Early voting laws in American varied throughout the colonies and territories, with authority to create and enact new laws limited to an appointed few. Published in 1635, A Relation of Maryland describes the geography, peoples, and other practical information Maryland to those making the journey to the province. It includes the Charter of Maryland, in which King Charles I of England granted to George Calvert proprietary rights to a region east of the Potomac River.
The early Maryland historical text is featured in Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America, a Special Collections & University Archives exhibit exploring the history of voting rights in America.
Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.
For October, we choose the oldest item in the exhibit, pulled from the Rare Books collection in Hornbake Library: A Relation of Maryland; Together, with a Map of the Countrey, the Conditions of Plantation, His Majesties Charter to the Lord Baltimore, published in London, 1635.
In section VII of the Charter of Maryland, Lord Baltimore is authority to enact laws “in agreement” with the freemen of the province, although mechanisms of obtaining consensus are not outlined and left entirely up to Lord Baltimore’s discretion:
“Know Ye therefore further, that We, forges, our Heirs and Successors, do grant unto the said now Baron, (in whose Fidelity, Prudence, Justice, and provident Circumspection of Mind, We repose the greatest Confidence) and to his Heirs, for the good and happy Government of the said Province, free, full, and absolute Power, by the Tenor of these Presents, to Ordain, Make, and Enact Laws, of what Kind soever, according to their sound Discretions whether relating to the Public State of the said Province, or the private Utility of Individuals, of and with the Advice, Assent, and Approbation of the Free-Men of the same Province, or the greater Part of them, or of their Delegates or Deputies, whom We will shall be called together for the framing of Laws, when, and as often as Need shall require, by the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, and his Heirs, and in the Form which shall seem best to him or them.”
Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.