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1637/8 Freeman's Assembly
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1637/8 Freeman's Assembly
Province of Maryland

by USGenNet Patrons Rhoda Fone & Carole Hammett (2001)

In accordance with its Charter, the early laws governing the Province of Maryland, although often proposed by the Proprietor (Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore), usually through his Governor (or Lieutenant General) and brother, Leonard Calvert, required the assent of the freemen of the province.

The Freeman's Assembly of Jan-Feb 1637/8 is the first for which there is a record. The only earlier known assembly is known only by a solitary reference to an act passed on 26 Feb 1634/5 by a “General Assemblie” at St. Mary's.

The following is a sample of the “invitations” (notices) issued to attend the assembly:

The Generall Assembly Held at St. Maries, and began on the 25th Day of January 1637 [1637/8].


After my hearty Commendacons &c whereas my deare brother the Lord Proprietr of this Province, hath by his Commission to me directed in that behalfe bearing date at London in the Realme of England, the 15th day of Aprill 1637. appointed a grall assembly of all the freemen of this Province to be held at his town of St maries on the five and twentieth day of January next These are therefore in his Lops name to will and require you (all excuses sett apart) to make your psonall repaire to the ffort of St maries on the said five and twentieth day of January, then and there to consult and advise of the affaires of this Province. And further to will and require you at some convenient time when you shall thinke fitt within 6 daies after the receipt hereof at the furthest, to assemble all the freemen inhabiting within any part of yor jurisdiction: and then and there to publish and proclaime the said generall Assembly; and to endeavour to perswade such and so many of the said freemen as you shall thinke fitt to repair psonally to the said assembly at the time & place prefixed; and to give free power & liberty to all the rest of the said freemen either to be pnt at the said assembly if they so please; or otherwise to elect and nominate such and so many persons as they or the major part of them so assembled shall agree vpon to be the deputies or burgesses for the said freemen, in their name and steed to advise and consult of such things as shalbe brought into deliberation in the said assembly; and to enter all the severall votes or suffrages vpon record; and the record thereof and of whatsoever you shall doe in any the premises to bring along with you; and exhibite it at the day and place prefixed to the Secretary of the Province for the time being. And for so doing this shalbe yor warrt Given at St. maries this 30th. day of January 1637

Source: Proceedings of the Assembly, Province of Maryland, Liber Z, folio 4. Archives of Maryland, Vol. 1, p. 1,

The record of the proceedings, beginning with the first day, are as follows:


The Acts of the first day

The Leiutent. grall taking his place, came and appeared personally

Capt: Thomas Cornwaleys Esq, one of the Counsell of this Province

Capt: Robert wintour Esq: one of the Counsell of this Province

mr. John Lewger gent; Secretary, and one of the Counsell of this Province

Capt: Robert Evelin, gent, Commander of the Ile of Kent

mr Thomas Greene, gent

mr William Bretton, gent

Capt: Henry Fleete, gent

mr Robt Philpott, one of the Counsell of the Ile of Kent, gent

mr. william Brainthwaite, gent

mr. John Wyatt, gent

mr. Robt Clerke [Clarke], gent

Richard Garnett senior, of Mattapanient, planter

Justinian Snow of St. Maries hundred, planter

Marmaduke Snow of St. maries hundred planter

Francis Rabnett of the same hundred planter

Sergt Robt Vaughan, highe Constable of St George's hundred

James Baldridge Sheriff of St. maries county

Francis Gray of St. maries hundred, carpenter

James Cauther of St. maries hundred, planter

william Lewis of St. maries hundred, planter

Thomas Francklin [Franklin] of St maries hundred, planter

Thomas Nabbs of St. Georges hundred, planter.

Sergt. Thomas Baldridge, of St maries hundred, planter

Edward Fleete of St maries hundred planter

Robert Perry marshall

John Price of St. maries hundred planter.

Thomas Morrison of St Georges hundred, planter.

Thomas Stent of St. Georges hundred, planter

After, were summoned to appeare by vertue of writts to them directed;

mr. Thomas Copley Esq; of St. maries hundred. mr. Andrew white [and] mr. John Altham gent: Robert Clerke gent of the same hundred appeared for them & excused their absence by reason of sickness.

Joseph Edlow, Annum Benum, Nicholas Hervey, william Broughe, of Mattapanient, planters. the Leiutent grall exhibited his proxie for them severa(lly)

Randoll Revell, of St Georges hundred cooper. The Leiutent grall exhibited his proxie for him.

