Historical Note, There is Always a Tomorrow

Historical Note, There is Always a Tomorrow

In 1632, the Colony of Maryland was founded by Cecil Calvert, a Catholic nobleman who thereby hoped not only to increase his own wealth but also to offer his co-religionists a refuge from the anti-papist sentiments in England. In 1634, the first shiploads of colonists arrived to what would become St Mary’s City and Catholic mass was said in celebration.

Over the coming years, Maryland continued to attract a sizeable number of Catholic colonists, but not enough to populate the entire colony. Other than colonists, Maryland also received a fair share of all those (mostly) men who were transported out to the colonies as punishment for their crimes. Many of these weren’t necessarily Catholic—in fact, quite a few were of more radical Protestant beliefs.

To reassure all those not of the Catholic faith that they too were welcome, in 1649 Cecil Calvert drafted the Act of Toleration, one of the first examples of a law aimed to protect a person’s right to worship as they chose – as long as they believed in God and Jesus. Unfortunately, Calvert’s tolerant approach was not reciprocated among the Puritan settlers in his colony, and in the 1650s the Puritans rebelled. For the coming four years, Puritan mobs attacked their Catholic neighbours, burned down Catholic churches, exiled Catholic priests and in general did their best to destroy the tolerance Calvert so wanted to promote.

By 1658 Calvert was back in control. The Act of Toleration was once again passed as law, and for some decades things were relatively peaceful. But in the 1680s anti-papist sentiments exploded back in England, this very much due to the fact that King Charles II’s heir was the Catholic Duke of York. The English did not want a Catholic king, and once James became king things came to a head, culminating in the so called Glorious Revolution during which James’ daughter Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, claimed the throne while James and his immediate family, including his newborn son, were forced into exile.

This unrest spilled over to the colonies. In 1689, a man named James Coode led the Maryland Puritans—the Protestant Associators—in rebellion, overthrowing the Catholic governance of the colony. Catholics were forbidden to hold office, Catholic priests were deported, and until the American revolution the Maryland Catholics were to live very much in the shadows, clinging to their faith in private. This is the background to the unrest and upheaval depicted in There is Always a Tomorrow, where a Catholic priest could forfeit his life if found in the colony. And as to that rather terrible punishment of having your tongue bored through with a red-hot iron, James Coode himself was sentenced to this in 1699 for blasphemy. Fortunately for him, he was pardoned.

For those that wonder at the fact that the accusation of sodomy could result in execution, England in the 1690s still upheld the Act of Buggery, originally implemented by Henry VIII in 1533. According to this, anal intercourse was strictly forbidden and could, in fact, lead to hanging. Usually the consequences were milder than that, but the shame could easily ruin the accused’s future prospects. Not until 1861 was the death penalty for sodomy abolished.