The Colony of Maryland was founded in 1632, when King Charles I granted a charter to George Calvert, also known as the first Lord Baltimore. This charter granted Calvert lands between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Calvert, a converted Catholic, envisioned a land where Catholics and Protestants would live peacefully together. However, Calvert died before he could settle these lands. His sons Cecil and Leonard left England soon after to fulfill their father's vision in the New World.
The first permanent English settlers in Maryland arrived aboard two ships in March 1634. They consisted of a mix of Protestants and Catholics. Soon afterward, many persecuted English Catholics found their way to the colony in search of religious freedom. There would be conflicts between Puritan settlers and the Catholics during the decades following the initial settlement of Maryland. In 1650, a Puritan army took control of Maryland and outlawed other religious practices. This rebellion was put down several years later and religious tolerance restored. However, it highlighted the tensions between the forces of religious tolerance and extremism in the colonies.
At first, the Calverts attempted to govern Maryland according to a feudalistic model, with landholders dividing up their estates among vassals. This did not last long, and in 1638, the colonial assembly forced Governor Leonard Calvert to adopt the laws of England. Afterward, the power to make laws passed to the assembly.
The early settlers quickly set about building the colony's economy, which was primarily based on the production and exportation of tobacco. A large number of indentured servants came to work these tobacco plantations. These people, who signed up to work for a set amount of years in exchange for passage to North America, made up a large portion of the initial European population in the area. By the beginning of the next century, however, most indentured servants were replaced by enslaved Africans. A significant number of the early European settlers were also convicts sent to North America as a form of banishment.