The freemen of the Ile of Kent. mr. Robt Philpott aforesaid, exhibited his proxie for them.

Roger Moy of St. Georges hundred, John Wortly; of St Georges hundred, Robt Nicholls; of St. maries hundred, Planters. Sergt Robert Vaughan aforesaid ; exhibited his proxie for them severally.

James Courtney, Davie wickliff, Ralphe Bean, Thomas Charington of St. George's hundred, planters. Captaine Robt Evelin, exhibited his proxie for them severally.

Henry Lee of St. Georges hundred, planter. John Norton of St. maries hundred,planter. John Lewger Secretary, exhibited his proxie for them severally.

John Halfe-head, of St maries hundred, brickmason Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for him.

Robert wiseman, Davie Odcroft, William Edwine, Henry James planter. John Smithson, of St marie's hundred, Planter. William Lewis exhibited his proxie for them severally.

John Hilliard, xpofer martin, Robert Smith of St. maries hundred planters. Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for them.

Thomas Pasmore, of St. Maries hundred, carpentr. James Cauther exhibited his proxie for him.

John Medley, of St. maries hundred, planter. Capt: Thomas Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him.

Henry Bishopp, John Bryant, Richard Lusthead, planters of Mattapanient,
Richard Garnett Senior exhibited his proxie for them severally.

Nathaniel Pope of St. maries hundred
Henry weed, of St. marie's hundred
John Medcalfe of St. Marie's hundred
John Courtis of St. George's hundred planters
John Davis of St. marie's hundred
John Richardson of St. George's hundred
Thomas Hebden of St. George's hundred

but they made not appearance nor proxies.

Then was proclaymed, that all freemen omitted in the writts of summons, that would clayme a voyce in this grall assembly, should come & make their clayme.

Wherevpon clayme was made by John Robinson, carpentr & was admitted.

Then were certaine orders established by generall consent, to be observed during the Assembly. viz

Orders. Imprmis, the Lieutentt. grall (as President of the Assembly, shall appoint and direct all things that concerne forme and decency to be observed in the same; and shall command the observance thereof as he shall see cause vpon paine of imprisonmt. or fine as the house shall adiudge.

Item every one that is to speake to any matter, shall stand vp, and be vncovered and direct his speech to the Lieutent. grall as President of the Assembly. And if two or more stand vp to speake together, the Lieutent grall shall appoint who shall speake

Item no man shall stand vp to speake to any matter vntill the partie that spake last before, have sate downe, nor shall any one speake above once to one bill or matter at one read- ing nor shall refute the speech of any other with any vncivill or contentious termes, nor shall name him but by some circum- loquution. And if any one offend to the contrary, the Lieutent grall shall command him to silence

Item the house shall sitt every day at eight of the clock in the morning, and at two of the clock in the afternoone.

Item the freemen assembled at any time to any number above ten persons, at the houres aforesaid, or within one houre after, shalbe a house to all purposes.

Item every one propounding any matter to the house shall digest it first into writing and deliver it to the Secretary to be read vnto the house

And it was ordered by the house that these Orders should be sett vp in some publique place of the house, to the end all men might take notice of them.

Act of the second day; being 26th. January Betweene the houres of eight and nine in the morning


The Leiuetentt. grallJohn Lewger Robert Philpott
Capt Tho: Cornwaleys Thomas Greene william Brainthwaite
John wyatt Richard Garnett
Capt: Robt. wintour Robert Clerke Justinian Snow
Capt: Geo: Evelin Thomas Francklin marmaduke Snow
Francis Rabnett James Baldridge Robert Perry
John Robinson Edward Fleete Sergt. vaughan
william Lewis


Thomas Hebden. and Capt: Tho: Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him

John Richardson and Capt: Robt. Evelin exhibited his proxie for him

mr. Thomas Copley, mr. Andrew white, mr. John Altham and Robt. Clerke made answere for them that they desired to be excused from giving voices in this Assembly, and was admitted.

John Price and Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for him

Nathaniel Pope and John Lewger Secretary exhibited his proxie for him

John medcalfe and william Lewis exhibited his proxie for him


Thomas Morrisonmr. Bretton
Henry WeedCapt: Fleete
John CourtisJames Cauther
Thomas NabbsThomas Stente
John DaviesThomas Baldridge
Francis Gray.

amerced for not appearance

John Robinson desired in his behalfe that his proxie might be expected till the afternoone, and was admitted

Then came Edward Bateman of St. maries hundred, ship carpenter & claymed a voyce as freeman; and made Mr John Lewger Secretary his proxie.

