Prior to European settlement, Maryland was populated by several Indian tribes. Most of them departed when white settlers began to arrive. Although Spaniards explored Chesapeake Bay in the 1500s, the first settlers were British. Some of them came as a result of a land grant to George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, by Charles I in 1632. Calvert, a Catholic, wanted a place where Catholics could practice their religion without persecution. In 1649, Maryland passed a landmark act guaranteeing religious toleration to people of all Christian faiths.

Another settlement was started by William Claiborne of Virginia, on Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay. Claiborne's trading post actually predated the Calvert colony and he disputed Maryland's claim of jurisdiction. The boundary issues between Maryland and Virginia were not finally settled until the Constitutional Convention that met in 1787.

Maryland warmly supported independence during the Revolutionary War, although relatively little fighting took place on its soil. On December 12, 1774, the Maryland deputies assembled at Annapolis and endorsed the Association of the Continental Congress. In fact, Maryland exceeded the recommendations of the First Continental Congress when the decided to form a militia. Maryland ratified the Constitution in 1788. During the War of 1812, the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor inspired Francis Scott Key to compose "The Star Spangled Banner."

Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, many people supported the American Party ("Know-Nothing Party") rather than either the increasingly proslavery Democrats or the antislavery Republicans. But by 1856, no party was safe from the effects of slavery and the Know-Nothings divided over the issue. The party's official candidate, Millard Fillmore, carried only the state of Maryland.

Geographically, Maryland was a Southern state and when Southern states began to secede in 1861, a decision to join the Confederacy would have made Washington untenable as the Union capital. However, despite being a slave state and having many Southern sympathizers, Maryland remained in the Union. Several major battles, including Antietam, were fought in Maryland. The state abolished slavery in 1864.

During the national debate on Prohibition, Marylanders were in the forefront of opposition. Many considered Prohibition to be a violation of states' rights. A newspaper editor consequently coined the nickname "Free State" for Maryland, which remains in some use today.

See Maryland

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Civil War Maryland Stories from the Old Line State by Richard P. Cox.
As a border state with ties to both the Union and the Confederacy, Maryland played a unique role in the war. This series of essays on Maryland's invol...
Fairchild Aircraft by Frank Woodring, Suanne Woodring.
When Orville Wright made the first successful flight of an airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, no one could have envisioned ...
Maryland Aviation by John R. Breihan.
Maryland is home to a number of aviation firsts: the first manned balloon ascent in the Western Hemisphere in 1784, the first aircraft carrier during ...
Frederick in the Civil War Battle and Honor in the Spired City by John W. Schildt.
Just south of the Mason-Dixon line, Frederick, Maryland, was poised at the crossroads of the Civil War. Here, Confederate troops passed west to the Ba...
Mid-Maryland, A Crossroads of History by Michael A. Powell and Bruce A. Thompson.
This collection of compelling and insightful essays offers fresh perspectives on an area of Maryland incomparably rich in history, taking the reader o...
Catholicism and American Freedom: A History by John T. McGreevy.
In the seventeenth century, England was very intolerant of Catholics, and the colony of Maryland was established in the hopes of creating a place wher...
Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears.
Combining brilliant military analysis with rich narrative history, Landscape Turned Red is the definitive work on the Battle of Antietam. The Civil ...
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz.
Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true stor...

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