Religion in the Southern Colonies
Southern Colonies claimed to have religious freedom but that tended to be a superficial idea. In these colonies Anglican faith was the most predominate. Anglican included Presbyterian and Baptist. While Protestants were somewhat tolerated most were Anglican. They didn’t really consider Native Americans and slaves religion to be an actual religion. Several people tried to convert slaves and Native Americans to their religion. When slaves began to give in they became predominately Baptist.
Anglican churches spread along the length of the Atlantic seaboard, the largest concentration being in the coastal South. In these colonies, Anglicanism also enjoyed the advantage of being the established, state-supported church, as it had been in England since the sixteenth century. In Anglicanism great emphasis is placed on observing a formal ceremonies–the celebration of saints’ days and other holy days. They had great performance of elaborate, dramatic ceremonies, the conduct of worship by reciting set prayers–all accompanied by organ music and choral singing and led by priests wearing vestments.
Much like Roman Catholics, Anglicans have always favored elegantly constructed churches with ornately decorated interiors. The purpose of all this outward show is to instill those attending worship with a sense of awe and piety. They were considered shallow. | Burton Parish Church in Virginia. Burton Parish Church in Virginia. | | 5a. Maryland — The Catholic Experiment James Barry, 1793 In this engraving, Cecil Calvert presents his 1649 Act Concerning Religion to the ancient Spartan lawgiver, Lycurgus, while libertarians throughout history, including Ben Franklin and William Penn, look on.
New England was not the only destination sought by those fleeing religious persecution. In 1632, Cecelius Calvert, known as Lord Baltimore, was granted possession of all land lying between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Lord Baltimore saw this as an opportunity to grant religious freedom to the Catholics who remained in Anglican England. Although outright violence was more a part of the 1500s than the 1600s, Catholics were still a persecuted minority in the seventeenth century. For example, Catholics were not even permitted to be legally married by a Catholic priest.
Baltimore thought that his New World possession could serve as a refuge. At the same time, he hoped to turn a financial profit from the venture. Maryland, named after England’s Catholic queen Henrietta Maria, was first settled in 1634. Unlike the religious experiments to the North, economic opportunity was the draw for many Maryland colonists. Consequently, most immigrants did not cross the Atlantic in family units but as individuals. The first inhabitants were a mixture of country gentlemen (mostly Catholic) and workers and artisans (mostly Protestant).
This mixture would surely doom the Catholic experiment. Invariably, there are more poor than aristocrats in any given society, and the Catholics soon found themselves in the minority. The geography of Maryland, like that of her Southern neighbor Virigina, was conducive to growing tobacco. The desire to make profits from tobacco soon led to the need for low-cost labor. As a result, the number of indentured servants greatly expanded and the social structure of Maryland reflected this change.
But the influx in immigration was not reflected in larger population growth because, faced with frequent battles with malaria and typhoid, life expectancy in Maryland was about 10 years less than in New England. Fearful that the Protestant masses might restrict Catholic liberties, the House of Delegates passed the Maryland Act of Toleration in 1649. This act granted religious freedom to all Christians. Like Roger Williams in Rhode Island and William Penn in Pennsylvania, Maryland thus experimented with laws protecting religious liberty.
Unfortunately, Protestants swept the Catholics out of the legislature within a decade, and religious strife ensued. Still, the Act of Toleration is an important part of the colonial legacy of religious freedom that will culminate in the First Amendment in the American Bill of Rights. Maryland At the time, Cecilius Calvert received a charter from the crown to found the colony of Maryland in 1632. Calvert came from a wealthy Catholic family, and he was the first single man to receive a grant from the crown, rather than a joint-stock company.
He received a grant for a large track of land north of the Potomac river and east of the Chesapeake Bay. Calvert planned on creating a haven for English Catholics, most of which were well-to-do nobles such as himself, but were unable to worship in public.  He planned on making an agrarian manorial society where each noble would have a large manor and tenants would work on fields, chores, and other deeds. However, with extremely cheap land prices, many Protestants moved to Maryland and bought land for themselves anyway. Quickly the population became a Protestant majority, and in 1642 religious tension began to erupt.
Calvert was forced to take control and pass the Act for Religious Tolerance in 1649, making Maryland the second colony to have freedom of worship, after Rhode Island. However, the act did little to help religious peace. In 1654, Protestants barred Catholics from voting, ousted a pro-tolerance Governor, and repealed the toleration act.  Maryland stayed Protestant until Calvert re-took control of the colony in 1658. In Virginia, which may be taken as the type of southern local government, the county, first called the shire, was the unit of representation.
The large plantations rendered the compact settlement impossible. At first the parish was the local unit, but it soon gave way to the county. The chief county officer was the sheriff, appointed by the governor. Next to the sheriff stood the “colonel,” whose duties were largely military. The counties were divided into parishes which were governed by vestries, whose duties were largely ecclesiastical. Local government, judicial and administrative, was chiefly in the hands of a county court, whose members, usually prominent planters unlearned in the law, were appointed by the governor.
This court gradually came to do the business formerly done by the parish. Instead of the town meeting, as in New England, the Virginians had their “court days,” on which the people of every rank would gather on the green about the courthouse to transact private business, to engage in sports, and to listen to stump speeches. In South Carolina there were parishes, but neither counties nor townships. In the Carolinas the governor and legislature found it almost impossible to govern the mountainous districts, and they were aided by bands of “regulators” organized or the purpose. In Maryland the “hundred” was the unit of representation till 1654, when it gave way to the county. The officers of the hundred, except the assessor, were appointed by the governor. Maryland discarded the term “hundred” in 1824, but Delaware, having adopted it, retains it to this day. In Delaware the “levy court,” composed of the assessors, justices, and grand jurors, met once a year to fix tax rates. The middle colonies borrowed from both New England and the South; they adopted a mixed system of county and township government.
In New York the township was the local unit, and not till after the English conquest was the county organized. Under English rule the town meeting was instituted, but with less power than in New England. They chose “overseers,” instead of “selectmen,” and other officers. After 1703 they chose a “supervisor” to manage the affairs of the township and he was also a county officer as a member of the county board of supervisors, which met once a year. In Pennsylvania the county was at first the only organization for local government. It had charge of the non-judicial, as well as the judicial, business. This was at first among the duties of the court, but at length it was placed in the hands of commissioners elected by the people. As the population increased the township was organized to aid the county in local matters, such as the care of highways, the assessing of property, and the like; but the county remained the administrative district and the unit of representation. Nearly all the states organized since the Revolution have adopted the mixed system of New York and Pennsylvania.
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