Sunday, November 23, 2014

Remembering Two Saints and A Knight: St. Cecilia, St. Clement, and Sir Richard Lechford

Remembering Two Saints and A Knight: St. Cecilia, St. Clement, and Sir Richard Lechford (illustrated)

The first time I had the privilege of speaking to the Society of the Ark and the Dove was 35 years ago almost to the day when I was asked to speak again on St. Clement’s Day, 2014. I had forgotten all about that talk 35 years ago until the week before I was scheduled to speak again, when, in looking for something else, I came across a typescript of my remarks.   I thought about returning to the topic as my theme that afternoon.  It had to do with a wonderful manuscript copy of Maryland’s Charter that at the time was owned by Arthur Houghton and is now among the special collections of the Maryland State Archives.  

35 years ago, I was convinced that at least part of the Houghton manuscript of the Charter was contemporary with the landing of the Ark and the Dove at St. Clements Island in March of 1634,  and I explained why in what must have been a rather long speech.  Since then  I have tried to master the TED approach to public speaking (18 minutes max).

As to the  talk I gave 35 years ago,  the good news is that as a result of that talk, Arthur Houghton financed a research trip to England which led me to the attics of some of the most impressive cathedrals in England. The bad news, apart from the fact that my talk was far too long, was that my research in watermarks proved me wrong.  While the manuscript was an important 17th century copy of the  Charter, the watermarks  in the paper proved the paper to have been made in the late 1660s or early 1670s and not before.    I found the proof in the archives of Worcester and Gloucester cathedrals, and on my return to Maryland, actually found the same paper from the 1670s with the same watermarks among the surviving probate records of an Eastern Shore county in my own archives.   I had not thought to look in the records of the 1660s, having been convinced that the manuscript of the charter was from a generation earlier.

It was hard lesson to learn, and even harder to explain to Arthur who had hoped, along with me, that the manuscript was indeed the earliest english version of the Maryland Charter (the original being in Latin).   The research trip was worth it, of course, because it made me acutely conscious that to be a good archivist and historian you must understand the records, not only in terms of what they purport to say, but also that their provenance, their dating, may lie in the paper and the watermarks of the paper.   The search for the truth, often leads in unexpected directions.  In the case of the manuscript of the Maryland Charter, it led me to uncover what I now theorize was a wide network of Jesuit priests in England and Maryland who earned their livelihood by masquerading as scribes and clerks, writing on paper they imported from jesuit paper mills in what today is Belgium.    That of course, is still a theory, and needs further testing.

While in Gloucester I had the good fortune to meet the County Archivist, Brian Smith, later Secretary the British Historical Records Commission.   Brian introduced me to the only known monument of an Archivist, John Jones who died in 1630, having been Sheriff and a member of Parliament, but who wanted to be remembered as a keeper of the Records.   As you can see from his monument, he was proud of the care with which he organized and preserved the records.  I was taken  by his bemused smile, but also the encircling quotation:

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me write”

A challenge I have tried to meet ever since as an Archivist and Historian.

Rather than repeat an update of my rather long performance of 35 years ago,  I decided instead to return to the very first records of the adventure to Maryland, for therein lies a tale of stolen documents and a conscientious effort to both preserve them, and make them accessible for our enlightenment and enjoyment.

In May of 1894, out the blue, the Maryland Historical Society received a letter from a Jonathan R. Phillips who lived in Lincoln Nebraska.  He offered the Society some “old and rare documents relative to the earliest colonization and settlement of Maryland.”  He said that they belonged to his late father, a scholar of the English Civil Wars, who had died in London in 1887.  When Mendes Cohen, the Chairman of the Library Committee saw them, he immediately offered $200 for them.  Phillips balked, asking $225, and the Cohen readily agreed.

