.V
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  12. DESCRIPTION: Quaker Meetinghouse, Talbot Count MD
    NOTES: Oldest frame house of worship in Maryland. Lord and Lady Baltimore attended service here in 1700 when William Penn Preached. [picture caption]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:   December 1936
    SOURCE:   Historic American Buildings Survey E.H. Pickering, Photographer HABS MD,21-EATO.V
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

Additional Media Resources

Baker, Alice Crew.  “[An Early] History of Adelphi Friends Meeting

Library of Congress exhibit on “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Maryland State Archives:  Guide to Maryland Religious Institutions Featuring the Collections of the Maryland State Archives, Draft edition, February 2002.

Maryland State Archives: Johns Hopkins

Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame:  Elizabeth King Ellicott

Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame:  Martha Carey Thomas

Pathways to Freedom:  Maryland & the Underground Railroad

Patuxent Friends Monthly Meeting, “A History of Quakers in Southern Maryland

Quaker History for Quaker.org

Quaker Meetings in Maryland, a chart

Sandy Spring Museum

Sutton, Marshall O.  “Gunpowder Friends Meeting, Sparks, Maryland – A Brief History

Additional Instructional Resources

An Approach to Teaching Religious Tolerance from the Educator’s Reference Desk

Flashpoints USA, for Educations, Lesson Plans PBS: Church and State Separation: The Challenge and Debate

Secondary Resources

Aptheker, Herbert.  “The Quakers and Negro Slavery.”  The Journal of Negro History 25, no. 3 (July 1940): 331-362.

Bonomi, Patricia U. and Peter R. Eisenstadt.  “Church Adherence in the Eighteenth-Century American Colonies.” The William and Mary Quarterly 39, no. 2 (April 1982): 245-286.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Josesph Nichols and the Nicholites of Caroline County."Maryland Historical Magazine 45 (1950): 47-61. 

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Maryland Quakers and Slavery." Maryland Historical Magazine 45 (1950): 215-225.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "More About the Nicholites." Maryland Historical Magazine 46 (1951): 278-289.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Maryland Quakers in the Seventeenth Century." Maryland Historical Magazine 47 (1952): 297-313.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Talbot County Quakerism in the Colonial Period." Maryland Historical Magazine 53 (1958): 326-370.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Religious Influences on the Manumission of Slaves in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties." Maryland Historical Magazine 56 (1961): 176- 197.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Quaker Opposition to the Establishment of a State Church in Maryland." Maryland Historical Magazine 65 (1970): 149-170. Cohen, Charles L.  “The Post-Puritan Paradigm of Early American Religious History.” The William and Mary Quarterly, 54, n. 4 (October 1997), 695-772.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Nicholites and Slavery in Eighteenth Century Maryland."Maryland Historical Magazine 79 (1984): 126-133.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "An Eighteenth-Century Episcopalian Attack on Quaker and Methodist Manumission of Slaves. Maryland Historical Magazine 80 (1985):

Carroll, Kenneth L. "The Berry Brothers of Talbot County, Maryland: Early Antislavery Leaders." Maryland Historical Magazine 84 (1989): 1-89.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Voices of Protest: Eastern Shore Abolitionism Societies, 1790-1820." Maryland Historical Magazine 84 (1989): 350-360.

Carroll, Kenneth L. "Maryland Quakers in England, 1659-1720." Maryland Historical Magazine 91 (1996): 451-466.

Doherty, Robert W.  “Religion and Society:  The Hicksite Separation of 1827.” American Quarterly 17, no. 1 (Spring, 1965): 63-80.

Du Bois, W.E.B.  “How Negroes Have Taken Advantage of Educational Opportunities Offered by Friends.” The Journal of Negro Education 7, no. 2 (April 1938): 124-131.

Dumm, Thomas L.  “Friendly Persuasion:  Quakers, Liberal Toleration, and the Birth of the Prison.” Political Theory 13, no. 3 (August 1985): 387-407.

Dunn, Mary Maples.  “Saints and Sisters:  Congregational and Quaker Women in the Early Colonial Period.” American Quarterly 30, no. 5, Special Issue: Women and Religion, (Winter, 1978): 582-601.

Green, Evarts B.  “Persistent Problems of Church and State.”  The American Historical Review 36, no. 2 (January 1931): 257-278.

Hull, Amy Eleanor. "Friends in Cecil County." Maryland Historical Magazine 7 (1912): 328.

Jacobsen, Phebe R.  Quaker Records in Maryland.  The Hall of Records Commission, Publication No. 14.  (Annapolis, Md.,: The Hall of Records Commission, 1966).

James, Sydney V.  “The Impact of the American Revolution on Quakers’ Ideas about their Sect.”  The William and Mary Quarterly  19, no. 3 (July 1962): 360-382.

Jensen, Joan M.  “Not Only Ours but Others:  The Quaker Teaching Daughters of the Mid-Atlantic, 1790-1850.”  History of Education Quarterly 24, no. 1 (Spring, 1984): 3-19.

Jordan, David W.  “’Gods Candle’ within Government:  Quakers and Politics in Early Maryland.”  The William and Mary Quarterly 39, no. 4 (October 1982): 628-654.

Lowenherz, Robert J.  “Roger Williams and the Great Quaker Debate.”  American Quarterly 11, no. 2, Part 1 (Summer, 1959): 157-165.

Pugh, Dorothy.  “Benjamin Hallowell: Quaker Educator.” Montgomery County Story25, no. 2 (May 1982)

Pugh, Dorothy.  “A History of Fair Hill Boarding Schools.” Montgomery County Story 21, no. 2 (May 1982).

Stabler, Esther B. “Sandy Spring & the Friends Meeting From its Earliest History to 1853.” Montgomery County Story XI, no. 1 (November 1967).

Tolles, Frederick B.  “’Of the Best Sort but Plain’ : The Quaker Esthetic.” American Quarterly 11, no. 4 (Winter, 1959): 484-502.

Way, Frank.  “Religious Disputation and the Civil Courts: Quasi-Establishment and Secular Principles.”  The Western Political Quarterl, 42, no. 4 (December 1989): 523-543.

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Marie Hughes.


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