|You are in: Museum of History >> Hall of North and South Americans >> William Claiborne, Or Clayborne|
CLAIBORNE, or CLAYBORNE, William, colonist, known as "The Evil Genius of 3iaryland," born in Westmoreland, England, about 1589; died in Virginia about 16760 He was a younger son of a distinguished Westmoreland family, and in 1621 was appointed surveyor of the plantations of Virginia, under the London company. He arrived at Jamestown in the ship " George," with Sir Francis Wyatt and other members of the new council, in October, 1621, and, escaping the massacre of 22 March, settled at "James City." He acquired considerable landed estates, amounting, according to the "Land Register of Virginia," to 45,000 acres. On 24 March, 1625, he was commissioned by Charles I. as member of the council, and "to be our Secretary of State for the said Collony and Plantation of Virginia." On 17 May, 1626, he and Capt. Samuel Matthews proposed to the privy council in England "to win the forrests of Virginia upon certain conditions," and on 13 March, 1628, he received from Governor John Port his first commission to make discoveries to the southward, and to open trade with the Indians. A similar commission was issued to him by Governor Sir John Harvey, 8 March, 1631, and this was followed by a patent from King Charles I., dated 16 May, 1631, and issued by Sir William Alexander, under the Scotch signet, authorizing him to make discoveries, and grantingtrad-ingprivilegeswith the Indians " in our colonies of New England and New Scotland." Having discovered and partially planted and settled the isle of Kent a year before the first patent of Maryland was ever heard of, he, with the aid of William Cloberry, John de la Barre, and other "adventurers," established a trading-post there, and acted as the chief agent of his London partners, Cloberry & county, until displaced by George Evelyn in December, 1636. He purchased the interest of the natives in all the lands that he held in the island of Kent, and collected settlers in such numbers there that, in 1632, they were represented by a burgess in the general assembly of Virginia. George Calvert, first baron of Baltimore, having failed in his colony of Avalon on Newfoundland from the severity of the climate, sailed southward, with his wife and family and a party of followers, to search for a more propitious climate and a more favorable soil. He arrived at Jamestown in October, 1629, where he was met by the authorities, among whom was Claiborne, with the demand that he should take the oath of supremacy and abjuration before taking up his residence in the colony. Refusing to submit to these tests, he sailed northward, examining the Chesapeake and its shores. He thence returned to England and procured a charter for the country north of the Potomac and on both sides of the great bay, which was "hactenus inculta" (hitherto uncultivated). The territory granted to Baltimore had been within the original grant to the Virginia company; but, the charter of that corporation having been revoked, the whole subject of the grant was returned to the control of the crown, and in the subsequent charter to Baltimore it was only considered necessary to protect the rights of actual settlers under the Virginia charter by granting such portion of the territory designated as was "hactenus inculta."
Therefore, when Baltimore's first colony arrived at St. Marie's in March, 1634, Claiborne had been seated on the isle of Kent for more than three years, and his settlement had been recognized by the admission of the burgess into the Virginia assembly. The Virginians, sustaining Claiborne, naturally claimed the right to the isle of Kent. The Calverts insisted that Claiborne's right was only a license to trade under the Scotch signet, and that from it no right of property in the soil could arise. Claiborne claimed both property right and political independence of Calvert. Calvert asserted sovereignty and title paramount over the isle of Kent, and all settlers thereon. This issue influenced the history of the two colonies for a generation. It was at first the issue between the Roman Catholics of Maryland and the churchmen of Virginia; then between cavaliers and Puritans, and was never finally settled until Virginia, in her bill of rights in 1776, finally released all claim to the territory of Maryland beyond the Potomac, and executed a conveyance of all the territory northwest of Ohio River in 1781 to the United States. In fact, the mutterings of the old Claiborne quarrel had hardly died out in the Virginia-Maryland boundary arbitration of 1775-'8, which finally settled the dis-pared Potomac boundary of the two states.