Likewise claymed Roger Oliver mariner; & made mr william Brainthwaite gent his proxie.

Likewise claymed Zachary Mottershead gent; and was admitted to a voice in the house.

Came John Langford of the Ile of Kent gent, highe Constable of the said Iland, who had given a voice in the choice of Robert Philpott gent to be one of the Burgesses for the freemen of that Iland; and desired to revoke his voice and to be personally pnt in the Assembly; and was admitted.

Then it was ordered that any member of the house not appearing at the houres appointed, should be amerced 20l of tobacco for every such default.

But for this present meeting, such as did appeare thoughe tardie should be pardoned the amercemt but for the rest wch. appeared not it should stand.

Then was read out of the draught of Lawes transmitted by the Lord Proprietor, the twelve first Acts of the said draught: and were severally debated by the house.

Betweene the houres of two and three in the afternoone of the same day.


The Lieutent generall.John WyattRichard Gannett
Capt Tho: CornwaleysRobt ClerkeRobert Perry
Capt Robt. wintourJustinian SnowSergt. Vaughan
Capt George EvelinMarmaduke SnowZachary Mottershead
mr John Lewger SecretaryFrancis Rabnett
Thomas Nabbswilliam Lewis
mr. Thomas GreeneJames Baldridge
mr. william BrettonEdward Fleete
mr Philpott
mr. Langford


John Robinson. and Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for for him.

William Brainthwaite, Roger Oliver, mariner and the Leiutent. grall exhibited his proxie for them severally.

John Davis, Thomas Stente and Francis Rabnett exhibited his proxie for them severally.

Thomas Francklin. and Edward Fleete exhibited his proxie for him.

Francis Gray. and Justinian Snow exhibited his proxie for him.

Thomas Baldridge. and James Baldridge exhibited his proxie for him.

James Cauther. amerced for not appearance.

Thomas Boys of St. maries hundred mariner claymed a voice as freeman; and made his proxie Francis Rabnett, and was admitted.

Thomas Morrison, John Courtis, Capt: Fleete and it was answered for them, that they could not come for want of passage over St. Georges river & was admitted

Henry Weed. and it was answererd for him that he was absent out of the Province, in Virginia. and his amercemt. was remitted.

Likewise the amercemt. was remitted to william Bretton, Thomas Nabbs, John Davis; for the same reason; as the first.

Likewise vpon petition made by Thomas Stente, and Thomas Baldridge, alledging the necessity of important businesse, the amercemt. was remitted for non appearance in the morning.

Then were the Acts read throughe, & severally debated in the reading. And the Lieutenant grall adiorned the house vntill Monday morning at 8 of the clock.

Acts of the third day; being 29th January 1637.
betweene the houres of 9 and 10 in the morning.


The PresidentJustinian Snow
Capt: CornwaleysFrancis Rabnett
Capt: Geo: EvelinJames Baldridge
mr. Lewger SecretaryEdward Fleete
mr. Thomas Greene
mr. Clerke
Sergt Vaughan
Capt. Henry Fleete


Capt. Robt. wintour
william Lewis
Thomas Maurice
Richard Garnett
mr. Philpott
mr. Langford

Marmaduke Snow: and his brother essoyned for him & was admitted

mr. william Bretton, John Courtis, Thomas Nabbs and Capt. Fleete exhibited his pxies for them severally

mrr. John wyatt and mr. Clerke exhibited his pxie for him.

Zachary Mottershead and Capt: Cornwaleys exhibited his proxie for him.

Robert Perry and mrr. Lewger exhibited his proxie for him.

vpon occasion of some warrants granted out against some freemen that had made proxies; a question was moved in the house whether freemen having made proxies during the assembly might be arrested before the Assembly were dissolved.

And Captaine Cornwaleys and James Baldridge were of opinion that they might: but the rest of the house generally concurred that after the writts issued for summoning the Assembly, no man having right to repaire vnto the Assembly, might be arrested, vntill a convenient space of time after the dissolution of the said Assembly, for his repaire home.

Came into the house Edmond Parrie of the Ile of Kent planter, and desired to revoke his proxie given to mr. Philpott; and was admitted to a place and voice personally.

John Fleete of St. Georges hundred planter claymed voice & place as a freeman: & was admitted. and made his proxie Capt Henry Fleete.

Then was proposed whether the Lawes formerly read should be read againe in the house ; or putt to the vote without further reading.

