What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about?

The Maryland Toleration Act is a historical document, founded on April 21, 1649, in the current state of Maryland, USA. The Act legally established religious freedom, but only among Christians. Thus, according to the regulations, it was possible to believe in any unit of the Christian religion. It was forbidden to follow other gods, to speak negatively about saints and to show disrespect for faith.


Freedom of religion was initially considered to be one of the most fundamental civil and human rights with which the notion of liberty was associated. History knows many cases and periods of the planting of faith alien to them by an entire people. The first attempt to resolve conflicts caused by religious diversity among peoples was made on the American continent. The law proclaiming freedom of religion was passed by the Assembly of the Colony of Maryland in 1649 to bring down the wave of discontent with the implantation of Catholicism in the colony by its Lord Owner.

The history of the act is linked to the account of the state. The founder of Maryland is Lord George Calvert, who, in 1629, asked King Charles I of England to grant him the right to establish a new colony in America. One of his goals in founding the new colony was to provide a haven for English Catholics over the ocean. Three years later, in June 1632, after George Calvert’s sudden death, his son, Cecil Calvert, received a state patent to establish the new colony, named after Queen Henrietta Mary. Even though Maryland was founded persecuted Catholics, from the early days of its existence, freedom of religion in it was not limited. Over the following decades, however, it was on religious grounds that several conflicts occurred, both with neighboring Virginia and between residents of Maryland itself.

On April 21, 1649, the Maryland Tolerance Act was passed at the initiative of the Calvert family, who sought to protect Catholics. Historians and politicians often refer to the Maryland Toleration Act as the beginning of religious freedom because it was one of the first such laws in American colonies. The bill, far ahead of its time, enshrined religious freedom and stated that supporters of other beliefs might oppress no Marylander. The fundamental purpose of the Maryland Act of Toleration was to create a harmonious relationship between Catholics and Protestants. Perhaps the existence of this legal instrument anticipated in many ways, the creation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which enshrined the freedom of any religion.

From the point of view of historical value, it is essential to note that the Maryland Act of Religious Toleration is not a genuinely complete law giving absolute religious freedom to all. In fact, the law provided religious freedom for all Christians in Maryland but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. The judge implied that non-Christians, including Jews, Muslims, or atheists, were sentenced to death. The law also regulated social relations between Christians in religious discourse. Anyone who spoke negatively about prominent biblical figures faced the penalty of fine, imprisonment, or public humiliation.

The Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 clearly illustrates an important historical fact: political leaders who were colonizers understood the need to regulate religious tolerance, which would then lead to a peaceful society. However, Maryland Toleration Act document did not give the necessary civil rights to social groups that practiced other religions. For this reason, the act seems excessively restrictive and cruel to modern man. The Maryland Toleration Act text was a milestone in U.S. history, laying the foundation for the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Answer by Academic.tip's expert
An answer to this question is provided by one of our experts who specializes in history. Let us know how much you liked it and give it a rating.

Cite this page

Select a citation style:


Academic.Tips. (2020) 'What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about'. 23 March.


Academic.Tips. (2020, March 23). What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about? Retrieved from https://academic.tips/question/the-maryland-toleration-act/


Academic.Tips. 2020. "What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about?" March 23, 2020. https://academic.tips/question/the-maryland-toleration-act/.

1. Academic.Tips. "What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about?" March 23, 2020. https://academic.tips/question/the-maryland-toleration-act/.


Academic.Tips. "What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about?" March 23, 2020. https://academic.tips/question/the-maryland-toleration-act/.

Work Cited

"What was the Maryland Toleration Act all about?" Academic.Tips, 23 Mar. 2020, academic.tips/question/the-maryland-toleration-act/.