As soon as the new colony was founded on St. Mary's river, the encroachments on the isle of Kent settlement began to be felt. Claiborne's boats and traders plied in and out of the estuaries of the Chesapeake, and the Indian allies of the Calverts at St. Mary's began to show signs of restiveness. The settlers first provided themselves with a blockhouse for defense, and then investigated the cause of trouble. Claiborne, so the Indians said, declared that the new settlers at St. Mary's were Spaniards, who of necessity were papists and people of despicable traits, and were to be watched and guarded against. Whereupon Leonard Calvert, governor of Maryland, dispatched an expedition under Capt. Thomas Cornwaleys to settle the question of prior settlement and sovereignty with the Kent isle rebel. Cornwaleys, with his pinnaces, the "St. Helen" and the "St. Margaret," attacked the "Cockatryce," Claiborne's boat, under Lieutenant Ratcliffe Warren, on 23 April, 1635, in Great Wicomico river, and captured both boat and men, after killing Warren and two others, Cornwaleys losing one man killed and several wounded. On 10 May following, Cornwaleys captured another boat belonging to Claiborne, the commander of which, Thomas Smith, escaped. Claiborne's enterprise on the isle of Kent had proved an utter failure. A fire there destroyed his warehouse of supplies, and his people were reduced to the greatest extremities, being obliged, says the chronicler, "to subsist on oysters." His London partners became satisfied that his affairs required examination. Cloberry & county sent out George Evelyn as their representative, with full power to act for them and take possession of their property. Claiborne, failing to get a surety of £3,000 from Evelyn and suspecting his intrigue with Calvert, surrendered everything to him, and sailed in 1637 for England, where he was sued by his partners for an account of his proceedings, and was held to answer before the lords commissioners of plantation on a charge of mutiny, preferred by Governor Harvey, of Virginia. Evelyn seized Kecoughtan and the rest of Clai-borne's property in Virginia, and instituted suits, in the name of Cloberry & county, in Baltimore's courts in Maryland against parties on the isle of Kent. At St. Mary's, Evelyn was shown copies of Calvert's charter, and of Claiborne's licenses to trade, which satisfied him as to the question of right, so that in behalf of his principals he acknowledged the authority of Baltimore, and accepted from Leonard Calvert the office of commander of the isle of Kent.
Thus ejected from the isle of Kent. Claiborne purchased from the Indians Palmer's island at the head of the bay, thinking it to be beyond Baltimore's grant. He then petitioned the king that Baltimore might be restrained from interfering with him, but, despairing of success, offered the king an annual rent of £100 for his lands in the Chesapeake and Susquehanna, and proposed that the crown should grant him a tract of land twelve leagues on each side of Susquehanna river, "from the mouth of said River down the said bay, southerly to the seaward, and to the head of the River and to the great lake of Canada, to be held of the crown at the rent of twelve pounds sterling per annum." The commissioners of plantation, to whom this application was referred, having become satisfied that Claiborne's license to trade gave him neither title to land nor right to make a settlement, and influenced by the queen, who favored Baltimore, refused his petition for the grant, thus ignoring his discovery and purchase of the land, and referred him to the courts of law for remedy for the wrongs of which he complained. Notwithstanding Claiborne's departure, and Evelyn's submission to the authorities of St. Mary's, the isle of Kent continued in an insubordinate condition. It was represented in the general assembly of the freemen of Maryland, which was convened .by Leonard Calvert at St. Mary's in February, 1637-'8, by some of the freemen in person, and by Evelyn as proxy for the great body of them. On .the advice of Evelyn, Governor Calvert undertook an expedition in person for the subjection of Kent. He made his campaign within the time marked out, reduced the isle of Kent to obedience, captured Smith, the leader of the affray in the Wicomico some years before, and took possession of Palmer's island, the only remaining post held by Claiborne within the limits of the Maryland charter. On his return to his capital City of St. Mary's, he reported his proceedings to the general assembly, which had reconvened according to adjournment, and delivered Smith in irons to them. The sheriff forthwith empanelled the whole general assembly as the grand inquest of the province, and they at once found a true bill against the prisoner for piracy and murder. The same body then dissolved itself into a high court of justice, presided over by Governor Calvert, with John Lewger, the attorney general, prosecuting for the proprietary. He was allowed his challenge, according to the course of the common law, and, on being found guilty, after a formal trial, prayed his clergy. The president of the court decided that his prayer had not been made in time, and pronounced sentence of death. He was then executed. Failing to get possession of his island of Kent, Claibone proposed on 6 June, 1638, that "he and his associates should have a grant for settlement of an island, by them discovered within the company's patent, to be called Rich island, in honor of Earl Holland"; but, this meeting with but little favor, he was made by the king treasurer of the colony of Virginia for life, on 6 April, 1642. In all the trials of Charles I., Virginia had remained true to the cavalier cause, while the baron of Baltimore was preserving a cautious neutrality, so as to prevent the seizure of his province by either of the powers then contending for supremacy in England. In 1644 Claiborne reappeared on the isle of Kent, and, exhibiting what he claimed was a royal commission, endeavored to incite resistance to the Roman Catholic authority at St. Mary's. In February, 1645, the Roman Catholic government under Leonard Calvert was overthrown by Capt. Richard Ingle, of the parliament ship "Reformation," professing to act under the authority of the parliament. All