Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1648 Margaret Brent - Maryland Attorney Who Owns Land Is Denied Right to Vote

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In 1648, the first woman appointed attorney-in-fact in the colonies, Margaret Brent (1601-1671) of Maryland, seeks & is denied the right to vote in the assembly. The unmarried Brent, owning about 70 acres in Maryland, asks the Maryland Assembly for two votes, one for herself & another as her distant cousin Leonard Calvert's administrator & Lord Baltimore's attorney. Her request is denied.

Jan. 21, 1647[/8]. "Came Mrs Margaret Brent and requested to have vote in the howse for herselfe and voyce allso for that att the last Court 3d Jan: it was ordered that the said Mrs Brent was to be lookd uppon and received as his Lps Attorney. The Govr denyed that the sd Mrs Brent should have any vote in the howse And the sd Mrs Brent protested agst all proceedings in this pnt Assembly unlesse shee may have vote as aforesd."

Later Margaret Brent acts as attorny at law. Nov. 6, 1648. Margaret Brent as His Lordshhip's attorney complains and proves that Edward Commins has defied an order of the Governor and said that there was no law in the province. The court fined him 2,500 pounds of tobacco for contempt.

Although she is denied any vote, the assembly does defend her when Lord Baltimore, deceased Lord Calvert's brother, complains about her use of revenue from his estate to pay off his soldiers, who had recently put down a Protestant rebellion. The Assembly believes that her actions saved the colony from an open revolt and extends the 17th century equivilant of an "attagirl."

They write a letter to Lord Baltimore. "As for Mistress Brent's undertaking and meddling with your Lordship's estate here...we do Verily Believe and in Conscience report that it was better for the Colony's saftety at that time she rather deserved favour and thanks from your Honour for her so much Concurring to the public safety, than to be justly liable to all those bitter invectives you have been pleased to Express against her."

However, Lord Baltimore is furious with Margaret's independence. She, her brother Giles, and sister Mary move to the Northern Neck of Virginia by the spring of 1650, where she dies in 1670.

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