The documents are truly remarkable.  They are the earliest reports of the voyage of the Ark and the Dove, reports that have not  gotten the attention they deserve.   Most of them were sent on the return voyage to England  of the Ark addressed  to a Sir Richard Lechford, one of the adventurers who financed the founding of Maryland and who was a good friend and business partner of Leonard Calvert, Lord Baltimore’s brother and Maryland’s first Governor.  Sir Richard was a strong advocate of the new Colony and a confirmed Catholic who suffered as a result of his allegiance to both.  In one of the letters he details the pain and suffering he and his family had were experiencing by holding fast to his Catholicism.   He remained true to his faith, as did Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, surviving the Civil Wars, and dying in the same year as Calvert, 1671, much reduced in circumstances, although his widow would marry well into the family of the Duke of Norfolk, to whom would be entrusted the Lechford papers.

At the time the Maryland Historical Society acquired the items from the Ark’s mailbag, no one questioned where they might have come from.  It is just as well, as they had been stolen from Norfolk House, the London home of the Dukes of Norfolk, owners also of Arundel Castle.

The documents are priceless and all but two, gone missing decades ago,  are currently well cared for and protected by the Maryland Historical Society.  

In 1955 The Society of the Ark and the Dove,  added to the collection by purchasing and placing on deposit an  original agreement between Leonard Calvert and Sir Richard Lechford.  It is an exquisite document that is sealed with Leonard Calvert’s personal seal.   At the time no questions were raised as to where it came from, but it is in a safe home and well looked after.

Among the original documents acquired in 1894 is the very first  account of the voyage of the Ark by Father Andrew White.   A later latin version of his had already been found in the Vatican Archives, and Father White had prepared a much shortened version for publication that appeared in a now very rare printing .in 1634 entitled  A Relation of the Successful beginnings of the Lord Baltemore’s Plantation in Mary-land.  But both lacked the completeness and the spontaneity of Father White’s narrative that Leonard Calvert enclosed in his letter to his partner, Sir Richard Lechford.

How many know that November 23rd  is St. Clement’s Day and that November 22nd is Saint Cecilia’s Day?  Both Leonard Calvert and Sir Richard Lechford were very much aware of both.  Leonard Calvert’s parents, George Calvert and Anne Mynne were married on St. Cecilia’s Day in  1604, and his elder brother, Lord Baltimore,  was named after the Saint as well, although it was politic to claim he was named after his father’s protestant patron, Sir Robert Cecil.

I can’t stress enough what a treasure the 1894 acquisitions are, and how significant the Briefe Relation is that Leonard Calvert sent to Sir Richard Lechford in June of 1634.  

Permit me to quote just a few opening lines from the Briefe Relation:

On St. Cecilias day, the 22 of November 1633 with a gentle Northerne gale we set saile from the Cowes about 10 in the morninge toward the needles, beinge rockes at the south end of the Ile of Wight, till by default of winde we were forced to anchor at Yarmouth, wch very kindly suited us be it we were not out of feare,  for the seamen secretly reported that they expected the post with letters from the Council at London: but God would tende the matter and sent the night so strong a faire winde as forded a french barke from her ankor hold, driving he foule upon our pinnace, forced her to set saile with losse of an anchor and take to Sea, that being a dangerous place to float in, whereby we were necessarily to follow, least we should part company, and thus God frustrated the plot of our Seamen.  This was the 23 of November on St. Clements day who wonne his Crowne by being cast into the Sea fastened to an ankor.

Sir Richard Lechford’s partnership with Leonard Calvert was further illuminated in 1910 when an anonymous transcription of Documents from Norfolk House appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine.  They included a book of accounts between the two prepared in September 1634, and a list of goods to be shipped to Maryland that year on their account including L400 pounds sterling  worth of dark blue cloth  “according to the patterne sent herewith the breadth between 7 quarters and two yards, but the broadest if it can be had as well as L50 worth of knives with broad yellow handles after the French Fashion wrapped in Straw. ..”

In the late 1930s Norfolk house, see here on the right in this old print,  was torn down, replaced by a Office building that during the Second World War became General Eisenhower’s headquarters, and the contents moved to Arundel Castle.  Somewhere along the way the Lechford manuscripts went missing, missing that is until 1987 when they showed up at a United States Postal History auction in Danbury Connecticut.

