Maryland Toleration Act

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Maryland Toleration Act
source text: Maryland; the Land of Sanctuary: A History of Religious Toleration in Maryland from the First Settlement until the American Revolution by William Thomas Russell (1863-1927), J.H. Furst company, 1907; corrected Google Books OCR scan.

An Act Concerning Religion, (April 2, 1649)[edit]

Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Commonwealth, matters concerning Religion and the honour of God ought in the first place to be taken into serious consideration and endeavored to be settled,—Be it therefore ordained and enacted by the Right Honourable Cecilius, Lord Baron of Baltimore, absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province, with the advice and consent of this General Assembly that whatsoever person or persons within this province and the islands thereunto belonging, shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is curse His, or shall deny Our Saviour Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, or shall deny the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son & Holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said three persons of the Trinity, or the unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachful speeches, words or language concerning the Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shall be punished with death, and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her land and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs.

And be it also enacted by the authority and with the advice and assent aforesaid: That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachful words or speeches concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Saviour, or the holy Apostles or Evangelists, or any of them, shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary, and his heirs, Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, the sum of £5 sterling, or the value thereof, to be levied on the goods and chattels of every such person so offending: but in case such offender or offenders should not then have goods and chattels sufficient for the satisfying of such forfeiture, or that the same be not otherwise speedily satisfied, that then such offender or offenders shall be publicly whipped and be imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieutenant or chief governor of this Province for the time being; and that every such offender or offenders for every such second offence shall forfeit £10 sterling, or the value thereof to be levied as aforesaid or in case such offender or offenders shall not then have goods and chattels within this Province sufficient for that purpose, then to be publicly and severely whipped and imprisoned as before is expressed; and that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third offence forfeit all his lands and goods, and be forever banished and expelled out of this province.

And be it also further enacted by the same authority, advice and assent, that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth upon any occasion of offence or otherwise, in a reproachful manner or other way, declare, call, or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, trafficing, trading or commercing, within this Province, or within any the ports, harbours, creeks or havens to the same belonging, an Heretic, Schismatic, Idolator Puritan, Presbyterian, Independent, Popish Priest, Jesuit, Jesuited Papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or other name or term in a reproachful manner, relating to matters of religion, shall for every such offence forfeit and lose the sum of 10s. sterling or the value thereof to be levied on the goods and chattels of every such offender or offenders, the one-half thereof to be forfeit and paid to the person or persons of whom such reproachful words are or shall be spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs, lords and proprietaries, but if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speak any such reproachful words or language, shall not have goods or chattels sufficient and overt within this province to be taken to satisfy the penalty aforesaid, or that the same be not otherwise speedily satisfied, then the person or persons so offending shall be publicly whipped, and shall suffer imprisonment without bail or mainprise, until he, she or they respectively, shall satisfy the party offended or grieved by such reproachful language, by asking him or her, respectively forgiveness publicly for such his offence before the magistrate or chief officer or officers of the town or place where such offence shall be given.

And be it further likewise enacted by the authority and consent aforesaid, that every person and persons within this Province, that shall at any time hereafter profane the Sabbath or Lord's Day, called Sunday, by frequent swearing, drunkenness, or by any uncivil, or disorderly recreation, or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require, shall for every such first offence forfeit 2s. 6d. sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s. sterling or the value thereof and for the third offence, and for every time he shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s. sterling or the value thereof; and in case such offender or offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattels within this Province to satisfy any of the said penalties respectively hereby imposed for profaning the Sabbath or Lord's Day called Sunday as aforesaid, then in every such case the party so offending, shall for the first and second offence in that kind be imprisoned until he or she shall publicly in open Court, before the Chief Commander, judge or magistrate of that county, town or precinct wherein such offence shall be committed, acknowledge the scandal and offence he hath in that respect given against God, and the good and civil government of this Province; and for the third offence and for every time after shall also be publicly whipped. And whereas the enforcing of the conscience in matters of religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous consequence in those Commonwealths where it has been practised, and for the more quiet and peaceable government of this Province, and the better to preserve mutual love and amity amongst the inhabitants here,—Be it therefore also, by the Lord Proprietary, with the advice and assent of this Assembly, ordained and enacted, except as in this present Act is declared and set forth, that no person or persona whatsoever within this Province or the Islands, ports, harbours, creeks or havens thereunto belonging, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be anyways troubled, molested or discountenenced, for or in respect of his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof, within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging, nor anyway compelled to the belief or exercise of any other religion against his or her consent, so as they be not unfaithful to the Lord Proprietary or molest or conspire against the civil government, established or to be established in this Province under him or his heirs; and that all and every person or persons that shall presume contrary to this Act, and the true intent and meaning thereof, directly or indirectly, either in person or estate, wilfully to wrong, disturb or trouble, or molest any person or persons whatsoever within this Province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, for or in respect of his or her religion, or the free exercise thereof within this Province, otherwise than is provided for in this Act, that such person or persons so offending shall be compelled to pay treble damages to the party so wronged or molested, and for every such offence shall also forfeit 20s. sterling in money or the value thereof, half thereof for the use of the Lord Proprietary and his heirs, Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, and the other half thereof for the use of the party so wronged or molested as aforesaid; or if the party so offending as aforesaid shall refuse or be unable to recompence the party so wronged or to satisfy such fine or forfeiture, then such offender shall be severely punished by public whipping and imprisonment during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary, or his lieutenant or chief Governor of this Province for the time being, without bail or mainprise.

And be it further also enacted by the authority and consent aforesaid, that the sheriff or other officer or officers from time to time be appointed and authorized for that purpose of the county, town or precinct where every particular offence, in this present Act contained, shall happen at any time to be committed, and whereupon there is hereby a forfeiture, fine or penalty imposed, shall from time to time distrain, and seize the goods and estates of every such person so offending as aforesaid against this present Act or any part thereof, and sell the same or any part thereof for the full satisfaction of such forfeiture, fine or penalty as aforesaid, restoring to the party so offending the remainder or overplus of the said goods and estate after such satisfaction so made as aforesaid.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1927, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.