historians unite in charging that Claiborne was a participator or co-operator with Ingle in this attack; but the archives of Maryland fail to prove any such complicity. Ingle took possession of the government in February, 1645, and entered on a career of plunder. Governor Calvert took refuge in Cavalier Virginia., and in December, 1646, returned with a small force and expelled the parliamentarians without a struggle. The condition of affairs in England, the battle of Marston Moor, the incursion of Ingle, and the restless activity of Claiborne, backed by royal favor, convinced Cecilius Calvert (Lord Baltimore) that to preserve his province he must at once organize it in sympathy with the prevailing sentiment in England. Accordingly, in 1648, he reorganized his government of Maryland, which to that time had been entirely in the hands of Roman Catholics. His brother, Leonard, had died on 9 June, 1647, and appointed Thomas Green, an ardent cavalier, his successor. The churchmen of Virginia were driving out the non-conformists there, and Lord Baltimore induced Capt. William Stone, one of them, to remove from Northampton county, Virginia, to Maryland, under a contract that Stone would transport 500 of the exiles from Virginia, and receive grants of land according to Baltimore's liberal terms of plantation. When the news arrived of the execution of the king, Green, in the absence of Stone, immediately proclaimed Charles II. as his successor. The general assembly of Virginia was equally prompt in avowing its loyalty, so that in 1650 Maryland and Virginia were the only parts of the British empire that acknowledged the royal authority. The opportunity thus afforded was too good to be lost by Claiborne. Exasperated by what he thought the injustice of the court, backed by the influence of the queen and his enemy, Archbishop Laud, he joined the parliamentary party, and on 26 September, 1651, with Richard Bennett and two others, was appointed commissioner by parliament to reduce Virginia and "the plantations within the Chesapeake bay." The English expedition sent with the commissioners reached Virginia in March, 1652, and overthrew the cavalier government, with Sir William Berkeley at its head, and established a roundhead one, with Richard Bennett for governor, and Clai-borne as secretary of state. As soon as Berkeley was disposed of, Claiborne went to St. Mary's, where he compelled Governor Stone to renounce his allegiance to Lord Baltimore, and to issue all legal process in the names of "the keepers of the liberties of England," in June, 1652. When Cromwell at home dispersed the long parliament, Stone naturally concluded that the "keepers" had gone with their masters, and repudiated the arrangement with Claiborne, whereupon that vigorous adventurer returned with an armed force and deposed Stone, and appointed Capt. William Fuller governor, with a council of Puritan commissioner so Thus, after a struggle of twenty years, Maryland passed under the control of Claiborne. Starting with a claim under a grant from the king, he now held office under commission of parliament. Writs for an assembly to be held at Patuxent were issued, and they contained the first religious test ever exacted in Maryland. No Roman Catholic could be elected to the general assembly, or vote. The assembly thus obtained repealed the toleration act of 1649, declared that all actual settlers should be entitled to take up land, regardless of any rights of the proprietary. In January, 1654, Cromwell intervened for the protection of the Roman Catholics and the rights of Lord Baltimore, and wrote to Governor Bennett, of Virginia, forbidding him, or those acting under his authority, from disturbing Lord Baltimore or his officers and people in Maryland. Encouraged by this support, Baltimore ordered Stone to overthrow the Puritan government, and Stone mustered a force and attacked the Puritans on the Severn, at Annapolis, on 25 March, 1654, where he was defeated and taken prisoner. The Claiborne reqime was thereby firmly established; but the progress of affairs in England again interfered with Claiborne's fortunes. Lord Baltimore made his peace in some way with the commonwealth in 1656, and the commissioners of plantations decided that he ought not to be molested in his province. In 1658 an agreement was made in London by which it was restored to him, and thus Claiborne finally disappears from the history of Maryland. On the restoration in 1660 he was turned out of his secretaryship of Virginia and from the council, and we hear no more of him until 1675, when, on the death of Cecilius Calvert, who was succeeded by his son, Charles, third baron of Baltimore, Claiborne presented a petition to the king in council praying for the redress of his many wrongs at the hands of the Calverts. He made loud protestations of his loyalty; but he had no influence at court; his friends were dead ; and besides this, the royal memory was more tenacious than his own, and no attention was paid to his petition. He died shortly afterward on his estates in Virginia, leaving three sons and one daughter, from whom have descended numerous branches of the family in Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana, distinguished for ability. He has been unjustly called "Claiborne the Rebel," from a novel bearing that title, by W. H. Carpenter (Philadelphia, 1845).
Unauthorized Site: This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected, associated with or authorized by the individual, family, friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated sites that are related to this subject will be hyper linked below upon submission and Evisum, Inc. review.
2000 by Evisum Inc.TM. All rights
In this powerful, historic work, Stanley Yavneh Klos unfolds the complex 15-year U.S. Founding period revealing, for the first time, four distinctly different United American Republics. This is history on a splendid scale -- a book about the not quite unified American Colonies and States that would eventually form a fourth republic, with only 11 states, the United States of America: We The People. Click Here
Is it Real?
Constitution of 1777
Constitution of 1787
William H. Taft
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Gerald R. Ford
James Earl Carter, Jr.
Barack H. Obama