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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Lofty Virtues of the Marylanders

By George Alsop (b. 1638)

[Born in England, 1638. Resident in Maryland, 1659–63. A Character of the Province of Mary-Land, 1666.]

HERE if the lawyer had nothing else to maintain him but his bawling, he might button up his chaps, and burn his buckram bag, or else hang it upon a pin until its antiquity had eaten it up with dirt and dust. Then with a spade, like his Grandsire Adam, turn up the face of the Creation, purchasing his bread by the sweat of his brows, that before was got by the motionated water-works of his jaws. So contrary to the genius of the people, if not to the quiet government of the Province, that the turbulent spirit of continued and vexatious law, with all its quirks and evasions, is openly and most eagerly opposed, that might make matters either dubious, tedious, or troublesome. All other matters that would be ranging in contrary and improper spheres, (in short) are here by the power moderated, lowered and subdued. All villainous outrages that are committed in other States, are not so much as known here. A man may walk in the open woods as secure from being externally dissected, as in his own house or dwelling. So hateful is a robber, that if but once imagined to be so, he ’s kept at a distance, and shunned as the pestilential noisomeness.

It is generally and very remarkably observed, That those whose lives and conversations have had no other gloss or glory stamped on them in their own Country, but the stigmatization of baseness, were here (by the common civilities and deportments of the inhabitants of this Province) brought to detest and loathe their former actions…. Here ’s no Newgates for pilfering Felons, nor Ludgates for Debtors, nor any Bridewells to lash the soul of concupiscence into a chaste repentance. For as there is none of these prisons in Mary-Land, so the merits of the Country deserves none, but if any be foully vicious, he is so reserved in it, that he seldom or never becomes popular. Common ale-houses (whose dwellings are the only receptacles of debauchery and baseness, and those schools that trains up Youth, as well as Age, to ruin), in this Province there are none; neither hath Youth his swing or range in such a profuse and unbridled liberty as in other Countries; for from an ancient custom at the primitive seating of the place, the son works as well as the servant (an excellent cure for untamed Youth), so that before they eat their bread, they are commonly taught how to earn it; which makes them by that time Age speaks them capable of receiving that which their parents’ indulgency is ready to give them, and which partly is by their own laborious industry purchased, they manage it with such a serious, grave and watching care, as if they had been Masters of Families, trained up in that domestic and governing power from their cradles. These Christian Natives of the Land, especially those of the masculine sex, are generally conveniently confident, reservedly subtile, quick in apprehending, but slow in resolving; and where they spy profit sailing towards them with the wings of a prosperous gale, there they become much familiar. The Women differ something in this point, though not much. They are extreme bashful at the first view, but after a continuance of time hath brought them acquainted, there they become discreetly familiar, and are much more talkative than men. All complimental courtships, dressed up in critical rareties, are mere strangers to them, plain wit comes nearest their genius; so that he that intends to court a Mary-Land Girl, must have something more than the tautologies of a long-winded speech to carry on his design, or else he may (for aught I know) fall under the contempt of her frown, and his own windy oration.

One great part of the inhabitants of this Province are desiredly zealous, great pretenders to Holiness; and where any thing appears that carries on the frontispiece of its effigies the stamp of Religion, though fundamentally never so imperfect, they are suddenly taken with it, and out of an eager desire to any thing that ’s new, not weighing the sure matter in the balance of reason, are very apt to be catched. Quakerism is the only opinion that bears the bell away. The Anabaptists have little to say here, as well as in other places, since the Ghost of John of Leyden haunts their Conventicles. The Adamite, Ranter, and Fifth-Monarchy men, Mary-Land cannot, nay will not digest within her liberal stomach such corroding morsels: so that this Province is an utter Enemy to blasphemous and zealous Imprecations, drained from the Limbec of hellish and damnable Spirits, as well as profuse profaneness, that issues from the prodigality of none but crack-brained Sots.

  • ’Tis said the Gods lower down that chain above
  • That ties both Prince and Subject up in love;
  • And if this fiction of the Gods be true,
  • Few, Mary-Land, in this can boast but you.
  • Live ever blest, and let those clouds that do
  • Eclipse most States, be always lights to you;
  • And dwelling so, you may forever be
  • The only emblem of Tranquillity.