I suspect that it helped that my secretary at the time was the wife of a well known FBI Documents examiner.   The late Karen Stuart of the Maryland Historical Society  had seen the catalog for the sale and had tried to arouse the interest  of the FBI, suspecting that the documents were stolen. The FBI had the items withdrawn from the sale, but had done nothing further.   I still have my Secretary’s note of September 24, 1987, which reads:

“Karen Stuart called.  She called John Connaughton of the FBI in Bridgeport.  He had forgotten about [the documents].   Bill [my secretary’s husband, Bill Bodziak] is going to call him tomorrow.  John told Karen that since Bill is with the FBI., he will just send the documents to him and then you can all get together here or in Washington and look at the documents instead of going to Bridgeport.”

Bill Bodziak in turn asked me to authenticate the documents and the grounds for their return to the Duke of Norfolk and Arundel Castle.  On St. Cecilia’s day, 1987, I filed my report, combining the research undertaken by Karen Stuart and my own , that established beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lechford papers offered for sale in the Danbury Postal History Auction had indeed been purloined from the collections of the Duke of Norfolk and they were returned, but before a complete set of photographs of both the documents and the watermarks they contained were deposited with the Maryland State Archives and the the Maryland Historical Society.

Sadly, that is not the end of the story.  Two letters that were in the Ark’s mailbag that were a part of the collection sold to the Maryland Historical Society in 1894 have gone missing, probably at least 50 years ago.   They surfaced briefly at another Postal Auction in 2006.  A responsible dealer wrote me an email to ask about them, but  when I called to ask to see them they had been withdrawn and had disappeared.  While there are transcripts published by the Maryland Historical Society, and they are quoted in Harry Wright Newman’s The Flowering of the Maryland Palatinate, the whereabouts of the letter of Richard Edwards, the Surgeon on the Ark to Sir Richard Lechford remains unknown.

It has been great fun and most satisfying to have been the Keeper of the Records for Maryland for nearly 40 years. Few Archivists have been as lucky as I have been.  I got to play an active role in the design of a new facility after which archives in the United States and abroad have been modeled.  I was able to move the Archives into the virtual world in a way that provided a steady income in support of caring for, and making accessible the historical record both on line and at the Hall of Records building.   With the help of two benefactors, Senate President Mike Miller,  and Governor Ehrlich, I was even able to acquire one of the most important documents in American history which goes on display in the Maryland State House next year.  


My greatest pleasure, however, has been working with those organizations like the Society of the Ark and the Dove that care about Maryland’s History and the support they give to keeping it alive. Take for example  the way the Society aided the work of Dr. Lois Carr when it came time to place her extensive notes on the early settlers on line. Our knowledge of your ancestors is far richer by the research she did and you not only helped preserve it, you made it accessible in the virtual world for all to use. To paraphrase the familiar saying of my youth,  continue to Support your Local Archives. Now more than ever institutions entrusted with our archival heritage need material help.

In 1955, the year in which the Society of the Ark and the Dove deposited one of the fugitive Lechford manuscripts with the Maryland Historical Society,  the father-in-law of one of the past governors emeritii, was inaugurated governor of Maryland for a second term.  The bible he chose for his swearing in was opened to a verse in the Epistle of St. James which begins:

But be ye doers of the Word and not, bearers only,

Leonard Calvert and Sir Richard Lechford were doers.  Archivists can be doers also, not only neatly arranging and filing the precious documents of the past, but also explaining their value and seeking the resources to keep the meaning of those documents alive in the minds of succeeding generations.

Thirty five years ago when I first spoke to the Society of the Ark and the Dove,  I closed with the last line of the Houghton Manuscript of the Maryland Charter:

Finiis bonus Coranat opus, A good end crowns the work.

But the work to my mind, is not yet over.  In many ways it has only begun.  

1 comment:

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