Capt. Cornwaleys gave his opinion that they should expect a more frequent house

Capt: Fleete gave his opinion, that they should he read againe.

with them concurred

mr. Clerke
Sergt. Vaughan
Edward Fleete
Edmond Parrie [Parry, Perry]

being in all, 18 voices: wth. their proxies.

on the contrary, that they should be putt to the vote immediately, agreed by

The President
Capt. Evelin
mr. Lewger
mr. Greene
being in all 33 voices.
mr. Snow
Francis Rabnett
James Baldridge

Then were the Lawes putt to the question, whether they should be received as Lawes or no

affirmed by
The President
mr. Lewger being 14 voices.

denied by all the rest of the Assembly ; being 37 voices.

Then question being moved what Lawes the Province should he governed by it was said by some that they might doe well to agree vpon some lawes till we could heare from England againe. The President denying any such power to be in the house, Capt: Cornwalers propounded the lawes of England. The President acknowledged that the Commission gave him power in civill causes to proceed by the lawes of England ; and in crimall causes likewise not extending to life or member. but in those he was limited to the lawes of the Province, there could be no punishmt. inflicted on any enor mous offendors, by the refusall of these lawes.

wherevpon the Commission was produced and examined, & vpon the reading of it it appeared that there was no power in the province to punish any offence deserving losse of life or member, for want of lawes. To this they answered, that such enormous offences could hardly be committed with out mutinie & then it might be punished by martiall law.

Betweene the houres of two and three in the afternoone of the same day.


The PresidentSergt. VaughanEdmond Parrie
Capt: CornwallisJames BaldridgeJustinian Snow
Capt: EvelinCapt: Fleetemr. Clerke
mr. LewgerFrancis RabnettEdward Fleete
mr. Greenemr. Philpott
Richard Garnettmr. Langford


Capta: Wintour and it was answered that he was sick & could not pass the river; & was admitted

Marmaduke Snow essoyned by his brother, & admitted.

Thomas maurice excused himselfe that he could not gett passage, & desired to be remitted all the former amercements, & was admitted.

James Cauther and william Lewis — amerced.

Then was propounded that the house would consider of some lawes to be sent vp to the Lord Proprietr. And the President advised that they would chuse some Committees to prepare the draught of them, and then the house might meete for confirming of them; & in the meane time every one might follow their other occasions.

So being putt to the vote how many Committees should be appointed for that purpose, they agreed that five should be chosen. Then was it putt to every one to name his five. And there were tenne in election.

The President38
Capt: Cornwallis54
Capt: wintour45
Capt: Evelin48
mr. Lewger22
m. Greene17
Capt: Fleete08
mr Snow31
mr. Clerke07
mr. Baldridge08

So the 5 Committees were The President
Capt: Cornwaleys
Capt: wintour
Capt: Evelin
mr. Snow

And because Capt: wintour was absent and sick, it was agreed that if be could not assist at the Committee himselfe he should name any other in his place.

Then was it considered for how long to adjorne the house. And it was thought fitt to adiorne it till the 8th of February following at 8 of the clock in the morning:

And because the Court was to be held in the meane time that is to say, on the 3d. of February; that therefore the priviledge of parlamt should be void vntill the Court were past; & all freemen might be arrested as if no assembly were.

And so the house brake vp.

Source: Archives of Maryland, Vol. 1, p. 2 (proofed from gif files), Liber Z, folios 15-27

Many of the names appearing in the above records are also believed to have been passengers on The Ark and The Dove, the first two ships bearing settlers to St. Clement's Island and St. Mary's in 1633-4. A few are also from The Isle of Kent, the first settlement on land that became part of the Province of Maryland.

The authors would like to especially thank the Maryland State Archives for having published an online edition of the Archives of Maryland from which this work was proofed and formatted (using the gif files).

Rhoda Fone
Carole Hammett



Archives of Maryland, Vol. I, page 23

These proceedings were transcribed using the old-style leading double-f (“ff”) to indicate a modern capital “F.” Because this is an electronic edition and the double-f tends to “foil&30148; search engines, we have converted these to the modern “F.” See also USGenNet-hosted Old-Style Handwriting at Fred Smoot's America Writes Home site for more information about old-style letters.

Richard Garnett, Sr. may have been Richard Gardner, father of Luke, Richard, John, Elizabeth and Julian Gardner (married the above Richard Lusthead). See the will of Luke Gardner for additional details. (Calendar, Vol. I, pp. 82-95).

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