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2008 | 1 | 339-360

Article title

Charter of Maryland as an Example of Proprietary Colonial Charter



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Depending on the type of the person being the benefactor of the grant, the English colonial charters issued by the Crown since the end of the 15th century may be divided into corporate and proprietary licences. both the legal form and the content of such chances was based on mediaeval standards. The basic model for the proprietary charter meant infeudation of a border county enjoying the special status of County Palatinate, and was established as early as at the time of William the Conqueror. The beneficiary of such a grant, the Count Palatine, discharged full royal power within his county, and was attached to the crown only by the oath of fealty. Although Henry VIII greatly limited the privileges of the Count Palatines, this specific legal status was successfully applied in colonial charters issued by the Stuarts beginning with the 1620s. A special place among those documents is held by the Charter of Maryland – a model proprietary charter of the Durham type issued in 1632 by King Charles I for the founder and first proprietor of Maryland, Cecil Calvert Lord Baltimore. A comparative analysis of the individual decisions of the Charter provides not only an opportunity to learn the structure and content of the proprietor colonial charter but also allows focusing on important political, social, and economic questions that shaped the 17th-century British colonialism in America. Their number includes legal and practical aspects of a colonial enterprise portrayed against the lives of George and Cecil Calverts, the scope and limits of the colony proprietor’s power, the question of legislation and the binding force of law in the colony and – which is closely related to it – the shaping of the representational government in the form of General Assembly standing in opposition to the proprietor, the question of transposing feudal social relations of the metropolis to the colony through the manorial system, and political and denominational relations within the colony. The last of the above is particularly important in the case of Maryland, due to the fact of the Calverts being Catholic.



  • Jagiellonian University


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