As I noted in this space a few years ago, the events that led to Maryland Day took place over a 17-week period in 1633-1634, across two continents. On Nov. 22, 1633, two sailing ships, the Ark and the Dove, set out from British waters for the New World. Those ships -- small wooden boats, really -- carried an estimated 150 passengers and crew.
Their voyage would take them to the Canary Islands, the West Indies, and the Virginia side of the Chesapeake Bay before landing at St. Clement's Island in modern day St. Mary's County, Md. The ships were separated by bad weather for most of the voyage, and at least a dozen passengers died. At the outset of their journey, they had stopped in the English Channel at the Isle of Wight to pick up three Jesuits. Was that a harbinger of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament, which has three Jesuit colleges in the Sweet 16? Oh, probably not. It's more likely that the detour was made so the priests wouldn't have to swear the customary oath of fealty to a Protestant king, Charles I, before setting sail.
But this was a fitting gesture. Under the sponsorship of the Calvert family, religious tolerance was one of the purposes of the voyage -- not to create a Catholic colony but a spiritually diverse one. In this sense, Maryland was one step ahead of Massachusetts to the north, and two steps ahead of Virginia.
Over the years, this noble history has been all but forgotten, though Maryland educators have valiantly tried to impart its lessons. In 1903, the state Board of Education denoted March 25 as the one day each school year devoted to teaching Maryland history. In 1916, the General Assembly made Maryland Day a state holiday, although that didn't really stick.
In the current millennia, with fierce intellectual battles being waged on these shores over whether 1619 or 1776 is the more worthy historic milestone for Americans to contemplate, the Ark and Dove are fitting metaphors. Our vulnerable ship of state still sails forth -- amid stormy seas, onboard sickness, and unknowable external (and internal) threats toward an uncertain fate. But one we all hope will bring a better future.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.