Taking a Tip From Our Forefathers in St. Mary's City, Maryland
Visiting Historic St. Mary’s City, one starts to wonder where it all went wrong. An overarching theme of tolerance—a quality in such short supply today—recurs throughout the living history exhibits in Maryland’s first capital. Perhaps the “different-strokes-doctrine” (the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649) was molded by pragmatism as much as altruism. Charles Calvert sought an environment of mutual respect in his New World colony—lubrication for the inevitable friction in an enterprise involving Catholic investors, Protestant workers, enslaved Africans, and indentured Europeans. Calvert’s vessels, The Ark and The Dove, reached the Chesapeake in 1634, and son Leonard quickly made tolerance the law of the land, enacting the first legal limits on hate speech in the world. Enlightened self-interest proved catching. The Yaocamico Indians turned their tidewater village over to the newcomers, for a price, and threw in some consulting to boot. Native know-how saw the Englishmen through their first winter. Early Marylanders’ multicultural experiment thrived for decades. It’s at least food for thought.